Junk mail interrupts isolation, announces existence

Junk mail interrupts isolation, announces existence
"If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?"

A strange man's voice parted sounds of people milling through the grocery store. As I turned toward his uncertain certainty, I saw a childlike anticipation braced in his posture.� Behind the thick smudged lenses of his eyeglasses, perched slightly lopsided on the middle of his nose, sparked a light of boyish energy.

"If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?"


"Yes, that is how you get mail," I replied, somewhat taken aback by the jolting simplicity of his question.

"If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?" he repeats, following me down the baking staples aisle: past the mixes, the flour, the sugar, and finally to the yeast.

Like a drill sergeant, deafening compulsivity charged his boyish pestering. "If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?" With a platoon of uncontrollable curiosity, he grilled me with the question, again and again and again. "If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?"

At attention, I saluted him with my response, "Yes, that is how you get mail,"again and again and again. My answers did not satisfy. His persistence knew no end.

"If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?"

I couldn't take it anymore. That was it. I fell out of line and disappeared down the canned soup aisle. While my escape abandoned him in aisle A7, his aching neediness for affirmation chased me down A8.

Even though I stopped answering the young man aloud, my heart continued. You mail a letter and wait weeks, even months. You pray to the mailbox for a reply. Sometimes you are blessed with mail, sometimes not.

Junk mail takes on a whole new meaning in light of the young man's questioning that day in the grocery store. To him, junk mail would be a good thing, calling him by name, reaching him on the fringes – a place where few visit, much less notice. Junk mail would interrupt his isolation, announce his existence: I know you are here. I am here for you.

"If you send mail, you'll get mail. Is that how you get mail?" his call carried past paper products to Fresh Meats, beyond Dairy, all the way to the checkout.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail pauladamon@iw.net.

Copyright � 2007 Paula Damon

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