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The Box

The holidays are not one of my favorite things– not that there’s been much worth reporting. Time seemed to slow to a crawl from Thanksgiving through Christmas, through today. But since the new year, my mood eased. Happy New Year

What’s In The Box? –Barton Fink (1991) dir. The Coen Brothers

One positive was sitting for an interview with Haley Radke and her lovely AdopteesOn Podcast. Truthfully, its rare for me to sit and talk about my adoption story, so my session with her was refreshing. It was nice to walk back through some memories with her, even as some of those days as I experienced them were awful and emotionally costly. Time heals. Here’s a link to the show on Apple Podcasts. Hope you enjoy!

Since I haven’t been writing for a few weeks, here’s some sentences:

With the office services dude out of the country on vacation for a couple of weeks, yesterday I was asked to deliver a box to the main attorney here in the office. His home is one block over from our office building. I’ve made a delivery to his place a couple of times previously from office, and truthfully I respect him, being my grandfather’s age, if my grandfather was still alive.

I watched as the emails piled up and knew what was coming. I collected the files being talked about and waited. Yes he wanted those files delivered to his house, and no there was no one else who would do it.

I placed six thick document folders in a newly assembled box, then struggled a couple of minutes with the luggage cart in the copy room. The handle wouldn’t stay fixed and kept collapsing, until I began to feel anxious and self conscious.

I’ll carry it. I’ve done it before. Its not raining, its not far. I can do it. I believed in myself. And it would get me out of the office. And haven’t I been feeling fat and slow through the holidays? Don’t I fall out of breath on the slightest effort? Shouldn’t I be exercising more?Dammit, man. Just do it.

I dropped the box onto the floor of the elevator and went down. Across the lobby there’s one stairwell up to the restaurant and the first pedestrian bridge I needed to cross to get to his apartment building. After I crossed the bridge, the box began pulling against my lower back. A sharp bar of muscles above my butt grew angered with blood and swelled with ache. I walked through my first courtyard, got to the second pedestrian bridge, and sat down gasping like a goldfish on a carpet. I wasn’t sweating as hard as usual, and for that, I was grateful. The weather mercifully cool. But sitting there, I clearly understood the African way of carrying heavy loads and baskets atop their heads. Holding a heavy box out before you as if on a serving platter taxes the muscles and joints behind you, pulling hard at the back of your body. Yet I felt too stubborn and shy to try it here in a city of eyes and cameras. So I sat waiting for the pain to drain away and my heart rate to relax before continuing. I asked for this.

I pushed on through courtyard number two, felt judged by the older man walking a beagle past me although he said nothing and I’m not confident he even glanced my way. My breath was still frantic and my back sore. From the top of the second pedestrian bridge, the attorney’s building was Right There across the way. Barely a couple of minutes. This was easy. But enduring the weight for that distance felt an olympian feat. I remembered in my 20’s buying a used dumbbell from the second hand store five blocks from my house. Was it 25lbs? An easy weight, but after 4 blocks it became a different story. Getting it back home felt pointless. Carrying it was a workout.

With the attorney’s box, I felt fatter and fatter and waited before climbing down the stairwell to the huge park before his building. The sun poked out laying blankets of light across the grass and trees. I sat on a concrete bench circling a tree with the box next to me and awaited the soreness to dissolve and my breath to catch up. My feet felt exceptionally flat and stubbornly non-supportive as if my shoes had expired.

While waiting, I remembered how the attorney, in his 80’s, would watch me carrying a box back to my office or an armload of files to his and he would wiggle a judgmental finger, like any grandparent, warning me against carrying so much. See me waving away his concerns as would a willful child. “I can manage,” I’d said. “I’m a professional– don’t try this at home.”

I was a maniac. Now here I am carrying this Damn Box to his doorstep, heeding none of his senior wisdom nor any common sense. All the while gasping and sweating like a bull. What would he say to me once I got there?

I scooped up my burden and crossed the courtyard to his building, and promptly entered the wrong doorway.

No security. A couple of residents walked out not seeing me approach. I sat the box on a counter in the lobby and double checked my phone for the correct address, which was just next door. The soft lounge seat was not helping my back pain so I went next door. A small crew of three men in overalls came up after me as I scrolled the intercom for his apartment. Each man held a length of aluminum pipe over his shoulder like a javelin. The attorney’s wife answered and I pressed my ear next to the speaker to hear her over the men chatting and my own struggle for breath.

I went up the elevator as she instructed. The courtyard there was all brick and shrubbery with gurgling water fountains. I placed the box on the edge of a fountain and looked around. An older white woman then turned the corner on my right. Blonde and cheery in a hip length white sweater, she looked more healthy and limber than I was feeling at the moment, and appeared younger than the attorney I was there for. She resembled a teacher or principal of a middle school and greeted me just as warm. I followed her through a path of shrubs and trees. Behind her I grimaced, my back feeling like an open wound. She talked over her shoulder, her white sweater billowing like a cape. We walked through her ground level patio.

Should we take it upstairs? She asked herself. Let’s take it upstairs.

I locked eyes with a sandy haired Mexican woman, and breathlessly greeted her. She gazed up at me bewildered, mouth closed. Her face told me I would not want to work there, at least not that day. But my empathy was absorbed by my back. I took a huge inhale of air and pushed myself up one flight of stairs to the attorney’s home office, dropping the thing with a thud at his feet. Sitting at his computer, he turned and kindly introduced me to his wife. He then looked in my face and: “Hey, don’t go to the hospital.”

I promised I wouldn’t, although the day was still early.

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