The Snow Globe
The room stinks of sweat. Years and years of it. I bet if I peeled the yellowing wallpaper back from the walls, it would be sweat underneath that’s keeping it stuck, keeping the sagging paper and crumbling brickwork connected together. There’s such a stench of desperation here, I bet if I closed my eyes and opened them fast when no-one’s expecting it, I bet I’d see it in a noose, swinging useless from the tired lampshade. Swinging as it hangs there, its dead tongue pointing at the closed door mouthing ‘Run! Run!’ Not that any of us would. Because we’re like the wallpaper here, we’re stuck. Not with sweat though, with something worse. We’re stuck with some sense of obligation. I can’t believe he’s made me come. More than that, I can’t believe I’m actually playing along. He expects me to sit with these people, these strangers, and pour out my problems. Problems only he thinks I have. I hate my husband right now. And myself.
‘…look, I don’t really see what the issue is. Yes, we’re here. And we’re all supposed to sit and pretend we think this is a safe environment and nod and share and be so fucking grateful that we have family that care, but…’
I zone out the whiny drone of his voice. Concentrate on watching his face instead. Every time he says something sarcastic, his upper lip curls. Not like a piece of paper freshly ripped from a jotter though, not that kind of curling, not soft. This is more the curl of a middle finger as it rises itself erect towards an up yours, determined and hard. Whenever his lips mouth the word ‘family’, the curl is accompanied by a baring of teeth and gums. It transforms the curl into a snarl.
A woman starts speaking. She’s wearing a jumper with a fluffy kitten crocheted on the front. It’s pink. I think it’s supposed to be sweet. But the woman inside it, she keeps grabbing at the cuffs. Then she’s grabbing at the kitten, and she’s pulling it out of shape.
‘…I’d like to go home, please…’
Her voice, it’s so quiet. The sound though, it clicks. It’s like balloons, rubbed on hair, all static and fast tuts. As I watch her fingers contorting the bindings of the wool on the jumper, pulling the kitten’s whiskers until they begin to mimic the rising of Cthulhu from its ancient slumber, I realise she’s dialoguing to herself in Morse. The pauses in her words, the insistent pecks from her desperate fingers against herself, she’s screaming out her anguish. But all that’s taken in, all that makes its way out into the room is her quiet. And no-one is listening. Definitely not the counsellor leading the meeting who just sits nodding his stupid head, nodding and nodding, as if that’s all we need.
I want to smash his face. I want to pick up one of the water coolers from the corner and smash it right into his face. Not because he’s evil. Not even because he’s further down the path of recovery than the rest of us, but because he’s trying to care. Trying and failing. We’re all freaks here, rejects. How can we invoke compassion in other people when we can’t even muster up enough verve to give a shit about ourselves? Then the typical shame rises through me. Reaches from my stomach, creeps towards my throat. Sits beneath the roof of my mouth, wanting to warble. A bird of self pity, caged behind the bars of society imitating my teeth. Because I’m not supposed to want to hurt anything, especially when that anything isn’t myself. It’s hard sometimes though, stuck in this angry world. I rub my eyes, count backwards from ten in my head, abandon the thought of water coolers and faces broken beneath them. My fingers know just where to push, just where to linger, how to rub. I reach the magic stillness of number four, sink down around it, become calm.
My eyes want to close, shut down. I wonder sometimes, about butterflies. Whether they ever dream of retreating, furling their wings back into cocoons. Become a crawling thing again, become young. So much expectation, all that flying. And it never leaves, not once it’s here. I think maybe that’s why the snow globe called so loud. All of this, it’s the snow globe’s fault. That’s what they want me to admit anyway, but I’m not sure I can. Not if they want me to mean it, when I say it.
It’s such a comforting thing. Even its surface invites my spine to bend, to relax. There’s the potential for shaking, of course there is, but I’m happy to lean for hours, just staring in. I thought once, near the beginning of our relationship, that I saw the angel that sits beneath the dome, take off its face. I thought I saw it flitter to the bottom of the globe, settle there for a moment, contented. And then it tried to whisper. I watched as its mouth cracked open. I thought I saw the universe there, sitting between the chipped plaster of its miniscule lips. I wanted to close my eyes then too. And my ears. I wasn’t ready for the salutations or tribulations the plaster mouth would want to share with me. I was more self-absorbed at the beginning, more blind. An egotist of the Me! Me! Me! obsessed kind. It’s painful to admit that, but true. Like any good relationship, any long lasting relationship, it took us time, the snow globe and I, to begin to trust each other, to properly love each other.
That’s why I’m here, why all of these other weirdos are here, in this therapy group. We’re not right they say, we’re unnatural. We’re addicts of the worst kind, we’re addicts high on love. We have something to prove as well, that’s the diagnosis they throw out at all of us. Like we’re birds, in need of intervention crumbs. Goes against their theory though, if all we’re searching for is love. If we all believe we’ve found it, what else is left to prove?
‘…you know what I’m in love with, I spoke of it last week. I cried, remember?’
It’s Lip Curler again. The counsellor just nods faster. Nods and waits.
‘She isn’t just concrete, despite what the analysis says. Yeah, didn’t share that last week did I? My family,’ he pauses long enough for another lip curl, another snarl, ‘my family had a piece of her chipped off. Sent her away with a man in a white coat, in a sealed plastic bag. Off to some fucking lab to be tested, to see if she had some poison or drug in her composition. Something chemical that compels me to kiss her, compels me to love her…’
Jumper Clicker’s pecking at her face now. Like her skin’s become nettles instead of flesh. Dot, dot, dot. Dash, dash, dash. That’s what the tips of her fingers whisper as they nip their quiet screams out. Dot, dot, dot.
‘…of course the report got it wrong. Just concrete? Prejudiced arseholes.’
Nodder rotates his yeses through a sidestroke, until they become nos. It’s subtle though, and he stops himself before the negative takes over. Stops himself by opening his mouth and clearing his throat. Three times.
‘Urgh huh. Urgh huh…’
Like we’re too absorbed in our own misery to recognise something if it happens only once.
Three times. Like the repetition bestows on him some religious resonance, some divine purpose. Three times. He even has us sit in a circle, the twelve of us. But he betrays himself with a chair. ‘I Am Special’, that chair says. Even has a cushion at the back, stuck on. A red thing, the colour of a weeping stigmata. Proof of his messiah complex. Now he’s preparing to preach.
‘Sephone, would you like to share with the group, why you’re here?’
Actually no. No, Mr. Nodder Messiah, I wouldn’t, thanks very much. There’s an agitation in the air around me, like it’s bending, shaping itself into something that isn’t just air. Like the angel in my snow globe has broken free to rescue me. Save me from this façade, this pretence of fitting in. I wait and hope for huge wings to engulf me, carry me off, out of the room, before I feel obliged to reply.
But they don’t.
Instead, rapture comes in the form of a confession.
‘It’s his right foot. I’m in love with it. No other parts of him, just his foot. And that’s a horrible thing to admit because he’s my dad and I should love all of him, but it’s true. I’m obsessed with his right foot.’
The Confessor is beautiful. He’s Waterhouse's 'Saint Eulalia', made flesh. I bet if I squinted, I’d see flocks of birds floating around the dangerous brilliance of his long, auburn hair. He’s not dead though, but I get this strange feeling he’s just about to martyr himself.
‘He’s dying too. When he dies, if I don’t act fast, he’ll take that foot and I’ll be alone! I’ll lose the love of my life, to death! Oh God, I can see it you see, in his skin. Skin stretches as it readies itself, to let the soul out. Becomes like paper, like gossamer. Like yours…’
The Confessor grabs at Jumper Clicker’s fingers. She’s sitting next to him, cowering next to him actually. He cradles her fingers in his, looks down at them intently, swaddles them sacred in the baptism of his gaze.
‘I’ve prepared the instruments, I’ve bought a brand new saw you know. Its teeth are as sharp as sharks, just not as many. Why has no-one invented a multi-bladed saw?’
He lets go of Jumper Clicker’s fingers, and they fly.
‘I could have that leg off in seconds, even while he’s still alive, if someone would just invent a multi-bladed saw!’
His words are infectious, and they’re soaring, fast. Faster than Jumper Clicker’s fingers as they tempest themselves into her hair, ripping out bits of root and tiny flaps of flesh. Faster than Lip Curler’s tears, tears that are fair pouring down his face now. Faster than I can decide if I might be able to love The Confessor one day, more than I love my snow globe. Faster than Nodder Messiah can reach for his phone. Even faster than the circle starts turning and turning, each weirdo’s face melting into one another, melting and becoming a storm.
‘Oh God! They’re out there, right now! Out there, walking on her, stamping on her!’
It’s Lip Curler. He’s standing now, not even trying to wipe the tears that keep pouring down his face, pouring down his face and erasing it. Erasing the anger there, the sneer.
‘She’s just a pavement stone, for God’s sake, how can she defend herself from all of those soles! Dirty ones, spiked ones, ones covered in shit! Ones that don’t even know what they’re stomping on, the love of my life!’
The Confessor jumps up too, starts wailing.
‘I want to cut off his foot! I want to cut it off while he sleeps! I want to marry it, be happy! Why can’t I be happy? Why?’
Jumper Clicker’s gone Geiger. She’s sitting clicking and tutting, in her quiet way, but fast. It’s no longer Morse she’s dialoguing, but radiation levels.
‘I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to be done.’
Her fingers are still in her hair, dots of blood and skin confetti the tips, marry themselves onto her brow. She’s rocking. Backwards, forwards, backwards. The rhythm begs the room to register she’s nuclear, register she’s finally ready to go…
She stands, and out it comes.
‘Shut up! I’m in love with Silence and your constant whining makes her run away!’
The room inhales, fast. All the spinning stops. Then Silence pirouettes in.
And she’s beautiful. I can appreciate why Jumper Clicker’s in love with her. She’s all curves and breath, all dandelion seeds and summer breezes, all floaty and unreal. Jumper Clicker sighs. It’s a wondrous sound, I envy it.
Then there’s foot falls out in the hall. A squeak of rubber against rubber, accompanied by insensitive whistling. And of course I recognise it. Every last annoying pollution of noise that reaches us, that pushes Silence away, I recognise it. And I want to punch it, along with him.
‘Hi, here to pick up my wife. Yeah, she’s with the love addicts.’ A pause. ‘Oh, we just want her cured, back to normal, you know?’ A laugh. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t go that far, she’ll learn again soon, I’m sure.’ The foot falls come closer.
That’s when the light goes out. I think desperation’s tired of hanging from the shade, and wants down. And because only we can get ourselves out of holes or nooses or miserable existences, desperation gets proactive and unknots. Walks itself off, off into some mythical sunset, where happiness lives. A part of me wants to applaud.
There’s rustling from the circle, a soft fumbling. All the addicts are reaching for something, craving connections in the dark. Craving connections from it. I follow, allow my fingers to delve into my pocket, the secret one I tuck into the space between my left hipbone and my hope. I pull out the snow globe. Something’s wrong though, because it moves. It shudders in my fingers, drops onto the floor. I hear it roll away from me, further into the dark. My husband’s squeaks are moments from the door.
Then something happens, something so ordinary that it’s beatified into profound. Nodder Messiah’s phone starts ringing, and in the darkness it flips to the floor, its screen illuminated.
And there’s my snow globe. In the small halo of light, there’s my snow globe, and it’s cracked. Tiny pools of water are forming on the floor between the phone and the snow globe. They’re all sparkly from the glitter that’s in there too, in there but making its way out. But that’s not the wonder, that’s not the joy. On the wall in front of me, the wall that has to tolerate the door my husband’s squeaky soles are reaching ever closer towards, there’s a silhouette of my snow globe. And it’s huge, it’s bigger than my arms at full stretch, in all directions. And in the middle of the silhouette, the angel sits. And it’s smiling, smiling and beckoning.
The circle starts to whisper, all the weirdos together, whispering and encouraging.
‘Go on, Sephone, go on. Go to your heart’s desire, go on!’
I’m on my feet, and I’m skipping. I’m skipping past the weirdos and I love them, every last one. They start clapping, start cheering. As the door opens and in walks that man, that husband thing, the angel reaches down and pulls me up. Up into the silhouette, down into the snow globe. And nothing else matters any more. Not the universe streaming out of its mouth and into mine, not the surprise on the faces of the circle or my husband, not the sound of the glass smashing as The Confessor stamps down on the snow globe with his right foot. Not even the sound of Silence, kissing all the cuts and bits of broken skin on Jumper Clicker’s loved-up head, adoring her whole-heartedly even though she’s three-quarters of the way towards dead.
All that matters is this; the sun and the stars in the snow globe, the fabric of feathers untethering me as they tie, the silencing of questions, the shattering of glass. Shards of me bleeding love without boundaries. My mind becoming water, becoming snow. Because finally, because properly, I find myself shaken beyond particles. Shaken until I’m broken, shaken until I’m whole.