Stuck (2020) is a short-form abstract text written about the state of ‘stuckness’, from the point of view of being stuck. The reader is guided through these layers in an attempt to reach someone, but constantly finds themselves “naked, cased in and waiting”.
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Oh, to be naked, cased in and waiting – waiting on love? No, not waiting on love. Waiting on soft palms to mould me wet and waiting, again, they fold me into half and hold me.
A skin-to-skin ceremony, the slow kiss of condensing our touch, compressing my edges ‘til they’re penned in between car park and green fields growing poppies. My being wedged with a tree to the right and a number plate to the left. Buildings in the distance flit past my vision:
Hobbycraft, Homebase, Pets at Home. Stuck fast as the stores move past me, bargain hunting and unwrapping crème eggs to see if they’re white and then leaving them behind: unwrapped, disregarded, put back, denied soft clunk of chunky shell ruptured in one bite.
It is then divided by deep cracks that leak sweet sugar sap in little globules dropping off. I’d invite you inside these thick walls to come dine with me. Close the lid so we’re candle-lit creatures of habit, we cohabit… naked, cased in and waiting.
We can sit opposite at a small table or right by each other at a long one, we always play the same game. I’ll be yellow (I’m always yellow) which bids you to be red, now that it’s the only colour left. Flat scarlet counters stockpiled high, slotted by your fumbling hands dropping –
– now stopping held in circular status quo. And all I need is four in a row. We play on and on, so long that our fingers surrender to muscle memory and all you remember of me is yellow and red dots that flash when your eyes are shut.
Suddenly your red counter pins me to a corner, forlorn and therefore yours. Standing corrected, connected for a second spinning out, theorising your winning red sphere.
It grows to a planet, flaming hot in the disgrace of my loss. Rusty rocks jut out around me, weathered by magma pools and acid rain, grinding down the terrain until it’s bleeding. We stand at opposites, feet stuck like action figures. Our island of volcanic slab floats down a spitting lava stream then splits right between us.
We are torn again.
I have the higher ground while you drift away to the base of this mount, mouth open and lying dormant in wait. I rise to the summit and look down the plummeting, gaping volcanic wound. You are somewhere down there on your own mound of magma and I so desperately want to join you.
My feet un-stick. It will be a tight fit, but I clench my fists and take the plunge. I drop fast at first, then slow as my surroundings slope inwards, funnelling closer and tighter. The tunnel sucks in around me until my body is held in perfect tension, a still pendulum stopped. Once again naked, cased in and waiting.
I am trapped tight in a plastic tube, my arms shoved up above me and legs resting below. I have no wriggle room, and attempts to move prove fruitless. My short hot breaths make misty dew and cloud my view out. Something is working out there. Working out there, not working out, but working outside round the sides of my vision.
Rotating. Moving. Stopping. Repeating. Stopping.
Scanning for me, intruding me with minimal noise. Its sterile hands map out my cliffs and crevices without touch while I am their captive, contained in this plastic capsule. I could have been there for minutes or hours in a perpetual daze.
Weak and redundant, I find my mind lumbering back to you, as it tends to.
The venue is vague, like doubled-down dream of a place that I have been but can’t seem to place. Your arms are digging through sand, which slides off your hands into the pit you’ve gouged out. And you’re smiling wide, red and happy. Your hands scoop away the conclusive decay – millions of fine grains that once were mountains giving way under our army of feet.
Our eyes meet black and beady and I see that you have given up digging, or lost interest at least. We walk sideways (only sideways) to each other. Our limbs tap together and we circle round slowly, arms raised. Then I sink myself into the sand and feel your clambering feet scaling my back. The soft knock of your exoskeleton against my head soothes me, as you climb atop my shell to rest.
So yet again I am naked, cased in and waiting.
Waiting on the soft advance of the tide and the moon’s pull to our close, lifted on foam fingers apart into the dark.
I drown a little.
It starts to rain.
Each drop comes faster than the last, splashing off my head with increasing force and certainty. I smell the prophetic wet in the air as its power increases. Soon it’s a shower and I’m as cold and slippery as I was when I first entered. The water slaps the ridge of my shoulders, ricocheting against my spine and pummelling my skull until I can’t think, just feel.
Until I can’t feel, numb and reduced down to a smaller, tighter self. I surrender my skin to the rhythmic hits, which blind my mind and smack my back. The tiles that line these four walls bend and crack under the pouring water, splintering in on me like snapped bones, shards of cartilage to cage what’s left of me: a pulsating, shrinking fragment.
I don’t notice when the water cuts out, nor the alarm to move forward. I sit in the pile of rubble, a lumpy, fleshy blob with no name.
I wane slowly away then wake on rough carpet. My limbs are intact. My head looks from side to side, rolling around like a stray bowling ball. The carpet is sticky in several spots while more advanced stains have aged into crusty scabs of liquids lost long ago. The weight of my body is unfamiliar, as if I’m carrying a small child or stranger.
It aches as we stand – I stand feet flat on the scratch of carpet, and submit to what’s started. I march towards the door and swing it open, flinging my new body into the unknown.
But it’s the same home and game I’ve just outgrown. A circular metal cage that rolls around with each step I take. Brightly painted balls litter the floor and stack up in a sum of numbers counting towards my body.
Alone. Naked. Cased in. Waiting.
Suddenly the cage begins to roll and I am thrown into cyclical turmoil, losing control of my limbs as the spinning continues to warp my form with each turn lurching out my innards. Washing away the machine-like logic of it all and spinning my mind through the cycles that got me here. The memories tumble into one another and tangle on the threshold of my corporeal capacity. It slows to a close and I throw up a little.
A small hatch opens just below me and I fall in line behind the balls marked ’17’ and ‘49’. I stay low as I track their rolling tread, avoiding blind and curious hands until the path stops and I step off.
Lost again. Where have you gone? Why have you forsaken me?
I wish I hadn’t lost you. I wish you were here because without you I don’t know who I am anymore. My being is decided by the surroundings I abide with and I’m sick of it.
I’m tired of it. I am tired of filling each mould, brimming over the top with giving my all to you. But I fill the hole, just like I always do.
Always do what you’re told.
And what cases me in is the basis for my recurrent confinement:
I am my own jailor. Therefore, all my tries to contain you fail in the face of my own jail.
Let it be known that I try now to wish you goodbye,
though you aren’t even here so I expect no reply –
give me some kind of sign, that you’ve read it, received it, believed it, maybe even washing your hands of me.
As I lie here in foetal pacification, knees hugged to my chest pressed one to each lung.
Push out. Cave in.
Push out. Cave in.
Thick liquid fills the gaps in between and covers my skin in a wet oily sheen. It sets and crowns me to scented surroundings, closely clinging while slipping around me. I am fixed in, internalised and mummified for your fingers to recognise and your eyes to linger on.
Kept by the sink, by the taps and the toothpaste, so you can wash your hands of me.
Lather away the edges each day, and the more your palms mould me, the closer they hold me…
Wet and naked, cased in and waiting.