0023 | the button

The things we fill our lives with. Our time. Our minds. The priority we place on those things. Their weight. Their burden. A mass that grows.

A black round button fell to the ground as I pulled my keys from my pocket this morning. Five, maybe six months ago, it had detached from my coat, leaving behind ripped tendrils of dark grey thread, severed, bunched together like a prodded spider. I picked it up from the floor and held it in my hand, the pleasing memory of its comfortable form and weight returning instantly. Its prolonged stay in my pocket had now been almost a half-year-long deceit, since I had no real intention of sewing it back on. There seemed little point in returning it to my pocket, yet I was unable to accept the defeat of throwing it away. It was smooth and it weighed so little. What harm could it do to hold onto it for a little longer? I liked its feel. I’d become used to it being there, perhaps for no other reason than to bring me this small occasional pleasure. My neck was cold without being able to fasten the collar: maybe I even believed that I might yet repair the coat. Turning it over between my fingers, I smiled, not specifically at the scale of this small joy, in so much as the harmony that the suture of these few questions and answers had brought.

Later, at the train station, I pulled my ticket from the same pocket and fed it into the slot at the front of the automated gate. A second or so passed as it fed through a few inches of that contraption and reappeared at the top of the machine and, like the button earlier, again I found myself trapped by a heightened awareness of an unremarkable thing, an insignificant event. I removed the ticket and the gates opened like saloon doors in front of me, but as I walked through I suddenly couldn’t bear to sense the moment so quickly becoming the past. Just gone like that and already with so much other information clamouring to bury each previous sensation. I wanted the moment back, to find it again, to live it once more; not because it had any particular value, but precisely because it seemed so wonderful for being without any.  I walked up the stairs, turned right and towards the end of the platform, losing grasp of that delicacy – that insignificance – all the time; dismantled like the wind strips the seeded head of a dandelion. Metaphor came to terminally diminish the sensation. I wondered if it had appeared like a flower only in my mind: that which might be ignored as a weed by most others.

This morning, before the button, before arriving at the office, before leaving the house, I woke my eldest daughter as I always do: I brushed her hair back from her face, lightly, and whispered, ‘Good morning.’ I saw her eyes, underneath her lids, sliding like slow-moving magnets towards where she knew me to be. I kissed her cheek and her eyes opened, then faltered shut and then opened again. Then her hand came down gently over mine, which lay across the top of her breast bone. She let it rest there, closed her eyes again and pushed her tongue into the corners of her mouth, to break the small web of film that had formed at each end. These seconds, these moments that come before she is conscious of anything else; only me, only us, only these feelings. It is why I love almost always finding her still sleeping each morning I go into her room. I then went to wake her sister, but she was already awake: her eyes smiling just that fraction before her mouth shaped the same expression. She stood and jumped excitedly as I approached, lifting her arms ready for my own to slot underneath and lift her from her cot. She seated herself on my arm. She still doesn’t care for kisses, but I kissed her anyway, into her soft hair, softer, four years younger, than her sister’s. I carried her downstairs, her arms around my front and back to steady herself as we descended. I called Tilly to come join us and Bessie echoed a refrain of her sister’s name, which she still pronounces with a soft ‘D’ at the front.

The weight of things. The significance of things. The gentle things that so nearly escape. The things we need to hold on to. The button. The ticket. First words. The beginning of a smile. Delicate things.

And, yet, so many other things which carry such weight and shouldn’t: these other insignificances that I carry around, how I wish they could be carried away and scattered by the wind. Such heaviness that can’t be shifted. Things that obstruct; things that spoil, and which spill too, becoming a heaviness that comes to weigh on others, not just me, a weight for each of us to try and lift. That wind which scatters. It’s the wind I wish for.

Reader Comments

  1. What a lovely way to start the day…reading one of your
    ‘Thousand Fragments.’I’m always amazed at the way you see
    and feel things that other people don’t even notice.

  2. I haven’t read anything for a long time that captures the elusive present quite so surely. You’ve managed to slow time down – not an easy thing to do. Here’s to capturing the exquisite present, rather than its alter ego, the burdensome present.

  3. Mary-Colleen:
    Thank you.

    OpinionsToGo:
    Thanks Jane, as always.

    Suzanne:
    Thank you, so lovely to get your comment.

    Charlie:
    It’s always lovely to find your comments here. I appreciate them so much. I’m all for shaking off the burdensome present right now.

    Sharon:
    A stone is a good pocket companion. We should swap one day. Mine are certainly small enough, but they both weigh the size of a detached house.

  4. dear matt, i have read this a few times in the last couple of days, each time making my way to the comment section, typing a few words then erasing. taking instead your fragment with me to play back through out the day, when needed.

    everything has weight to it in my life perhaps it is because i attache so much feeling and consequence to each thing and experience, but matt what you wrote here;

    not because it had any particular value, but precisely because it seemed so wonderful for being without any.

    i know that too and i stand still with a quiet smile on my face wanting that moment to stay just a little longer for to me it is often the most even an exchange of give and take that i have.

  5. You….abduct me with your words. I print your fragments at times. They whisper and plead to be read someplace lit not by the blue glare of this screen. Their weight is savory, it feeds my soul.

    May the wind find you soon.

  6. Nadia:
    I’m pleased you like and recognise that line. It was the line around which the Fragment was constructed. Thank you.

    Chantel:
    What a lovely comment, one which made me smile with happiness. Thank you.

  7. Chantel sent me here in the thoughts I would love your words. She’s a wise one, that one. I now long to read more. Thank you for sharing what you see. You reminded me of something.

  8. Shea:
    Lovely to receive you and your comments here. I have a couple of Chantels that comment here, but I’m grateful to whichever one sent you. I’m looking forward to discovering your blog also.

  9. Having read #1-4 late last night, I awoke this morning with my first priority to read some more. So many beautiful moments to savour. Some of the memories not in themselves beautiful, but recalled so vividly; others simply tender moments so easily passed by many.

    As the house begins to wake around me I shall stop here at #23, your pleasure of the button – and the rail ticket machine – bringing forth resonance in my own thoughts.

    Thank you.

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