Op Note XXXII
The patient arrived broken and shattered into a million pieces. She called herself a puzzle and asked if I would be able to put her back together. I think I can. Yes, I said. Soon, though, it became clear that she was just a pile of disparate pieces, collected from the lost remnants of old puzzle boxes she’d found in her attic, pieces stolen from the edges of non-existent puzzles she imagined someday completing, pieces that she had carved from her own flesh and bone. None of them really belonged together. None of them fit, at least not precisely. So I woke her up and told her she wasn’t a puzzle, that a puzzle always has a final solution. She was a conundrum. An enigma. A spiral staircase to nowhere. The long desert road that dead ends at the edge of a canyon. You said you would help me, she said. I want to be whole again. Everything locking together in crafted precision. I want to be a finished face. Someone a nice guy will someday decide to stop and look at and want to see every day. I used to think you were the missing piece that would fit into all my fractured fragments and make everything hold together again. But now I know you are the one who acts. You are not one of the parts. You are the one who puts it all together. It was beyond my training but given my difficulty with being able to say no, I told her I would do my best. I found four corners. Scavenged enough straight edges to limn the perimeter. Then the painstakingly laborious process of filling it in. Jamming ill suited pieces together. Bending and sawing off a few. Pretending I never saw others. Plenty of glue. I’m no craftsman, let alone an artist. But I am diligent. I do my best. I show up every day. Give me a task and I promise it gets done. When I was finished it wasn’t her anymore, of course. These pieces had never been so arranged. She was a new person now. Unbreakable and complete. I had warned her this kind of thing might happen but she didn't believe me. Sure enough, she was looking at me kind of funny. Like she had never seen me before and was wondering what she was doing here, of all places, alone with a guy like me. I was exhausted. Had given everything I had. To be honest I didn't expect anything in return. I just wanted to go home. She shot me one last suspicious look, then flashed her first smile and, without a word, turned and was gone. I never saw her again.