"The magic letter box"

- or how to rediscover love

Mr. Schwanenflügel has been a postman for more than 40 years. Always the same route, he knows every single stone. He has also been married for more than 40 years. A happy marriage, but it has grown into a habit, too. Like the letters and their everyday life, but he still loves his wife. Although they talk less and less together. He knows her and their common life very well – like his route. More than everything in the world, he wishes to talk to her again, telling stories as in the good old days. At that time, everything was new, they did not know each other and they had to explore everything together.

Mr. Schwanenflügel sighs deeply, takes his bag with all the letters and goes on his route, while he thinks about this morning, together with his wife. She did not say much, did not smile and looked sad. He asked her why, but she did not wanted to answer. Silently, she made coffee for him, put his lunch in his bag and said goodbye, when he left the house.

Postman Schwanenflügel thinks that his bag is very heavy today, again it is very hot outside and the road is very dusty, endless and lonely – like his heart. All these letter boxes, like greedy mouths which must be fed, day after day. 

He takes the first letters from the bag and begins to put them into the letter boxes. All these boxes are very different, nearly humanly. Some of them are new and the names are well readable, others are older and marked by wind and weather. The rust spreads and the metal became thin. One of the letter boxes – no. 17 – seems to be new, although it looks like that it is rarely used. Mr. Schwanenflügel is surprised. There is no name on it, the house is small, in bad shape and lies off the road. He has never seen any people around here.

Gradually, he knows which kind of letters people get. Letters from banks and insurances, bills, holiday postcards and letters from authorities, of course. Sometimes very personal letters, he guess, because of the handwriting addresses. Beautiful letters with real ink, carefully placed on the middle of the envelope. Very rarely, he feels a tender smell of perfume in his nose. When he finds such a letter in his bag, he cannot avoid to briefly press it against his chest. Suddenly, he remembers the day when he met his wife and the lovely letters, they sent to each other. But this is a long time ago.

Today, it is extremely hot. Although it is early in the morning, the sweat runs from his face into the uniform shirt. So many letters are still in his bag! The road seems to be endless, he dries his forehead with a handkerchief and, for a while, he rests in the shadow of a tree. He has almost reached no. 17 and looks in his bag after a letter for this remarkable letter box. Indeed, there is a letter and it looks very officially.

Mr. Schwanenflügel leaves the cool shade of the tree and wants to put the letter into the box, when he noticed that everything is not like it used to be. Something is in the letter box slot. Slowly, he pulls it out and sees that it is a letter, carefully folded in the center. What is he supposed to do with it? Who has to receive the letter? Whether he wants it or not, he has to open it, breaks the secrecy and read it, otherwise, he will never find out and deliver the letter the right place. This is really against Mr. Schwanenflügels honour and he decides to solve the mystery. He almost feels a tender smell of perfume.

Breathlessly, he reads:

“Dear unknown postman!

I am always pleased when I receive letters, which you bring to me so conscientiously and faithfully devoted. You never let me down. I am a lonley woman, the letters are all my life, my window of the world which I love so much but I see much too little. Therefore, I only have the letters and you, who I really want to get to know. Maybe, you would like to answer me, no one would be more happy about that than me.

The friendliest greetings,

 No. 17”

Mr. Schwanenflügel cannot believe his eyes, when he reads these words. A woman, who writes to him, a postman, to get to know him?! But this is impossible, he already has a beloved wife. Admittedly, they do not talk so much with each other any more, but this lack of words changed nothing in his feelings for her. What to do? He is only a postman who delivers letters, he is not supposed to receive them!

Helplessly, he remains in the hot sun until he decides to fold the letter and put it in the pocket of his uniform, not without feeling a tender smell of perfume.

Suddenly, the dusty road seems to be much shorter, he walks faster than he used to and does not feel the heat so heavy anymore. The letter inside his unifom burns like fire, he cannot understand this. It is a long time ago since he has had such feelings and he stops right under a tree, to read the letter over and over again.

Meanwhile, it is time to deliver the rest of the letters and he ends his route earlier as usual because he feels so happy inside. At home with his wife, it is almost impossible for him to hide his good mood, but she is silent as every day and after a while, both of them say nothing. Also, the next morning is the same as every morning, although he is a little bit excited about the letter box no. 17 and whether there is a letter for him or not.

When he arrived, he immediately feels his disappointment from a long distance – no white paper in the slot of the letter box. Was it only an imagine? But the letter is still in his uniform pocket and he reads it again. Should he answer the mysterious woman?  Of course, his own wife might not know anything about this, she would not understand it and become sad. Actually, he does not want to conceal anthing to his wife, but he really needs some alternation, his work is monotonously and he is much alone, therefore, som attention is appropriate. His bad conscience still troubles him for a while, then he decides to answer the unknown woman:

“Dear no. 17,

I am surprised as well as honoured because of your friendly letter. I am just a postman, walking alone on the road, doing my  work conscientiously. However, I  often miss a conversation, a person who will listen to me. Perhaps I did find such a person in you? It would be a great pleasure and a necessity for me to confide in you.

Your always devoted

Postman”

With a pounding heart, Mr. Schwanenflügel folds the letter and put it in the letter box no. 17. What has he done? What will happen? Will she answer him? Excited and with sweaty hands, he returns at home. He feels strange, almost like a teen, when he was in love for the very first time. Like a schoolboy and he wants to dance with his wife. She also seems different today. She looks younger, her face much softer, she smiles. Both of them enjoy the new atmosphere between them and the evening did not passed as usual.

The next morning, again with a pounding heart, Mr. Schwanenflügel starts on his route, earlier than other days. His wife did not ask why, she was different, wearing a nice dress although there is no reason for it. Even from a long distance, he sees a white piece of paper. Yes, it is no. 17, who has a letter for him. His heart cheers, nevertheless, she has answered him!

Impatiently, he unfolds the letter and reads:

“Dear unknown postman,

The joy, which I felt yesterday, is so large, when I received your trusting letter that I want to show my gratitude to you. You express exactly what I feel, I am longing for a person, too. A person, who listens to me, talks to me and whom I can confide in... indeed, I have a faithful husband, but he cannot fulfill all my needs...”

These words take his breath away, Mr. Schwanenflügel reads and reads, it is a very long and personal letter. The unknown woman tells about her life as if they had known each other and being friends for a long time. But he understands her very well, he feels in the same way. Therefore, he decides to answer her right now:

“Dear no. 17,

I am just as happy and honoured as you are, getting such a lovely letter from your hand. I insure you my deepest understanding and confidence, I totally agree with your point of view. I also have the described wishes and longings, which need to be fulfilled. For example, I would like...”

Mr. Schwanenflügel forgets both time and place, he writes and writes, everything he has on his mind, what bothers him and what he cannot tell his wife because he do not believe that she will understand it. It is quite amazing, how much his life story is similar to hers. They write to each other for a while, exchange letters and get closer and closer. He feels easy and light and also his wife has changed, she seems to be glad and relaxed. He has also no bad conscience any more about her, so much he got used to their new situation that he is hardly able to feel the difference between his wife and the understanding, unknown woman in no. 17.

In this very comfortable way, they could have continued their correspondence for a long time, if Mr. Schwanenflügel has not read in one of her wonderful letters that she wants to see him. The unknown woman suggest to meet him by the same letter box which has made them so happy.

Suddenly, his bad conscience comes back, he feels guilty because of his wife and he rejects the proposal, he apologizes with lack of time and that he is not allowed to spend further time on his route.

He is very sad when he put the letter in her letter box – perhaps, she does not want to write any more because he cannot meet her?

Discontentedly, he goes home. Also here, the atmosphere is nearly like before he started the romantic correspondance with the unknown woman. His wife is quiet and after dinner, she goes to bed. Mr. Schwanenflügel spends the night by thinking about his situation and has made up his mind, when the morning comes: He wants to meet no. 17, all his happiness is at stake, it is not too late.

With a heavy heart, he says good-bye to his wife and goes as fast as he can to his route, where he soon reaches no. 17.

With shaking knees, he stands in front of the letter box, which means his whole future. He hesitates for a short time, then, he puts the letter, which he wrote last night, into the letter box. He feels that nothing can change his fate. In the letter, he suggest to meet her by noon and he can hardly wait until tomorrow.

When he arrives back home, he finds his wife in a very good mood. He cannot understand this at all. She has even made his favorite meal and for the first time, since he can remember, he feels a tender smell of perfume. Does she expect a guest from which he does not know anything? Even he spends the night silently and only thinks about tomorrow, his wife hums quietly a melody, which he knows well. It is the song, to which they danced for the first time.

In the next morning, Mr. Schwanenflügel goes to his route, his heart pounds and he even wears a new uniform shirt. Never ever before, he has put the letters into the boxes as fast as today, but the time seems to stand still. Slowly, the hours pass away, finally, the time has come, it is 12 o’clock and he is near by the letter box no. 17. When he arrives, his disappointment is indiscribable. She is not there! She has taken his first refusal badly, it is all over now.

He cannot believe this, he was so convinced that she will be there, he believed to know her so well. Breathlessly, he stands in front of the no. 17, not able to move. Suddenly, he hears a quiet noise of bent branches. A woman appears, she walks with easy steps, passes the flowering bushes. She wears a nice dress and he already feels a tender smell of perfume, which he loves so much and knows so well. The unknown woman is – his own wife!