Flash Fiction: She Broke Ever So Slowly

She broke, ever so slowly, into a million pieces, shattering in silence. There were signs she had chosen to ignore; all was not well with her. Marital distress. A child suspended from school. An at-fault car accident. A parent dying. A pink slip, ending a long career. Dreams unfulfilled. Life stressors adding up into a mathematical problem too complex to solve. Every burden and hurt adding to the weight of her life until she could carry no more.  She broke. She didn’t want anyone to notice, covertly hiding her pain from family and friends. She broke and she was alone in her brokenness.

Long bouts of uncontrollable tears were met with a depression so deep and consuming that she felt like the world would swallow her whole. Then, times of great mania, attempting to rise above, only to be drug back downward into the darkness and emptiness. Sleepless nights melted into days spent in bed, existing in the cocoon of blankets and pillows, with no rest found. She spiraled into a mire of hopelessness and helplessness. The shards created from her brokenness cut her very soul.

Life went on for everyone else around her. They noticed the changes in her behavior, her beliefs, her thought patterns. They just didn’t know what to do or how to help her. They were fearful for her safety and sanity. They tried to gently broach the subject with her, to point out what they saw was different in her. And being human, she wanted to rebel at them, screaming, “I am not crazy!”  Instead, she gently smiled, assuring them she was well.

Her brokenness encompassed every part of her, and she was scared it would become her permanent state of beingness. She sent out a silent prayer to God, to the universe, to existence itself, to help her find a way out of her brokenness. Nothing happened. She waited and waited. Still, nothing happened. Did she remain silent too long that no one could hear her anymore? Her plea went unheard, unnoticed.

A birthday for a friend had arrived and she had forgotten. She never forgot birthdays. She had always been the steadfast friend, sister, wife, daughter, mother, cousin, niece, and co-worker who remembered birthdays. The broken her forgot birthdays, anniversaries, lunch dates, and a myriad of items from her weekly grocery list. For this friend, it was important to at least send a card. This woman was an inspiration to her. A catalyst for her to pursue her college degree. It took every ounce of strength to shower, put on clothing, and drive into town to pick up a belated birthday card.

Rummaging through the card rack, she found a card that seemed suitable. Apologetic and sincere. She grabbed the card and realized there was no envelope for it. She spun the rack around, looking for a card with a similar size, so she could steal its envelope. She found it, toward the bottom. The image immediately caught her eye. It was a ceramic bowl, with thin threads of golden metal woven throughout it.

She picked up the card. Under the image of the ceramic bowl, in bold print, the card read: Kintsukuroi. The card was blank inside. She looked on the back. What she read immediately resonated with something deep inside her.

Kintsukuroi: The Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. (n.) (v.phr.) “To repair with gold”

The art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

She grabbed both cards and the single envelope and went to the cashier.

“Ma’am,” the cashier said. “You’re missing an envelope.”

She replied to the cashier, “No, I don’t need an envelope for this card. I’m keeping it for myself.”

The young lady shrugged, rang up the items, and placed them in a bag. She handed the cashier the exact change and left. It was snowing. She stopped for a moment on the sidewalk outside the shop. Lifting her head, she felt the petals of frozen water embrace her face. She began to cry. Her tears, blending with the snowflakes, were from joy, not sadness.

God, the universe, existence itself had answered her prayer. She felt a sense of hope ignite deep within her, while standing outside a small card shop, located along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, in the United States of America, on planet Earth. She instinctively knew what can be described as truth. She had broken, ever so slowly, into a million pieces, so she could be repaired into something, into someone, more beautiful.

A golden thread of inspiration wrapped around her as she walked to her car. It was now up to her to decide how and when and why and where she should weave her pieces of lacquered gold throughout her life. She would seek help and support from family, friends, and healthcare resources. She would look for options, including spiritual and individual therapy, for her self-care and self-discovery. She would accept responsibility and act. It was time for her to repair her brokenness.

Laura L. Roberts