Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Thousand Pieces

In anger, I'd thrown a chair at the glass display case and it had shattered everywhere, disturbed the ceramic pots, vases, and miniatures inside it. I'd let my frustration boil up and overcome me again; unleashed my fire away from the public eye on my own possessions.
Fragments had flown through the air and ricocheted off the furniture. The pieces had danced and wiggled themselves into every nook and cranny. The carpet crunched underneath my feet, and the sun glinted off lodged shards and made ceiling rainbows.
I spent a whole week on my hands and knees cussing myself and my actions. My back and hips ached, and yet my eyes still spied splinters. Even my food tasted gritty as I was literally eating china!
I was amazed at how far fragments could fly, how they spread using me as their carrier, catching on clothes or piercing my skin looking for a way in. I'd wake up to discover specks of dried blood on my palms and soles. A small scratch, a prick of a needle. But on my calves and thighs, it was as if someone overnight had tried to stitch a seam or hem. I had weird dreams that it was Rumpelstiltskin trying to hide his gold! A human cavern for his precious chips which dazzled like diamonds and jewels.
Every day, at some point I'd swear Trop de verre! Too much glass! Why I exclaimed in French I didn't know. Those three words fell off the tongue as if they'd been waiting there; waiting for the right opportunity to be uttered out loud, repeatedly said.
Trop de verre! Trop de verre! As I picked and swept.
I cursed the frequency of tiny daggers drawing blood. Their glass and porcelain blades as they stabbed the fleshy pads of my thumbs and fingers. And yet it was my fiery temper, which matched the red-gold in my hair, that had made me destroy my collection. The broken glass, porcelain and chinaware piled up in a cardboard box, and yet I could not, would not part with it. Even shattered, it was not trash!
This mess of matt and glinting fragments had its own spell-binding beauty. The box sat on the floor of my one-bedroom flat and many a night I rummaged through the broken pieces. Ran my hands over shards of ceramic pots and vessels, feeling their different textures and recalling their stories. This one had been hidden in a branch of Oxfam, this one was a find at an antique fair; that one was a birthday present, and this piece was from an heirloom. I was hungry to be part of each one's history.
Could anything be saved? Could I, with an discerning eye, create something from this?
Most of them had smashed, were irreparable, and I just didn't have the patience to painstakingly glue them together. So I sifted and sorted: separated nine hundred and ninety-seven pieces out from the splinters and dust. I kept the irregular-shaped, the jagged edges; the pieces with rough breaks and sharp points; the clear, the opaque, the sky-blue and earth colours.
But I wanted a thousand to make a mosaic. I was missing three pieces. I was defeated by too much crushed glass! And yet I was sure there'd been more recyclable pieces.
A sudden draught made the dust rise and stung my eyes, so that tears pooled and rushed down my face like a waterfall. To my astonishment, a large drop dislodged a fragment I recognised from a clay vessel. Then I sneezed viciously and my chest heaved with dry coughs. A glazed shard travelled across the room while another flew from my mouth.
My explosive anger had been forgiven and I'd been granted permission to form a patchwork picture in a thousand treasured pieces.

*Another tale inspired by 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo, as well as the work of Edmund de Waal