Loosely autobiographical, this story is about lives that interconnect, the story behind everyday people's faces.
I know an old man who is filled to the brim with bric a brac. Bundles and boxes of cool blue china, cracked cups and flying saucers, odds and ends and clutter-junk, buttons brass and gold. Hard smooth buttons, that could take an eye out, ripped from cloth, threads still dangling. A doll’s arm on a broken chair reaching for something that is almost there.
There are faces, silent and serious; their time is long past due, their souls no longer new. They knew. Their eyes buried under heavy lids, stare right through me. It gives me chills and I count my breath. They are no fools; no wool can be pulled over them. I would turn them around, like a punishment “face the wall – don’t judge me” but the old man would not allow this and he watches on making sure that I do not knock the edges. A sign hangs behind the counter “YOU BREAK IT YOU BOUGHT IT” and I do not doubt the sincerity for a second.
“This is my Wonderland” I tell my husband, holding him by his hand which is well-worn and black under the fingernails. He can make anything, fix anything, his job is to create. I envy him as I envy tall people who are able to reach and girls in bikinis, their flat bellies displayed proudly like a new baby, thighs a sea apart and salty slim.
“It’s just full of crap” he says and stands outside smoking impatiently while buses spurt black smoke to mix with his grey, making smoke monsters in the street. He is swallowed whole by a smoke monster with a belly full of bones.
He doesn’t understand how these things tell a story. A book missing its back cover was given to John for his 8th birthday. “Love from Selma and Tom”, it reads. Peanut butter grease holds ripped pages together like a slick sort of sellotape. Maybe John has a son of his own now, perhaps he bought him a shiny new copy from a shiny new store, stark and crisp, a businessman’s starched shirt collar. The Wild Things now want to know where John is and so do I.
My husband looks in impatiently and raps on the window, eyebrows knitted like a backseat rug. I pay $6 for a green eggcup, he asks me why? I can’t explain; it just feels right. I imagine it wearing a yellow striped egg-cosy, a little hat on a little boy. It felt warm in my hand when I picked it up, like new life from old. It symbolised something and that is all the reason I need. “Let’s go” he pulls me by the arm. I am a reluctant child looking over seas of shoulders as they snake their way down the Saturday street.