Short story inspired by the Sleep Series of artist Maryam Ashkanian currently shown online Grounded - How has your environment been affected by lockdown? hosted by Daniel Raphael Gallery
5th -30th June (online)
I was bored. I’ve been bored ever since all this started. I struggled to get to even a thousand steps a day (my phone reminded me). The distance between my bed, the bathroom and the kitchen sink in my studio flat wasn’t long enough. An equilateral triangle of a few steps on each side. I thought of measuring the distance but I couldn’t be bothered. Not that I had anything else to do. I didn’t have a tape measure anyway. And if I did I had no idea where it was. I didn’t mind the lack of exercise all that much. It was the lack of companionship that I missed. Of a real, physical presence of an other. What else could I do with my hands other than type, eat and wipe my bottom? I wanted to do something useful, something that would free me from my walls even if I couldn’t leave them.
I ravaged through my mess. Found needles. Sewing needles. I prickled my skin a few times with it. What boredom does to one... A mixture of hurt and tickle. Not strong enough to shake off the numbness I felt. I found a few spools of thread. Unused. I never sewed before. What do I have thread and needle for? A sign of hope? One day I might be able to fix my own clothes. Sew a button perhaps. I licked the end of the limp thread. It took me one attempt to manage the thread through the needle eye. I might never have sewn but I’ve seen others do it. I have certainly licked a lot of thread as a child. Grandma had a sewing machine and bad eyesight. A combination that needed assistance.
Still unsure what I would do with thread and needle, with no surface to sew on and no clothes to fix I stood there, eyes travelling around my small flat. They alighted on my pillow. I sat on the edge of my bed and placed the pillow on my lap. I pierced it slowly with the needle watching how deep it would go before I lost it.
“Do you feel it?” I asked, “I think you do.”
I ran my hands on the pillow, feeling the softness underneath. Feeling the dead ducks inside.
"How many ducks fit in a pillow?" I thought.
The quill of a feather poked through the pillowcase as if wanting to answer my question. I pulled the plume and watched its malleability in amazement and envy. With my eyes closed I brought the feather to my face and blew it into the stale air of the flat. I watched it dance before it hit the floor. Silent.
I pulled the needle out and undressed the pillow. The feathers visible through the thin fabric that held them together. Quills poking out everywhere. They wanted out. Like me. But unlike me they had company.
“I am afraid you can’t leave,” I told them, “You are trapped in there just like I am trapped in here,” I said looking around my flat. And I stabbed the pillow some more. The thread flying behind the needle like the tail of a kite.
“I know you feel it.”
I stopped stabbing and started piercing the pillow’s skin slowly. In and out in a waving motion I drove the needle through. It left a trace.
“Don’t worry,” I said to the dead ducks inside, “I am coming. I will join you.”
I sewed and I sewed. The locks of my hair, the outline of my face, my ears, my mouth, my nose, my brows, my closed eyes. And my heart. I sewed myself into the pillow. And in trapping myself in the company of dead ducks, I felt a little bit freer.