I Am Not A Wobbly Desk
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.
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