I have a small PO box in the foyer of my building. Whenever I get something big in the mail, that means I have to walk about a mile to my inner city post office. So, getting snail mail for me is a double edged sword. It makes me happy as fuck, but, I’ve got to go on a journey by foot to get it through a part of my neighborhood that isn’t so nice.
Where I live, there is an invisible line. Once you cross the invisible line, people start to get shot. It’s mostly about drugs.
I’m usually just going to the post office for a box full of used junk from EBay. I say, “don’t let me get shot over old Iggy Pop records, please. Or a lamp shaped like Mr. Peanut. Or a poster of Godzilla.”
In the foyer of the building, there’s an old lady who leaves paperback books on the radiator. She’s one of the only people that I know. They all keep moving away. She’s seen me looking through the books a bunch of times and, seeing that, she told me, “Oh! Those are my books! But oh! Don’t judge me by my books! But oh! Take as many as you’d like!”
We don’t know each other’s names. That’s the kind of place New York City is sometimes. You just say hello. But, one time, feeling bad that I didn’t know her name after all those years of taking her old paperbacks, I introduced myself. She told me very rapidly that she was a writer! A poet!
I said, “Cool, you have a book of poems out?”
“Oh! No!” she said, “who would publish me??!”
I shrugged, then explained, “Well, you just send random crap out there, sometimes somebody’ll publish something accidentally. It’s fun.”
“Oh! That is fun! I should, but I don’t I know where to send to.”
As coincidence would have it, in my PO box was a slip of paper from that goddamn post office.
I knew what it was. It was a shipment of zines. I’d gotten a short story in one of those hand made, photo-copied zines. Love those things. Really do. Punk rock heartfelt art at its finest.
I sent them a story about the time my local video store burnt down and I got out of $200 worth of Super Nintendo late fees.
I said, “hey, I write too. See this postal ticket? It’s a box full of zines. They always send me like a hundred of them. I’ll give you a couple … then, who knows, maybe you’ll submit something to them.”
She looked like a person who’d just been promised a map to the city of lost gold.
“You’d do that for me?”
“Sure,” I said, stepping out of the building.
It was sunny. The birds were chirping in the trees that lined my street by the river. I walked happily. Swinging my arms. Probably trying to whistle, but I’m not a very good whistler. I waved to girls riding by on bicycles. I said hello to random people walking by carrying groceries or laundry or briefcases. It was a king’s day.
Something started to happen though. The closer I got to the post office, the more that the blue sky became grey. The air took on a chill. The wind picked up. I crossed broadway, looked up at the dark clouds hanging suddenly over the roof tops.
This always happened.
The closer I got to the post office, the more the atmosphere took on a materialization of doom. It was all around, really. I walked up another block, the buildings began to look bombed out. Groups of people sat out on stoops or leaned against chain link fences ominously. All I could do was smile and wave, “hey pals, just going to get some special delivery poetry from the post office, weeeeeeee!”
I walked inside. There was a line of people waiting to mail stuff. They were having the worst day of their lives. Going to that post office does that to a person. I was lucky. I had to be on a different line. The line to pick up stuff at that little window manned by the most brutal woman in the history of women. Her underwear were probably made of barbed wire.
There was a lot of screaming in there. It reminded me of war. Not that I’ve ever been in one, but I’ve seen a lot of movies featuring war and it looks just like this. Minus the explosions and machine guns, this post office was just like the Battle of the Bulge.
There were three people in front of me, the woman with the barbed wire underwear started berating the people as they came up to her. Either they didn’t have their slips or they didn’t have IDs that matched the slips. She screamed, “HOW AM I SUPPOSE TO HELP YOU? YOU GOT ANY IDEA WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE BACK HERE. WALLS OF BOXES! WALLS OF BOXES! GET YOUR ASS OUTTA HERE BEFORE I DESTROY YOU!!”
The line inched up. People crowded behind me. We all squeezed in. The air got hotter. The cabin pressure rose.
When it was my turn at the window, I had everything all ready. I was prepared like I was seeing a judge. I had a whole mess of identification. I passed it to her. She sneered at me, went and got my box.
Then, there I was on the side of the room, that little metal table by the door, hacking apart the cardboard box. I wanted to see what was inside.
That’s how I am. I can’t wait ten minutes to open a box that’s mailed to me. I have to open it immediately. Even when I’m surrounded by a mess of frothing, rabid people all desperate and crammed into a room, about to kill each other.
I opened the top of the box. Pulled out the stacks of zines that were inside. There was a lot of them. A ton.
I was high entertainment. Everybody was watching me, captivated. The biggest idiot in the place.
Then, I noticed something horrible.
I was holding a stack of neo-nazi propaganda.
Big bold swastikas. Eagles holding daggers adorned with more swastikas. Headlines screaming fucked up skin head bullshit. Hate. Misery. Filth.
All the eyes that were on me, now were twice as wide.
“Yo! What the fuck!” A man yelled at me. That’s all I had to hear. I put my head down, stuffed everything back into the box, got the fuck outta that post office as fast as I could.
I walked even quicker out on the street. The guys leaning against the chainlink and sitting on the stoops all eyed me. They knew what I had on me. It was obvious. Anyone could see through my cardboard box and see that pile of neo-nazi bullshit.
Why had these zine maniacs sent me skin head lit?
One fucking contributor copy of the cartoon punk rock zine and 70 unrelated Nazi mags! Motherfuckers!
As I escaped back across the invisible line, the sun came out. The wind diminished. I started to hear birds chirping again. I walked quick back down my block feeling like a participant in a crime against nature.
I opened up my door, walked into the foyer.
A door opened next to the PO box. There she was. The old lady. She’d been eagerly anticipating my arrival.
“Oh! Hi! Do you have a zine for me?!?”
My heart stopped. I clutched onto the box.
“No,” I said.
“But you said …” she looked heart broken.
“Hey there was a mistake, they sent me a bunch of stuff that you wouldn’t be interested in.”
“Try me!” she exclaimed.
I opened the box, I took out the magazine. A bright swastika, all bloody.
She took one look at it and said, “Do they accept simultaneous submissions?”