By Dani Buckley
(@xdani.victoriax on Instagram)
She wakes. The sunlight pours in from the single broken blind that refuses to conform with the others. She squints, papery eyelids crumpling in a desperate attempt to shut it out. The pale solar strip glares red through the screen of her lid, a flimsy film of plastic over a hot studio light. The eyeballs roll in complaint. She wakes. She sighs.
There, lying in the ransacked sheets of her duvet, she stares numbly at the ceiling. She can feel the sticky sheen of sweat cementing the nape of her neck to the pillow and knows last night was yet another restless one.
She thinks about moving.
She could do it. If she wanted to.
It would be easy to. Wriggle from the strange cotton cocoon her slumbering body had fashioned for itself and begin the day.
But almost as soon as she awakes, she feels it. The weight pressing on the fleshy bed of her stomach, somehow hollow and heavy in the same instant. She feels it intensify as she rolls over to escape the warm beam of light striking her face like an unwanted jet of water from a faulty faucet. The weight stirs and moves. The pile is added to. The mound of debris collected in the abyss of her belly twitches, its fermenting stock announcing its presence. It’s alive.
Her limbs sprawl across the sheets, limp and listing sideways like those of a cat sunbathing on the patio. She feels the bags under her eyes puff. The effort of consciousness enacting its predatory sting, engulfing her bottom lids in a raw edge of red skin. She feels the persistent sunbeam settle on the nape of her neck, and the layer of sleep-induced sweat begins to dry.
And all the time, there is the weight. Like a wad of butter plopped onto a set of scales it grows with each thought.
She thinks of all the things she must do that day. Things she must do unless she wishes to fail. Things she must do unless she wants her body to buckle light Atlas’ curved spine under a panacea of guilt. She thinks of the list that awaits her on her laptop, the unread emails. 100 grams are scraped from a knife-edge and plunged onto her already wavering surface. The coiled spring judders under the force of the drop.
She thinks of merely opening her laptop and punching in the password to view the myriad of duties that await her. Another 50 grams.
She heaves herself onto her back once more and stares up at the ceiling, pushing back the gargantuan thoughts until they recede into the stark white canvas above her. They snake into the cracks of plaster snaking across the pallid surface like veins. She lets the ivory void wash over her. Her breath hitches - only for a moment - before gushing from her nostrils in a cleansing sigh.
She begins to toy instead with the idea of brushing her teeth. Just brushing her teeth. She envisions herself peeling back the duvet covers and swinging her lead-like limbs over the bed’s edge. She imagines pushing herself into an upright position. Her legs wobble but manage to bear the strain of the lulling anvil slumbering in her stomach. She envisions herself padding into the bathroom and starting her mundane routine.
Suddenly, the knife returns and slices through the block sitting sluggishly on her surface, its sharp edge gliding through the yellow mound with ease. In a single, fluid scoop it lifts the corner from the block in a strange vector-ectomy. She feels the spring beneath jolt and reconfigure itself. Her surface feels a little less subordinate to the mighty weight of the mound. Her airways flutter again.
Another 50 grams and she might be able to function.
Her mind switches to fixing herself a cup of tea next. She can see herself removing the cup from its cupboard retreat and flicking the kettle on. The pressing weight on her gut usually removes a sense of hunger, so the cutlery remains asleep in its drawer. The plate atop the pile continues to slumber. But it’s a start.
The knife strikes again. A second corner is surgically removed.
Another 50 grams.
She feels a little more airy.
She watches herself open her laptop gingerly, then walk away to tend to the squealing kettle. She is pacing herself.
A flash of silver. 50 grams lighter.
She knocks back a pill, tossing this week’s empty packet into the bin. 30 grams melt away.
She taps in her password and flips open tabs, steaming cup now in hand. The emails flood in, announcing themselves in a small flame-coloured square like the ringmaster’s cape. Like the taunted bull her eyes widen. The knife hovers over the scales. Its latest excision slides along its smooth length in a bid to return to the safety of its mass.
She can see herself close her eyes. She smiles and raises the cup to her lips, taking a sip. She begins to open the emails methodically, one at a time. The knife glides away from the quivering scales below.
The anvil laying on the stretched net of stomach lies still and festering, its metal shell rusting. Deep brown curls spring up against its onyx skin. It is present, but remains in silent protest.
It is manageable.
The anvil laying on the stretched net of stomach lies still and festering, its metal shell rusting. Deep brown curls spring up against its onyx skin. It is present but remains in silent protest.
She takes things in small doses to keep the weight from crushing her again. With each completed task the knife swoops in, relieving her a little more each time.
She can feel the pounds lifting from her surface with each responded email, with each closed document.
She continues like this, and the weight rots.
I've always wanted to write. As something of a quirky girl from the north of England I never thought I could reach the position of a renowned writer, until I realised the whole point was to write for myself and myself alone, for the sheer pleasure of it. Nothing else really mattered. 'Measurements' is one of those introspective writing moments that comes from my own experience of the past few months, feeling stuck and sluggish in applying for jobs and completing uni work. I learned to do things and perceive things in small doses to make things more manageable. As a perfectionist, this doesn't come easy and is something I have to keep telling myself to stop the heaviness creeping in.