April 28: Post Office
by Melissa Allen
The main post office on Gorky Street in Moscow. A line of squat beige phones — a line of people in thick coats to their ankles standing beside them. Staring at them like half-boiled pots, waiting for them to ring. Waiting to hear the voice of someone from the other side of the Iron Curtain.
You’ve filled in the required forms. When do you want to talk? Whom do you want to talk to? For how long would you like this conversation to continue? Be careful: they’ll give you exactly the amount of time you ask for, no more and no less. But the phones are ringing, your mind is buzzing, you can only make awkward, half-thought-through calculations.
Not long after our phones ring and we lift the receivers to our ears like stones, we realize we answered all the questions wrong. The conversations should have been earlier or later, longer or shorter. The people we are talking to are not people we really know. We’ve forgotten the languages they’re speaking. We live in different countries for what we now know is forever, though we meant it to be temporary. “Wait —” we say. “It’s about to end —”
The phone makes a noise that means my life has returned to me. Everything goes silent until it’s the next person’s turn. Down the line, feet shuffle, stirring the hems of coats.
melting snow —
of what I meant to say
(Chrysanthemum 9, April 2011)