BY GAYLA CHANEY
I am sleeping with a mailman. I suppose there is nothing exceptional or
unique about that except that I am sleeping with him based on the fact
that he is a mailman, which does not seem like a good enough reason.
Still, it is the only reason I can come up with.
His name is Dick Herring, which doesn't make much difference except now
I can call him something besides 'the mailman.' His name didn't matter
when I used to watch him walk up the sidewalk to my shop in his shorts
and Postal Service gray-blue shirt to deliver mostly bills that I
couldn't pay, and on one or two occasions, a postcard from my ex-husband
whom Dick resembles... a little bit. At least that's what I once thought
as I sat in my shop, Alayna's Eclectic Lady, day after day, with so
little to do that the mailman's arrival was a significant point in my
His arrival signaled midday. After his departure, I felt comfortable
eating my lunch, even on the days when he arrived early, before eleven.
It made no difference to me. Mailman: Time for ham and cheese. The sex
came only after he had delivered his last worthless stack of impersonal
notifications and flyers on the day I was closing up shop, literally.
That day, when he walked into my shop, the bell over the door didn't
ring because I had already taken it down. Dick didn't notice the
absence of a ringing bell. He claims nothing seemed the least bit
unusual to him. Oh sure, he admits catching a glimpse of the 'Going Out
of Business Sale' sign on the display window, but he says that he didn't
give it much thought. Now that I know Dick better, I believe every word
I seduced Dick, which was a hell of a lot more difficult than I had
imagined it would be. Watching him day after day, I had pictured, just
for fun, a fantasy to give me momentary relief from the reality of my
failing business; just a brief escape from the awful realization that my
share of the divorce settlement was evaporating while I watched soap
operas in a dying dress shop into which I had deposited every last cent
Undressing Dick in my mind offered an amusing distraction while I was
undressing the mannequins I had on display. It turns out that the
mannequins were more entertaining. But I couldn't have known that
beforehand. After three glasses of wine and Dick's timely arrival that
last Thursday before I returned the shop keys to the landlord and walked
out the front door forever, I took a chance at making the shop produce
just one profitable day for me. If he had rejected my advances, I
figured I'd never have to see him again. It's a big enough city to
avoid one mailman for a lifetime. That thought, coupled with the wine,
gave me the courage to proceed.
Dick flatly states that he didn't notice I was braless and that he
didn't have a clue of what was up until I pulled down the door shade.
This guy would say anything, despite how insulting. "Honestly, I was
thinking about lunch. When you asked me if I'd like a glass of wine, I
thought you were crazy. It was only 11:45 in the morning and I was on
the job. When you locked the front door and put the "CLOSED" sign up, I
got kind of scared."
Yes, I'm the frightening type. Five foot four, one hundred and twelve
pounds of terrifying woman. Oh well, maybe I am more foreboding than I
realize. Men like Dick may scare easily, or perhaps they just like
their lives to come packaged in individual little boxes labeled "work
time," "play time," "sleep." It's also possible that I am rusty at
seduction, weak at innuendo, or just plain guilty of watching too many
soap operas where raunchy women prey on unsuspecting, gullible men,
seducing them with ease.
Dick told me that he would like to meet Ben, my ex-husband, should Ben
ever come for a visit. I laughed, responding sarcastically with
something like, "You two have so much in common," to which Dick grinned,
assuming I meant something entirely different than I did.
My soul feels ugly about this whole mailman thing. It chides my ego for
what I'm doing. It warns of karma, retribution, and the universal irony
that I have come to believe in with the same pure faith I had in Santa
Claus when I was a child. All of this will boomerang and smack me in
the head or chest when I am least expecting it, exposing me for the
heartless, selfish creature that I fear I might be when Dick arrives as
instructed by the messages I leave on his machine. "Come over at eight."
"Don't come over tonight." "Call when you get in so I can plan my
weekend." I have no idea where this dominatrix side of my personality
came from. I was not this way with Ben; at least I don't think I was.
He would not have allowed me this much power. Ben resisted pressure
with his wit or his stubbornness, avoiding blind obedience altogether.
Ben held his own.
Against what? That's what I ask myself when the debate goes this far
between the esoteric me and the flesh and blood me that dictates to Dick
where we will eat, what movie we will watch and what time we go to bed.
I resent his easiness, his indifference to details, his oblivious nature
that takes instructions and punches a time clock at my command.
His nature differs so much from my own, from my former husband's, and
yet, without even being aware, Dick is holding up a mirror that reflects
an image I don't want to claim: a dogmatic shrew staring back at me.
She has my eyes, my mouth, but she is so unfamiliar that from every
angle, she appears a total stranger. This is a woman I never saw when I
was still with Ben. He responded to my moves with his own form of
checkmate. I never had to feel like this about myself with Ben who,
although he was more easygoing than me, would not lie down and play
dead. I want to kick Dick. I want to scream at him, "Get some backbone,
you gutless mail carrier! Act like a man!"
But, perhaps I am enough of a tough guy for the both of us. I know that
I find myself as disgusting as any male chauvinist I've ever
encountered. I am afraid that this ugliness may not wash off, even if I
send Dick away for good. If I did that, I would be completely alone
with myself and I don't know if I could survive that. Without a buffer
between me and the reflection in the mirror, I might lose my soul
altogether, become an outcast from humanity, exiled to Siberia or some
other isolated area where all I could hear was own voice, frozen words
strung in arctic air with no echoing response to prove that they ever
reached anyone's ears.
Dick will do. He is an honest-to-god mailman, but he is more than that.
Surely. And sooner or later, like the South Pole explorer, Admiral
Byrd, I am bound to discover new territory and what lies beneath the
surface of this man. Of course, he isn't Ben. But I don't think Ben is
Ben, anymore. It's been over a year and he's been traveling in Europe
and Australia and parts of Asia. It's bound to have affected his
personality, so much so that I might not even recognize him at all the
next time we meet. If we ever meet again.
I have changed, too. If I didn't think so, all I would have to do is
look at my lover, Dick The Mailman, and whoever I once thought I was,
dissolves like the wife of Lot looking back on where she came from.
Except that I can't claim I am on a holy pilgrimage or an icy expedition
or any other kind of journey. I am still living in the city of my
childhood and my parents are only minutes away.
I remember when Ben told me that Admiral Byrd lost his mind after his
travels, or maybe during them. I can't recall for sure. I doubt that
will happen to Ben. It seems more apropos for me to suffer an internal
snow blindness and lose my way without ever leaving home.
Dick is on his way over bringing carryout Chinese with him per my
instructions. I don't feel like going out tonight. We will most likely
stay here and watch the Discovery Channel or work on my stamp collection
with which Dick is very helpful. Things could be worse. I could be
traveling west through Death Valley and my car could break down. I
could be drinking bad water in Mexico or trying to shoot caribou on the
frozen tundra to keep from starving to death. I have so many things to
be thankful for and I will try to count them all when Dick is here.
After which, I will turn down the thermostat until it is cold enough to
justify curling up under a blanket, next to a mailman, where I can for a
little while, believe our shared body heat is essential for survival.