RETURN TO SENDER – DAPHNE BELLFLOWER
Evie stared at the front door. The brass doorknob beckoned, inviting her, daring her to touch it. Evie paced the length of the door six times, feet tracing a circle on the scuffed wood floor. She turned suddenly, and grabbed the knob. Her hand burned as she yanked the door open.
Immediately the outdoor noise overwhelmed her; robins screeching, tree leaves grating, the distant roar of a lawn mower. Loud persistent barking. Evie felt the floor tilt sideways and start to spin. Nauseous, she slammed the door shut. She made her way to the sofa and sat down, heart pounding. She grabbed the TV remote and turned it on with shaking hands, making sure to mute the sound.
Evie watched Matt Lauer and his generically beautiful co-hosts silently banter until her heartbeat slowed to the point where she could turn up the sound. She shook her head in disgust as the Today Show’s hosts traded quips with weatherman Al Roker about the series of snowstorms plaguing the east coast. Evie couldn’t stand any of them, but Al Roker irritated her the most.
“We expect blizzard conditions for the next 48 hours,” Roker said, grinning idiotically. “Looks like everybody is going to have to stay inside this weekend.” Evie glared at the TV and switched it off. She went to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee, making sure to walk the length of the living room twice before entering the kitchen. “48 hours, oh no” Evie muttered to herself. “Welcome to my world.”
She poured herself another cup of coffee, and opened the door to her pantry. Four bags of Stumptown coffee, specially shipped from Portland, Oregon, sat on the shelf. Evie’s heart began pounding again. She ran to her kitchen computer and ordered six one-pound bags of Hair Bender’s Roast, making sure to check the box for FedEx overnight delivery.
Evie returned to the living room with her coffee and stared at the front door. It shimmered like a desert mirage in an old cartoon. She stared at it intently until it stopped sparking and glistening, took a sip of her now cold coffee and walked the length of the living room three times. Evie’s temples throbbed. She turned the hall light on and off seven times and headed to the bathroom to shower.
She opened the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw two 12-packs of toilet paper and 19 bars of soap in neat stacks next to the towels. She would be able to shower in peace. Evie showered, dried her hair, and carefully put on her makeup. She rooted through her 27 tubes of lipstick, decided on Chanel’s “Jezebel,” and made a mental note to order eight more lipsticks from Sephora after she got dressed.
Evie studied her face in the mirror. She looked good. John used to tell her that no matter how much she pissed him off, no matter how crazy she got, she still turned him on. The thought of John getting angry because of this made Evie smile. Who was he to comment on her mental health?
Dressed, made up and feeling less anxious, Evie opened the curtains in her bedroom, the guest room, the breakfast nook, and the living room. She stared out the living room window, looking for the brown truck. Nothing yet. Evie strained to look up and down the street. Still nothing. She checked her watch and saw it was 9:44.
Evie peeked into the window at her next door neighbor’s house and faced her daytime nemesis: a small white terrier with the capacity to bark for hours. After the dog’s owners left each morning for work, the terrier expressed its dismay from its perch in front of the window with series of barks that would increase in intensity and frequency. The duration would vary; at times there was complete silence. During these episodes of quiet, Evie prayed the terrier had succumbed to a seizure. But invariably one of the several delivery trucks that serviced Evie would rouse the dog and the barking cycle would begin again.
Evie backed away from the window and sat in front of her living room computer. Her left eye throbbed. She checked her work email, found there were no emergencies, and decided to check her personal email for today’s scheduled deliveries. The organic fruit and vegetable box would arrive today, as well as the Office Depot printer ink, the Shiseido sunscreen SPF 50, and two pairs of shoes from Zappos. Evie smiled. Zappos meant UPS, which meant UPS driver Guillermo Ortiz. There was also an email from Evie’s ex-husband John, telling her he was getting remarried. Evie deleted that one.
When they first met, Evie thought John was the most fascinating person she had ever known, but after they were married John’s loud voice and terrible table manners began to drive Evie slowly insane. Evie thought it ironic that John blamed her for their divorce when clearly she was the wronged party. How was she expected to listen to him scream day in and day out about his work day, sports, politics, or any other subject he thought interesting while chewing with his mouth open. Evie shuddered, went to the kitchen and counted her spice bottles twice to relax.
She wasn’t exactly sorry when John moved out at the beginning of last year. He was always pressuring her to do things she didn’t want to do, like leaving the house or going to a therapist. Besides, if John was still living there and running all the errands Evie never would have noticed Guillermo. She closed her eyes and thought about Guillermo’s broad shoulders and narrow hips perfectly encased in his brown uniform. Even his name, printed neatly on the UPS delivery slips, made Evie happy. She took a deep breath, counted to 59, and opened her eyes.
Evie walked to the front door and crossed her arms. The front door pulsed with energy, emitting little zaps of red light. She glared at the door. “I need my mail you bastard,” she said aloud, the sound of her voice startling her. Evie lunged for the door, pulled it open and staggered out to the front entry towards her mailbox. It was drizzling lightly; the mailbox surface was covered with a wet, oily sheen. Evie grabbed frantically at her mail, jammed tightly in the opening. “Fucking postman,” she yelled, slamming the door shut behind her. The terrier started barking.
Evie closed the curtains and sorted through her mail, separating bills from the stacks of catalogues sent to her by advertisers alerted to her purchasing habits by online data. She threw the catalogues on her coffee table and reviewed her bills. Mortgage. Late. Electrical bill. Late. Water sewer garbage. Late. Evie sighed, then jumped up and ran to the front window. She took a quick look at the house next door. The terrier was still at the window, barking frantically.
Evie looked up and down the street again. No sign yet of the UPS truck. She worried it was Guillermo’s day off. She didn’t know how she would make it through today without seeing him. Evie tried to imagine what his voice would sound like. Maybe it was low and scratchy like Brad Pitt’s. He could have an exotic accent like Antonio Banderas, or make even the most mundane things sound sexy like Brian Williams. She could hardly wait to find out.
She looked at her watch. It was 10:02. The morning was flying by and Evie needed to get some work done. She switched on the TV and sat down in front of her living room computer. She logged in to the office server and half-listened as Rosie O’Donnell argued with Whoopi Goldberg about bullying while she edited her latest project, an online manual detailing how to sync Microsoft data with existing IPhone and IPad playlists. This topic was incredibly boring and this group of engineers seemed even more illiterate than usual. Evie decided to concentrate solely on the manual for the next 17 minutes.
Evie heard a truck pull up. She jumped up and ran to the window. It was UPS with her new shoes. Her heart began pounding as Guillermo got out of the cab. He walked around to the back of the truck, pulled up the door, and retrieved her Zappos box. Evie swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. She felt light-headed. She could hardly breathe. Her clothes became too tight, constricting her. The floor tilted and started to spin. Evie fell to the floor and covered her eyes.
She heard Guillermo’s footsteps on her entry stairs. He knocked on the front door. Evie counted four sharp raps. There was silence. Evie rolled over and looked at the door. It was vibrating, shaking so hard that the hinges were buzzing. The door knob was bright red, hot and poisonous. She was too dizzy to stand up on her own, so she grabbed the doorknob for support. It burned her hand. Evie screamed.
“Ma’am,” she heard from a thousand miles away. “Ma’am, are you all right? Are you there?” Guillermo began pounding on the door. Each knock was like spike to her brain. Evie closed her eyes, covered her ears and screamed again.
“Ma’am,” she heard him shout, “Ma’am, if you don’t answer the door, I’m going to have to call the police.”
It was too much for Evie. Her head was pounding, the ground was spinning, and her clothes were cutting off her blood flow and air supply. She frantically pulled her t-shirt over her head, wiggled out of her jeans, ripped off her bra and almost had her underwear off before she vomited all over the floor. Guillermo continued yelling and pounding.
Evie gathered up her strength, spit the excess vomit out of her mouth, and repeatedly began kicking the front door. It stopped vibrating. Guillermo quit pounding on the door. Evie began taking deep cleansing breaths. She decided that 11 deep breaths would be enough. Evie took one more gulp.
“I’m fine,” she said through the door. “I just stepped on some broken glass. But I’m fine now.” She swallowed. “You can just leave the package on the steps. I’ll get it in a minute.” Evie heard Guillermo drop the package and run down the steps. “Thanks,” she yelled at the door. “I’ll be fine.”
Evie rolled over. The floor was cold on her naked back. The vomit had a sharp sour smell. She stared up at the ceiling and thought for a few minutes. Guillermo’s voice was high-pitched, a little nasal. She was sort of disappointed.
It was quiet now, except for the barking. Evie sighed. At least the FedEx delivery would arrive tomorrow. Evie closed her eyes and started counting the individual barks; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve…