Roxanne wandered over the rugged asphalt, careful by the potholes that had tripped her up in the past. The asphalt seemed to collect in small balls of tar clustered about the edges of the lot which during the week identified itself as a parking lot, and on weekends, as this was, home to a flea market, ragtag at best. Roxanne weaved her way among flimsy aluminum tables piled high with bolts, screwdrivers, hammers with head held to wooden shaft by duct tape, old Pyrex cooking dishes with tops missing and Corningware with the pale blue design gone vague.
Roxanne thought of this weekend outing as a time of remembrance – a time to conjure up her childhood of the 1950s, so lost to her now. She felt at times an urgency to remember – as a way to knit her life back together, a story now fuzzy and remote and insubstantial. She needed to remember to be sure she in fact had existed – existed still in something other than a dream, something clearer than the hazy awareness allotted by her mandated medication against which, she had learned, it was useless to fight.
She began with the kitchenware – as one would start one’s day with the bowls and spoons attendant to breakfast, to the unfolding of the day. She fingered a thick, chunky china bowl around which a blue line circled until it met a crack and disappeared. She could re-imagine her breakfast there. When she touched the bowl, in her mind it became home to Sugar Crisps eaten before a flickering black and white screen with Captain Kangaroo on. Having now had breakfast, she followed the length of the table, piled with CDs and VHS tapes on which masking tape revealed their contents. Some stacks of sheet music gave off a musky scent – like that of her grandmother’s basement, the gray concrete walls now rising up before her, the scattered pages of the Herald Tribune stained by her old cocker spaniel’s incontinence. She flipped lazily through the music sheets – show tunes and love songs, gospel hymns and operatic arias – for something to spark sound for her, some tune she could reach for, remember. But she remembered instead that her house had been mostly silent. Only now and then the sound of water running, then stopping, then running again. The sound of the heavy door slamming as her father left the railroad flat with the stale and heavy fog of the Lucky Strikes he smoked back to back to back.
There was an ashtray on the flea market table, stained in some indelible way by the unrestrained chain-smoking of someone probably long since dead. She rarely bought anything at the market, but she lifted the ugly ashtray and bargained with the old man sitting in a canvas chair hacking up the cough imposed by his cigar-smoking, his hands plump, fingers stubby, with chipped and dirty nails. He sold it to her for $1.25.
She remembered her father in the stain of the glass tray, in the small indentations meant to hold the cigarette in place. She went to the curb right there on 25th Street. She strained her face, contorted into rage, remembering, and desperation, and then, with deep satisfaction, heaved the glass ashtray onto the street, shattering it into so many broken pieces lost in the debris that cluttered around the curb.