You see these crumpled letters? They are from Mr. Riggers office. He is trying to reach out to Mrs. Riggers. Every now and then, he scrunches his face behind the desk, picks up that blue pen, and starts to write. Then he gets flustered, tears the paper in two, crumples them into a ball and aims for the dustbin. He misses two, three every day. On a rough day like a Friday, he doesn’t miss any.
Today is Friday. Mr. Riggers missed today.
Now don’t judge me for what I’m about to tell you, but on many lazy nights, instead of simply picking up the letters and dumping them, I open them, sit on Mr. Riggers’ chair which remind me later needs some bolting, put my feet on his desk and begin reading them.
Today is such a day. Again, he has addressed her by her first name. Lucia. He asks her how she is. He hopes to meet her soon. He begs for her forgiveness and ends the letter with “Yours”.
I crumple the two halves together again, aim for the dustbin….and miss! Ha ha! A dropper! Me, a dropper! I juggle with objects every day. When Sal wants to take a break, he summons me to the kitchen. In his absence, I juggle with tea cups and balance spoons on the tip of my nose. My record is five spoons at one time for, if I remember correctly, a total of eighteen seconds. My grandpa had taught me the trick.
“The magic lies in being still” he said. I would remain motionless on a chair as he would place the cold steel on my nose.
“Be absolutely still now son.” And by age six, I could balance three spoons and had become a sort of circus freak for my friends.
Spoonface. That’s what they called me. But I didn’t mind that at all. It was a trick. And only I could do it. Nobody else could. The spoons were an extension of me.
As is this broom in my hand.
I don’t remember how I came to acquire this broom in particular. All I know is that I’ve been in its possession ever since I signed a contract to hold my silence and work without question in the Great Underseas. The broom has been my sole company for the last, I want to say fifty-six years to be exact but it could easily have been sixty-five years.
My friend hasn’t aged at all even though it has seen all the nooks and crannies of this underwater establishment. I might have spent the same time here but what does that matter? Rather it seems to get younger by each passing day. Or maybe I’m getting old. Maybe? Definitely.
See this white beard? My grandfather had an abundance of it on his face. Beardpa, they’d call him. Beardpa and Spoonface. It could have been an act! We would have travelled the world, setting camps, he flaunting his beard, I balancing spoons on my face!
The letter irritates me and I get up from the chair, pick it up and dump it in the dustbin. Gone now for sure. Away to the wasteland! I pick up the dustbin, shuffle it in my hands to free anything sticking to its sides, and empty it in my garbage bag. This garbage bag has seen a lot too. It has withheld Mr. Riggers’ secrets.
Envy clouds my judgment. This plastic bag knows more than I do. Why must it revel in secrets alone? I quickly put my hand in and rummage through to find the letter that I was careless enough not to read a second time. Something about it bothers me. I need to confirm my doubts. I begin searching frantically in the large bag. My arms are small for a man of my size. I see Mr. Riggers rushing across the hall. He’s coming towards his office.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
His eyes are wild and his mouth is slightly open.
“I…was just cleaning sir” I reply calmly. I bring my arm out of the bag, place the bag on the floor and reach out for the broom.
His eyes were burning, I could see through them. But could he see through me? Did he know what intentions I had a few moments ago? Could he have had known that I had read his letter? Had he finally gotten through me? Broken me? I could read eyes. I had been reading eyes for a long time. Little Arbie’s eyes always lied. My grandfather’s eyes always told the truth. Sal’s eyes were always angry. And Mr. Riggers’ eyes were always empty.
You may read faces. You may read palms. But eyes, eyes are a window to our soul. Eyes tell the truth even if the entire body is drowned in falsehood. And the easiest eyes to read are of a man unsure about himself. That was Mr. Riggers. And I read the same emptiness in his eyes now that I had been witness to for the past fifty-six or sixty-five years.
Mr. Riggers walks towards me and asks if I had emptied the dustbin already. I reply with an affirmative and his face begins to change color. He inquires if it is possible to retrieve the contents of the dustbin from the bag that solemnly lies to my side. I empty the garbage bag onto the floor and like a rat rummaging through a heap of rubbish, Mr. Riggers gets on all fours and begins to frantically search through the pile of crumpled office paper.
Now maybe he was mumbling to himself, or had rather ill intentionally meant for me to hear it, either way, I imagined he had asked me where it was to which I replied where what was, to which he said that what you just read, to which I said I hadn’t read anything you’re mistaken sir, to which he said don’t lie I know you’ve read it.
I couldn’t lie. My grandfather’s eyes flashed in front of me. “Lie once. If you get caught, tell the truth the second time.”
I held my silence. Mr. Riggers looked up at me. His eyes were pleading. He had read me.