A tangle of jumpers and tights spilled over the edge of the huge carton, which had barely survived as luggage, and was about to take up service as a piece of furniture. Half racked, but not knowing what else to do, she reached into the jumble. Struggling to make some sense of the puzzle that seemed to resist emerging, she held up bits and pieces of wrinkled and wadded childhood, looking for a way to connect them to her new surroundings. She tried them one by one, but nothing really seemed to belong, least of all she. What was important, anyway? The old black jumper with the big hole in the back, the worn Doc Martens, the dad she found behind the couch? She held them to her heart one by one as she looked in the mirror. "Yes," she said quietly. "It looks nice. But is it me?"

There was something familiar about those green eyes that stared back at her. Pain she thought. Has it always been there? That part of the puzzle had a lot of pieces connected to it, though some of them did not exactly fit. It seemed like everyone had an idea about how things were supposed to go together. And sometimes it was easier just to let them have their way, even if the resulting picture didn't make any sense. There had been some kind of border once. She remembered distinctly a stable frame with four crisp corners. It had been taking shape nicely with bits of sky and fluffy dogs, but every thing was out of focus. Every time it started to look like something, someone came along and snatched a piece of it. "It's only wee," they said. "You're only wee. You don't need that much."

Then came the storm and pieces flew everywhere. No, it was an explosion. The dog ate them. None of the above. All of the above. No matter. Pieces kept showing up: torn in half, covered in dust, stuck to the bottom of someone's shoe. None of the corner pieces or edges seemed to appear. Maybe at one time these pieces were essential to some greater plan, a collective mission to guide her, as if by some cosmic roadmap. But the engineers of that plan seemed to be reassigned to other projects. Forcing the pieces into someone else's picture was futile at best. How was she to know what it was supposed to look like? Did it really matter any more? Did it ever matter?

She picked up a handful of photos, and flipped through them, smiling. She tacked a couple of them to the corkboard on the wall, and tucked the rest away in a drawer. As she dug through the box some things got binned, some got carefully stashed, and some joined the photos on the board: a bus ticket with a phone number on the back, an old candy wrapper, an odd earring. It was beginning to look like something. She wasn't quite sure what, but it was HER something, and that was the important thing.

Carrie Berry © 1998
published in insolent rudder, 2003