Mom & Dad —
Met Palmer & Charlotte at the Airport with no complications.
Upstate New York is beautiful. It’s been raining & overcast & the trees are really green. We are planning to do some exploring around Hyde Park, then to ride into NYC Sunday by train. I recommend NY State for your next VACA.
Justin read the postcard with it’s smeared blue ink before putting it into the mail crate sitting beside him. He thought of the glamour of New York, mostly New York City, and how much he longed to be back in his hometown.
I wish we’d never moved to Marion, he thought.
Justin sighed and continued to sort through all of the letters, bills, and postcards in the extremely full, plastic mail crate. He took a glance at the window and saw a few people from his school riding their skateboards down the street, popsicles in hand, laughing and yelling at each other as they raced down the street, probably towards the Gretham Bridge, the only teenage hot spot that existed in Marion.
He could have been one of those people enjoying the summer weather, hanging out with his friends, maybe even beginning a new summer fling, but he was stuck volunteering – not even working, volunteering – at the Marion, North Carolina post office all summer long as a favor for Ilene Jenkins, a forty-something-year old neighbor who recently had back surgery, and would not be able to return to the post office until possibly the fall.
Although he was sympathetic to Miss Ilene’s predicament, it was not he who had offered his services to her and the Marion post office, but his parents, who insisted that this would be a great opportunity for him to get involved with his community.
It wasn’t like, if he’d decided not to be at the post office, he’d be isolated; after moving from New York City to Marion in the fall, Justin had made a few good friends from school this past year, who’d willingly adopted him into their friend group, showed him the ins-and-outs of Marion, and may have gotten him into a bit of trouble here and there. None of it was drastic, until they’d egged and toilet-papered the mayor’s house without knowing it was his house. Despite that being months ago, Justin’s parents’ had been so embarrassed, and had never really trusted his friends after the incident.
So, this post office gig wasn’t just so Justin could connect with more people from the community, but it was also to keep him away from his friends for a good majority of the summer. And honestly, there weren’t many people to connect with at the post office, minus the elderly mailmen whom he had nothing in common with.
But Justin’s friends were the only reason he wanted to stay in Marion. Had it not been for them, he would’ve constantly begged his parents to move back a long time ago.
And even still, there were moments he longed to be back amidst the busy streets, stopping at his favorite food trucks, taking the subway to Central Park, or simply standing in the middle of Times Square during the busiest time of day (around 5:15pm on any weekday), closing his eyes, and listening to the traffic at a stand still.
Marion was too quiet for Justin. And maybe that’s why he hung out with the friends he had, and did the things they did; it was the only adventure that Marion had to offer him.
“Are you done sorting through that?”
Justin snapped out of his mindless organizing to meet the eyes of Mr. Kramer, the elderly head postman who wore tortoise-shell glasses, and was one of the few people who still carried a pocket watch. Every time Justin saw him, he felt like he should be working for the Pony Express, not the post office.
“Uhh, umm,” Justin fumbled, “almost, Mr. Kramer. Sorry, I guess I was just…”
“You weren’t opening any letters back here, were ya?” Mr. Kramer harshly interrupted.
“Oh, no, of course not,” Justin said defensively, “but…I did read that postcard.” He pointed at the postcard with the picture of the Culinary Institute of America that was located in…
“Hyde Park,” Mr. Kramer said, picking up the postcard, and staring at it. “I do miss that place.”
Justin was taken aback. “You know about Hyde Park?”
Mr. Kramer chuckled. “‘Know’ about it? I used to live not too far from there back when I was in my early twenties! Although, I longed to live in New York City then, it was just too expensive for me to be able to.”
Justin tried to conceal his surprise, but knew he failed when Mr. Kramer looked at him with a grin. “You’re surprised someone from Marion knows New York well, eh? Especially someone as old as me. I know it’s probably changed a ton since I’ve been there.”
“I mean, I’ve mentioned being from New York City before,” Justin said, “I guess…I guess I’m just wondering why you never said anything about living there.”
Mr. Kramer gently placed the postcard back into the plastic bin next to Justin, breathing a sigh through his nose. He was silent for a good moment, so much so that Justin wondered if he should say something to keep the conversation going. But Mr. Kramer looked at him and simply said, “Just be sure to let me know when you’re done organizing, and I’ll let you go,” and left the room, with Justin staring after him confusedly.
It was as if Mr. Kramer had completely forgotten that they were talking about New York City, and Hyde Park…or was he just unwilling to let Justin in on why he was no longer living there?
Justin’s curiosity heightened. Minus the things he’d done with his friends during the school year, this was the first thing that peeked his interest all summer, and he was determined to find out exactly when and why Mr. Kramer had left New York for Marion.
💙 Mishy 🦋