These words might as well be tattooed on my fingertips:
“Voting by mail is the easiest and safest way to make your voice heard in 2020. Please request your ballot today, using this pre-stamped postcard. Thank you!”
The exclamation point is off-script but sincere — an appreciative little firecracker bursting in the sky. These are cards written in rain and humidity; on the porch and in front of the news; with a couple of cookies, alone or during FaceTime. By now, about 100 of them have been cautiously dropped by the same inky fingertips into a corner mailbox.
I’m acquainted with the person sending them — we share a body. But I have no idea who might be reading them.
Who, and where? The street names are evocative — ”Beautiful Ave.” was a favorite — and the house numbers soar from 2 to 20,000. Addresses with fractions are rare; writing someone who resides at “2 ½” feels like coming across a four-leaf clover.
Somewhere across the country, a stranger is living on Beautiful Ave. If karma chooses, one day we may pass in a train station or stand in a frozen yogurt line. Maybe there will be an exchange of opinions about flavors. Maybe we will be able to see each other below the nose — a pleasant thought.
Until then, this stranger or another opens a door and reaches into a letterbox, stoops for envelopes the postman has dropped through the slot, or walks to the end of the driveway. She has blue hair — from age or from youth. He works in a garage or a hospital, and barely gets to sleep before it’s time to start another day. She loves her grandchildren more than life. He has no family. She lives in a one-bedroom rental behind a chain-link fence. He is drinking too much. Everyone has a secret and a sorrow and, hopefully, a joy. I wish I knew what they were.
They flip through the mail. A certain number (probably large) will toss the postcard immediately. They don’t recognize the first name; they don’t like the exclamation point; and they’ve had it with anonymous solicitations. It’s easy to understand, although when we’re standing in line for caramel frozen yogurt, I might mention that the fate of the nation is in play.
But a certain number will read the postcard, and — either because my organization has made it easy for them to vote by mail, or because they worry about the fate of the nation themselves — they will tear off the pre-stamped registration form addressed to their county clerk. Tomorrow they will drop it into a postbox on the corner of Beautiful Ave. Never having met, we have moved the boulder forward an inch.
Stranger, thank you.
Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.