How to Fall Apart Silently and Not Bother People

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Six

When I fall apart, Dean knows how to put me back together. He lifts the pieces and places them back, like I am a puzzle he knows by heart. Dean knows how to fix me when I’m broken. They say there is one special person for each of us, the one who fits perfectly like a fitting puzzle piece. I say there is one person, just one, who can put you back together when you fall apart and when Dean fell apart, I fell apart too, and only he knows how to put me back together, but he’s busy dying.

When I fall apart, mom panics, she picks up the pieces and she tries, she tries hard to put them back in place, but she only makes it worse, mom doesn’t think much but she thinks fast, she fills the holes with the wrong pieces, she tries to mend me but she doesn’t know how, you look fine, she says in the end, and she can’t see why the pieces don’t fit where she places them, why they fall onto the floor again.

When I fall apart, dad hurries to help, he collects the fallen pieces from the floor, looks at me in disbelief, like this can’t be happening in plain sight, then he says he can’t bother, that he’s too busy, he throws the pieces away,  he claims I don’t need them, if they fall, they fall, he says, you’re still standing without them.

When I fall apart, my sister turns the other way, like I’m problematic by default, or like I’m faking it. She pretends that she cares, but she doesn’t. She smiles politely, she asks, how can I help, she then disappears, she comes back later, and she wonders how long it will take me, and she rolls her eyes before saying, you’re still a mess.

When I fall apart, my brother stares at the pieces, but he’s too lazy to lift them, he says, they’re broken, not you, and he goes on with his day, he comes home with new pieces and he tries to mend me, but those new pieces aren’t me, and he acts surprised when they don’t fit, he finds it shocking when he can’t buy his way out of trouble.

When I fall apart, my aunt says she’s sorry, but she makes a grimace of disgust, like the sound of my falling parts annoys her and she wants her peace back, like saying, it’s Dean’s fault who spoiled you, she then scolds me, pick up your pieces, she shouts and she means it, she thinks I know how to and I don’t, that I’m grumpy, whiny, now that I have to care for Dean, but Dean can’t do much in return, like she’s taking revenge for the Dean she never had, not all of us were this lucky, she says, in an old and wise manner, as if I have to pay the price for having once been whole, a jigsaw fallen into place.

When I fall apart, I don’t fall apart, I go back to where I had been before Dean, when I was a bunch of pieces randomly put in place, but nobody knew and nobody cared, only it’s harder now, after I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of what it feels like to not be a wreck in progress. I clench my teeth to keep the edifice standing, and mom is proud that I’m strong, dad is satisfied like he had been right all along, my sister couldn’t care less, and my brother is happy he’ll save money, now that I know how to fall apart silently and not bother people, and they think their troubles are over, and I keep pretending I’m not broken and they know but they don’t mind, because that’s what we all do, says my aunt, in the same old and wise manner, we keep standing and standing and standing, until we collapse. 

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