Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2014 - Page 6

Jennifer Clements

We Will Become Discarded Toys

The day our elbows stiffened into cold rolled steel and our arms hardened into pipes, I took you down to the courtyard and we fell over in the wet grass and rolled down the hill. Cylindrical tin men with our rusted joints. And how strange it was that our arms could not bend, but novel too, and we walked like zombies and found a thousand silly uses for our hardened arms. We performed brilliant cartwheels; you a perfect X upright, akimbo, then still X sideways, and X again emerging from the flip. I applauded in straight movements, in flesh lines, with my unbending arms. It must be the weather causing this, we said. It must be the state of the world. And you took me in close to your body, your long arms outstretched behind me, mine outstretched small at your back. Together we were a magnificent double-winged beast, lovely and grotesque, the skin of our cheeks pressed together as though hoping to absorb the other.

The day our necks went limp and our heads dangled at our shoulders, you told me you would love me regardless of our condition. I held your head up between my stiff arms, and you held mine. We tried to convince them to remain upright: we bargained with our stubborn jelly-necks, we instructed them, we tried willing them into tautness. When we each let go, our heads lolled back and forth like buds of old dry roses. We, the most wilted of marionettes. We, despairing for our cut strings. But then you danced, a silly, stiff-armed, rolling-head dance, and I smiled. I thought I could feel my upturned lips pulling my neck ever so slightly into form again.

The day our ribs tightened into model railroads around our chests, you thought we could outsmart the process. Breathe deeply, you said, it’s as much in your mind as anything. But the coiled train tracks followed each intake of air; the steam engine sucked from our lungs and propelled the locomotive on another binding rotation. We fed each other air in turns, silver spoonfuls of life, and tried to overcome the constriction. It is beginning, you said between breaths. No—it’s ending. Never one without the other.

I wanted to ask you about disintegration on the day our insides turned all to mush, but still I didn’t see the connection. I thought the bathwater had been too hot; I’d seen the same thing happen to plush bears and pillows after long years and a short scrub. The filling bunched together in uneven distributions, knotting and clumping and abandoning its intended shape, separating in places like oil from water, like attention from the aged.

The day our hair fell out you covered my head with a scarf so I’d stay warm. I covered yours with band-aids to make you laugh. I’d never seen your scalp so naked; I was nervous at the roundness of my own skull and the clarity of my bald-skin, a newfound adolescence of the changing body. Funny how there’s always a next stage of undress. We scrubbed each other’s scalp with a toothbrush before sleep, and reminisced about the shape of our eyebrows. But we look so much better now, you said, than all covered with hair and artifice.

2 | Psychopomp Magazine