The Breaks – Teddy Burnette
April 28, 2023
What he’s trying to say is that a potted plant hanging from the ceiling of their apartment fell last night while he was sleeping. He had bolted upright, stumbled a bit, and walked over to the broken ceramic pieces and strewn about dirt, taking it in before he swept it up with the help of his girlfriend who’d been in the bathroom at the time of the incident. He’d gone back to sleep, and in the morning, he’d reached for a coffee cup in the cupboard and knocked over a stack of espresso glasses, causing one to break. He’d watched the cup fall onto his foot, bounce up a bit in the air, and smash onto the tiles. He’d watched his foot remain unharmed, and after cleaning up the counter, he’d stood in place while his girlfriend tidied up around his feet, to avoid any pricks or points of pain from the small shards of glass.
Again, what he’s trying to say is that first, the potted plant hanging from the ceiling fell and broke, and when the espresso cup did the same, his girlfriend had come in, swept up, and after making sure he was okay and his feet weren’t bleeding had said, When things start breaking, it happens fast, I wonder what will be next? He thought the rule of threes only applied to celebrities and famous people, but maybe it’s that anything that’s occurred twice in a short time frame automatically incurs the chance that a third act is coming soon to complete the story.
Another time around at this. What he’s trying to say is that the pot fell and broke, and then so too did the espresso glass, and after she’d said the comment that he mentioned, about threes, he hadn’t thought about what he might next break in the kitchen, or which glass or plate might be next, but about what if he took a step and his ankle snapped, or the structure of the apartment building suddenly gave out and everything came tumbling down. His ankle had been hurting for a while before now, to the point that he’d been taking time off from running outside or exercising really at all, and maybe it was about ready to just snap in two, or three. He’d been taking pain killers to try and ease the pain of walking, and especially running, but had given up and been elevating and icing his ankle intermittently over the last couple of days, though he hadn’t felt any progress or positive results, but the ankle could be losing strength every day, especially now that he’s not using it at all besides to go around the small apartment he shares with his girlfriend, and if he takes one bad step, if he trips or rolls his foot inward or outwards, his ankle and leg and hip might collapse, either breaking and fracturing at every conceivable angle, or disintegrating into dust, leaving behind a hollowed out skin mold of what was once there.
Nothing about the ankle, it’s not what he was trying to say. What he’s trying to say is that if it was up to him he’d have every plate, glass, goblet, bowl, butter tray, frying pan, pan handle, saucepan, storage container, bin, bowl, did he say that already, bowl again, stay completely put together, not break apart, no fractures or hairlines, nothing close to it, even better all those objects could stay where they’re meant to be, untouched, and instead he’d finally get a break from this writer’s block he’s dealing with, which he thinks sounds corny, because he and a friend had pizza last week and said they didn’t believe in writer’s block, that it was a pause in inspiration, or a pause in finding inspiration, or understanding it, but not actually a block or break in writerly abilities or wanting to write. It’s not like he hasn’t been writing. He’s been trying to write recently about a woman his grandma knows who wants to sculpt a statue for the outside of an old building downtown, where she’ll have to be placed in one of those buckets that go up in the sky that workers use to trim branches, and how the city doesn’t want to let her into the bucket because of liabilities, he thinks, but he doesn’t know what else to write about her, if it’s a story about old age and freedom and obstacles, if it’s just about a woman going high up in the air and working on the exterior of a building and finishing a job and going home and resting weary legs and joints and calling her daughter to ask how her day was, a daughter that’s focused on her life and own job and career, and her boyfriend who’s going to be her husband soon she hopes, and she usually doesn’t ask her mom about anything in particular, and she’s grown used to her mom saying something like, Oh I saw some friends and walked to the market to get fresh fruit and said hello to the vendors but besides that I’ve been out and about and I spent some time reading and watching some TV today, and that’s it, no details about anything else, so she’s grown accustomed to her mom being a recluse, when really she’s up high in the air, or at least wanting to be, to be looking down on everyone else, or not looking down on everyone else. Maybe she’d never look away from the building, from her task, from what she calls her art when she explains it to her friends, and instead compares it to any other kind of art-making, like painting or writing or fashion, if it was elevated in the air and composed outside, open and unable to avoid the elements, and she likes to tell her friends when she gets to this part of her explanation, that she wishes more art was left exposed and eroded and wore away, that artists allowed their art to be a natural, malleable part of the world, rather than be covered by protective glass or boarded up in a storage unit, or left unread and unopened on a shelf to be commented on to visitors and nothing else. But he’s ditched that story and hasn’t come back to it, and doesn’t know if he ever will, but he likes the idea of writing about age, and aging, and recently he’s been wanting to write about his parents, about him and his girlfriend getting to the age where they might be parents in some number of years, but also about how as they reach this age, his parents have, in turn, aged themselves, though he doesn’t remember them getting old, he only knows that they are. He knows it, and understands it, maybe the way he would understand a report he’s read on their bodies, on the information that hair and skin and gait and pace impart, about information he doesn’t hear about as much anymore, like doctor’s visits and results, or workouts they’ve skipped or long since stopped considering, or the drinks they have nightly that don’t come up in conversation, in monthly check-in calls. He knows this information, and lack of information, and knows they both in their way lay out in detail what’s happened and what’s going to happen with his parents, and he doesn’t need to have seen it or acknowledged it or fully understood it to know it’s real and happening, but he doesn’t know how to write about it, and hasn’t tried to put any of it into words yet.
He thinks he’ll write and tell that story at some point, when he’s writing again, and he knows he can’t break or stop or disrupt this pause he’s in writing-wise, that he has to wait and see, and then he hears something break in the kitchen, and his girlfriend yelp, and she comes out of the kitchen with a cut on her hand, so he grabs a band-aid from the bathroom and she runs her hand under the water, dries it with a paper towel and applies pressure. Band-aid on now, they clean up the debris in the sink from a thin-glass cup that had broken while she’d washed it, and then dry off the counter, do one last check for glass bits on the ground and around the counter, and then sit on the couch, turn on the TV, he scrolls his phone, and then, see, he’s lost it, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, what direction this is going, and he checks the top of the page again, sees what he wanted to do, and remembers what he was trying to say was that a potted plant hanging from the ceiling of their apartment fell last night while he was sleeping.