It had taken nearly an hour to write and only one second to drop. It was decided, and it was the way it had to be.
From the small table, next to a faded green plastic cactus, I could see the U.S. Mailbox. A stakeout wouldn’t change anything, of course, but for some reason to have it within my view slowed the manic flow of blood that gushed through my veins. It had all led to that moment, and the thought that my name and address were lodged inside such a bureaucratic machine, well outside of my control, gave me enough comfort to pour a Diet Coke into a thin plastic water cup.
Adrenaline was always beautiful until she crashed.
“Senior, you going to pay for your Coca?” asked the lady from behind the counter. “You said ‘just a water cup,’ no?”
Her pitch black hair was pulled tight across an unblemished face into a ponytail that shook with her accusations. I had been made, made by Patty according to the name-tag pinned to her flower dusted apron.
“Oh this?” I asked. I should have rebelled with a Sprite and given myself a chance.
Outside, a short, stout, elderly woman dressed in nothing but purple walked from the parking lot towards the mailbox. She took shuffled steps with her hand at her hip; a large purple hat bobbed from an unruly nest of silver hair. She was much the shape of a coffee mug’s shadow on the ledge of a Southern stoop. She hollered at a man that followed a foot behind her. He was just as square, though a good two feet taller on account of the distinct muscle groups stacked in a neat pile atop his two neon orange sneakers. He had small patches of skin between the darkest tattoos I had ever seen and at some point his head and shoulders must have decided they’d prefer to do without his neck.
“Senior, water is free. Coca is not.” Patty stood over me with her hand out.
The man outside was large enough to have a one syllable nick-name like House or Rock. Maybe even Clutch, because that’s what he looked like he wanted to do with Purple Lady’s throat. I couldn’t exactly make out their exchange and I didn’t exactly want to care. Purple Lady and Clutch blocked the mailbox, the holder of my decision, the reason why my life had led me to the small Mexican restaurant in the first place.
Clutch shouted, almost at me. Could he see past the tint? Purple Lady turned around and leapt off the ground towards him. Her chest, in all its glory, collided head-on with Clutch’s pectoral display.
Clutch’s head swiveled and to his apparent disappointment it appeared nobody on earth even seemed to notice. The door to the restaurant swung open with a new customer. Outside, Purple Lady circled Clutch and repeated, “You want some of me?”
“Did you see that?” I asked Patty.
“What I see is a water cup filled with Coca. This is what I see.”
I didn’t’ feel myself leave the restaurant, in fact I hadn’t even realized I was outside until I stood between them.
“Whoa guys, what in the hell is going on?”
“She stole my spot,” said Clutch. His voice had never deepened.
“Was there first sissy,” said Purple Lady. Her jaw bounced so that her bottom denture tapped her nose.
“This is all about a parking spot?”
“Well not anymore, this is about respecting the laws of the road,” said Clutch. “No matter how old and senile you may be.”
“Hey that’s not so nice, now is it?” I asked.
“Well neither is this.” Clutch plucked Purple Lady’s keys from her hand and marched towards the mailbox.
“Mind yourself Rocky,” said Purple Lady, her clenched hands out in front of her chest.
Clutch lifted the handle to the mailbox and banged the key chain against the slot.
“Respect the road lady,” said Clutch. He released his grip and dropped the keys into the slot. He slammed the lid and pranced off into the parking lot behind him.
Purple Lady screamed the purple flower off of her lapel.
She started to cry.
“I was here to pick up Walter’s medicine. He really needs it,” she said, between gasps for air. “Please help me mister.”
“Sorry. I’m in the middle of something, you see?”
“What’s so important that you can’t help an old lady get her keys back?”
“Excuse me? That’s none of your business.” She couldn’t chest bump me.
“Well my situation is a matter of life and death. Yours?” If only she knew. I wasn’t going to take the time to explain.
“Alright, hold open the lid and I’ll see if I can pry your keys out.”
I reached my hand into the mailbox and found a small hole between the chute and the lid. My armpit really prevented my arm from reaching to the bottom. I needed to rotate my shoulder to get my entire arm in.
“Here, hold my leg,” I said. Purple Lady grabbed my shins and lifted me up like I was about to do a keg-stand. Her grip was much stronger than I had expected.
With my shoulder unhinged, I reached a few sharp corners. Should I take my letter back? I dug through the paper and reached the bottom. With my fingers flush to the metal, I swept from end to end until I felt something cold. I sunk my shoulder deep into the slot so that I could wrap my finger around the keychain.
I hadn’t noticed her let go.
“Lady, are you going to help me down or what?” My voice echoed.
“Senior, please get down from there and pay for you Coca.”
Several sets of hands pulled me down.
Patty held her hand out towards me. Behind her stood three men that easily could have handled Clutch on their own.
“Right. The Coke. Of course.”
The key chain had three keys and a plastic Safeway membership card.
I reached into my back pocket for my wallet and looked behind me. Just like the Purple Lady, my wallet was gone.