“Don’t cry over spilled milk,” my mother always told me. That’s exactly what I did, do, and can’t stop doing.
And it was all because of a fucking mailbox.
“Hi,” I said, avoiding eye contact. Bertha is the typical eyesore to the boarding school freshman. Why she’s an eyesore has little to do with her appearance, although, if you really want to know, she has red hair tied back in a bun. She fashions herself in a hipster robe. And her breath smells like donkey.
Bertha does everything at this school. She’s the cook. She’s the mailroom assistant. She’s the advisor for Ecology Club. Not sure how that one fits, but maybe she likes trees.
“Hi,” I repeated. “I was wondering if you could help me open my mailbox. It doesn’t seem to be…”
She looked up. She looked down. But she didn’t look my way when she said, “Name.”
“Crappy name for a girl,” Bertha replied. “See this apple?” she asked in that raspy Bernadette Peters voice. She seized a robust looking Granny Smith that was hanging out of my JanSport bag and plopped it down onto the mailroom counter. This was no Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It couldn’t be. “Where did you get this apple?” she inquired.
She was onto me.
I looked up, but her golden tooth flashed me. I could feel my throat constricting. A single tear made its grand entrance from my right eye.
What could I say? I don’t go here? I’m really a transfer student? An international? An everything above?
Fighting the tears, I uttered, “The dining hall?”
“Yeeees,” she replied and laughed that cacophonous laugh they save for evil witches named Bertha in hipster robes with flowers on them.
“Could you possibly be able to help me open my mailbox? I have…tickets to see this performer, David Sedaris. Really funny guy–brilliant, actually. His show is tomorrow, and my mailbox is broken. Please, could you help me? It’s a VIP pass.”
“Oh, of course,” Bernadette Peters said calmly, “just as long as you look at the fucking apple!”
I looked around panoramically. The one time there’s no line for the mail.
David Sedaris…VIP …tomorrow…I’ll look at the fucking apple.
“Now,” she said, “I will open your mailbox for you if you do one thing for me. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” I’m not touching that back, I thought.
“Tell me,” she crackled through her red velvet lips. “Tell me why. Tell me why you steal apples from the dining hall!”
“Sorry,” I mumbled softly. “I didn’t think I was stealing. I’m on the unlimited meal plan, so I can basically have food like five times a day if I feel like it. Not like I would. But I could. And an apple is a great snack. You know, an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”
“Oh sweetie,” she grinned, grabbing my sweaty cheek as if I were an infant, “people shouldn’t get hungry.”
Could it be…was she? There she was. She was going to my mailbox. She was getting the mail! She returned. Victory is mine. Now I just have to say a secret password in some esoteric language that only the Mayans have deciphered or sing an opera or kiss her ass.
“A thief,” she began, this time with the ticket in hand, “is not a Very Important Person.”
Shredded in front of my eyes. Down the abyss. Down the machine. Forever lost. Hello, spilled milk. Goodbye, David Sedaris. Goodbye, happiness. And goodbye, Granny Smith. You never were a real grandma.