Letter From Far Away
Lying on the muddy ground outside the post office this morning: a single, folded sheet of blue stationery. I pick it up and read. It’s a letter dated November 1985. I don’t get very far. It’s written in Vietnamese. The handwriting is beautiful. I wish I knew what it said. When I was a kid back in the sixties it was commonplace to see long convoys of Army trucks rumbling along on the Thruway. Back then I did not truly understand what was going on. It seemed normal. I can’t recall the last time I saw a long line of military vehicles on the Thruway. I don’t miss them.
I enter the post office and turn the letter over to the postmaster. “I found this,” I explain. “Oh,” she says, “yesterday they were cleaning out upstairs. Nobody has been up there for years, just birds and squirrels.” Our little post office occupies the first floor of what was once a house. An old house. People used to live here and when the last one moved out they must have left behind some of their things, including this letter. It had been saved but in the end forsaken. The post office these days has limited hours. Not much business anymore. The old sugar maples that used to stand out front were taken down last fall. A window on the second floor is broken and has been for years.
I return to my house. Over the years I too have saved letters, a good many of them. They are stored in boxes up in the attic. Most of them are written in English, some in German, a few in Irish. They just sit there. I don’t know, maybe I should read some of them again. Maybe I should just burn them. Maybe I should have kept that letter from the post office today, saved it with the rest. If only I understood Vietnamese.