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Stepping off the wheel


One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Sometimes Sarah felt like a hamster on a wheel. Running round and round, knowing what to expect next. The morning starts well and it rains by evening. Your darling begins, by infinitesimal degrees, to find you less charming: he thinks about making love to other people. As you walk past a nail, it will rip your frock. If you fall over, someone will be watching and will bruit your clumsiness abroad. If someone has a generous impulse, they will renege on it sooner or later, as they feel  that the act of giving depletes them. If you decide a book is remarkable, you will spill coffee on it. If you drop a slice of toast, it will fall butter-side-down. All that. If things can go wrong, they will, in cycles of disappointment and catastrophe.

“O fortuna, turn thy wheel!” Boethius had been the hero of Sarah’s avatar Ignatius O’Reilly in the Confederacy of Dunces. At times of stress, Ignatius would invoke the Goddess Fortuna, while expecting to be turned upside down at any moment. Sarah wondered how to stop the wheel. She remembered a clip from Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train, when the carousel comes to a screeching halt and the riders are violently thrown off. Perhaps that’s the way to go, she thought. But how?

BANG. Just stop. Stop. Run away from the pain of feeling lonely when someone you love doesn’t engage with you. Turn off down the next road. Stop caring about whether the frock is ripped: just buy a less flimsy one. Leave the fallen toast for the birds: some creature will always be hungry. Stop caring if a book is marked: it can be read just as well in a grubby state. Stop caring if you fall: just get up with grace. The way to avoid repetition is by administering a violent jolt to habit.  Sarah began to believe this. It would hurt, of course. But at least the pain would be novel. And it would be the precursor to change. To getting off the wheel.

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