The dusty yellow package looked more official than she had anticipated as it rested in her hands. It felt heavier too. She had used her best handwriting to label the small package. And now she stood a few feet from the mail slot as others passed by, on their way to buy stamps and send non-perishable items around the world and down the street.
Three weeks ago, she had stuffed the contents inside with the gusto of a newlywed preparing her first Thanksgiving meal, just wanting to be seen as a worthy competitor. Her heart had been beating so fast she had quickly sealed the envelope and walked the four blocks to the post office to buy sufficient postage. She didn’t want to chicken out with this.
Now, as she stood cupping the package with sweaty palms, she wondered if she could do it. Could she really mail it off?
It was bad enough that she was sweating in public, but the thought of actually placing the package in the mail was causing her to tremble.
Keeping the package would diminish her dream to a mere velleity toward a better life.
Her stomach tightened in knots.
Memories of her family’s laughter filled her mind.
She had been excited to share her news with them about placing first in the the state art competition with her painting. They had been excited. But when she mentioned how her art teacher Ms. Grosse suggested she apply to NYU, there was a brief silence and then they had laughed. It wasn’t the reaction she had expected.
“No one makes money painting, unless they’re painting houses, Deborah,” her dad had said, thoroughly amused.
She didn’t know how to respond. Instead she retreated to her oils and canvas.
The mere thought of painting simultaneously excited and calmed her. When she painted, life was bearable. The world actually began to make sense. She wasn’t deluding herself to think she would be some great artist, but she enjoyed painting. And if she was going to study anything, why not study what she loved?
Her family expected her to stay in Denver and work at their restaurant, not travel across the country to paint. If she stayed at home, her future would be set, stable. She’d never have to face the unknown, or even the thought of failing. Everything in life would be so predictable. She didn’t know anyone in New York or anything about the city. What if she failed? What if she couldn’t make it into the school? What if she couldn’t even survive in the city?
Deborah’s throat tightened as remnants of laughter continued to resound in her ears. She felt sick.
“Are you okay?”
Deborah jumped, visibly startled by the old postal worker. He looked as if he was more scared than she was, like he knew he was about 30 seconds away from cleaning up her vomit. She nodded slowly, breathing through her nose to steady herself.
He nodded his head as well, looking thoroughly unconvinced.
“You need that to go out today, cuz this is the last collection.”
Deborah nodded, bringing the package closely to her chest.
The postal worker unlocked the bottom of the huge blue mailbox and began transferring letters and envelopes to a grey mail cart. When he had finished, he straightened and look at her and then at the package.
“I’m…a little scared,” she whispered.
The postal worker nodded and glanced once more at the package.
She clutched the it tightly to her chest, as if it were her newborn child.
As the postal worker wheeled the cart away from her, she could feel her dream slipping away.
“You know, pursuing success can be scary–like climbing Everest or something,” he said. “It is crazy and it’s scary, but you go for it and then it’s done. And then you get to see what no one else sees–the view from the top.”
The postal worker shrugged.
“Or so they say. I’ve never even left this town.”
He turned quickly for someone who seemed like he shouldn’t be able to move that fast and began dragging the cart toward the back.
With fear gripping her throat Deborah launched the package into the mail cart. The thud stopped the man.
“Three points,” he said without looking back. “You seemed bound for success to me, but I’m just a postal worker.”
Deborah rushed out of the post office lobby without looking back and into the pink light of the setting sun.
*This was Thursday’s post…but I fell asleep while typing–AGAIN–and didn’t post it!!! (sigh)