The Kindness of Strangers (2)


I must have dropped it on the way to the postbox. It was raining when I left home, a light mizzly sort of rain. I pressed the four envelopes hard against my coat in an attempt to keep them dry. Four envelopes containing three birthday cards and a return to sender for an ex-tenant long gone. The return to sender one had been outermost. I cared less about it than the others and besides it was a mailshot sort of envelope, slightly shiny.

I walk fast, even faster in the rain. Trying to miss, to dodge the raindrops. I must have dropped it on the way. The postbox is on North Road. It was still pitch so I couldn’t see how many envelopes I slipped into the box. It was full. I didn’t hear my cards fall to the bottom. There was no dull thud or even a sometimes clank. Then I walked. I walked the length of the promenade, down to the harbour and then back through town via the Castle and Great Darkgate Street. In the still black its whiteness shone. A white oblong on the pavement. A wet pavement that shimmered in the streetlight. It had fallen address side up. Stamp side up. I had no idea it was mine until I got up close. The handwriting was familiar. My stomach gave a lurch of recognition. The words had run in the rain. The paper was sodden. I shook it free of drops, checking to see if the postcode and name were still legible. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get there. She wouldn’t know the difference. Things get lost over Christmas. Christmas birthdays get lost. Get lost in the stuff of it all. All that unnecessary stuff. But the thought is there. I like to follow the thoughts through. So I decided to send it regardless. Regardless of its running wetness. There is another box nearer home, up a side street towards the hospital. Is it called Iowerth Avenue? I forget the names. They are not straight roads, I know that. They run into each other. One can get lost, temporarily.

So I posted it all the while wondering whether someone else have picked it up and posted it. Would someone else have taken the trouble. There is a stamp. It wouldn’t take much. Would they have cared?

The kindness of strangers. The kindness of strangers does exist. I have seen it. I have received it, many, many times.

I wish you shelter. I wish you a haven. All of you.

I dreamt of trains, of journeys of trying to buy a ticket. I had to stop off somewhere, it was complicated. Could I get a ticket? No problem, she said. There is no problem.

I wish you a very merry Christmas.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.