I am sleeping with a mailman. I suppose there is nothing exceptional or unique about that except that I am sleeping with him based on the fact that he is a mailman, which does not seem like a good enough reason. Still, it is the only reason I can come up with.

His name is Dick Herring, which doesn't make much difference except now I can call him something besides 'the mailman.' His name didn't matter when I used to watch him walk up the sidewalk to my shop in his shorts and Postal Service gray-blue shirt to deliver mostly bills that I couldn't pay, and on one or two occasions, a postcard from my ex-husband whom Dick resembles... a little bit. At least that's what I once thought as I sat in my shop, Alayna's Eclectic Lady, day after day, with so little to do that the mailman's arrival was a significant point in my morning.

His arrival signaled midday. After his departure, I felt comfortable eating my lunch, even on the days when he arrived early, before eleven. It made no difference to me. Mailman: Time for ham and cheese. The sex came only after he had delivered his last worthless stack of impersonal notifications and flyers on the day I was closing up shop, literally.

That day, when he walked into my shop, the bell over the door didn't ring because I had already taken it down. Dick didn't notice the absence of a ringing bell. He claims nothing seemed the least bit unusual to him. Oh sure, he admits catching a glimpse of the 'Going Out of Business Sale' sign on the display window, but he says that he didn't give it much thought. Now that I know Dick better, I believe every word he says.

I seduced Dick, which was a hell of a lot more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Watching him day after day, I had pictured, just for fun, a fantasy to give me momentary relief from the reality of my failing business; just a brief escape from the awful realization that my share of the divorce settlement was evaporating while I watched soap operas in a dying dress shop into which I had deposited every last cent I had.

Undressing Dick in my mind offered an amusing distraction while I was undressing the mannequins I had on display. It turns out that the mannequins were more entertaining. But I couldn't have known that beforehand. After three glasses of wine and Dick's timely arrival that last Thursday before I returned the shop keys to the landlord and walked out the front door forever, I took a chance at making the shop produce just one profitable day for me. If he had rejected my advances, I figured I'd never have to see him again. It's a big enough city to avoid one mailman for a lifetime. That thought, coupled with the wine, gave me the courage to proceed.

Dick flatly states that he didn't notice I was braless and that he didn't have a clue of what was up until I pulled down the door shade. This guy would say anything, despite how insulting. "Honestly, I was thinking about lunch. When you asked me if I'd like a glass of wine, I thought you were crazy. It was only 11:45 in the morning and I was on the job. When you locked the front door and put the "CLOSED" sign up, I got kind of scared."

Yes, I'm the frightening type. Five foot four, one hundred and twelve pounds of terrifying woman. Oh well, maybe I am more foreboding than I realize. Men like Dick may scare easily, or perhaps they just like their lives to come packaged in individual little boxes labeled "work time," "play time," "sleep." It's also possible that I am rusty at seduction, weak at innuendo, or just plain guilty of watching too many soap operas where raunchy women prey on unsuspecting, gullible men, seducing them with ease.

Dick told me that he would like to meet Ben, my ex-husband, should Ben ever come for a visit. I laughed, responding sarcastically with something like, "You two have so much in common," to which Dick grinned, assuming I meant something entirely different than I did.

My soul feels ugly about this whole mailman thing. It chides my ego for what I'm doing. It warns of karma, retribution, and the universal irony that I have come to believe in with the same pure faith I had in Santa Claus when I was a child. All of this will boomerang and smack me in the head or chest when I am least expecting it, exposing me for the heartless, selfish creature that I fear I might be when Dick arrives as instructed by the messages I leave on his machine. "Come over at eight." "Don't come over tonight." "Call when you get in so I can plan my weekend." I have no idea where this dominatrix side of my personality came from. I was not this way with Ben; at least I don't think I was. He would not have allowed me this much power. Ben resisted pressure with his wit or his stubbornness, avoiding blind obedience altogether. Ben held his own.

Against what? That's what I ask myself when the debate goes this far between the esoteric me and the flesh and blood me that dictates to Dick where we will eat, what movie we will watch and what time we go to bed. I resent his easiness, his indifference to details, his oblivious nature that takes instructions and punches a time clock at my command.

His nature differs so much from my own, from my former husband's, and yet, without even being aware, Dick is holding up a mirror that reflects an image I don't want to claim: a dogmatic shrew staring back at me. She has my eyes, my mouth, but she is so unfamiliar that from every angle, she appears a total stranger. This is a woman I never saw when I was still with Ben. He responded to my moves with his own form of checkmate. I never had to feel like this about myself with Ben who, although he was more easygoing than me, would not lie down and play dead. I want to kick Dick. I want to scream at him, "Get some backbone, you gutless mail carrier! Act like a man!"

But, perhaps I am enough of a tough guy for the both of us. I know that I find myself as disgusting as any male chauvinist I've ever encountered. I am afraid that this ugliness may not wash off, even if I send Dick away for good. If I did that, I would be completely alone with myself and I don't know if I could survive that. Without a buffer between me and the reflection in the mirror, I might lose my soul altogether, become an outcast from humanity, exiled to Siberia or some other isolated area where all I could hear was own voice, frozen words strung in arctic air with no echoing response to prove that they ever reached anyone's ears.

Dick will do. He is an honest-to-god mailman, but he is more than that. Surely. And sooner or later, like the South Pole explorer, Admiral Byrd, I am bound to discover new territory and what lies beneath the surface of this man. Of course, he isn't Ben. But I don't think Ben is Ben, anymore. It's been over a year and he's been traveling in Europe and Australia and parts of Asia. It's bound to have affected his personality, so much so that I might not even recognize him at all the next time we meet. If we ever meet again.

I have changed, too. If I didn't think so, all I would have to do is look at my lover, Dick The Mailman, and whoever I once thought I was, dissolves like the wife of Lot looking back on where she came from. Except that I can't claim I am on a holy pilgrimage or an icy expedition or any other kind of journey. I am still living in the city of my childhood and my parents are only minutes away.

I remember when Ben told me that Admiral Byrd lost his mind after his travels, or maybe during them. I can't recall for sure. I doubt that will happen to Ben. It seems more apropos for me to suffer an internal snow blindness and lose my way without ever leaving home.

Dick is on his way over bringing carryout Chinese with him per my instructions. I don't feel like going out tonight. We will most likely stay here and watch the Discovery Channel or work on my stamp collection with which Dick is very helpful. Things could be worse. I could be traveling west through Death Valley and my car could break down. I could be drinking bad water in Mexico or trying to shoot caribou on the frozen tundra to keep from starving to death. I have so many things to be thankful for and I will try to count them all when Dick is here. After which, I will turn down the thermostat until it is cold enough to justify curling up under a blanket, next to a mailman, where I can for a little while, believe our shared body heat is essential for survival.