Monday, July 16, 2012
He had made it onto the Max train to go home again, carefully bringing his prize as he got on. He even got to have a seat, given up to him by a nice young woman on her way home from the Montessori school down by the river. They had talked on the train once before and she smiled now as she beckoned him to sit, even though she herself bore a large, heavy framed picture in her arms. He smiled back and thanked her in french, noting a few stares from the other passengers.
Some were irritated at the extra space a large stained glass lamp and shade would take on the packed train. Others were amused that his combined load seemed half as large as he himself. Few grown adults existed now with a stature of only four-foot three since mandatory prenatal screening for "unfortunate abnormalities" started those many years ago. And then there was his age. Even with all the med-tech advances he would be considered very old, and not having had the common cosmetic treatments, he looked every bit of his age.
He couldn't blame them of course, people watching was an habitual pastime of his too, not being otherwise engaged by some sort of net gear as were most of them. He knew he was very fortunate, able to still be doing his work making and selling calligraphy and paintings down in his booth at Saturday Market. He was fortunate also to be allowed to maintain his own apartment while so many old people were warehoused, kept sedated and plugged into the net, out of sight and out of everyone else's minds. "Revered Artisan" status got him the apartment, basic necessities, and occasionally a free americano at Irah's Coffee Lounge, where the folk singers still played on Friday nights.
Mid winter in Portland might often seem bleak, damp, and relentlessly gray, but at least it was not so deadly freezing cold as it had been back in his home land. He wasn't even sure what they called that place now, so many changes of borders and titles had come and gone in the last handful of decades. This evening there was as usual a steady drizzle and the temperature was about thirty-four degrees. He could live with that. He could live, he had learned, with most things.
He watched as the train stops came and went. First was the old Goose Hollow platform, just down from the Suicide Bridge. He had almost been hit by a falling politician there once many years ago during the Corporate Rule turmoils. He cringed and sighed inwardly, recalling the unfortunate mess and the bad dreams he had for years, as though it had somehow been his fault, old as he was even then.
A couple of miles west was the Washington Park - Oregon Zoo station. He liked the educational pictographs of animals, some strange and mythical, some still to be found at the zoo. There was rarely anyone getting on or off there this time of evening.
Rolling out of there as the drizzle turned to snowflakes the size of quarters it was all he could do not to smirk, thinking of his prize and sitting there comfortably instead of being forced to stand and sway, hoping for a spot at a grab rail.
He wanted to dance with glee but there was definitely no room to be doing a Gene Kelley on the Blue Line. He thought that might have been a fitting reaction to the coup he counted in the deal he had made at the lamp store. Two thousand new dollars for a vintage Tiffany Dragonfly Limited was very nearly criminal he knew. But still, one didn't make those kind of dancing, cavorting displays on a mid winter's evening commuter train, not even in Portland. Especially one didn't if one had managed to attain the ripe old age of one hundred and twenty-nine.
Another nice young woman pushed the open doors button a couple of extra times for him as he unloaded himself and his cargo, though there were grumblings from within the train. He retrieved his hemp net from a pocket of his oiled Gabriel Hounds parka and carefully placed the heavy lamp within it, hung it over his back and began his walk across the parking lot to the apartment he had shared with Ava for ninety-five years. Of course the last thirty she had been a ghost.
He knew she would love the lamp, so like the one she had used to light her famous scrapbooks all those years ago.
Ava greeted him as always just inside his door, tilting her head that way she did, smiling silently. He took the lamp in and gently set it up on the stand between their two chairs, fitted the dragonfly shade, plugged it in, and turned it on. He looked at Ava, did a quick little hop-step, bowed, and gestured at the lamp like a game show spokes-model. She giggled and clapped her hands soundlessly like a little girl.
As he sat down he pulled the old leather portfolio from beside his chair and opened it up, not to his own work, but to a half-dozen signed Disney animation cells, collected over a lifetime, and drew them out. Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Pluto. Goofy was, well, just too goofy.
"Remember when we got this one, Honey? It was while we were at the symposium in '99. That was a fine trip". In her chair on the other side of the lamp she smiled at him, transparent in the light, and nodded, her scrapbook turned to that very page in her lap. It was good to be home.
Suzanne Vega - BOUND