Week 3, Day 1

After work today, I stopped by the post office to mail a package (look for a package, Wifey). It took kind of a long time. Although there were only five people in front of me in line, I was there almost exactly half an hour, but you already knew that, because you were there with me.

I figure I have two choices when I have to wait for something: I can get agitated and impatient, or I can settle into the wait. Sometimes, I pretend I’m exaggeratedly agitated for the amusement of those around me. The mood in the PO was a little tense, so I opted for passive waiting.

Well, maybe passive isn’t the right word, though it looks like it from the outside. (You might’ve noticed a slight pause in my writing right there. I took a nap, went for a bike ride and saw the cutest pitbull puppy ever (with a good owner). I’ll leave it to you to Google cute pitbull puppies.) I intentionally adopt something close to a “At ease” stance: back straight but not rigid, shoulders back and clasped behind my back, knees slightly bent. This is a pretty comfortable position to be in for a while, though today, I had my backpack on and a large envelope in my hand, so I kept my hands in front of me. For some reason, I cannot hold that position for as long before my knees get grunchy.

Inside, I am rather active, looking around noticing things. Some things I noticed today:

This floor has a lot of patched gouges in it for being a marble floor.

The woman in front of me is wearing a red sleeveless blouse, and has two red leather bracelets on her left arm, the one that is visible. There are also four or five sparkly bracelets closer to her hand.

She has reddish hair that is pulled back into an informal bun.

The woman in front of her is wearing a pale orange shirt with white lines running horizontally.

She is wearing pale blue jeans and sneakers. She has straight brown hair that reaches just past her shoulders and curls gently.

The woman over there has been sitting on her walker working at finishing her package for a while. She has short nearly black curled hair. Her walker is red and relatively new looking.

They are out of Selective Service forms.

Every couple of minutes a different person cuts through the line to drop envelopes of various sizes into a plastic USPS tote box.

There are four such boxes, each nearly full.

There is a kiosk to my left offering “Gifts for Everyone”. Grey writing on a navy background. Script-like font. “Everyone loves a Gift Card.” Bass Pro, Old Navy, Amazon, about 20 in total.

The rug is brown, gray, red and worn.

The granite is gray and reddish and curved – this is a round building.

There are four posts with those retractable belts on each side of the line.

I wonder what people are doing at that ATM-like machine.

A Selective Service poster alerts males 18 to 25 of their obligations.

The postal worker at the far end of the counter is wearing blue latex gloves.

She has been working on stuffing single pieces of paper into and sealing Priority Mail envelopes for a while now.

A young woman of Asian descent wearing a mint green sheath dress enters and addresses the postal worker, then leaves.

She reenters with a male, slightly older, also of Asian descent. They hand something to the postal worker and leave.

The postal worker at the closer end of the counter has not changed her facial expression – her customer has been at the counter for several minutes, filling out forms, apparently.

Behind the tote boxes there is a large cart full of packages, haphazardly placed.

The rug in front of the counter says the the US Postal Service appreciates our business.

The line behind me is now longer than the line in front of me.

Behind the counter is a series of cabinets. One is missing a handle. Each is lockable with a key in it. There are two large openings in the cabinets where large carts filled with packages wait. Tension is mounting. People are shifting their weight more frequently.

The worker at the far end of the counter speaks to the one at the closer end. She says something about what she is going to do, (take a break, maybe?) then leaves the counter area.

She re-enters with a package. She repeats this several times.

The woman behind me comments “You’d think they would make reducing the line a priority.” I nod assent. She continues “Maybe there’s something that she has to do by a certain time.” I remark that it is getting close to five o’clock, maybe that’s it. She nods.

She is shorter than I am, wearing a orange and green large paisley print on white dress. Her skin is dark and furrowed on the sides of her mouth. She is wearing large sunglasses. Her hair is dyed dark orange.

An unseen person behind the wall behind the cabinets takes a package out of one of the carts.

The woman in the orange top moves to the counter. She has three packages. The clerk weights and labels each, casually tossing it over her cubicle wall into the large push cart holding a disheveled pile of packages. The cart is nearly full. She tosses without looking. She’s done this a thousand times.

The woman in front of me holds a large flat envelope addressed to someone in Germany.

On the door to my far right: THIS DOOR IS NOT AN “EXIT”

It is gray, has a locking lever-type handle and a peephole.

The line behind me reaches out the main door. Eight people. Six women, two men.

The postal worker remaining at the counter still has not changed her facial expression. Four customers, more than twenty minutes.

The woman in front of me approaches with her envelope, and places it on the scale.

“This requires a customs form to be completed. It is too late now.”

“But it’s just papers.”

“This requires a customs form to be completed. It is too late to fill them out now.”

She places the form on top of the envelope on top of the scale on top of the counter on the granite floor.

The tension can be cut with a knife. The woman in the red top is about to explode.

Clearly the postal clerk has said this a thousand times. No eye contact. No acknowledgement of the woman’s frustration. Nothing. The woman steps to her right, to the next empty counter space and begins to read the form.

“Next customer, please.”

My turn.

I step to the counter determined to make the clerk smile, but so unsure if I can, or if I should even try. It’d be easy not to.

She begins her litany:

“Any liquids, explosives or hazardous materials?”

“No, just a card for my wife.”

“How do you want to send it?”

“The least expensive way”. Does it really make a difference? Certainly not more than a day.

“Press No, and sign on the pad.”

I press the red No button, and as I move my hand to sign, my thumb brushes the pad. Numbers I can’t see (I don’t have my reading glasses on) start to scroll up the screen. I guess a thumb brush counts as a signature.

“That’ll be two forty-five.”

As I pull out my wallet, she places the postage label on the package, and tosses it over the wall.

I hear it graze off the top of the pile and plop to the floor.

“You’re pretty good at that. Do you ever miss?”

She smiles.

“I just did. I’ll get it.”

“You have a good afternoon.”

“You too,” she says as our eyes connect.

 

Some highlights from my classroom today:

“Doc Och, can I read a poem to the class?” Um, YES! Kyndall leaves tomorrow for the National Poetry Slam in D.C. She said I could share the poem she wrote, which I’ve done below.

Overheard: “I grayscaled my phone.”

During a discussion of the day we take over the GWC Snapchat: “We could all dress really nice. We could all be like ten out of tens. We could be eleven out of tens.” Don’t you know? You already are.

 

Kyndall’s poem:

Grace

After Warsan Shire

 

When they come

In white masks or not

Holding ropes inherited from their fathers

Meant to bind or

hang you

Don’t dissolve if they hurt you

 

Burn their world terrified

When they come

Set yourself on fire

 

Blessed girl, angel,

With holy oil

Anoint your body where they sliced you

Look them in the eyes

Strike the match against your forearm

Explode into light

Into the sun

I never had to teach you how to be

 

This is not destruction

Black women know fire well

We’ve scraped hot combs into the napes of our necks

Sizzled our scalps in perms

Baptized our bodies in bath water that was bleach

 

I imagine the girls in the Birmingham church

Flames licking their Sunday dresses black

Singing swing low

Sweet chariot

Comin for to carry me home

As they melted into each other

 

This is the reclamation of fire

I choose to burn

For those girls and girls who look like me

Like you

 

They say fire is dangerous

But remember the water

Our cousins flags waved on Louisiana roofs

or the lead in the pipes

Or the bleach in the swimming pools

or the bodies in the Atlantic

Be safe around the water

 

Remember

You have every right to get angry

Remember

The scattered, quiet booms of shoe soles on concrete

The breathless running

From the boys breathless laughing

In their daddy’s car

Engine humming

Singing

“Run pretty black girl

run”

 

Remember

How it feels to wake up one morning a ghost

You see your own face

Dead

on the news

And you have to remind yourself

That you are living

And that that

Is a good thing

 

So you roll out of bed and

live

And smile at your killers

 

I know how they want you to be

Invisible or

Pretty enough to be trophy

Ready to pull down when necessary

A doll

An example

 

A vessel for salt and fabricated moans

a tool to elevate an ego

But never our own voices

Just a mouth meant to kiss the feet of

Someone unworthy

Who will call this poem blasphemy

 

I know the circus act well

Somersault through the high hoops

Contort yourself into bite size

And dance around

The pendulum

Of power

Brushing our necks

In the shadows hide

The clowns in blue

Ready with whip

If you step out of line

 

Black girl

Eyes burning like Harriet

Black girl

 

Burn bright

Fire rests in the beds of our nails

Glimmers under our skin

 

They know we glow

Teach them to fear why

 

And for everyone who will try to put you out

Remember

Fire can’t kill a black girl

born into a burning world

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