Reason / 20 May 2001
UPS MAN: John Hancock right there.
ME: This pixelated scrawl is a poor rendition of my true signature, which is typically a masterpiece of Fauvist exuberance.
UPS MAN: Don’t you mean “pixilated”?
[uproarious laughter, backslapping]
ME: O luxurious Swedish software, tell me of your journey to my warm embrace! Encased in decadent, cleanly designed packaging, decorated in tasteful olive and pumpkin, handwrapped in your native Stockholm, straight from the clean room, 14 May, 5:17 in the morning my time, lab technicians encased in white except for the tiny, tri-cube logo, rubber stitched on the right arm, pale hair and straight teeth, wooden furniture that arcs and scoops, a fluid mosaic, hidden panels of large-buttoned controls that swing out smoothly and silently.
Passed hand to hand, skipping like a stone, an abrupt arrival in Cologne, Denmark, home of the Clinic of Dental Medicine and Lars Arenhoevel, plagued by dreams of shattering teeth, black and bloody holes, his face wracked with premature wrinkles, the skin hard and tight, attending to the test subjects with a fervor born of desperation rather than sweet, two-feet-on-the-ground goodheartedness. Who would’ve expected the coughing twins and the itching numbness of insomnia, and we’re left wondering if Lars’ decision to work the early morning shift at the UPS hub has less to do with supplementing his student’s income and more with working alone, wordless, for five hours straight, the flatlands encased in a giant hangar and the roar of 727s.
The plane spends most of 15 May traversing the ocean, my package hitting the import scan at 11:18 PM, arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport where I saw Alexis for the second time, my need to use the bathroom cranked to a fever pitch by my frenzied nervousness. It’s here where a crew strips two UPS jets of their contents, quickly refitting them with seats, luggage bins, reading lights so they can be used as passenger jets in the service of Apple Vacations and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, taking jacketed grey hopefuls, again with the premature wrinkles, to the Bahamas, Aruba, Cancun, other gameshow getaways. Coincidentally, I rode on the Sun Viking many years ago, a Royal Caribbean ship, with my grandparents — men hitting golf balls into the sea, me dressing up as a pirate, clocking my head on a bunk, the swimming pool filled with saltwater.
Arrival in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Queen City, astride the Merrimack, before the sun has risen on the next day. My laughing dismissal of the Old Man Of The Mountain has evolved into humorless loathing. We first played Skip-Bo in this state; she cleaned my clock twice this very morning. A kid, the same age as me on the Sun Viking, thinks the brown truck is for him, finally arriving with realistic footlocker with 100 army men inside, and it does actually slow down for a second, toying with him, but that’s just the driver checking the addresses, and he wants 2109, not 2103, you poor bastard, ha ha.
An hour later, it’s in Portland, on the truck, its envelope creased and dirty, or greasy, rather. No exotic stamps, no indecipherable cancellations, nothing handwritten, but still alive and heavy with the weight of the Atlantic.