This was yesterday. It was one o’clock. A woman left the table with its pens on chains and trays of small forms to rejoin the line. The woman ahead of me turned and addressed her friend.
“It wasn’t there?”
“There’s always a book, but it’s not there. I don’t know. I’m hoping she can look it up for me when I get there.” She nodded at the only open window. “I think it’s 28290. I think that’s it.”
It was a small branch post office by a telephone company in downtown Newark. I had never seen the other window open, or anyone else behind the open one besides Bonnie, with her expression of sorely tried forbearance.
“I’m sure she can look up the zip code of North Carolina for you.”
The woman behind me snorted. “Who asked them to move to North Carolina anyway?”
“That’s what they’re doing—they’re all moving back down south.”
“Now I got to go all the way down there to see my grandpa.”
“You still got your other grandma living up here.”
“Yeah, but I only got one living grandpa. Why couldn’t my other grandma have moved to North Carolina?”
Two more women came in, shaking the drizzle from their shoulders and stamping their feet on the mat.
“You two still here?”
The woman ahead of me waggled the manila envelope between two fingers, with their long dark nails. “Thought I’d get this over with first.”
“Lunch break almost over, girl.”
The four of them laughed. Bonnie had disappeared. The man at the window pressed his belly into the counter, shifting from one foot to the other, and scratched his bushy beard.
“That sister slow,” said one of the women who had just come in.
“That sister need some help,” said the other.
“I think I’m gonna get me some stamps, too,” said the woman with the envelope between her fingers.
Bonnie returned from the back office. Behind me, the three women studied the glass case on the wall.
“Hey, where are the black pride stamps at?”
“Oh, no–I found it, Kwanzaa. They already got their Christmas stamps. What they got their Christmas stamps out for?”
“I was gonna say, if I didn’t see’em—” one woman pointed at the two sheets of 42 centers commemorating Star Wars. “Move over, Yoda.”
“But they there.”
“How ‘bout a little something for the sisters?” said the one whose grandparents had moved to North Carolina. “I see Jimmy Stewart, how about a little Maya Angelou or something?”
“That’s just a sample of all they got back there,” said the one in front of me, moving to the window. “They got others, or they sold out.”
“Why can’t we be up in the sample?”
“What, you think we special or something?”
The three behind me tittered. At the counter, Bonnie had pulled a binder of stamps from a drawer and was showing them.
“Are those the only ones you have?”
“Just the Kwanzaa.”
“No black women?”
“Lessee… for women, I got breast cancer.”
“I guess I’ll take some of those, then.”