by Julie Marie Wade

At the post office in my neighborhood, we stand like actors on glow-tape squares, waiting for the clerk’s terse cue. Except here the squares are circles, bright blue with yellow shoes, spaced six feet apart.

A woman with flamingos on her mask gestures toward the floor: “That’s how they taught us to dance at Arthur Murray’s when I was a girl.” She hokey-pokeys now, and all the rings on her fingers shimmer.

“Hey,” a man calls down from the front of the line, “Arthur Murray’s an institution! I got a grandkid goes to the one in Boca, and another down there at the one in the Gables.” He doffs his cap, which isn’t red. It implores us to Make America Kind Again.

We’re watching from our blue circle-squares. We’re listening as our mask-strings pull lightly on our ears. Only one clerk working today, but that’s every day now. Stations closed. Storefronts closed. Little cardboard signs that instruct: Please step down to the next window.

At the counter, a woman in a denim romper peers through the new, tall glass. “This reminds me of those things at the bank—bandit barriers, they call ‘em. But yours is pretty smudged. Got any Windex?”

The clerk shakes his head.

“Is this bullet-proof?” she asks, tapping.

“Doubt it. Not even sure it’s virus-proof,” and they both shake their heads at that.

She passes him a bubble mailer decorated with confetti and balloons. He shows her several sheets of stamps.

“What is that—a farmer’s market? Who wants a bunch of fruits and vegetables stuck to their birthday pack?”

“Maybe because we don’t eat enough of ‘em?” he shrugs.

“Maybe.” She chuckles, then buys two books.

“You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask, and I figure you’ll know. I’ve lived here for almost thirty years—right down the street past the library. Sometimes people write to me at Dania, and sometimes at Dania Beach. I’ve had Hollywood listed, even Fort Lauderdale. But which one’s right? Where should I be telling people I live?”

The clerk takes her card, swipes it backwards through the machine. His mask is slipping under his nose. “Doesn’t matter about the city,” he says. “Zip code’s what gets it there.”

“So you’re telling me I could put any city name I want, any city at all?” She’s standing on her tiptoes now, trying to see him clearer. We’re leaning in now, trying to hear his answer.

Her receipt is long as a streamer. He dangles it over the glass. Closest any of us have come to a local celebration. “Ma’am, you could put Pandemic, Florida, on an envelope, and if the zip code’s right, it’ll get there.”

Headshot of Julie Marie Wade.

Julie Marie Wade is the author of 13 collections of poetry and prose, including When I Was Straight, P*R*I*D*E, and Same-Sexy Marriage: A Novella in Poems. Her most recent memoir is Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing, and her newest poetry collection is Skirted, just released in March 2021. Julie teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus. She is married to Angie Griffin and lives in Dania Beach. 

SLAG GLASS CITY · Volume 7 · June 2021
Header image by Elvert Barnes.