Falling to Pieces

breakdown story

It was a quiet Sunday morning when bits of me began to fall off.

I put that first finger on the kitchen worktop. It wobbled for a moment before rolling off and onto the floor. The worktop wasn’t level.

I found my big toe from my right foot in my sock at bedtime. I supposed that I should wash the sock, so I removed the toe first. But there was another in there that I hadn’t noticed, and it broke the machine. The door wouldn’t open while the machine was full of water. I sat on the cold kitchen tiles for a while, just looking. But I could see that pesky toe floating in the stagnant suds behind the glass. So I got up, shut the light off and closed the door behind me.

It was cold, but my left ear got stuck to the boiler when I leant in to listen. And when I went to check on the hot water, I lost an eye down the plughole. With my one lonely ear, I stood and listened to it gurgle all the way along the pipes.

Monday came around as fast and unwelcome as every other day. I had a cold shower and went to work. No one noticed I was missing some parts, so the day continued as usual. I left the rest of my hand behind in the bin in the cafeteria. No one was sitting with me, so that too went unnoticed.

I realised I couldn’t do much at home, missing a hand. But as I sat staring at the flickering lights on my television screen, my leg began to detach from the hip. In my surprise, I spilt some tea on the fabric of the sofa. I wondered how I would get the stain out with just one hand. I didn’t have long to worry, though, because I put down my cup and the second hand stayed attached, with its remaining fingers clasping the handle. I couldn’t help but laugh. It looked strange, that cup, sitting there on the table with its new, pale appendage clinging on for dear life.

I lost my nose later in the week. It wasn’t anything remarkable. It rolled into the gutter on Tuesday afternoon, when a van drove through a puddle and splashed me. It was raining and I’d already missed the bus, so I didn’t bother to stop and retrieve it.

My tongue slithered out of my mouth and crawled away when Paul from Marketing groped me in the copy room again on Thursday. I was just glad he didn’t pull my arse cheek off. Mind you, he could have had it. Maybe he’d leave me alone then. He breathed on me and asked if I’d go for coffee. I was grateful that I couldn’t smell his foul breath. He asked me the same thing every day. I couldn’t answer today though, without a tongue. I imagine it went because it had nothing left to say to him.

An old friend came for coffee the following Sunday, just to tell me about her wedding. I hadn’t even known she was getting married. She didn’t notice my missing pieces either, and I presumed I’d done a good job with my makeup. Or, at least, she was being polite and avoiding the subject. A piece of my chest got stuck on her cashmere jumper as she hugged me goodbye. Now I could see my heart, throbbing and pulsing behind my ribs. It felt very cold to have the air blowing around my ribcage. And the boiler still wouldn’t turn on. I supposed it didn’t like having my ear stuck on there.

I sat in the bathroom that night, in front of the mirror, my remaining eye closed tight. I could hear bits of me pattering onto the tiles. It was like rain against a window pane. But it wasn’t raining outside. My newly exposed bones were very white and delicate. It was hard to imagine that they were made of the same tough stuff as my teeth. I tried out a smile. But my teeth looked sad, stained and abused, so I closed my mouth quickly.

I wondered if I should call someone. Who would care that I was disintegrating? I pondered this for a while and decided that no one really would.

The last thing of substance to fall was my heart. It dropped out from underneath my ribs and tumbled onto the floor. I reached for the phone. But instead of dialling, I watched my heart with a detached fascination, more intense than any I’d ever had. It beat once, twice, then faltered. Then I remembered I’d left my only hand attached to my mug on the coffee table. So I couldn’t have used the phone anyway.

It was a quiet Sunday evening when the last of me fell to pieces.


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