Jigsaw Feeling……

This is a story I wrote for my MA application….draw your own conclusions……. Jigsaw Feeling Difficulty level impossible, number of pieces infinite. Can this woman ever be put back together again? Hard to tell. Let’s look at the pieces. How is she in pieces? How can she be so fragmented? Is this a woman or a jigsaw? But I can number those pieces, I can number those breaks, I can quantify that falling apart, for I am she, your hypothetical jigsaw lady. Every piece has a story, every break has a history. Maybe it has a history that you will not wish to hear, maybe it is a saga that you will listen to with your hands over your ears. Painful to hear? Oh pity on you with your delicate ears. Do you not think in your privileged position that it was a thousand times more painful to think and to live? Let me list the breaks, let me list the multiple and many fissures which traverse me, your anonymous jigsaw lady. Break the first. It is hot, it is summer and I run into an old work colleague and we go for coffee. We laugh about our old job back in England and I invite him back to come and meet you. We were laughing as we got out of the lift. Do you remember now, can you? How you shot out of the door, and threw Nick against the wall screaming torrents of abuse? Do you remember how you dragged me into the apartment by my neck and threw me across the bedroom, how you grabbed me by the shoulders and banged, banged my head against the wall until it felt like it was going to explode. Is it coming back now, how you did this until I was unconscious? Can you remember how I screamed, how I held my hands across my stomach to save my unborn child? Then, how you went out to get even more drunk, leaving me lying across the bed, probably not even aware or caring if I was alive or dead? Break the second was a direct result of break the first, though I doubt that your alcohol-addled brain was capable of making that connection. But I’ll remember for you. I’ll remember the pain, the fear, the rush in the taxi to the hospital sitting on a towel with the blood flowing down my legs, by myself of course. I recall perfectly lying on the hospital trolley, my head still covered with the bruises that you had carefully placed under my long black hair so that no-one would know that they were there except me. I can still hear all the lies and the platitudes, the assurances in French for foreigners that everything would be fine. The rest you wouldn’t know, you weren’t there you will say. The screaming pain on the stark white bed, the vitriolic nasal mutterings of the nurse who believed that I was just another deluded little English girl, and that she knew best. The refusals to help, the pain shooting through me in waves, the pain in my head now dulled by the torrential waves of a different pain. I’ll tell you about being left for five hours like this. I’ll tell you how it felt to know that this was going to happen. I’ll tell you about the dead baby I gave birth to all alone in a hospital bed, 1000 miles away from home. I can describe perfectly the corpse in a white plastic bucket they showed to me when they finally answered the bell. How it felt to sit in a waiting room full of pregnant women the morning after waiting for an ultrasound. How, when I was walking out of the hospital by myself two days later, they presented me with a bill for six thousand francs for incompetence rendered. Because for me the memory is not fleeting, it is engraved in these chasms that cross my body and mind, the chasms I carry with me every day of my life. Which leads me to break the third. You weren’t there. Are you beginning to see now? Not all of these breaks are the physical kind you love to deliver. Some are far far deeper than that. They are breaks in the soul, breaks in the spirit and being. You probably wouldn’t even notice them. Shortly after that was break the fourth. I came home from work to find that you had gone to your brother’s wedding in Brittany without me. I spent the next four days eating stale bread and cheese and smoking cigarette butts, as you had thoughtfully taken every penny in the house. Luckily for you, I couldn’t telephone anyone, as they had already cut the telephone off. Break the fifth happens the next time I am pregnant with the baby you claimed to want so much. Though I am sure you won’t recollect any of this. You passed most of the pregnancy in an alcohol-fuelled haze. As I recall, you spent everything on Pastis and beer, while I had to beg and plead at the hospital for them to let me pay for the ultrasound next week, the blood test at the end of the month. They were worried you see, they had put down Break the Second as a miscarriage, so I was an ‘at risk mother’. In a way they were quite right, though with my stress levels they had just put me down as another hysterical foreigner, and sent me to the hospital psychiatrist. You wouldn’t remember all of this. How I carried you to bed, though I was pregnant and you weighed twice as much as me. How I cleaned up when you were sick anywhere and everywhere. How I changed the sheets when you wet the bed and were so drunk that you haven’t noticed. How I carried the shopping home on two buses, despite the fact there was I car which I had basically paid for sitting in the kerb outside. The one thing I couldn’t forget was the alcohol. The bottle of Pastis per day, plus any beer, wine, whatever you could get your hands on. Not if I valued my life. Break the sixth would be hard for you to know about, because I had to admit myself to the hospital on the other side of Paris. I travelled by train and metro to get there, with all my bags. My ‘condition’ now so worrying that I had to have extensive tests, or lose this baby. Actually, when I started giving birth they had to ring you for two hours before you answered the phone. You probably wouldn’t remember, I guess you were comatose somewhere. You did arrive finally, another two hours after that, although you did have to keep popping out for a drink from the car at regular intervals. I would call the actual birth breaks seven, eight, and nine. I had better fill you in on the details, you had just popped out for a drink, after asking me where the nearest bar to the hospital was. I had been left alone for quite a while when someone finally noticed that blood was dripping onto the floor, and your daughter was dying. You weren’t around when I was rushed into the theatre, trailing blood. It would have been hard for you to hear that I had in fact lost half of the blood in my body. Mind you, that probably explained the light-headedness, and the pains in my chest as my heart raced to keep up. Your daughter was stuck, they finally managed to extract her, but I wasn’t even aware if she was alive or dead. Actually, you turned up about 20 minutes after the whole event. The tenth break happens after we get home. I had just changed jobs. Again. It’s amazing how you in fact lose jobs when you have to keep taking days off to hide your face, or even when your partner in an alcohol-fuelled paranoia refuses to let you leave the house. It’s even more amazing when you find a new one. However, when you have borrowed money from everyone you work with, and the Creche Municipale is refusing to take your child unless you buy the nappies and baby lotion, and pay the bill, you have to move on. The crunch happens when you can’t even buy the baby food. There’s no money left after the Pastis. Break the eleventh is the holiday in England, where all the spending money goes on finding Pastis, of course at a premium price, nothing else will do. Where you spend most of the day in bed, pretend to be ill, refuse to meet my friends and oblige me to lie to my entire family. Mind you, this is not helped by your refusal to learn any English after 3 years together. Number 12 occurs whenever you feel paranoid. Then the fists fly and you accuse me of having affairs with anyone from the concierge to the hunchbacked man who puts out the vege
tables in Franprix. This is probably sufficient in fact to do numbers 13 through to 25, it’s fairly frequent. I feel that Number 26 is the beginning of your unlucky streak. You force me to go and see a psychiatrist, to find out ‘what’s wrong with me’. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist actually concludes that the only thing wrong with me is you, and I’m prevented from going back. We also have Number twenty seven….which on second thought probably includes numbers 28 through 35, compound fractures. Through having to take time off of work to mind our sick child, I have lost my job again. This is where you develop a new paranoid interest, returning to Brittany, land of your fathers, and all that twaddle. So off we go on another wild goose chase. We go off to Sables d’Olonne, in the 85…but it’s still not Brittany. Guess even they wouldn’t wish to take you back. In the meantime we’re supposed to be having the holiday of our dreams in the South….. It takes us 2 days to drive there. Maybe because of all the stops on the autoroute. 2, 300 miles of hell. And then it rains, God does it rain. That’s my fault as well. We’re meeting your brother and his family for the perfect family holiday…though to be honest even they had probably suffered enough at the time with your gimcrack little charades. Crack bang here we go again……any chance for a slap…oh though you are so careful that Christophe and Sandrine don’t see…Until you finally let the curtain drop, your unguarded moment. They take me out for the evening, and when I return I have the whole no sleep where have you been what were you doing pantomime, bang, slap, what, bang, slap, where…..Christophe intervenes when you have banged my head on the wall so often that I am comatose, and your daughter is crying, ‘Maman, maman’ alone into the night. They leave in the morning, and jigsaw girl has to piece together the events from the map of contusions. In retrospect, breaks 35 through 38…one for each of the vertebrae ruined. I tell your mother. She says ‘demerde-toi’. Get yourself out of your own shit. Sensitive family…..the bruises are still fresh and purple as an aubergine. These are not the physical cracks but the mental. Your son did this. Help me. Talk to yourself. You might as well. Become mute, it would be safer. Back home. Then the move. You and your equally alcoholic friend Serge at the wheel. Safe in the hands of the man that drinks niaoul before breakfast. You like us being there, mind you. No friends at all, no-one to hear me, God that makes you happy. Because, as usual, you’re not happy and it’s all my fault. This time, I’m even supposed to be sleeping with the woman at the ANPE…the dole office. The guy at the library where I’m doing my research for the CAPES, the teaching certificate that might take us out of this…… Then I get a job in La Roche sur Yon, leaving at 5.30 am, cycling 4 miles, catching the TGV, walking for 20 minutes, catching another bus, taking another walk…….it’s the middle of winter, and this time I’m supposed to be having affairs with the 15 year old farming students…..every night it’s bang, crack, bang crack my head…..More and more, I am becoming fundamentally flawed, only the wallpaper holds me together….the smile hides a thousand wounds. Every day I play the dutiful French wife at the Catholic school, thanking God it’s winter and I can hide myself beneath layers of clothes. Every morning at 5 am it takes more and more Prozac to just get myself out of bed. Every night I have the 6 hours of recriminations and maybe 4 hours of sleep if I’m lucky. You shout through the sleeping tablets. You’ve stopped going to work. I now have to lie to your boss as well. It’s Christmas. My parents arrive. Let’s play happy families and thank the Lord no-one can understand each other. Even lost in translation you manage to spoil it for everyone. The only saving grace being that in such proximity it can only be your words that wound me. For now. They leave, I wave them off on the TGV to Nantes with tears in my eyes, they, so concerned, I nearly get on the train. Your hand restraining me like iron under the sleeve of my coat. ‘Why were you crying?’ ‘I wasn’t’ ‘I’ll give you something to cry for’ ‘I wasn’t……’ ‘Come here’ ‘No’ ‘Come here’ ‘I’m fine’ ‘Will you give me what I want? You’re my wife………’ Bang Crack Slam Silence…….Confusion Suffocating Pain. Va et vient, in and out, you’re my wife, symphony of pain, take no more, NO. Coming round, he is inside me, can take no more, no longer a person, just a possession. All is black. Try to die. Why can’t I die? Realise now that you cannot die of unhappiness as I would be dead one hundred times over. I’ve stopped counting how broken I am now. Just wish you would finally break me so I could know no more. But I keep waking up to a new hell. Hell is other people, old Jean-Paul was right. But the Jigsaw Lady Lazarus is not broken inside. Maybe the carapace is cracked and shattered into infinitesimal pieces, but something inside now rises up. This is it, breaks…..infinite. But I am beyond caring. I have arrived at calculating. You are admitted to hospital – this worried me once until I found out that the ‘epilepsy’ was caused by the alcohol. I take my chance. I make the worst telephone call of my whole life to everyone, tell them it was all a sham. I lie to your mother – she deserves no better. I get up at 4 am, take my child, my life in a suitcase, and my shattered self. I fight my way through border control with lies and smiles, and bring what remains of myself home. I have rebuilt myself. I have filled in the cracks, I have rebuilt the walls, I have rebuilt the girl that you tried so hard to destroy. Some, physical, parts of the jigsaw lady will always be broken, thanks to you. But never the spirit.

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