Ray looked out the window and there it was: his ex-wife’s name on the sidewalk. A tidy row of capital letters six feet from the table he’d been sitting at for twenty minutes, thumbing through one of the free weeklies as he summoned the fortitude to get on the train and go to work. The same coffee place he’d been coming to almost every morning for the last six months. The coffee place around the corner from his apartment.
He spotted two more on his way to the office and another one that evening coming back from the grocery store.
It was her surname, her “maiden name” for the eighteen months and ten days they were married. The name she said she hated but took back before the divorce was final. Underneath the name was a number, which happened to be the same number as their house back in Ann Arbor, the two-bedroom bungalow her parents helped them with the down payment for. The house she was living in today with that guy Ramesh from the gym and his free weights.
Both the name and the number were on an envelope that Ray had been carrying around for several weeks. He’d already signed and initialed all the papers. He just kept forgetting to buy postage.
Damon, the sarcastic but so far completely reliable who ran the coffee place, told Ray they were called stamps.
“It’s the name of one of the cement companies the city hired to pave the sidewalks back in the 30s and 40s,” said Damon. “Don’t they have sidewalks where you’re from? The number is the year they poured the concrete. They’re all over the place. A guy’s got a whole web site about it.”
Ray said it must be high-quality concrete, considering how well the stamps were holding up.
“It doesn’t snow or freeze out here,” said Damon. “Those stamps can last a long time.”
Ray stopped at the post office on his lunch break that day. Rather than leaving the envelope with the woman behind the counter, he walked it over to the slot in the wall himself, releasing it to the blessed oblivion of the postal system by his own hand.
In the weeks that followed, he kept his head down as he roamed the neighborhood, looking for the name and the number. At first he stepped around the stamps but eventually began to aim for them, pushing off for an extra long speed skater’s stride. He was doing one of these moves when he met his second wife. And broke his tooth on her chin.
[Image above by Lee.]