P.O. Box 246

by Nicole Callihan

Nicole Callihan

It was so late in summer that I referred to it as fall, and craving a space of my own, I drove to the small, square post office in a pretty, adjacent town once famed for harvesting the tusks of elephants to make ivory keys for pianos. I’d like a post box, please. The clerk asked me if it was for business or personal, and I assured him it was personal, slid my exact change beneath the plexiglass, and memorized the combination. It was a beautiful box from another century, a copper-colored metal with a little glass window to peer into anticipating the missiles sent from afar. The handwritten longings! How they might be accompanied by a pressed flower or a stray feather! Signifiers among signifiers! For weeks, I drove to the P.O., listening to my heart drum in my throat, but found nothing save a reminder to vote from the city council. Then, for several months, an unexpected illness and a string of blizzards took me to bed. Finally I was able to return. I almost didn’t recognize you, the clerk said. Empty-handed, I laughed. I had been so hollowed out by winter—my face and body—that I barely recognized myself and was moved that he, a near-stranger, might recognize me at all. Music lilted from the ancient speakers, and when he asked if I wished to renew the box for another six months, I declined. Who had I thought might find me in that secret, tucked-away place? And what did it mean that no one had?

Last updated November 23, 2022