Token

nightgarden

Deep in the wastebasket his hand searched, past the balls of crumpled paper and empty paper cups through the cool slick slather inching up his arm, down to the bottom of the barrel, the tiny metal idol he never meant to retrieve. He pulled it out through the muck, small and golden and untouched by the slop, his fingers caked in slime. He ran his hands under the water tap and rinsed the idol and brought it to the light and looked at it, hands dripping. He had never really looked at it before and it glowed from within. This token of days and seasons past.

*

“She gave it to me on our anniversary,” he said into the phone. “A year, our one-year anniversary. I got her a three-hundred-dollar shopping spree at some fancy women’s boutique and she got me this necklace with a little golden Buddhist-looking dude on it. As if I’m Buddhist. Or know anything about Buddhism. I don’t even wear jewelry, man. I mean, I wanted to hand it back to her right then. It was like a metaphor for our whole relationship . . . So I was cleaning out my drawers today and throwing away old socks and stuff and I saw it lying there all curled up in a corner of the drawer and I smirked, you know. It was like a revelation to me. That was the one single instance, right there. Nothing I had done or seen or thought of up to that point had gotten me over her more than looking in that drawer today and seeing that necklace in there. It was like I was disgusted . . . Yeah, so I threw it away . . . ”

*

He stared at it, studied the detail of it. He went to the junk drawer and found a magnifyer, turning the little gold man over beneath it, his fingerprints like immense fissures beyond the magical glass. Long flowing golden robe. He could see the man’s face, smiling, serene, omniscient and meek. The little statue burned in the light. In the tiny eyes was the transience of time, a subtle understanding of the places of the earth and beyond, places like the lighted area beneath giant scrutinizing lenses and still rooms amplified by molecular discourse and the crowded spaces of the profane and scrapped. Looking at the little man, he was amazed he saw all of this.

*

“I want you to have this,” she said, handing him a small package wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper. “It’s been in my family for many years.”

*

He washed and dried the idol and set it on the counter. Prismatic streaks of sunlight from the window, silent shadows of approaching dusk. He thought about her again with a deep and tortured longing, as if mourning her spirit now departed everlasting. The auburn tint of her hair in the sun. The skin of her cheeks so soft and warm. Freckles splashed in abstract expression upon her chest. Skin everywhere, landscapes of skin. A seeping lavender sky and not a charge in the air nor wickedness in his heart but only affection and the clarity of understanding. Garbage littered about the base of the bin as if heaved upward from its depths, the open vein of his very being, exposed, accountable.

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