At the woman’s front door the young muscular delivery man held three bags of groceries and kept glancing back at the six more bags sitting in the truck even though this was a quiet, well-to-do neighborhood.
The woman was hurriedly putting on her mask and was visible from the window next to the front door. She was evidently nervous. She looped the mask handles over her ears ineptly and the mask dropped onto the floor. She tossed that mask aside and pulled another fresh mask out of a box. This time she pulled the loops too tightly and when she released them one snapped back and hit her on the ear—her jump was visible from the window as well though her cry of pain was inaudible.
The delivery man considered that this was not all bad, because as he stood holding three bags (two bags in one gloved hand and one bag in the other gloved hand), his muscles were unable to relax, and he would get a great pump on his biceps. Maybe he would even feel this the next day—no, he wouldn’t, but maybe he’d feel his workout later more than usual. Because the woman was really taking a long time.
Yet he couldn’t help but glance back at the open truck and the six more bags that sat in it. And he couldn’t help but feel cold, for it was winter and the ground was slushy-muddy and he could never put the bags down, not that he would want to (he wanted that bicep pump more). Maybe the heavy bags straining at his arms would start to warm him up?
The woman had finally finished putting on her mask. She was opening a box of gloves. A fresh box. The delivery man couldn’t hear that satisfying riiiiip as the cardboard separates on its perforated lines but he practically felt it, riiiiip, like his arm tearing down the seams from the weight of the bags dragging them toward the muddy-slushy ground—
The woman pulled back on her gloves with shaking hands but the movement itself was like a surgeon readying for surgery. Snap! and this sound the delivery man also could not hear.
She stood by the window and made eye contact with him and mouthed something but he shook his head, he didn’t know what it meant.
She disappeared for a moment and then returned holding up a notepad and a pen and still holding both up in her gloved hands she began to write in enormous childlike letters—
He stared and stared for a moment too long and then she waved at him like, Go on! and so he heaved the groceries onto the stoop with his stiff straining arms that sighed joyously when relieved from their burdens and then he turned back to the truck and of course all the other six bags were still there, because why wouldn’t they be? Once again he took three of the overstuffed bags, which was the most he could carry at a time, but now there were two in the other hand and one in the hand that had had two before, to even things out, bicep-wise. He carried these three bags up to the stoop and left them there and the woman gestured encouragingly and then he went back and got the other three bags, still keeping the same arrangement of two in the other hand and one in the first hand, because walking back and forth with the bags still didn’t make up for all that time he’d stood there with the two bags in the other hand and really, who wants uneven biceps?
He managed to get all nine on the stoop quite neatly, as it was a big stoop—but it still felt like a feat, like a great accomplishment, and he was very pleased with himself.
And then wondering—do I go or will she leave me a tip? And secretly hoping for the former although he didn’t quite know why.
She was writing another note on the notepad, holding it up for him to see as she wrote.
He smiled, gave her a thumbs-up in his gloved hand and she returned it he was wondering Do I go now or—
She was writing something else, her eyes screwed up like it took extraordinary concentration to just write a couple letters and he almost felt like his arms were straining more now standing here and not holding anything—
He frowned and then she was opening the door! and she was a woman because of course she was but he had temporarily forgotten women existed—and he felt his biceps aflame with the joy of acknowledgement and his body flooding with a horrible rush of fear and his feet stumbling forward his body in her arms like a child feet slipping on the slush-mud ground and she enveloped him and kissed his head—
Driving home he wondered whether she was the kind of woman to smell like peaches or roses or just skin, dandruff, hair, or is she the kind of woman to smell like nothing at all? and he supposed he would never learn.