IN PIECES

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He gently stroked her arm. How nice it was! Blonde downy hair, a few light freckles, the wrist well turned. It only had one fault: the skin at the elbow was rough. She clearly had spent too much time leaning on her elbows, looking out of a window or reading a book. He lifted the arm gently from the table where he’d placed it, and fitted it back into her shoulder joint. He’d take another bit of her body to interrogate tomorrow.

He did this every night. While she was asleep, he extracted a piece of her to study and to judge. Her hands, now. He was reminded of that line of poetry by Yeats: “your small hands were not beautiful”. And indeed they were not. They were unkempt, though agile. He studied the fingers one at a time (the thumbs were fair) and noted the blisters. The next time, as she slumbered, he took away her breasts and laid them side by side. They were pert enough, though one was slightly larger than the other. Only such a perfectionist as he would notice it. The nipples were also rather too pink. Night after night, he worked his way through her flesh: her nose (too big), her mouth (too small), her knees (too chubby), her feet (acceptable). Finally, feeling very forensic, he arrived at her vulva. It smelled like the sea, and had a curious little frill just inside, and a kind of button hidden away. Well, well! He was sure there was some fault to be found with it, but just for the moment he couldn’t find one, as it seemed such a strange thing.

She began to suspect what he had done, though she could hardly believe it at first. Fine lines ran across her flesh, almost invisible to the naked eye, showing where the limbs had been severed while she slept. She felt like a vase or a jug whose glaze was crackled. She remembered the Japanese practice of Kintsugi. When a piece of porcelaine was broken, it was put together by the ceramic masters using powdered gold. To be sure, it would have been easy to mend it invisibly. But the point of Kintsugi was to show that the blemish was an integral part of the pot. Its breakage and visible repair were a triumph of life over death, a sign of wholeness and resilience.

Very well. She would become a piece of living Kintsugi. He had finished his nightly ministrations, and had come to a judgment which seemed to satisfy him for the moment. So she had plenty of time. She obtained powdered gold and gold leaf, and with a tattooing needle she traced along the lines, filling in the tiny scars with gold.

It took ages, several nights in fact, while he lay rapt in dreams. Finally, she was done. She hoped she hadn’t missed any of the scars. She shook him awake. He opened an eye, and seemed as rational as ever. “Look!” She said. “Look! Look!”

He sat up, and she took off her clothes. Her body was a patchwork of flesh and precious metal. Every awkward spot, every site of pain or blame, was held together by radiant gold. “I have changed my name” she said. “I am Kintsugi now. And here is something to remember me by.”

There was quite a lot of gold leaf left over, and she fitted it over his face, fashioning holes for his eyes, nose and mouth. She fashioned a golden tongue for him. The face was no longer expressive, of course, but it was certainly remarkable. It was a mask, and could not show the important emotions: sorrow, joy, embarassment. He tried to prize it off, but it was fixed there for good. The golden tongue was a savage adornment. And none the worse for that.