That day I picked up the phone to make a call. The regular landline phone. I began to dial and saw the brown splotch. As is my habit, I sniffed…it smelled of something old, even dying. Well, I don’t know what the process of dying smells like, but that is how it seemed. I over-reacted, mainly because I did not expect plastic to do this. Plastic has been created to be unnatural, to mock mortality.
You must say you hate plastic. I cannot. I break glass and ceramic things, sometimes deliberately. So I do have plastic jars and plastic bags to put things into, even my old articles. The paper on which they are written turns yellow and tears, but the plastic does not relent. Often it fools me into believing that what it is protecting is safe. But you cannot ensure the safety of that which is meant to perish.
Back to my phone and the shock I felt at that stain. It was strategically formed where the receiver rests, the place where the ear set is, or whatever you call it. Was I listening to too much? Or had I stopped listening and the disuse had let it decompose?
I read somewhere that polymer can decompose due to carbon atoms; in metal, iron and oxygen doing the tango produces the effect. At least there is a meeting of souls. Carbon works alone on plastic. It takes years for it to happen. This is an old phone but not all that old. Maybe five years. Had I exposed it to chemicals, radiation or high temperature?
No. I had exposed it to nothing except voices. Can voices produce chemical reactions? Do they have the power to cause a radiation burn? Is a volatile voice capable of qualifying as high temperature?
Was I being tetchy? Throw out the phone if it is such a problem, I was told. To get me to throw out anything takes very long. I held it up again and kept looking at that splotch. The phone is a dull white. From one angle the stain looked like a sepia painting. Modern art in sepia. What a contradiction.
We live in paradoxes, with paradoxes. Here was plastic. Plastic that lasts. Plastic that will never fall apart or flake or give up. Plastic you can trust.
I had rust on plastic. A betrayal.
- - -
It is still with me. I took a sponge, dunked it in antiseptic, and wiped the instrument. I wasn’t sure if I should be rough; even had I tried it would not work…the material is designed to make you slip. I was gentle and soon the sponge was stained. The phone was white again.
As good as new? No, as good as old, the way it was. The rust taught me not to let things lie in limbo.