May 31, 2012 by jamesessj
Kwasi Justice had felt there was something wrong with him for a long time. He couldn’t place the where or the what, exactly, just…something. Something physical, something mental, something spiritual…something. After a few months of feeling this way he visited a doctor, who gave him a complete lookover, ran routine tests, and declared him to be perfectly fit…pending the results of his tests, which would return in a week or so. Kwasi Justice wasn’t satisifed, especially, for he still felt there was something wrong with him. But he saw little profit in arguing with a doctor who’d found nothing.
Kwasi Justice was, this morning, delivering the mail, as he had done for eleven years. He wasn’t overly fond of his job with the Postal Service, but it paid the bills. What bills there were — he lived frugally, never spending more than necessary for food, clothing, rent. His apartment was a small one-bedroom; he ate out once a month, at the Denny’s on the corner three blocks up from his apartment; he went to Goodwill twice a year to shop for clothes. If he had a special need — as he’d once had for a suit, when one of his coworkers had died in a car crash, and then a second, less dour, suit when another of his coworkers married yet another of his coworkers — he’d head to the Burlington Coat Factory and buy whatever was cheapest, yet still proper for the occasion.
On one of these occasions, while rifling through the suits on the rack, he’d thought to himself, What life do I have, outside of work? It was a recurring theme; a recurring question he posed to himself. Each time the answer came back, More of a life than you would have had back home. Back home, in Kwasi Justice’s case, being Ghana, West Africa; specifically, the city of Kumasi. Or, even more specifically, Kokofu, a village seventeen miles south of Kumasi. He’d come to the United States under the sponsorship of Carl and Sandra Davids, a missionary couple who’d done everything but adopt him — though he was no different than thousands of other young Ghanaian men, the Davidsons had seen something in him. What that was, he didn’t know and didn’t care to speculate, but he knew an opportunity when he saw it, and the opportunity to come to the United States was one that no Ghanaian — almost no Ghanaian — would pass up.
The almost in this case was his twin sister Efi Ye, who’d refused to leave, even though the Davidsons had offered her everything they’d offered Kwasi Justice: a home, a job, legality. But Efi Ye would not leave Kokofu, though the Davidsons pleaded with her to. Kwasi Justice, on the other hand, left Kokofu, Kumasi, Ghana, Africa, without, literally or metaphorically, looking back.
* * *
He’d come to the States, become naturalized, gotten a job at the Post Office…Carl Davidson, his all-but-adopted father, had died twenty years ago, and Carl’s wife Sandra hadn’t survived him long. Kwasi Justice’s own parents had also passed away, one after the other, as if keeping to some sort of schedule. His only remaining relation was his twin sister Efi Ye; but with her he had not spoken since leaving Ghana; not for twenty-nine years. He sent her money, out of every paycheck, and somebody collected the money on the other end, so he could only assume she was still alive…he’d written her letters, dozens of them, when he’d first come to America, but she’d never replied. After a while he gave up and stopped writing. And though from time to time he considered returning to Ghana to see her, to see his childhood friends, he could never quite bring himself to follow through.
He was fifty-three now. Overweight, but still handsome, by most reports. He’d never married, though he had dated, coworkers or friends of coworkers. But love had eluded him. Or maybe it was he that had eluded love. He lived alone, in his one-bedroom, and his only friend, if such she could be called, was Miranda, his seventy-two year old neighbor in 52-B, two doors down. She was not quite senile, but not quite not senile, either…lucid enough to be living on her own, or at least lucid enough in the opinion of her family not to need to be taken in by one them. Miranda watched out for Kwasi Justice’s apartment as she did for everyone’s apartment, though no one had precisely asked her to…and Kwasi Justice repaid her vigilance by bringing her fruit from the grocery, or a milkshake from McDonald’s, whenever he reminded himself to. She’d thank him, and five minutes later forget he’d brought it. She frightened him, if he was honest with himself — he saw, in her, what his future was bound to be: seventy-two, retired, living alone, watching TV, his mind slipping away like daylight, the weeks sliding by like a passing car.
That was before the doctor’s news, of course.
* * *
Kwasi Justice pulled his delivery truck over to the curb in front of 349 Treadwell. The house was on a slight incline, so he engaged the emergency brake. As he climbed down out of the truck, he noted what a beautiful day it was…mid-May, spring having sprung, birdsong in the trees, sunlight as pervasive as air. He glanced at the house, a two-storey modern painted in a blue so light as to almost be gray, but in this sun, beaming like a smile. He walked around to the far side of the truck and thumbed through the pallet of mail to find this address: 349 Treadwell. Glenn and Karen Foster. Nice people, from what little he knew of them. Had a kid, a boy, ten years old or so, well-behaved. Their mail was never anything special: credit card bills, grocery store flyers, cards at Christmas. A typical suburban family, like the rest of his route.
Today’s haul was only two letters. One from PG&E and one from Carter & Stutter, Associates, whoever they were. Kwasi Justice walked up the concrete lane that separated the well-groomed halves of the Fosters’ lawn, the two letters in his hand. He ascended the porch and dropped the two envelopes into the mailbox next to the door — the Fosters’ being one of the few homes on this block without a mailbox out by the street — and then, as he heard the thunk of the letters hitting the bottom of the box, he happened to look through the window and see, inside the house, Glenn Foster…at the kitchen table…his face planted in a bowl…that latterly, if the mess around him were any indication, had held both milk and Cheerios.
Kwasi Justice put his hand to his mouth. He was taken back, back to the conversation he’d had two days earlier, with the mirror in his bathroom. The doctor had telephoned and laid out the news. Kwasi Justice had said nothing but, “Thank you, Doctor.” Then he’d wandered into the bathroom and stared at the mirror for a very long time. Then he spoke, as if someone was listening:
“I am dying,” he said.
He looked at the mirror, but in reality he was looking back over his life. He imagined that the someone who was listening had asked, But how? How can you be dying? You are so young! What are you dying from?
His eyes did not move. “Loneliness,” he said. “I am dying of loneliness.”