The other day, after a particularly violent sneeze, I came crashing to the ground in a big pile of nuts, bolts, coils, and all manner of metal workings.
The sneeze was loud, yes, but it had been drowned out by the heavy thud of all my parts bouncing and clanking against each other as they fell. Toppling and rolling outwards, the tiny parts spinning and rattling to stillness long after the bigger parts had stopped dead on the clean, white, shiny surface below me.
I don’t know why I came apart, seemingly so easily, but I can say it felt good. I wondered if this was death but realised my wondering was evidence that I was still alive, in some way.
And so I lay there, scattered, all tension gone, all the pressure of staying in one piece – holding it all together, gone.
Tiny metal things are notorious for bouncing and rolling away to unfathomable distances and places where they cannot be found, but I knew all the parts were still with me, still in tact, safe, even though I couldn’t see them all.
I noticed that a collection of wires and cords had organised themselves into a neat row, not minding which way round they lay. Without something to connect to, they no longer had ends or beginnings.
All the other parts followed, organising themselves into groups. All coils, all washers, all shaped metals, all springs, all bolts, all valves etc. They lined themselves up into neat rows or in circular swirls. Normally separated by utility, together they indulged in the joy of being themselves, the joy of being still and purposeless. No need to do anything or get anything right. The breath I was still breathing got deeper, slower, and almost stopped.
For a while, there was just space
I wanted to stay there. For as long as possible, forever even. But I knew if I stayed, my parts would be picked up and used elsewhere. What if I became some everyday object like a lawn mower, or a wrench. If I were part of an aeroplane wing, I’d have to share my new form with others. At least something simple like a hole punch would be all me, but what would happen to all the parts of me that weren’t needed?
I realised I could stay in bits, on the floor, waiting for someone or something else to choose my fate. Or I could choose to re-form, and so I did. Choose.
At first, the choice alone wasn’t enough and all my parts stayed put, quite happy where they were thank you very much. The tension and the will I needed to pull myself back together had gone in the collapse. It felt good to let it go, yes, but now I needed it back.
They say anxiety is excitement without the breathing. I think it’s true for all feelings; anger, tension, happiness, sadness, hope, love, they’re all made of the same stuff. Each one just has its own special footprint of air going in and air coming out.
I was still breathing so I started taking really really long, deep breaths, searching for what I needed to get this show back on the road. Soon something caught right at the deepest point of my breath, like a crochet needle picking up a dropped thread. There it was, the will, the drive. Not needing to be asked twice, it got to work.
And so I began coming back to the woman I was. I could feel all the parts stacking one after the other from the ground up in a symphony of taps, clicks and occasional clunks. Once the last item was in place I paused. What now? As if to directly answer my question I sneezed again and with a snap, I was once again in my body, my human form.
I jiggled around inside myself to see how strong I felt and to see if I could hear the sound of metal on metal. I felt strong and heard no clunking, so I jumped up and down for a bit, enjoying my fluid body once again and then did a forward roll for luck.
As I sat on the floor – post forward roll – I noticed some bits had stayed behind. Too dented, rusty and misshapen to fit back into place. Once you undo something it can never be put back together exactly the same. It’s good to have them gone, they were old and no longer fit for purpose, painful even, but I wonder what will happen to the parts that had re-shaped themselves against them. Will they still work without the old bits there to fit around?
I picked them off the floor, one by one, and put them in my pocket, with the tissues.