The Letter, a raindrop,
& a change taking its time across two continents
The yellow letter arrived. On a Thursday. Other than the letter and a subscription bill from the San Francisco Examiner, a money for God message designed to resemble a utility bill, the once blue mail box was empty. And Thursday was that hot kind of Northern California summers day, one think hears in the same dusty cough as wine country heat waves. Lots of sunlight, dry heat pollen, and dust visible in a squint toward the sun. Colors changed from the day before. Feet didn’t kick up dust so much as become part of its strategy.
The sun came through the trees. Downward, of course, lending a yellow light to the meandering churt on the unpaved road. And the yellow, of the light, fell upon the mailbox. A robins egg blue mail box with a red number. Trimmed in yellow. In the box was an envelope. The French stamps, like the mail box was robins egg blue. The envelope was lemon yellow and of the highest quality.
Those blue French stamps were canceled a little more than a week before in the sixth arondissement Paris, France: The address in a careful yet non specific hand was written in red ink, with a fountain pen. Not necessarily European. A thinish envelope with a crispness of sound in its movement. Yellow with red lettering in fountain pen ink. Blue French Stamps.
But the envelope was unopened and therefore unread. A single raindrop had fallen upon a single digit of the zip code. A number just above the underlined USA.
That blur caused and additional days delay in delivery. That additional single day caused three more days in which the blue and red letter would set peacefully in the blue and red mailbox. That short delay and the choice of water based ink for the fountain pen combined with a solitary rain drop provides the basis for our story.
The lemony envelope was carried from the Marais across the Pont Sully Bridge, by hand, within the folds of a Liberation newspaper. It was mailed in the sixth arrondissement, posted in within view of the L’Odeon metro stop.
While its author /writer took coffee, the letter left Paris together with several kilos of other mail to the United States via Air France landing in Newark. From there it made its way on a United flight to Chicago where it was placed on the United Flight to Honolulu stopping over in San Francisco. That flight never took off for mechanical reasons, we are told and the mail bag was removed and put on a later flight to San Francisco. Yet another days delay.
Then a to U.S. mail truck, across the Golden Gate bridge to the Marin Mountains and down Highway 1 to the Stinson Beach Post Office. The very next morning it made its way to a rural delivery box on a bluff way above town within sight of the ocean, on a clear day, in the bleaching morning sun that only arrives over the pacific.
After days of traveling end over end, but in truth mostly lying flat in a Styrofoam shipping box between other mail of catalogs, magazine subscriptions and plumbers bills, it finally came to rest. In a road side mailbox … Numbered in blood red … drenched in California sunlight, half a world away.
Mid morning it was picked up by a youngish female hand, a little rough from a life around horses, sun, and salt air. The hand of its recipient. One of them. More important was what it had to say to her. At the base of the mail box was untrampled yellow grass. The base of the young woman however, was about to be trampled and never be the same. Life would go blue-green.
There is was, in hands kissed by horse reins and burnt by the sun. Nails clean and short with 3 silver rings. Made in Mexico by an artist, one of them her aunts wedding ring. It wasn’t much mail. Junk mail rarely coming on Thursday. the letter intrigued her. She liked to play with things and she didn’t know anyone in Paris. The yellow was the first thing she saw as the box opened. Bang. Explosive, surely not a mistake. And then the red. The colors she painted her mailbox.
She carried it inside, smiling, setting it on the blue and white mosaic breakfast table in a slash of white morning sunlight. On its edge; red ink and blue stamps facing the rest of the room. It was left there, motionless, while she dealt with the rest of the morning mail and made a second pot of strong Mexican Coffee laced with bitter chocolate. Accompanied by a short Mexican beer. A habit stolen from her mother.
It was in Mexico, that she learned to ride. On a western saddle with a tall Mexican silver horn. In those days, she loved her horse more than any other living thing. In the whole world. She could depend upon him. a chestnut gelding. Others had money, things, even love, and all the words a head could hold. But the gelding had kindness.
She shot it with a borrowed six gun when it broke a leg crossing a pasture. A heavy Colt .45 with a bone handle. It kicked like hell but she didn’t notice. And she carried it in one hand by her side, walking aimlessly, fortified by a quickly swallowed tumbler of whiskey. She hadn’t cried much since. Nor did she like whiskey.
So. there the letter sat. It was getting used to sitting. Yellow in the morning light which was also yellow. The coffee steamed from a rough brown potters mug and she found an old and unopened pack of her mother’s Camels in a wooden drawer, out in the hall, beneath the telephone. The occasional morning beer and a cigarette were the only bad habits gleaned from her mother who had little else to offer.
Like all good stationary the envelope opened easily, like a gift, without damage. Inside, with just enough room to either side, were two buff blue sheets with the same lemon color riding their top. Something small was carefully printed or engraved in it. The seal of a small private family Parisian hotel operating in the same place since just before Napoleon III and the reconstruction of Paris. Nothing was written on the first which wrapped the second. Very carefully, which was no surprise, on the internal sheet In the same red ink and in the same hand was a recent date – in the American fashion. The greeting was: “Dear Ms. Bernard,” followed by the coma of a personal rather than a colon of a business letter.
So, inside the envelope, addressed to a handsome young lady and written on a blue graphed Marie Claire Fountain stationary or more precisely French school theme books, in the same red ink was what we know as a personal letter. First paragraph identified the writer who she met as a child. The second paragraph told her of a San Francisco law firm which she should contact. The letter’s last line … just before the signature…… a simple: “M” said: “The amount of money you will receive is not enough- by itself- to place you among the unfettered rulers of this democracy- It is enough – surely- to earn you the general forgiveness of their authorities.”