When I was a kid, my mother would take me to visit her sister in the city. She lived in this fabulous building in the heart of downtown. Its curves of blue-black glass made it look like the vase I wasn’t allowed to touch. Inside, everything was just as shiny. The lobby was puzzle of different colored marble, all buffed to that high touch-me-not gloss. And mailboxes. I was fascinated with them. They were tiny brass strongholds – full of the risqué love letters Aunt Marie described to my mother when they thought I couldn’t hear. I adored my Aunt Marie.
I like to imagine that she had had a love affair with Clark Gable, even though the time-line for that is all wrong. Still, it seems like the kind of thing that would have suited her. Aunt Marie was considerably older than my mother, but more alive than anyone else I had ever met. Beautiful, eccentric, and at times, completely mad. She taught me how to spit the shells of sunflower seeds off the edge of her balcony – showing me the secret of velocity and congratulating me when I hit someone. Which I never did intentionally, of course.
Then, in the afternoons, there was coffee. I always looked forward to coffee because, while I wasn’t permitted any, that’s when the stories would start. Aunt Marie would tell my mother all about the charming people she knew and the not-in-front-of-children letters she received. My mother would pretend to be shocked, but I think she was a little jealous. I know I was, and I was too young to understand most of it at the time. But it didn’t matter. At ten years old, I decided that that was the life I wanted. A life full of wild stories and romance by post. And I absolutely had to live in a building with brass mailboxes.
Which is how I ended up here.
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