I wonder why more people don’t go to the post office at night. It is warm or cool, depending on what you feel like, just right really, and it is lonely as if it’s just aching for someone to come in. The part of the post office where most people go to huff while waiting in line and yell at the people behind the counter is closed early but the rest is entirely free 24 hours a day. I walk in and the lights are soft with the kind of yellow glow old lamps have. There’s one other person in the post office, a man, and he’s also visiting his P.O. box. I pass him as he looks up quickly, his face softening when he realizes that I’m another person with no plans this Friday night for whatever reason. I am visiting because everyone I love is away. I realize I haven’t been alone in over a month.
My P.O. box is number 772519 and it is all the way at the bottom right in the corner. I squat and keep my balance as I turn the key. There are letters inside even though I was just here two days ago. I reach in to take them out and I look all the way to the back. There is no back to the box and there is a room with light. I cannot tell what is there no matter how I twist my neck. I lock it again and walk towards a little area by the window. I open the letters with my car keys and I read them. I have had a P.O. box for a little less than two weeks and it is already becoming something quiet and intimate. Each letter and card I’ve received in the past few days has made me cry. Not always big tears but I tear up because the world feels very small when you think that people you don’t even know can understand the things you say to no one in particular. There were three cards from the same reader, one for Christmas, one for my birthday, one for my torn rotator cuff. There is a card from Michigan, another from Kentucky, Mississippi, Argentina, Denmark, Australia.
The Australian one felt thick in its envelope and as I tore it open, I saw that it was handmade, tied together with string and delicately adorned with an origami Christmas tree and a little elephant. I smiled at the careful reader who remembered my favorite animal. It felt weighty in my hands, not only because of the thick paper, but because the words inside stuck in my throat like all of the cards do, like all of the emails, messages, comments do. I selfishly think that I write for myself but I’ve come to realize that no matter how I feel about it, I have an audience and not only are they reading but they’re feeling and they’re reaching out. I cried the other day about it, oblivious to the fact that something on a blog could mean so much and overwhelmed by the fact that people were telling me they admired the things I write, that they were fans.
I thought of how I used to think you couldn’t be a writer unless someone else told you that you were one, that there was some sort of moment when you crossed over. I used to think that you had to publish a book or be in some very specific form of print to be a writer but the fact is as you soon write something, you’re a writer. There isn’t an epiphany or a moment when you become a writer, you just are one. I used to have an image in my head of a capital-w Writer living in a garret and struggling and selling his soul for a break but that’s not really the case, is it? There are all kinds of writers and writing and there’s no right way to be one or to put your work out there.
The part of me that grew up breaking the spines of books in the big chair in my bedroom still wants to publish a book and see my name in print but maybe things have changed, maybe it won’t happen the way I imagined when I was a kid. Maybe I’ll put out a book through a small press or self-publish or any other number of options. I keep hearing that publishing, that books are dead but I don’t think that’s the case at all. People are still reading, it’s just the medium is changing, it’s growing and allowing for all kinds of ways for words to reach people. I’m excited. I’m a writer and people read my work every day the way I read my favorite books growing up. I’m working on lots of things and I hope that very soon I can put my words on pages all bound for you to hold in your hands and read. Until then, you can hold your laptop or your iPhone or your Droid or your iPad or anything else you use to get to words. It doesn’t really matter how you get to them as long as you do.
I’ve never, ever in my life felt like I’ve been in the right place at the right time except for on the internet. I don’t know what this blog entirely is or what my writing is as a whole or where it’s going to go in the future but I know that whatever I’m doing feels damn right.