The Old Uncle at the Antique Shop
He has been accumulating the most useless trifles: mid-century modern lamp shades in tacky colors, candelabras with crooked drip pans and arms, trinkets — pins, refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers — from past elections no one remembers. He goes to the shop with his tired eyes blazing and grabs with his trembling hands whatever he can place in his satchel. He'll then wobble home and call the next morning, asking if anything new has come in.
Why must an 84-year-old man accumulate such junk, filling whatever walking space there is in his apartment, my mother asked. It's a good thing Rita is no more, she added.
Outside the last of the grass had died on the lawn, but the dead blades still waved sullenly in the wind. I worried whether we planted the new seeds too early, whether they would lie dormant until the grasping winter came to an end or sprout tragically on an unseasonably warm day.
He is so excited, the oldish man, as he puts away the unread magazines and dusts the coffee table. He scoffs at the unruly piles of books that give the place a disheveled look. He has been living in this one-bedroom co-op in Chelsea since he was twenty-two, a little over 40 years. He goes to the bathroom and brushes his beard and snips an unruly hair, then daubs scented powder on his face and neck. A light rain rattles against a single dead leaf on the bathroom windowsill. She has just completed her third marriage, the last one just months ago. He's never married. They met at a reading where he had been presenting his book on New York Brutalist architecture. After the reading, she rushed to the front of the queue and held out her hand, smiling. He marveled at her dark red lipstick, her chemise-silk shawl and her soft hands, rouge at the joints. Never mind that some described her in unfriendly terms. Never mind that her friends took her away, screaming, after her last husband obtained a restraining order. He knew all this but thought, What can it matter for a man like me? Then came the knock and the scent of jasmine perfume stealing through the door.
Vikram Masson writes at the intersection of faith, identity and culture. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Glass, Juked, Prometheus Dreaming, Rust + Moth and Without a Doubt: poems illuminating faith (NYQ Books)