The mail lady usually just brushes past behind where I sit and read with a smiling hello. She delivers to the back porch – a shorter trip for her from the neighbor’s- where I take my midday wine. I couldn’t swear which came first, me sitting back there or her delivering back there. She had delivered my mom’s place too and when she was ahead on her route, she’d sit and have a cigarette with her. So I kept an ashtray back there though I’d long given it up.
Today was coupon day and I heard her rustling the papers as she came through the side yard. I tried not to look for fear she’d catch me eyeing her knobby knees and thin calves. For whatever reason, she paused and lay a hand on my shoulder as a cool, warning breeze rattled the dahlias. “Some days”, she said, I just want to give you a hug.” We had held each other tightly that morning we found my mother on the floor.
“Feel free”, I told her, covering her warm hand with mine and imagining the pony tail flowing through the back of her cap. “Strawberry blonde is my favorite flavor.”
“Don’t you mean color?” she asked.
Instead of a hug she squeezed and twisted my earlobe leaving it burning and cold at the same time.
“You’re bad”, she said, continuing on her appointed rounds.
“Who doesn’t know that?” I asked, going back to my book.