A Woman Walks Into A Post Office

She’s carrying a package. The package is big enough to warrant using both hands, but she manages with just one, and an awkward elbow. Her other hand is hooked between a gaping satchel, a swollen purse and the trailing strings of her I-pod.

Joining the queue, she wonders whether she’ll be late for work. She isn’t as anxious as she might be; she’s frequently late for things. The package in her hands, for example, ought to have been sent three weeks ago. She’s tried very hard not to worry about that either. Her arm aches.

The queue is mostly made up of much older, murmuring women, some of whom are wearing hats. They shuffle past penny sweets and chocolate bars, row after row of glimmering foil.

The whole post office feels like it has been sent to the woman directly from her childhood. As does the brown paper of her parcel. She dips her face when the queue moves on. Such a satisfying smell.

The package is so neatly wrapped too. And painstakingly labelled. Her handwriting doesn’t slant or wobble or shrink away. There are no fingerprints smearing those hospital-corners, no stray hairs caught, incriminating, beneath the tape. She has taken such care; it’s not like her.

She’s the kind of woman who sheds and drops and forgets things, a woman who doesn’t ever quite manage to speak up when she should, who blurts the wrong words when she shouldn’t. And she’s always late. When she finally reaches the counter and the parcel is taken from her, as if it’s nothing, she remembers these facts about herself. She remembers them acutely.

Shit, she thinks, feeling the empty air throb between her empty hands. What have I done?

But in the next moment she’s dropped to her knees, she’s laughing and apologising. Scrabbling for silver as the coins go raining from her purse.