by V. Amador
It was unreasonably cold outside, and since fate seemed to favor me so, I obviously had to be wearing the least appropriate clothes for the weather the first time I met you. You’ll have to excuse me for that, I didn’t think I would be out for so long, you understand? No matter, what’s done is done. You’ve already seen me in my tie-dye too-short shorts and my two sizes too small acrostic shirt that spells “FATHER” that my aunt got me for my birthday, not realizing it was a Father’s Day shirt. I would say that’s about as bad as first impressions can go, but these higher powers never cease to surprise and embarrass me in equal measure.
I waddled as quickly as I could to the mailboxes and fished out the key to open my box, fumbling a bit from freezing fingers, thinking the faster I went maybe the faster I would get back inside. I try the key and it doesn’t work. Why wouldn’t the damned key work? And then I saw you, just a house over, walking down your driveway and going down the sidewalk straight towards me. I mean, you were definitely going for your mail, which is the box just above mine, really. But for a quick instant, I couldn’t believe that oh God someone has come to laugh at me.
Any reasonable person would have just swallowed their pride and gone back inside, changed clothes, and double check that they have the right key. Whether it’s because I’m an unreasonable person or I’m incredibly lacking in pride, I instead went through every key on my key ring just before you arrived and none of them worked.
I stepped aside so you can get to your mailbox, and thankfully—which in hindsight maybe I should feel a little offended at—you didn’t spare me a second glance. You opened your box, grabbed your mail, and you were going to leave me in the cold so I can figure out what was wrong with this stupid mailbox on my own. But you didn’t leave. You heard me sigh while I looked frustratingly between the few keys in my left hand and the supposedly correct key in my right hand. And you, blessedly patient you, asked me:
“Do you need help?”
Part of me wanted to say No! I can do this on my own! I am an independent human being! The trials and tribulations of a mailbox will not best me! Leave me alone! I’m not weird! but what I really said was:
“Yes, please. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
If I was implying anything else with that answer, it either flew over your head or you just really wanted to help me with my mailbox.
“What’s your number?”
I pointed at the box and handed you the key. Like the fool the universe has made me out to be, you turned the key and opened it on your first try. I peeked inside and there was nothing. Not even a letter about student loans, which as awful as it is to be reminded of, at least there being something would have made the biting cold worth it. Now I’m flushed hot with embarrassment, and I tried to walk away empty-handed.
“Why don’t you try again?”
I barely registered your words and you putting the key back in my hand, moving to the side so I can try. I slotted the key in and turned it, but it wouldn’t budge. Why won’t this stupid key turn and why won’t my stupid mailbox open and why are you so nice and still here??? I wanted to give up, but you were still there. So I tried again with a little more force, and at this point, I thought I was going to break that stupid key because I know I’m not turning it in the wrong direction I just saw you do it and-
You grabbed my hand that was tightly clenched over the silly little key and it stops my grumbling. My hand just barely loosens, and in your surprisingly soft hold, you turned my hand which turns the key and the mailbox clicked open and I felt ridiculous.
“What,” is all that came out instead of any sort of “thank you.”
“Huh, that’s weird.” At least you didn’t sound upset about not being thanked.
It was only then that I finally got a good look at you. I had already dug my own grave with what you had already seen of me just in those five minutes, so I was almost over all of my embarrassment when I blurted out:
“I guess I’ll just have to ask you for help more often.”
And you, amazing you that endlessly puts up with me and my stupid mailbox and every dumb thing I say to you every morning just smiles and says:
“Okay, I’ll see you around.”