My name is Mateo Reyes and I work at the federal office for tax collection. Year after year, during this very special time, I become the happiest person in the world, as everyone visits me. I clean my desktop, every nook and cranny of it and I take my time to adorn it with all the paraphernalia for the occasion: that old photograph where I’m shaking hands with the councilman, the little goblin that my brother brought from a trip to Scandinavia, the tiny silly magnet chromed toys that have no real function and, of course, a golden bell that I ring to announce to each taxpayer that it is their time to seat in front of me and have a spot of talk.
I know nobody likes coming here, but I do appreciate the company. Back home, I have no one to speak to, except my slippers (and the cockroaches I squish with them) and we are running out of conversation themes. Nonetheless, here I can speak about a myriad of possible themes with people I’d never imagine I would ever meet!
I remember fondly the time I rang the bell and in the blink of an eye, I had the hottest star of the moment, the idol of many a forlorn teen who reads ‘Heat’ or watches ‘Hollyoaks’. I was so nervous I couldn’t even muster up to say “Good day, how can I help you?” when she said “in all ten years of my career, I’ve never handed in my tax forms and I have a call at the other side of the city in less than two hours. Could you do me a solid? I would do anything for that role”. I felt my soul nosedive and crash into the ground, breaking into a million pieces. Without taking my eyes off her gargantuan green eyes, I said “Yes”. Half an hour was the time that it took me to clean her file, leaving her tax return in zeroes.
In return, I only asked for an autograph for my niece, who’s been poorly at the hospital the last months. She told me “you’re a very good person, meet me at the backdoor in ten minutes”. So I did and then her chauffeur opened the door from her car. Inside, she gave me a poster with an autograph, a wad of cash and a kiss that lasted at least 15 seconds. She said thanks again and she left in a hurry.
Another time, this clown arrived. A real clown, make up and all, big shoes and a squeaky red nose. I know, I tried it. He dared me to! With a very gravelly voice, the total opposite of his appearance, he said “life’s a joke and I’m only making it more ludicrous with my balloons. Shame that kids these days don’t laugh at my shenanigans. Here’s all the receipts from last year, including all my medical bills. How much do I owe?”. I typed in the numbers and informed him “you don’t owe a thing, in fact, you have a modest return”. “Excellent” he replied, “I needed a few quid for fags”. He then took his receipt and coughed. I saw some blood in his multicoloured hanky.
And so is how I’ve met architects, politicians, strippers, teachers, chefs, kebab cooks, engineers, oil rig divers, an Olympic medallist, jet pilots, F1 drivers (The Stig, I’m sure), footie players, a woman who lost her five sons in war, a park ranger that lost an arm in a fight with a bear, a man who made a fortune busking, five brothers who couldn’t stand their mother and told her they’d signed up for the Falklands in the 80s, a famous painter that previously was a janitor, a girl who started a doughnut chain after years of selling them in a busy intersection, an inventor who swore that before mp3 players came along, he’d invented a pack of cigarettes that could do the same and could also predict horse races…
Oh well, for now, I’m ready to ring my golden bell and wait with bathed breath my next encounter.
Words: Homo Rodans
Creative licen…translation: —Sam
Photo: Orestes Xistos