CAFE IN THE RAIN
by Barry Graham
I know people who like being at home when it’s raining. Sitting in front of a fire, dry and warm as the rain throws itself against the windows in spiteful frustration.
But I prefer cafes. At home, you’re never completely secure. Bad news can always reach you. If you go to a cafe, and don’t tell anyone you’re going, and turn off your phone, you’re unassailable. Even if your entire world is turning to dust, you’re not going to know about it until later. And the rain makes it perfect; you can sit at a table near a window and drink coffee or tea and watch the day outside getting wet.
It rained today and I sat in a cafe but it wasn’t any good. I wanted you, and you weren’t there. I called you and you weren’t home. I left a message on your voicemail telling you where I was and asking you to come there if you got the message in time.
You didn’t come. For two hours I kept looking at the door, wanting you to walk through it, but you never did.
So I wrote you a letter. When I’d finished, I went to a post office and bought an envelope and a stamp. I put the letter in the envelope and went outside to mail it.
The mail box wasn’t there. I looked around, but it wasn’t there. I couldn’t understand it — I’d used that post office before, and the mail box was right outside.
I was about to go back into the post office and ask what happened, when I saw the mail box walking along the street, coming towards me. Its walk was ponderous and sad. It came to the spot where it usually stood, and stopped.
“What’s going on?” I said.
“I went for a piss,” it said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I went for a piss. There’s a public toilet round the corner.”
“But you’re a mail box.”
“Mail boxes don’t piss.”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s right, you don’t. So don’t go around making idiotic statements about things you know nothing about.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Then I realised the mail box was crying, tears running over its paint. “What’s wrong?” I said.
“I’m full of hurt and sadness. Every day, people fill me with their hurt and sadness. Like you’re going to.”
I looked at the letter in my hand. “I don’t want to hurt you,” I said.
“I know. But you’re going to anyway.”
“If you don’t like doing this, why not just stop? Let’s go find a bar and have a beer.”
“I’d like to,” said the mail box. “But I can’t. I have to stay like this, just as you have to stay as you are. But I appreciate your asking. Give me your letter.”
I slipped the letter in. Then I thanked the mail box and walked away, thinking of you and me as I went.
Before I turned the corner, I looked back once. The mail box was standing there, helpless, as someone else approached with a letter.