“I know you from somewhere,” she declares, her nest-like gray hair all askew with a black beanie atop it like a cherry on a sundae no one has room to gorge themselves on any longer. “What is it?” she further adds, genuinely wanting to make a connection with this not-stranger at the post office, one of the only other living souls in it, in fact, not working behind the counter. It is an off time of day, after all (and an off time of life) for the post office. And though she does really want to know where she has seen this face before, there is something bittersweet about the desire, almost Alzheimer’s-like. The woman, at a similar stage of graying and atrophy, shrugs, “For all you know I could be a famous person.” That the desire to be famous by any means necessary has been a constant throughout every generation no matter how much baby boomers insist that they have never seen such a disgustingly selfish generation before in the form of millennials (who will likely soon feel the same way about generation Z) is something worth noting. Because it speaks to the larger human condition of wanting to be “seen,” “recognized.” Alas, no one can ever know you, not even when they do.
Still, Lorraine was convinced that she surely must have seen this woman, Shirley, a thousand times. And then, like a proverbial ton of bricks crashing down upon her, she was beaten into apperception, shouting, “Trader Joe’s!”
Shirley, too, immediately concurred that this was the correct association, herself suddenly realizing that they had known one another all along. Had spent years fumbling in and out of the same aisles together, both women particularly addicted to the butter toffee pretzels. They had even commiserated at one point over their husbands both dying recently, or then recently, as this revelation had been made six years ago. Earl, Lorraine’s husband, had checked out of this realm during a routine bypass surgery, while Hank, Shirley’s beloved, said adieu while walking on the west side of Central Park one day and, with that decrepit hip of his, falling on his head in such a way as to never recover. Each woman had their tale to tell, and they had told it to each other. Thus, it was strange that they should both have such difficulty recalling who the other was, Shirley herself not even being perspicacious enough to remember some familiarity in Lorraine. But that is what people are to one another sometimes: mere sounding boards to get them through to the next phase–in recovering from the last–of their life by any emotionally promiscuous means necessary.
Despite being the only two customers in the post office apart from an old man, one of the last in the city maybe, as they had all died or been chased out by feminists crying either rape or not having enough sexuality, the line was not moving. It gave them a bit of time to get reacquainted, refreshing one another’s memories about who they were–or, as best as they could, try to get this notion of who they were across to another being. In Lorraine’s case, she saw herself as a forever failing journalist, still hoping to one day report on one of the great political scandals à la Woodward and Bernstein. And speaking of Bernstein, was Shirley aware that Lorraine happened to be a frequent dinner party guest at Nora Ephron’s when she was married to the latter? Shirley didn’t seem to care. Or maybe she didn’t know who Nora Ephron was, her own pursuits in life being strictly limited to “running the home.” Where Lorraine was childless, Shirley had two kids, a boy and a girl. Spencer and Susannah. Spencer was a successful investment banker on Wall Street while Susannah had followed in Shirley’s path by essentially marrying well. Lorraine wondered at whether Shirley had really married that well though if she was performing all of her own errands. Then again, some say that’s how the rich stay rich: by being pragmatic with their excess of money.
After about five minutes of this “light catching up,” Shirley’s turn finally came to go to the window and mail her last remaining sister in California a box of, incidentally, peanut butter cookies from Trader Joe’s that she was passing off as her own by placing them into a fall leaf-patterned tin (old ladies love tins, it is, to them, what the prospect of sex is to a virgin preadolescent hyper-hormonal male…in the twentieth century, that is. There’s no such thing as a hyper-hormonal one in the twenty-first). “Well, why don’t you wait for me and we can walk outside together? My granddaughter is taking me to the movie. Something starring one of those actors with three names, none of them helpful in telling you what gender they’re supposed to be.”
Lorraine nodded. “Shirley, I will,” she punned. Shirley didn’t seem to get it. Perhaps she was not a wordsmith, nor an avid watcher of Airplane!
Upon both completing their postal obligations, Shirley and Lorraine ambled languidly into the frigid November air, both noticing with a certain bitterness in their eyes (the kind that only an old woman who hankers for her youth back can possess) a strumpet-type sitting on the mailbox outside the post office taking selfies and generally reveling in the novelty of a thing so anachronistic as a mailbox. Shirley glared at her, turning to Lorraine to say, “I don’t know who these sorts of harlots think they are. Where has all the decency in this world gone?” Overhearing her comment, Zara shoots back, “Grandma it’s me. You told me to wait outside, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember. I just don’t know why I would when you clearly have no respect for government institutions.”
“Excuse me, but weren’t you the one who voted for Donald Trump?”
Shirley turns to Lorraine. “Well. They’re never going to let us live that down, are they?”
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Lorraine returned after a pause that forced her to process that the woman she thought was at least a vaguely kind soul in a city of severity and coldness had actually participated in the crumbling of the nation. Maybe Alzheimer’s wasn’t something to be feared in the end. “I don’t think we’ve met before.” And with that, she hobbled across the street, dragging her cane slightly so as to make the distinct noise of metal rubbing against concrete. It was almost like an auditory manifestation of her erasing having ever known Shirley. And no, she would not be going back to that post office anytime soon, for she had only gone in today to mail in her absentee ballot to cast her presidential vote for Viola Davis in the upcoming 2028 election.