Mr Tate had been a postal worker for over 30 years. He never received personal mail himself, just flyers and bills.
Mr. Tate, first name, Roger, woke early to collect his post bag from the depot. He then went straight home and changed out of his work clothes into black jeans and a ‘I Love N.Y.’ t-shirt which he had found in a local charity shop. It was one of his favourites. He had t-shirts naming the different parts of the world he knew he would never get to go to. A different country or city for each day of the week. Today, he feels exhausted. He hasn’t spoken to anyone in over a month. He just nods to his boss anytime he’s spoken to. No one knows much about him. He has spent much of his life on his own, not out of choice mind you.
Roger raises himself slowly from the calico armchair. He brushes the loose threads down and pats the worn, threadbare cushion. Shuffling slowly to the kitchen, he turns on the kettle only to hear it switch off quickly with a hiss. No water. A deep, dense sigh rises from his throat, he senses that if he continues it may turn into a painful wail. He takes the kettle to the sink and knock the taps with a wooden spoon. He simply doesn’t feel like himself today, well, even less so than normal, if he ever believed there was such a thing.
‘Thock, thock, thock’, he keeps hitting the taps. The wooden spoon splinters and Roger shudders as if suddenly awakened from a dream. He reaches for the tap and turns it on gently. A trickle. He has forgotten to pay his water bill. He shakes his head, rubs his forehead and makes his way back to the living room.
Roger slumps into his worn chair and opens another letter. He peers in first before deliberately pulling the letter out. Humming as he reads, he starts to smile. Once done he places the letter carefully back in the envelope before putting it on the pile in the middle of the floor. He reaches for the large bag next to him and finds another letter. This time addressed to a Mrs Peterson, who lives a couple of doors down on his street. He opens the envelope and finds a birthday card with a picture of cupcakes decorated with sprinkles. His grin widens. He likes the card. He reads it before putting it on the floor with all the other letters and cards he has gone through since 2 am in the morning when his shift started and he brought the bag home. It has been two weeks since he started this routine. Going to the main sorting office, collecting his delivery bag and coming home to rest and read. Thirty years on the job and he never once received personal mail of his own. Well now he has all the personal mail he could want. The room was covered with opened mail, neatly sorted into piles – love letters, birthday cards, postcards, letters of employment, bereavement notes, long lost letters and of course bills.
The doorbell has been ringing since 10 in the morning. The sound seems to be coming from a distant place, far away from Roger. The pounding on the door seems muffled, as if from a distance. The next letter Roger reaches for is addressed to him, he can barely contain his tears. A mixture of joy, pain and deep grief – someone was reaching out to him. He opens it tenderly, rubs his eyes and reads his letter of termination.