by Kate LaDew ~ Graham, North Carolina, USA
Waterloo immediately forgot the repairman’s name and didn’t ask him to repeat it. After four hours, the time had passed. He watched the dirt stained fingers grappling with the half dozen cords in the overhead light fixture and felt guilty. After all, here Waterloo was, just standing around in his nice, cool apartment, doing nothing of worth for anybody, while this nameless repairman endeavored to bring light to his tiny world. It was enough to make a man want to do something about the state of things.
“I’ll do something about the state of things,” Waterloo said to himself. Three hours before and an hour after Waterloo had forgotten his name, the repairman asked if there was any water he might have. In response, Waterloo had shrugged. He was beginning to think it had been the wrong move. Now, four hours later, Waterloo almost went to the kitchen, opened a cupboard and retrieved a clear glass with stripes at the top and filled it from the sink with water. Almost. Watching the repairman in his work, Waterloo decided a little chat, a little bonding, a little encouragement and reassurance was what the repairman really wanted. Some sign of connectedness between the two men, some show of understanding. That’s what he had meant by water. Let us drink from the same stream and so become brothers.
Waterloo took a step towards the living room. Then another and another. Soon he was standing under the overhead light fixture looking up at the repairman on his ladder, a jumble of wires hanging. Waterloo took a deep breath. He was going to relate to this man of the people. “It’s like the twist-tie thingy on bread,” Waterloo began without introduction, “where you twist and twist and twist until you realize, the whole time, you’ve been twisting the twist-tie thingy the wrong way. The exact opposite way of the right way. The way that will never release your bread. So you twist and twist and twist the other way until you get the twist-tie thingy back to the start, and still no bread. You’ve been here before. And those last few twists, the twists that would have ended a long time ago if you’d only chosen the correct way to twist, well, it’s agony. And all the while, all the while, you’re not having any bread. You’re just twisting. Twisting until it feels like you’ve spent your whole life twisting. Your whole life, twisting and breadless.” Waterloo smiled at the repairman reassuringly, encouragingly, understandingly. “I would suppose mending a light bulb is a lot like twisting a twist-tie thingy on bread. Except instead of no bread – no light.”
The repairman didn’t say anything. Waterloo felt like pushing him off the ladder. ■