Letter To America

Entry by: Alobear

21st October 2016
Letter to America

The moment the letter dropped from his fingertips into the post box, Martin felt his phone buzz in his pocket. As he turned away from the post box, he brought the phone out and read the text message he had just received. Immediately, he knew writing the letter had been a mistake. The desire to have the letter back in his hand so he could rip it up and throw it away was intense. He looked back at the sign on the side of the post box - it said the post would be collected at 5:15pm on Monday. It was Sunday morning.

Martin got grudging permission from his boss to leave work early the next day, and was positioned by the offending post box at 5pm sharp. He looked up and down the road impatiently, his heart thudding in his chest. He had to get the letter back.

At long last, the post van arrived, and a burly man climbed out, empty sack in hand. He stomped up to the post box, ignoring Martin completely, and took a large key out of his pocket. As soon as the panel on the front of the post box was open, Martin sprang forwards.

“Excuse me,” he said.

The postman glanced up at him, as he started shovelling letters from the box into his sack.

“I need to get a letter out of the box,” Martin said.

The postman continued shovelling. “Is it addressed to you?”

“No,” Martin said. “I’m the sender.” He caught sight of a familiar yellow envelope in the avalanche of post spilling from the box and made to grab for it. “There it is!”

But the postman was quicker. He snatched the envelope up and held it out of Martin’s reach. “No can do, if it’s not addressed to you.”

“But I wrote it!” Martin protested.

“That’s not my problem,” the postman said. “Under the Postal Services Act 2000: a person commits an offence if he, without reasonable excuse, intentionally delays or opens a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post, or intentionally opens a mail bag.”

Martin was briefly distracted by the impressiveness of the postman’s verbatim knowledge of the legislation, but quickly rallied. “But I do have a reasonable excuse - I don’t want to send it any more.”

The postman shook his head ruefully. “Not good enough, I’m afraid. I have no way of knowing you’re the one who sent it..”

Martin felt like he was trapped in some awful dream. If he opened the letter, he could prove he had sent it, but until he could prove he had sent it, he wouldn’t be allowed to open the letter. He watched, helpless, as the yellow envelope was shoved into the postman’s sack. His neat handwriting disappeared from view. A thought struck him.

“I could write out the name and address on a piece of paper, which would prove I know exactly where the letter is supposed to go - and also demonstrate that it’s my handwriting on the envelope,” he said.

But the postman was adamant. “Doesn’t matter,” he said, his tone firm. “Once a letter goes into the post box, it becomes the responsibility of the Postal Service, and it’s up to me to make sure it completes the next step on its way to its ultimate destination. Anything you do to interrupt its progress now would be a criminal offence, as I said before.”

“That’s crazy!” Martin cried. “It’s my letter!”

“Not any more, it’s not,” the postman said. His interest had apparently been piqued, though, since he continued, “Where’s it going, anyway?”

Martin sighed heavily. “America. My girlfriend’s been out there for work for going on six months now, and it’s been really rough on our relationship. I’d just got to the end of my tether and decided to write a letter to end things. And then I got a message from her, saying how much she misses me, and that she’s applying for a transfer back to London. And I just knew I wanted to put the effort in to make it work, too. The letter was a moment of weakness, and now I just want to destroy it and pretend I never wrote it.”

The postman’s stern expression wavered. “Can’t you just text her back, saying she shouldn’t open the letter when it arrives?”

“Be honest,” Martin said. “If you got a message like that, would you throw the letter away unopened when it arrived?”

“I guess not,” the postman admitted. “You could come clean and explain the whole thing - maybe she’ll understand…”

“I don’t want to risk it,” Martin said. “She’d be really upset that I even thought about breaking things off, and she might lose faith in us and end it herself. And I couldn’t say I’d blame her.” He actually brought his hands up in a praying motion. “Please! I just want the letter back.” Martin could see the postman wavering, and pressed his point. “I totally understand your position, but nobody will ever know, and it might save me from losing the love of my life.”

The postman looked at him for a long moment. “Do you swear that everything you’ve said is true?” he asked.

“Yes!” Martin almost shouted. “If you give me the letter, I’ll open it right here and show you. You can read the whole thing if you want. And my driving license will prove it’s from me.”

“Okay, okay,” the postman capitulated. “There’s no reason to go overboard. I don’t need to read it. But I’ll hold you to the bit about the ID, just to make sure.”

He delved into the sack and retrieved the yellow envelope. He started to hold it out to Martin, but then pulled it back, hiding the side with the address on from Martin’s view.

“Tell me who it’s to, and every part of the address.”

He read along with each word as Martin faithfully repeated the address details. Then, very slowly and carefully, the postman opened the envelope and pulled out the handwritten pages inside. Turning over the last one, he fixed Martin with a wary stare.

“How’s it signed off?” he asked.

“I’m so sorry. Martin.” Martin hung his head.

“What about the ID?” the postman said. “It’s only got your first name here. How will I know it’s you?”

Martin wracked his brain for a moment, then pointed to the address he’d written at the top of the first page of the letter. “That’s my address right there,” he said. “And here -” He fumbled for his wallet. “It’s on my driving license.”

The postman took the small card from him and studied it minutely. Then he looked back up at Martin, hesitantly, and finally handed the letter over.

“This stays between us,” he said, darkly. “I could lose my job.”

“Absolutely! Thank you so much!” Relief washed through Martin and his felt his knees go weak.

“Just be more careful in future,” the postman said. “Breaking the Postal Services Act is serious business. Not to mention messing up what you have with that lovely lady of yours. That’s not to be taken lightly, either.”

“Believe me,” Martin said, “I plan to spend the rest of my life making this up to her, despite the fact she doesn’t even know it happened.”

“You just make sure that you do,” the postman said, then turned back to the post box. “Now, I’d better get back to this - you’ve made me late.”

“Thanks again!” Martin said, and turned towards home, dropping the letter into the nearest bin as he went.