Train-Tracks

 

 

 

I could have had a stamp collection.  I could have had cherry-blossoms and the Tikal pyramids and Mother Teresa encased in lace.  This album would have slept by my side and every time my father would write to me from the army base, I would cut the stamps carefully, and place it in the album in alphabetical order.

 

I could have had a hat collection.  The big green hat like a mossy cave and the pink and white striped molehill that stood erect on your head and would sway left and right, like a skyscraper during an earthquake.  The Irish old foggy hat, the dunce cap that would prick the balloons over your head, the condom hats with silver-gray tassels that limped on the side of your face, kissing your cheek from time to time.  Any hat would have done at the graduation ceremony where I stood at the back, even though I knew no one in the audience but for Ms. Rozeboom, who would come by early morning and stack up the fridge with frozen chicken and Good-day peas.  That evening, I walked to the theatre to see Beetlejuice, eat popcorn, and play with myself.

 

I could have had a book collection:  shelves of old, musty books with yellow-piss stains, earmarked, books that had red and gold covers and small print. I would have stood against the rack, deciphering the lettering through my black-rimmed glasses.  I would have spent my evenings caressing page by page of an old Latin dictionary while my wife would walk in her white panties towards the Victorian window after taking her usual doze of sleeping pills.  She would then walk up to the terrace, take a deep breath and plunge head down into the night.

 

I could have had an antique collection.  The bronze bust of an old Mayan saint from the 18th century with fake jade eyes; the sword from the Edo period; the porcelain teapot with a deep blue border that would sit on our piano, and would rattle when my daughter would play Bach’s Symphony number 9.  She would sit in her sailor dress, with hair tied to a ponytail, swinging her legs nervously.  Class every Sunday, from nine in the morning to eleven. And one day she would stand in front of me, beside the piano, lift the porcelain teapot carefully by its pregnant belly and throw it against the wall.  She would then walk out of the door and never come back.

 

Ms. Rozeboom’s stationary shop closed down last week.  North beach was getting too expensive, she said.  Would you please have these staples—the blues, the greens and the maroons, because I don’t have any place in the attic, she said.  Yes, I said.  Very well then, she said.  So here they are, lined neatly in a row on my mahogany desk.  The staple removers show no signs of shyness as they give me the Garfield smile.  Teeth exposed, I let the gray one bite my finger.  The tooth marks are that of a snake.  I pinch my finger until it blushes a deep red, oozing two red swollen plums onto the surface.  I bring it to my lips and taste its delicious freshness. 

 

There are more staples here—eighteen in the closet, seven on the kitchen shelf, five on the windowsill, twenty-two on my bed, beside these six that are on my desk. They gather for the conference.  I tell them to be patient; everyone will get their chance.  They grin lustily at me.  I roll up my sleeves and I scoop them one at a time so they can sink their teeth into my skin.  My arms get train-tracked.  The doorbell rings. Is anyone there? , asks Ms. Rozeboom.  I’ve got you the lime-green staples that you wanted, she says.  I walk towards the door.