Kintsugi

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- Kintsugi: the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold -

Damp and musty air was wafting past her as she entered the desolate staircase. She couldn’t hear anything else other than her own steps reverberating and the blood pumping feverishly under her skin. The whole building was wrapped up in an ominous stillness, as if the passing of time had actually stopped for a moment, allowing her to flee through space undisturbed by the constant loom of transience.

“Empirical evidence,” she thought. Had Mark been there, he would have told her that time can’t ever stop, even though it may feel so, and lecture her on relativity and perception. But Mark wasn’t there with her. In fact, they have been divorced for almost three years, with little to no contact. And yet, there she was, rushing up the stairs to his – once their – flat. Countless stray thoughts were ravishing her overwrought mind, banging and grinding themselves against the inner walls of her skulls. Or so it felt. She also felt pity and disappointment and something else – something she couldn’t quite put her finger on, something akin to an unfathomable type of fear. The door knob was cold. She shuddered, a tingling shiver pouring down her back until the tips of her nerves.

With a swift move, she swung the door open revealing the gloomy hallway with shadows crawling across empty walls. A single, dim and ill-looking white light was flickering in the distant end of the hall, and she stepped inside, walking towards it cautiously. She dreaded the encounter with Mark, but upon receiving a call from the local hospital, saying that Mark had been brought to the ER that evening and had refused hospitalization, she felt compelled to pay him a visit to make sure everything was fine.

It wasn’t.

Mark was sitting on the floor, in a corner of the living room. Books were stacked up on his desk and all around him. There were papers full of calculations everywhere – some crumpled, others just slightly wrinkled, and some neatly placed in folders. The walls were covered with unintelligible writing, graphics, formulas. A thick layer of shattered pieces of glass and ceramics was lying on the floor, much like a red carpet inviting destruction.

When she tried to speak, no words came out; her own body was betraying her. Mark was covered in scars and injuries, and he was holding his head with both hands, elbows resting on knees. A thud made him lift his head, and he saw Elizabeth hitting the wall next to her with exasperated punches, as she burst out crying and slid down on the floor. All memories they created together, all shared moments of bliss and of misery, all quarrels and reconciliations, and the pitfall none of them foresaw – it was all coming back, all at once, overwhelmingly real.

They were both sitting in opposite corners of the room, but their souls felt disconnected, stretched apart by the haunting knowledge of a common past. The inscrutable silence hovering between them was not strained, not confining, but weary. A silence exhausted by truths that could never be spoken and lies that could never be told, suspended in the emptiness of nonexistence.

“They called me from the hospital,” Elizabeth explained, anticipating Mark’s question. “I’m still your first emergency contact.”

The corners of her lips twitched slightly – too ghostly to fix into the hook of a smile – and Mark nodded silently.

“I tried to bring her back.” His voice was hoarse, broken, strangled.

Elizabeth shook her head and sighed. “I feared you would say this,” she confessed. “You can’t ever bring her back.”

“No, no,” Marks started mumbling, suddenly enraged by Elizabeth’s disbelief. “I can, Ellie. I’m so close to it. I’ve been making progress. Just look at this.” He pointed at one of the walls. Elizabeth couldn’t read any word of it, and she wondered if Mark was aware that his scribbling didn’t make any sense at all. “I tried to jump, but it was too soon. I wasn’t ready yet.”

“Please let Caroline go,” she pleaded, her face distorted under a veil of pity.

He rose up, scowled, and his eyes flashed with maddeningly vain hope. “I can’t let her go, Elizabeth. She’s still out there, somewhere. I will bring her back. I can fix this. I can bring Caroline back and we’ll be together again.”

With fury, he took a teacup from the desk and smashed it on the floor. Unsatisfied with the pieces shattering in all directions, he growled, took a second one, and smashed it again.
“Mark! Stop!” she shouted, trying to hold back tears.

“If one teacup – just one teacup – comes back together, then I can bring Caroline back. One smashed teacup coming back together is all I need.”

“She’s dead, Mark! Caroline is dead. She’s not coming back. You’ve lost your mind.”

She started feeling scared – scared of what Mark has become and scared of how far he would go. It’s been seven years since their daughter, Caroline, died. They tucked her in bed one night and she never woke up again. The morning Caroline didn’t wake up was when their relationship – and Mark’s sanity – started rolling downhill. They couldn’t handle her death; they weren’t ready.

Could they have ever been ready?

“Teacups don’t gather themselves back together. You have to mend them piece by piece. You never wanted to accept this.”

Somewhere, perhaps in a world different than our own, a spin at the center of the universe was twirling around for them to coexist in a twisted version of reality. Caroline was made of light, and sound, and colour. She was the song of stubborn matter enduring existence and pure probability lurking in-between happenings. She was a lullaby chanted in the cradle of the universe. The morning Caroline didn’t wake up was merely the morning she missed the school bus.