The alarm began to sound on his Android just as the sun peered through the tattered blind into his face in a moment of curious synergy. The blind had been partially wrested from its perch atop the window in a drunken stupor, but hadn’t seemed like a significant domestic downgrade until the arrival of this inconvenient side effect.
Aware that he had five other alarms waiting in 10-minute intervals, he leapt his arm across the tattered bedspread, straining to swipe right on the frantic clock imagery now glaring in his face.
Somewhat awake, he peered at the popcorn ceiling and wafted malaise upward to greet every kernel. At first, he thought the position might be a satisfactory way to spend the rest of the day, but as the next alarm began to sound he remembered the date.
Sitting straight up, he tapped in his login code as fast as he could and rushed his finger to the e-mail icon. In an overabundance of haste, he pressed with too much emphasis and it declined to open. “Goddamnit! Open!”
Yielding to its libelous owner, mail flowed forth from the screen, and there it was. “Your items have shipped!” But those delectable words had satiated him days ago.
Now, the true test.
The best! The best!
Out for delivery. 6:00 AM.
Invigorated by the promise of the day, he jumped out of bed, slipped his feet into awaiting Crocs and grabbed the carton of cigarettes on the floor next to his bed. He left the apartment, traipsed down the stairs and out onto the path that led to the parking lot.
Fittingly, it was a beautiful, sunny day, full of promise. His camping chair awaited him. The synthetic fibers, dyed blue, gleamed forth from each square inch of the seat. The plastic cup holder held an empty soda bottle, perfect for spitting.
Could he ask for much else?
As he sat in his chair, the neighbors began to trickle out onto the path on their way to work, startled as usual by his abrupt presence at the bottom of the stairs. Normally, he pretended to be on his phone to avoid prolonged chitchat, but today was another matter. “Hey! How’s it going!” he exclaimed to each passerby as he took drags of his cigarette.
(He was met with varying levels of enthusiasm.)
An hour passed. At first, the simple promise of the arrival of his package had been enough to fuel optimism, but a creeping doubt had begun to set in:
Would it get here in time?
He rushed back to his phone to open yet another app and scrolled through messages until he had found it:
Well, the rally’s at 6:30, so how about a drink around 5 at my place?
Sure, that sounds great. In solidarity, M 😉
The emoji had been a bit much for his liking, but months of loneliness shoved that concern aside. The only problem now was the package. It was crucial to his success.
It had been a double whammy at the time: three months ago, walking into work, he was greeted with the news that his company would no longer be paying him, and, walking into his house a few hours later, that she would no longer be, well, anything-him.
Now, at the start of each day, rather than trace his finger down her long, thin back, he turned over in his bed and hugged a pile of loan statements and overdue notices.
In a moment of particular darkness, he had even contemplated starting a one-man-band: “Me and my loans: 50,000 deep.”
Luckily, that urge subsided. But a different one had been less easy to abate.
Today was the day. He was sure of it. Now, all that was left was the package to seal the deal.
Deliveries normally came later in the day, between the hours of 2 and 4 PM. That left an incredibly narrow one-hour window. Sometimes they got dropped off at the wrong door and taken in by new owners. He was especially worried, since he had forgotten to indicate the building letter along with his apartment number. He would have to be vigilant in order to intercept the package.
In fact, he had better go and get his ID now just in case the delivery guy showed up 6 hours early.
He had done his research. Memorized facts, statistics. Reviewed records, sound bytes, and clips. Now, it all rested upon a box probably no bigger than an 8 ½ x11 sheet of paper.
The hours passed, and 5:00 crept closer and closer. Thirty minutes, twenty minutes, ten minutes. His nervousness over the delivery multiplied, leading him to begin traipsing the property in case the UPS man arrived from a different side than normal. He could pull into the back parking lot. He could walk in from the street. He could be coming from the neighboring complex and cut across the side.
Aware of the eccentricity of all the zigzag movements, he continued in full knowledge of the portions of faces beginning to peak out from behind curtains to glimpse the spectacle unfolding.
Finally, after what seemed like eons, out of the corner of his eye he caught the light brown fabric sweeping toward the building (its owner arriving in the front and having parked on the street, just as always).
He tried to walk, but in the end broke into a frantic run., and the while shoving his I.D. out ahead of him to reach the coveted box first.
But the deliveryman was three steps ahead, and not just literally. There had never been an item for this particular name, nor did said recipient have any idea how to address a package (or, as it now appeared, of how mail delivery worked generally). It wasn’t so hard to put together.
He leaned forward, holding the box out like a baton, ready for the pass.
His customer deftly cradled his prize and charged onward into the building.
“Thanks!” he yelled behind him.
“Good luck, kid!”
He rushed back to the parking lot and unlocked the door to his Versa Hatchback. Propping the box on the backseat, he yanked on the top flap with all his might and then emptied out its contents. An array of stickers fell out just in time.
He had just affixed the last to his bumper when the car pulled up. Christ, that was close.
Quickly scanning his work, it seemed a tad overdone, perhaps, but he’d make a joke of it right up front.
The car door shut and just like that, she was walking toward him.
“Man, you’ve got even me beat,” she said, holding out her hand to shake while gesturing to his bumper with the other.
“Yeah, well, I’ve just made one too many donations I guess,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders and jamming his hands into his pockets once the shake was over.
They stood awkwardly in front of one another, unsure of how to fully propel into their digitally determined interaction. The sun was just starting to set.
She tucked her hair behind her ear and leaned to the side.
“Yeah I’m glad you wrote me back. My friends and I had been sending those messages more as a joke. You know, after awhile, you start to lose faith in the whole online dating thing. So, hey, why not campaign!”
“Totally, yeah, for sure.” Now he was running his hand through his curls, aiming for a James Dean effect. He was going to have to do better than that, and he knew it.
“I’m just excited to meet somebody as passionate about socialism!”
This was it.
He cleared his throat.
“Well, you know, democratic socialism. Let’s not scare away the neighbors now, M!”
The moment of truth:
He held out his arm, gesturing to the building.
“So, how about that drink before the rally?”
* Inspired by historical events as observed from my parking lot.