Tom said just toss the pieces out with the trash. There were dozens of sharp pieces, shards too small to hold any glue. I was pissed at the movers. This fragile plate had traveled halfway around the world safely, and now goddamn Mayflower Van Lines had destroyed it just trucking it four miles across town.
I was determined to at least try to put it back together. I put all the pieces on the workbench in the garage, the workbench Tom had just bought us when we moved into our new house. Tom had paid for the bench. It was a housewarming present. It was long established in our relationship that I was the handy one and he was not, and so the workbench was my turf and not his. We both assumed I was good at putting broken things back together, including this plate from the other side of the world.
I tried epoxy. I tried Elmers. I even tried the Crazy Glue I’d bought in Japan and had kept all these years. I still had the Crazy Glue but I no longer had Tadashi, my Japanese boyfriend long before Tom, my American one. Tadashi had given me the plate as a gift on the occasion of my parting from both him and his country.
I did not tell Tom, but this plate would definitely have to be made whole again, and made whole for reasons that had nothing to do with him or the life together we now had. Tadashi had given me this, in our time before Tom’s and mine, and its shattered remains were not going to be thrown out with other junk. I went online to learn how to fix broken pottery. I called my mother for help. I asked a guy at Home Depot. I went to the ceramics studio in the city park to see if someone there could advise me. I put the pieces in a plastic garbage bag and carried them around in case someone wanted to see them before giving me advice. No one did. The beautiful Japanese plate was gone and would not be restored to wholeness— its, mine or anyone else’s. I put the plastic garbage bag underneath the workbench and it stayed there for years, long after Tom had abandoned me as abruptly I had Tadashi.
One day I needed something heavy to weigh down one corner of a new rug I was unrolling. I used the bag with the broken pieces in it. They jingled and jangled as I carried the bag from the garage and into the living room. I thought: Tadashi and I have never spoken since I left Japan, but now here he is and he’s talking to me. I talked back to him in equally unintelligible sounds. Kwak guggu chimti tonchinkan I imagined I was asking him to forgive me. Hooro monnui sah-zah-roy. When I lowered the bag onto the rug’s curled corner to make it lie flat, the jingling and jangling stopped and so did I. I might as well try to reassemble the plate again, I decided. Maybe they’ve invented a better glue since last time. Maybe the internet would have a better suggestion now. I left the bag there for a week to do its work on the rug’s edge, after which it went back to its place under the workbench, where it remains until I invent some use for it again.
John Whittier Treat: Contact