The world was out to get Marvin Gates. Or at least, that’s how he felt. Especially on Mondays. On Sundays, the world might be less out to get him, but that was only because mail wasn’t delivered on this one, blessed, day each week.
If you were to ask Marvin Gates why he chose to become a mailman, he would give you one of two answers. If you asked him on a Sunday, he might say, in his high, nasal voice, “because my father was a mailman, and my grandfather was a mailman.” Any other day, however, he would sarcastically laugh at his own misery, saying, “because I love waking up at five AM, shouldering a heavy bag filled with greeting cards that aren’t for me, trudging around a neighborhood filled with people I’d never talk to otherwise, and finishing my day drenched in sweat from a day of hiking from one mailbox to the next under the this goddamn beautiful Florida sunshine. And hell, who doesn’t love to wear dark blue short shorts while pretending to take themselves seriously?”
I would recommend asking him on a Sunday.
This morning did not seem different than any other Tuesday in the string of Tuesdays that had made up the past fifteen years of Marvin Gates career as a mailman. For fifteen years, Marvin had been a mailman, and for fifteen years, he had willed himself awake at 4:30 every morning, ready to face the day anew. He would drag himself out of his small apartment, stumble bleary-eyed down the stairs, yell at his Pakistani landlord that he would pay the rent by the end of the week, and then collapse into his Volvo 240 sedan, dejectedly turning the key and heading off to the post office to get the day’s first load of mail.
The monotony was what killed him. Every day, the same route. Marvin Gates could make this route with his eyes closed. He knew exactly when to speed up so that the Jenson’s dog wouldn’t notice him and when to slow down to avoid an awkward conversation with the recently widowed Mrs. Harrington. He grew depressed when he realized that the greatest achievement he had realized so far in his 35 years was that he could map out a few neighborhoods in Southern California from memory.
You may wonder why Marvin Gates puts up with it day after day. And honestly, he often asked himself the very same question, usually on Mondays. Why did he deal with the reclusive Mr. Regis, constantly glaring at him though his window and sending strongly worded emails to the local post office, complaining that Marvin handled his mail “suspiciously?” And why did he put up with the bratty seven year old girl who refused to let him pass on the sidewalk while she played hopscotch, didn’t she have school or something?
But Marvin had a reason, maybe even more than a reason. You see, Marvin had never been in love. He had gone on plenty of dates, but had never found a girl he felt was worth his time. A big part of it was his high standard for women that he considered eligible wives, as he felt he should be in the market for matrimony at this point in his life. He didn’t feel that he was particularly good looking but he certainly wasn’t ugly, especially on the rare occasions that he would smile, his teeth appearing bright white against his tanned skin and short dark hair. He had always wanted to be taller but his height was one of the many miseries he had come to accept about his life.
And Marvin Gates still held on to that singular quest for love. An unlikely quest for such a cynical and bitter man, and yet history had proven it worthwhile. His father, like his grandfather was a short, sarcastic, and often miserable man. And in both cases, they had met their wives while delivering mail. They had the same story, happening upon an unfamiliar address after getting lost and stopping to ask directions, only to find the love of their life waiting as if in a Disney movie behind the door.
Marvin had heard the story a million times, and secretly hated himself for believing that he could possibly have the same fate. It was this scrap of hope that got him into his dorky uniform each morning, and this shred of possibility that had kept him going for fifteen years.
But back to this Tuesday. Marvin pulled on his dark blue hat in preparation for what he assumed would be a terrible day. It was Tuesday after all, which he considered the rudest day of the week, as it didn’t even have the decency to call itself by the name he thought it deserved i.e. “second Monday.”
He pulled the Volvo up to the employee parking lot of the post office and went in through the “employees only” door, the same way he had the past fifteen years. His boss Phil Shirley greeted him with the usual gruff and decaffeinated “mornin’ Gates,” as he walked by. But this time Phil stopped and added hesitantly, “Oh, and uh, you should know that Stan Leonard killed himself last night, so you’re going to need to take his route for the next few days while we find a replacement. Thanks Grant, I appreciate it.”
Marvin was surprised by this news but not shocked. It had been seven years since a mailman had “gone postal” and committed suicide in this post office. Stan had seemed so level-headed and calm though. Quite frankly, Marvin had always thought himself the only one miserable enough to commit suicide around here, though he knew he could never actually bring himself to do it, though the thought had struck him on some Monday mornings.
Let’s see, thought Marvin, Stan worked the west end of town, meaning his day just got longer by about two hours. It was hard to feel resentful when guys killed themselves, but it happened enough in the postal business that one could grow numb to the idea, morbid as that sounds.
Marvin walked up Pacific Avenue, following the map he had been granted to take on Stan’s route. It had been a long day and he couldn’t wait to get back home, where he could collapse onto his couch and watch Seinfeld reruns until he fell asleep.
Trying to get his bearings, Marvin knocked on the bright red door of 185 Pacific Avenue, which appeared not to have any visible mailbox. A smiling woman opened the door, her long dark hair falling to her shoulders, pushing back her bangs with a hand that Marvin immediately noticed did not bear a ring. Marvin gazed back at this girl he knew only as 185 Pacific Avenue.
And for the first time in 15 years, Marvin Gates decided that this week, Sunday could wait.
By Fletcher Bonin