“Aaron responded. “I mean, if all there is is survival, why would you even want that?” It was a good point, Frank thought. He had never really thought living was an option. Life, and life only, is compulsory.”
In a hole in the wall there lived a mailman. It was a damp, dusty hole, a small apartment full of dirty dishes and ripped shoulder bags and a musty smell. The mailman was not only a mailman. At least, he strived to be more. Everyone else seemed to be so many things: a brother, a daughter, an athlete, a musician, a lover, an adventurer… But Frank was just a mailman.
Every morning, Frank would turn off his alarm, roll out of bed, slowly button his starched blue uniform, grab a PopTart, and dash off to work. And work was where Frank’s life began. There was nothing in this world that made him happier than carrying letters, packages, and catalogues to the homes of suburban families. It gave his life meaning to know that each silver-haired businessman and young craft-blogger wife would receive each and every advertisement and private-school tuition bill on time. That was who lived in those fancy houses and tended those manicured lawns, wasn’t it? Frank never really paid attention to the people who left him Christmas checks in their mailslots. He didn’t even really pay attention to the mail he delivered. All that mattered to Frank the Mailman was the address on each envelope and the number on each door. He lived life door to door, satisfying his hunger for achievable goals with delivery after delivery and paycheck after paycheck. Frank’s rhythm of living had never been disrupted, and never would be for as long as corporate monoliths continued to send forests-worth of catalogues and fund drives to potential customers around the country. Or so he believed, until one fateful day in the dead of winter.
Besides the occasional aggressive dog scratching on a locked door or unsalted, unshoveled walkway post-snowstorm, Frank had never really had difficulty getting mail to each door. Today’s challenge was entirely unfamiliar to the determined young mailman. Never before had he ever faced an obstacle so… impenetrable. As he arrived at the door of the first house on the street, Frank found himself at a loss. He had not the slightest inkling of what to do: the mailslot was boarded shut. Who boarded their mailslot shut? Were they trying to give their friendly neighborhood mail carrier an existential crisis? Frank turned away from the door and took a deep breath. Clearly the owner of this Craftsman-style, painfully beige home did not want to receive any mail (though Frank could not begin to fathom why). But he had a job to do.
“Screw the homeowner,” Frank muttered softly. “I am delivering this mail and that is that.” He slowly raised his fist to the door, freezing in place without making contact. The young mailman took three slow, deep breaths and knocked. Three times, he knocked, boney knuckles striking glossy beige paint over dense wood. No response. Frank waited a full minute before knocking again. BANG… tat-tat. He let out the breath he had been holding as the sound of footsteps began deep within the house. The door creaked slowly open.
Frank’s heart stopped as the most beautiful face he had ever seen appeared in the doorway. The face looked down at him from inside the house.
“How can I help you?” Frank blinked as the man in front of him spoke.
“I… have your mail, your mail slot’s boarded shut?” He stuttered over his words as he struggled to breathe in the presence of an almost inhuman beauty. Frank had never really noticed people’s faces before. Other people had just never really interested him. But this man– well, this man was something special. His green eyes shown wide with fear, and his thin, delicate lips were pressed tightly and nervously together. He took one deep breath before speaking to the mailman.
“I don’t want any mail. It’s always either ads or people.” Frank thought for a second before answering.
“I delivered mail to this house yesterday. Did you just move in?” The handsome stranger nodded slowly.
“The houses are farther apart here. Less neighborly. Please take your mail and go,” he turned away and closed the door.
Frank, not wanting to contribute to the furrow of the green-eyed man’s brow, did as he was told. But as he continued on his route that day, he could not keep his mind off the gorgeous, paranoidly detached young man in the beige house.
Another day, another truck full of mail, and Frank was eager to get to delivering it all. But as he arrived at the first house on his route, he remembered yesterday’s excitement. The beautiful stranger’s mailslot remained boarded shut. Frank froze in indecision as he pondered what action to take, torn between fulfilling the man’s desire to be left alone and completing his set task. And, though he would never admit it (especially to himself), Frank really did want to look into those wide green eyes just one more time. There was something about them. Something new and unfamiliar and overwhelming that drew Frank in and would not let him turn away. His decision was made– Frank climbed intrepidly up the stairs from the road to the man’s front porch.
This time he did not hesitate. He knocked three times, sharply and quickly: rat-tat-tat. And again. Frank was just about to rap on the door for the third time when he heard the soft sound of the man’s feet padding up to the door. It creaked open.
“I said I don’t want any mail,” the man said, promptly swinging the door shut–
“Wait!” Frank blurted, pushing the door slightly open again. “It’s just mail!” The man tried to slam the door in Frank’s face, but the mailman stubbornly held it open.
“I’ll call the police if you don’t le–”
“I’m Frank,” he interrupted the stranger’s threat.
Raising an eyebrow in confusion, the man responded, “Aaron.” It occurred to Frank that Aaron’s confusion was not directed at him, but within. Aaron did not know why he answered. Neither did Frank know why he had asked.
“Aaron,” he repeated softly. The name felt strangely comfortable on his tongue. “Why are you so afraid, Aaron?” Frank surprised himself by inquiring.
Aaron’s green eyes widened with shock. “Please leave. You’re my mailman. Goodbye, Frank.”
“Aaron! Wait!” Frank put out his hand to stop the door as Aaron began to close it yet again. As Frank looked past the door and into the house, he saw his beautiful stranger standing in a room like in one of his catalogues that he delivers every day. The room just within the doorway was a living room, filled with neatly-stacked books and impeccably-folded blankets. But there were no pictures. No Christmas cards. No evidence of a human life. In a way, it reminded Frank of his own living room. He had no pictures either. He received holiday cards from his parents and his sister’s family every year, but he just threw them out. Frank was anything but sentimental. Looking into Aaron’s house, it occurred to him that maybe this other man was afraid of connecting with people, rather than simply uncaring.
Frank was shaken out of his introspective daze by a loud ringing from within the house.
“Are you gonna get that?” he said to Aaron.
“No. It’s either a telemarketer or someone I used to know.”
Frank sighed. Turning around and leaving Aaron forever was certainly not an option anymore.
“What do you want, Frank? I don’t want your mail. I told you. Please just leave me alone.”
“I…” Frank paused. What did he want, really?” And before he knew what he was saying, Frank had done the unthinkable. “I want to take you on a date.”
Aaron stared at him, his face expressing the same shock that Frank felt. “Wh… wha– mm… Friday at 6:30,” Aaron stuttered, and slammed the door.
Frank had not been on a date since high school. He actually had just never really desired one. The whole world seemed to be focused on dating and love and all that, but Frank was never really interested, which would concern him if it were not for the fact that nobody interested him, ever, except Aaron. Frank had only met him three days ago, and already he was feeling something completely new to him.
He danced nervously on the curb outside his car, hesitant to approach Aaron’s house for non-mail purposes. Nothing in Frank’s life was ever for non-mail purposes. But he knew that the apprehension he was feeling was nothing compared to Aaron’s utter terror. Frank took a deep breath and walked to the door.
Three slow, nervous knocks later, Frank was looking into Aaron’s eyes for the third time. The taller man was dressed in a crisp blue button-down and grey khaki pants. He had clearly put effort into his appearance.
Frank smiled. “Ready?” Aaron grimaced.
“I don’t know, Frank, I’m not sure I want to do this… I’m sorry, I can’t. I’m sorry.” He turned to close the door, but Frank blocked it. This seemed to be becoming a pattern. How odd it was for Frank to be the one encouraging interaction. His place was usually Aaron’s, the one closing the door on someone who only wanted to connect. But Frank closed doors out of apathy. Aaron closed doors out of fear.
“Aaron. We don’t have to go anywhere fancy if you don’t want. I just… I’ve never wanted to do this, whatever this is, with anyone else, and now that there’s you, and you’re afraid, and I don’t know why, I just can’t turn away. And I don’t think you can either. You set the date, and I’m getting the feeling that’s not really your thing.” He paused for breath. Frank had not used his voice for anything this important in his life. Nothing had ever felt so important. Aaron stared at him for a while before answering.
“Okay,” he said softly. “Okay. Let’s go.” Aaron stepped over the threshold and locked the door behind him. Frank noted his key in his hand. Aaron’s change of heart must have occurred the moment Frank knocked on his door. The two men walked together to Frank’s car and got in. They spent the ride in tense silence.
Frank stared at the glass in his hand, spinning the ice around with his straw. What had he been thinking? Here they were, Aaron telling him about his interests and his family, and Frank had nothing to say. He had no interests. He never talked to his family when it was not required. All he really cared about was delivering mail. So he just kept asking Aaron questions, which made the other man extremely nervous.
“Frank? Why do you need to know so much about me?” Frank swallowed.
“I don’t, I’m just interested. Maybe. I don’t know, I’ve never really been interested before.” He looked across the shiny, beat-up wood table into Aaron’s deep green eyes as he admitted this.
“Frank. I don’t know if this is such a good idea. What if you hurt me? What if I hurt you?” Aaron spoke with urgency. “I mean, someone’s going to get hurt. It always happens. It’s inevitable, Frank, the world hurts.” Frank nodded. It made sense that the man who boarded his mailslot shut felt that the world was out to get him. But Frank couldn’t really relate.
“You know, I don’t think it does. The world is just kind of there. Why bother doing anything other than survive? I deliver mail to buy food to eat food to live. It doesn’t have to hurt.”
“But that sounds so boring,” Aaron responded. “I mean, if all there is is survival, why would you even want that?” It was a good point, Frank thought. He had never really thought living was an option. Life, and life only, is compulsory.
“Well, it’s better to not care than to be so scared of getting hurt, isn’t it? At least I can live.”
“But can you? Do you?” Aaron asked. This question was one he had asked himself often. Frank, though, had never felt the need. But now it had been asked. And it needed an answer.
“No.” Frank was suddenly struck by a sense of possibility. Things could change for him. Things needed to change. Frank had never seen value in caring, but now he saw the opportunity for all kinds of wonderful in human connection. He saw potential for joy he had never thought to desire. And across the table, looking into his eyes, Frank had a sense that Aaron was feeling a similar sensation. Here he was, feeling something beautiful, and seeing potential for more than just pain. The fear was still there, still just as strong, but the hope he felt was overpowering. In a rare moment of bravery, Aaron leaned across the table and pressed his lips against Frank’s.
Frank forgot how to breathe. This was something new, something he never wanted to forget. In the moment before Aaron pulled away, Frank caught himself thinking,
You know, maybe there’s more to life than mail.