I’ve been checking the post office every week or so. I take a van 15 minutes into town, do some errands, and pop my head in.
“Anything from America?”
“Nothing from America.” The bored woman tossing some bulky, beat up box labeled “FRAGILE” onto a scale tells me, without looking up.
I look at the stack of packages piled in the corner. Mostly TaoBao, probably.
“You sure? Nothing from someplace that isn’t in China?”
“Well, we do have something from Beijing.” She flings the “FRAGILE” box at the pile of packages.
“Yeah, but that’s in China.”
“Yeah, but it’s pretty far away.”
“Nothing from USA!” A pudgy young guy comes in the back door, zipping up his pants zipper. He says the last three letters in English, of course.
I’ve been waiting for something. I don’t know exactly what. My cousin asked me for my address and my address is this post office. It’s been about a month since he asked. I’m just hoping the thing, whatever it is, is a bunch of Reeses Cups and/or Reeses Pieces. That would be chill. Sometimes days go by when Reeses are all I think about. Rarely do my fantasies—sexual or otherwise—not feature some kind of interaction with chocolate.
I keep checking the post office every time I go into town. But, nothing from America, nothing from Beijing. No chocolate.
“I’ve got something for you.” I open the WeChat message. It’s Brandon, one of my TFC colleagues who works in the town with the post office. Brandon and I are the only white foreigners for quite a ways.
A few minutes go by and a new message comes through.
“This came to me. For you. I think.” It’s a picture of my cousin Jake, and his fiancée, Lauren—dressed up all fancy. There’s a big bold, Baskerville-styled date on it and on the flip, some information in English regarding a wedding. A save the date card. No promise of Reeses included in the invitation. Fuck. Nonetheless, I’m happy for my cousin.
“So, are you gonna go?” I ask him.
Now, I don’t know exactly what transpired here. There are a few possibilities, some more exciting than others. But, this is what I’d like to believe happened: Sometime after my last check-in at the post office—an approximate five weeks since the save the date card left a mailbox in a little town in Upstate New York, USA—it arrives at the little town of Songgui, in Up-Province Yunnan, China. Once there, the bored woman sifting through and tossing into the dusty corner a bunch of TaoBao packages and Communist Party notices, chances to find the save the date invitation for my cousin Jake and Lauren’s wedding. At that point, she lets out a yelp, sending a package full of priceless Ming Dynasty-era ceramics crashing to the concrete floor. Upon hearing her scream, the pudgy guy, returning from the toilet, rushes into the room.
“Da. Fuck. Is. This?” She says, holding the invitation far away from her face.
Then the guy, who hasn’t zipped his pants yet, snatches the invitation from her.
“It appears to be a picture of two white people. They look to be of some importance, judging by the dress. Perhaps an advertisement for a diplomatic convention? Yes, that’s it. I can tell. And what’s this on the back? It’s English. My God!” He roars. “It’s all English.”
“Can’t you read it? Didn’t you tell me you could speak English? Didn’t you speak English to that foreigner last time? Didn’t you say USA to him?”
The pudgy guy zips up his pants and coughs, “Yes, of course, I can speak English. Come to think of it, this letter is written in French. I cannot read it. Anyway, no matter. It must be for that white guy. Let’s go deliver it to him.”
“But, who will watch the office?”
“No. Don’t you see? This letter—post card, matters of international consequence are surely riding on it. Time is a luxury we might not have. Close the shop.”
“But, wait! Aren’t there two white guys?”
“Absolutely not. There is the one at the elementary school in town. The teacher. He always comes in with strange questions about chocolate.”
“Well, OK. If you say so. But I thought one of them wore glasses.”
“No, he only wears glasses sometimes—come to think of it, I’ve noticed his Chinese is better when he’s wearing glasses. Funny how that works. Anyways, let’s move out.”
The pudgy guy and the bored woman walk to Brandon’s school—five minutes from the post office—at a brisk pace.
“Where is the foreign teacher?” The woman poses the question, exasperated, to the security guard.
The guard lets out a formidable puff of smoke and takes his feet off of his desk, “No clue. Probably in class. What’s the deal?”
“We have this letter, umm, post-card. It regards international matters. Please see that it arrives to him immediately.”
“Yeah, alright.” The guard says, accepting the card. “I’ll find the foreigner.” He ashes his cigarette on the front side of the letter. The post office employees shudder and head back to the shop.
A few days go by. The security guard catches Brandon on his way off campus.
“Hey, Mr. USA. I got this letter for you. Supposed to be urgent. Something about international problems or something.”
Brandon freezes and goes white(r). Is it about my visa? Will I be deported? Will I spend the last 50 years of my life in the Gulag or whatever they do here?
“Here.” The guard hands him the ashy letter, which now smells of grain liquor and has 3 or 4 cigarette burns across its face.
Brandon regains color. Save the date. Loeb. And he looks at the picture and looks confused—wait a second. There are other white people?