People don't use the postal service as much as they used to. It's a government agency, and when people do have mail to send they tend to look towards more private companies. It's even worse when you live in a bankrupt state that lacks money to pay most workers in the first place. You understand that they had to cut back on a few expenses.
But you have a problem comprehending why they would fire you of all people. Of course, they didn't call it firing. It was a budget cut, a lay off. That's what they told you, anyways. You were their hardest worker, their friendliest worker. The one people always asked for when you weren't there that day.
Then again, maybe that's why they cut you.
You're sure that most people see working for the postal service as a form of modern day slavery, but to you it was the perfect job. Not that their opinions ever changed yours, of course. But you truly, honestly did enjoy working there for a multitude of reasons.
You have a lot of fond memories of the office, and not all of them are related to the mail itself. Often times, your daughter would be waiting for you at the front door when you closed. On the days when she wasn't patient, she would come into the office and idle around until it was time for you to leave. Since school and home were both so close to the post office, you walked home with her together.
She was always eager to learn about your day. How did it go? How much mail did you deliver? Did anyone get a birthday gift? Did you see a smile? She'd always ask you questions like that, and you always knew that she was being genuine about it. Of course, you'd always ask her how her day at school went. She was always eager to ramble on about her classes, what she was learning, her teachers and what was for lunch.
But whenever you asked about her classmates, she always fell silent. It was the same expression every time you asked: pursed lips, downward cast eyes, heel absentmindedly grinding into the pavement.
Every year you hoped that maybe, maybe this was going to be the year she could talk about someone she had formed a connection with. That at the dinner table, instead of talking about how cool her teachers were, she could talk about a game that she had played with her friends during gym. You kept hoping for the day that she would come to you and ask if she could go out and play with one of the neighborhood kids.
But that day never came and after a while you stopped figuring it would.
Your daughter has always been sort of a loner. She's quirky, excitable and overall a wonderful girl. There wasn't any denying that. But the other kids just didn't click with her. Other parents were polite about turning down your offers to organize play dates. Just because you didn't take their rejection to heart didn't mean it was painless.
You remember the December where you decided enough was enough. It was before your daughter had ever gotten connected to the internet, before she had made any close friends at all. You had put a lot of thought into how to get your daughter some real, tangible connections to people.
You finally had a solution. It wasn't the best, but it was a solution.
For Christmas, you remember buying her a stationary kit. When she opened the present, her smile shone so large it almost engulfed her entire face, commenting on how beautiful the paper was. Her smile had faded after a few moments, however, and turned into a look of confusion.
"Why do I need paper if I don't have anyone to write to?"
You excitedly told your daughter about the pen-pal service you had signed her up for and her smile immediately returned. She had always been a better writer than many of her peers, definitely above grade school level. So, you explained to her about her and her pen-pals would write to one another, that she would bond over letters and packages. You kissed her on the head and promised her that her letters would always go through. Inadvertently, you promised her that she would have a friend.
There were no doubts she believed you, and you believed yourself as well.
Time went by and, eventually, the letters she sent out started to receive replies. She began to create a network of people from all around the country and all around the world. Her conversations at the dinner table shifted away from teachers and schoolwork and to things her new pen-pals had talked about in their letters.
She described all of the books someone had recommended to her, talked about what movie they needed to go see next because she was told it was fantastic. Sometimes she'd call you over while she was reading a letter ask you what a certain word meant. That's when you'd blush and tell her it's not something important for her to know at her age.
Despite a few bumps here and there, you knew that overall she was happier. The kids at school still ignored her, but at least in her own home she could be greeted with past letters from people who didn't overlook her. Words hung up walls like a reassuring hug. A giant web of people that cared.
The both of you didn't notice it at first, but after a while the letters began to come in slower and slower. Instead of waiting a week for a reply, your daughter waited a month. Instead of getting three pages, she'd get a half sheet. Her list started to dwindle down to a few contacts.
Eventually, it diminished to no one at all.
It was a month after the last letter she had received when she approached you. You could tell she was on the verge of tears, and when she spoke, her voice was so shaky you had a problem understanding her.
"Why did they get bored of me?"
Immediately, you took her into your arms. You let her bury her head into your chest as she sobbed, petting her hair occasionally in reassurance. You told her she wasn't boring, that she was a wonderful, interesting girl who was full of ideas. More importantly, you told her how much you loved her and how everything would work out for the best.
She started to shake as she cried harder. You looked at her, tears welling up in your own eyes. It pained you like nothing else to see your daughter like this. She looked up into your eyes, face stained from tears, cheeks puffy and red.
"The mail always gets delivered, you make sure of it," her voice soft. "They must have stopped answering me."
You were the office's hardest worker, their friendliest worker. The one people always asked for when you weren't there that day.
You were the one who always delivered the mail that got sent.
You were the one they cut.