Lying snugly in its padded envelope, labeled, able, and ready for take-off, my new chapbook prepared to wend and wind its way from the United States to my friend in Hong Kong.
First, I needed to paste postage on my package.
How much postage did one small package need?
I stuck on two stamps, one a huge Jackson Pollack squiggly wiggily, red and black lines, replica, the other a Mark Rothko double square of yellow and orange, both from the new “Abstract Expressionists” series. I put two “Forever” stamps in my pocket.
Just in case.
I slid them in between my bus pass and my BART ticket. I knew where they were.
At the post office, the clerk said his usual “Anything fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous?” I said my usual “No.” He weighed the package, telling me “You need $2.04 more.”
My package accompanied me to the high wooden counter. It waited, never once complaining, while I filled out the customs form. I contemplated the two “Forever” stamps. If I put them on the package, I would owe only $1.16, but then I’d hide my decorative “Via Airmail,” which I had written in fluorescent pink, orange, and green. What to do? It was a tough call, but someone had to do it, and that someone was me. Yes, I am happy to say I am capable of big decisions every now and then. After much careful thought, I decided to not use my stamps. I slid them back into my pocket, where they’d remain.
Or till I got home and could put them safely away in my special, crinkly, wax paper envelope in my special, sturdy, wooden drawer.
I then proceeded to the grocery store, picking up a block of cheddar, soymilk, lettuce, and pita. I folded the credit card receipt into tiny rectangles, pushing it into my pocket, along with my stamps and customs’ receipt.
Once at home, I emptied my pockets, pulling out crumpled tissues, wallet, keys, receipts for groceries and customs, bus pass, lip balm, and BART ticket.
The stamps were missing.
Their commitment to me was not forever, after all. Which meant they were lost. I had to find them. I hated the thought of losing two stamps. Eighty-eight cents of postage down the drain.
I raced to the post office, paced around and around the red wooden counter, and retraced my steps to the grocery store. Where were my stamps? I was stumped, and stomped my feet in frustration. Where had I lost my stamps?
I walked home, thinking about my two Liberty Bell stamps. I wondered whether they missed me. Probably they had fallen and hit their heads. They were lost and confused. They had no sense of direction without an envelope to adhere to and an address to guide them. Why hadn’t I just put them where they belonged, on my envelope? Then they’d be flying off on an airmail adventure, instead of lost somewhere on the streets of Berkeley.
I felt in my pocket for my keys. They jingled hello in response. At least, I still had my keys. Still had my wallet, also, my lip balm, and bus pass. Still had my used tissues. I was still intact, as far as I could tell. I still had me.
When I told my Non-Marital Spouse what had transpired, he said, “It could have been worse. You could have lost three stamps.” I was glad to have him to put things so nicely into perspective. I still had him. He still had me. I felt grateful for us both.
**This week I will focus on what is present, rather than what is absent.**
P.S. I later found my two stamps, tucked within the folds of my customs’ receipt. I was so happy I kissed them.
Causes Eva Schlesinger Supports
Center For Young Women's Development
Alameda County Library Foundation