I was standing on the periphery of a site with a boy who had recently become interested in my life outside of the playground. He’d asked all sorts of questions – where I lived, who with, if I had a cat – but one had him stumped.
“You don’t have a TV.”
“A TV. You don’t have one?”
“No. No TV.”
“Not at all?” I pictured myself standing outside of electronics stores with my face pressed against the glass in updated Dickensian fashion. Truthfully, there were a couple of shows that I had a standing date to watch at a friend’s house. They were on back to back every Thursday night, so we’d share a bottle of wine and discuss the characters’ lives as they unspooled before us, and our own lives during the commercial breaks.
The boy’s questions kept coming.
“But if you don’t have a TV, what do you do all day?”
“I read a lot,” I said, and he looked as me as if I’d claimed to spend my time alphabetizing my sock collection. “At first I thought that if I didn’t have a TV I’d get more writing done, or drawing. It hasn’t quite happened that way.” He shook his head.
“Wow. If I didn’t have a TV I’d be so bored. So bored. I’d have to do other stuff. I’d have to… do origami.”
There was another pause, though now it was of me trying to fit a piece of new information into my brain. It didn’t seem to fit.
“I’ve been taking a class,” he said. “Thursdays after school. It’s the day I don’t come here. It’s pretty good, you can make boats and boxes and stuff out of paper, just folding it. The teacher can do helicopters, but we’re just on boxes.”
“That sounds pretty cool,” I said, remembering a book on origami from my own childhood. The final exercise showed you how to make a complete Bugatti to scale, though I’d never progressed beyond boxes either. The boy laughed at me, with something between amusement and pity.
“Sounds cool to you,” he said. “You don’t even have a TV!”