She was gone forty-three days before he noticed. Even after, her letters kept coming, typewritten address, printed return labels free from some wildlife club, the stamps on wrong-side up. He never opened them. He never even took them out of the mailbox. They all said the same thing.
Every time his mailbox was too full to hold anything more and the bills began to spill on the ground near his driveway, he gathered the vanilla envelopes from her and took them down to the laundromat. The woman there had a clothes steamer — he didn’t know if she owned the place or was just always there — and she would steam the stamps from the envelopes while his laundry dried. He didn’t ask what she did with them. He just waited for the envelopes to come back to him, absent their stamps, a big square unblemish in their corners. Then he’d load them into a washing machine, his quarters clicking down into the dark. Warm water worked best, he’d discovered. Cold water just set the addresses, made them darker on the scraps of paper. Warm wash, warm rinse, and then he’d pull the gluey mass out. It clung to his hands — blue-white, the consistency of paper mache — until it cooled. Then he formed it into something. A duck. A stone. A flower. They all looked mostly the same.
The woman watched him, quiet, steaming someone else’s pants.
“She doesn’t love you,” the woman said. She folded a leg, steamed a smooth crease like paper.
He was making a heart. His first one. One lobe was bigger than that other. The timer on his dryer showed forty-three more minutes. It stuck like forever.
Thinking about Fleetwood Mac’s “Blue Letter” song. Also, thought I’d try my hand at some steam-of-consciousness short fiction that included something about letters, the forever stamp and, of course, love.
It was a blue letter
She wrote to me
It’s silver words she told
Wanna be on the road to paradise
I wanna lover who don’t get old.