Landlord arrives at the doorstep. Tenants: Mother, Father, Brother, Me.
Father prints out a three-page story that I wrote and gives it to the
landlord. He is proud and wants to show me off.
It was 1998. I was 7 years old. According to reliable data, there were
approximately 449.51 computers per 1,000 people in my home country. In
our home, there was 1 computer per 4 people (0.25 per person). In an
elsewhere country, there were 16.75 computers per 1,000 people (.067 per
person). There was also a ceiling in our home that came with leaking and
leaking and leaking. The leaking was a drip, drip, drip, a clustering of
mold. Every two to three months, my mother patched up the mold without
mentioning the issue to the landlord for fear if she disclosed too many
imperfections rent might increase.
Landlord closely reads the first couple pages of the story. Agitated, he
says, “That boy did not write this,” and refuses to read the last page.
Father is silent. Mother has rashes on her skin, triggered by the moldy
ceiling. Mother scratches. Rent gets paid. Brother studies numbers,
preparing for a move to money’s front door. I search for metaphors.
At no point since 1998 have I suspected that I might be a wobbly desk.
If I was, or have become, a wobbly desk, then it would make sense that
the landlord didn’t think I was the propellent for that story. Of
course, I know desks don’t write just like I know it’s hard to save a
story on the hard drive of .067 computers. The landlord must have known,
like countless landlords, that no desk in the layered history of
desks—from wobbly to not so wobbly—has ever written a cohesive
story. In fact, desks don’t scribble their signatures on the lease
agreement of a rental apartment or pour themselves into a poetic love
letter either. If my mother had given birth in 1991 to a wobbly desk,
then I wouldn’t feel like that landlord possessed magical powers that
didn’t make sense to me.
Since I’m a writer, I want to imagine more than what I have. The
circumstance reverses like an effective metaphor that promises not to
abandon my experience or the launchpad of this world. I’m left with
something like the landlord asks my parents to read their child’s
writing. Everything else remains fixed, resembling the most convenient
equations. There are, of course, countless possible responses that would
contort and situate life, subject to form. But I can’t let my
imagination subvert conceivable. I know my parents wouldn’t have said
the child didn’t write the writing that had been written using anywhere
between .067 and 1.0 computers. They would have been kind to the
landlord’s existence, like they were always kind to the landlord’s
existence. It wouldn’t matter if the child was precocious, stupid, a
wobbly desk, a chubby cockroach, or a severely scratched-off lottery
ticket. Every conceivable pathway that departs from that circumstance
would collapse into silence, a speaking into the quicksand of, “Let’s
not risk an increase in rent.” All that remains is the indelible
leaking, a drip, drip, drip, the clustering of mold.
I’ve decided that in this universe of gravity and gravity-defying
accumulations 999.99 out of 1,000 landlords are wobbly desks. Since I
don’t know any desks in the layered history of desks that read, it’s
unfathomable that the landlord could determine whether I was the writer.
Still, the years march on, calculated or evoked. I’ve become a writer. I
write, like countless writers. I knock and knock on Metaphor’s door. But
nobody is home.