I Lost Her At The Post Office



93 4th Ave, NY, NY 10003

Neighborhood: East Village

Four years ago, my best friend Pauline moved from San Francisco to New York. Like so many bright young women before her, she moved here to become a writer, to have a snazzier life, to get away from her parents. I did the same thing the year before, and so she stayed with me for a few weeks.

Her first weekend in the city, I accompanied her to my local post office–the grand turn-of-the-century beaux-arts building that wraps around the corner of Fourth Avenue and 11th Street. There were some packages waiting for her there, so I left her in the east corner of the vast lobby, to wait for someone to get them for her while I bought stamps. About three minutes later I went back to the line she was in–certainly less time than it would take for her to reach the font of the line, present I.D., and retrieve the boxes–and she was gone. She wasn’t in line, she wasn’t where I had just been by the stamp machine, and she wasn’t outside.

My first thought was that some grimy civil servant had taken my lovely, guileless Northern California desert flower of a friend and stashed her among the shelves of “packages too large for box.” I became agitated, I started to describe Pauline to the other people in line and even to the wacko Unabomber wannabe affixing individual two cent stamps onto a hoary looking package. No one had seen her. Did she think that this was what New Yorkers did–accompany their friends on dreary daytime errands and then wordlessly slip away? To have a drink? At 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday?

She wasn’t outside. I rehearsed the inevitable phone call to her mother: “Mrs. O’Connor, we went to the post office together (yes, I swear, the post office) and I went to buy stamps (yes, stamps) and she went to pick up a package (some clothes, yes, and some bedding) and then she just disappeared. I promise I looked everywhere, I even asked. No they didn’t announce her name over the loudspeaker. No, New York post offices, don’t have loudspeakers.”

I walked home. I was sure that I had lost her. The theme from All That Jazz came into my mind–with that song and the image of all of Broadway’s future stars–each one the Chita Rivera of their hometown–bushwhacking their way through the NY streets to get to the career-making audition of their lives. That is why Pauline moved here, to join the chorus, not to die on my watch.

I arrived at my apartment. She was out front, wondering where I had gone. I was furious–spanking her was out of the question so I screamed: “Where did you go? You could have been killed? Why did you do that to me?”

She responded, “God, is this what this city has done to you?”

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