Ignatius leaned his bike against the railing and gave the open-air post office its due. The brief admiration of the architecture and the history he and the building shared came automatically. He didn’t linger, but the moments at the foot of the steps provoked a sweet anticipation. He didn’t mind the pounding in his heart or the tremble in his hand while retrieving the envelope from the bike’s wire basket.
On any other day, those symptoms would be cause for concern, but not on Wednesdays. And while the rest of the week passed without much thought, Wednesdays required the special consideration reserved for a lover.
Ignatius worried that the words were too personal, making up for chances not taken, mistakes of a young man held back by imagined shortcomings, veiled by pride and childhood scars. He recalled the day they strolled along the Pont des Arts, how she marveled at the lovers fastening their locks declarations of devotion. With not enough money to purchase his own, and even less grit to think himself worthy, he’d mumbled about the darkening clouds and hurried her over the bridge.
Now, he reached for the curved brass handle and opened the door inlaid with colored pieces of glass, orange and yellow capturing the sun’s reflections and bits of blue and green reflecting a face that seemed older than he remembered. Inside, he played the game in his head, like he did each time. He wouldn’t drop his letter in the slot unless a post waited in kind. If his own box was empty, he would go home and get on with what was left of his life.
But it had never been empty. Not in the five years since her great-granddaughter found their picture in a box as she trampled through her family history for a school project. But the fear, ah the fear again. Ignatius convinced himself that an empty box silently announced her death or almost more unbearable, her realization of the situation’s folly.
Because today, concealed by an unassuming ivory envelope, came the acknowledgment that he couldn’t have uttered those fifty years ago. His appearance to the outside world may now be described as feeble, but that was a guise. His heart and mind were strong and daring, and his fingers felt the airline ticket, stiffer than the thin sheet of stationery. Could a single paragraph convince her to travel thousands of miles and start a new life with him?
Ignatius held his breath as the tiny door to box 4218 inched open. He fumbled through the junk mail that never ceased and looked at the single piece that carried the block of stamps required for the journey from France to the States.
Back out on the street, he glanced at the building before mounting the bike. History lived there, and history lived within him. Time would destroy them both eventually, so he rode home with an appreciation for the gentle wind at his back, pushing him toward deliverance.