Theseus

Words || Georgia Coldebella

There’s an old, old story about a man who repaired his ship not all at once, but piece by piece as he sailed, planks of wood discarded across the ocean. The day he returned home, not a single piece of that ship was the same as the one he left with.

We ask about lines; when a thing becomes no longer the thing it was.

My shoulder aches. I rub at it, rotate it in short tight circles, hunch in towards my chest. The joint creaks and moans as I try to move it. Something clicks wrong and I hiss and grab at my shoulder before it locks. I can feel the muscles pulling, suddenly taut as rope, too-tight skin stretched thin under my fingers.

I breathe out, slowly, push the pain out through my lungs. For the moment, everything relaxes.

When is a thing no longer a thing? We are obsessed with lines and with mourning. Planks wash up on the beach and we mourn them; we point at the dents they leave in sand and ask, was that it? Was that our chance?

With my other hand, I reach across and feel for the divot where skin melts around the raised edge of bone. I roll my shoulder back, pressing my fingers into the seam, and overextend. There’s a click, the sigh of suction releasing, and my arm disconnects. I am lopsided, hazy in the way that always comes from being down a limb, from more than just being down a limb.

Haze pools in the open socket of my shoulder and coats my fingers as I run my fingers across the metal. The bubble of dark pink gel blooms out between the seams, just too bright to be organic. It feels like the spongy inside of a tooth, like the one I cracked open as a child: spit-shiny shell in my hand, the base of it left anchored in my mouth.

My tongue traced around the exposed meat obsessively until I finally worried the rest loose. Afterwards I would prod at the absence left in my gum until eventually I got the tooth replaced.

This is the same intimacy, the understanding of body no longer strictly body. I am most myself when I am cracked open; I am most myself with the self-drawn outlines of my vessel exposed.

When is a thing no longer a thing? There are lines drawn and redrawn all along the beach. We point and argue and wave frantically.

The ocean smears the marks away and sets obsolete planks over the ghosts.