excerpt of “Floating Notes”
By Babak Lakghomi - Jul 31, 2018
The following is an excerpt from the novel Floating Notes by Babak Lakghomi, available from Tyrant Books here.
I don’t remember the first time I wrote my name. What I do remember is the first time someone else was called my name. I told him that was my name too, but he couldn’t believe it. He was a fat boy with a puffy face. He looked like a little boxer.
Now, people call me in different names and I don’t care. Why people call me other names might be because I am not writing my name the right way, though that is how it’s written in my documents. Foreheads furrow whenever I say my name, and I have to take my papers out and show them to see for themselves.
I sometimes introduce myself as Bob, but only where I am sure nobody knows me. I have to be careful or they would know I’m not Bob.
Coffee shops are among the places that I call myself Bob. I sometimes forget I am Bob and my coffee grows cold. I never go twice to the same coffee shop.
Where is this name from? This is the question that I have to answer whenever I say my real name. Cab drivers, clerks. I rarely take a cab. Then they tell me they have a friend who has the same name. I think about all the people in the world with my name and their cab driver friends.
I don’t have friends, and the only one that I had was not a cab driver or a clerk. My name became a different name in her mouth. I want to say I loved hearing it from her and maybe I did, but any time I heard it, I feared I had done something wrong.
I wonder how the fat boy writes his name, and if he, like me, is being called different names.
My name is Bob, and this is what I call my life: an attic room with a yellow curtain in a narrow hallway, a spring bed on the creaking floor. Notebooks in a knapsack. Two cups of coffee per day.
The walls of my room are thin. A French man lives in the room next to me. His bed leans on the shared wall and I sometimes hear him cry at night. Sometimes woman are over and I hear them through the thin wall too. The French man says he has been a pilot in France, but I don’t believe him.
This is my life after I left, or after she left me and I decided to leave too.
My landlord is a Chinese woman. She has turned one of the rooms in the hallway into a shop where she sells plastic plants. You wonder how many people would buy plastic plants, but the hallway is always full.
In the hallway, there is a shared kitchen and a bathroom with two stalls. In the kitchen, a fridge is filled with food with name tags. I put my eggs and fruits in the fridge. I keep my bread in the drawer by the side of my bed. My eggs always go missing from the fridge, even though they have tags. I think this might have something to do with the French man.
The good thing is the eggs can be easily replaced. The room is in the same building with a Chinese grocery store. Fruits are stacked in the front section of the store. The back part places fresh fish, clams, live lobsters. I like watching the lobsters in the buckets, smelling the smell of sea.
My father had a small boat back home, we fished from the river there. Here, I fished on a large boat on the ocean. I remember the sound of the gulls fishing for the guts of fish that we threw back into the ocean. The smell of blood and salt. I gutted thousands of fish per day, my boots deep into the cold water. The blood from the boat left a red trail on the sea.
I found an office job after. I also started writing again— articles that I sent to different journals. You don’t believe me? I have them here in my knapsack. But I couldn’t publish them under my own name.
I threw all of my books in the river before I left the country. This was the same river that my father used to fish.
Let’s say the office job wasn’t for me either. I always had my notebook open beneath the work folders. My stomach turned when they called my name. I was always waiting for a Monday morning when my boss would ask me to his office. All I remember from that office is the toilet. Spreading toilet paper on the seat, flushing multiple times, drinking from my flask. The boss started to follow me to the toilet door and wait there until I was done.
Read more about Floating Notes, available now from Tyrant Books.