The fingers are working. It has been over a year since the second operation to repair them. The surgery was a success. Scar tissue was cleared. Therapy and hard work paid off. A year ago this coming week the therapist signed the appointment sheet, “S.O.S. only”. Consultant and therapist sent my hand and me away with orders to continue the exercises and to massage the thin white scars and reclaimed fingers through to September of this year.
The rebuilt and restored digits are not yet really mine. Although they look like fingers they feel more like stuffed sausages, swollen, stretched, thick and tight, protruding from my hand. Like ‘meat substitutes’, reconstituted fingers are similar to but not quite the real thing: a bit conceptually flawed, usually falling down in name and often failing in practice.
But needs must during these difficult times. Everyone knows compromises must be made. We are, we are told, “all in this together”. My fingers and I must put aside our prejudices and accept if not fully embrace our differences.
The fingers had not asked to be crushed in a garage door. It wasn’t their fault they ended up this way. They are trying to do their bit. They almost straighten completely when extended and they curve nearly perfectly into a closed, crooked fist. Only the middle finger insists on making a statement, dragging up the past with a slightly twisted joint and too thick middle. “You don’t notice unless you’re looking”, people kindly say.
As children we did not usually notice what was wrong. Things happened when no one was looking. It was never clear who had done it. What was clear was that someone had done something wrong and the culprit had to be found. So there we stood lined up in front of the inquisitor at the scene of that day’s crime, explained in cryptic terms, in hints the guilty party would no doubt understand.
One of us had deliberately left a hairbrush under the sofa cushions. Someone had hidden a magazine behind a chair. An abandoned spoon could have choked the baby or worse, we thought, the dog. “What were we thinking?” we were asked. We were all to stand there until the perpetrator stepped forward. We were all to be punished together, innocent alongside the guilty, if no one confessed.
It’s not that we did not want the guilty party to confess as we stood there heads bowed in puzzled shame. It was rather that none of us actually realised a crime had been committed. Wrack our childhood brains as we might we could not recall the hairbrush or magazine or spoon we may or may not have used in crime.
Perhaps the bigger problem was one of experience. Real crimes involved serious weapons like candlesticks, daggers, lead pipes, revolvers and ropes in grand places like libraries or ballrooms or conservatories where they were perpetrated by murderers with colourful names like Colonel Mustard, Mrs Peacock and Professor Plum. No one was ever killed by a hairbrush or magazine or spoon. We didn’t live in a mansion let alone one with a billiard room, study or hall. There was nothing exotic or colourful about us. So how could there be a crime?
If one of us had actually done the deed we’ll never know. Eventually someone would step forward, a sacrificial lamb confessing in the short term rather than standing puzzled and bored any longer. Our brave volunteer understood it was better to kill one rather than wound us all. The rest of us knew it was a means to an end. We were grateful for the gesture knowing the admission, true or not, brought with it certain punishment. Recognising the valiant stand was as far as our gratefulness went. None of us others stepped forward in solidarity. “We are all guilty”, we did not say. No, we let a scapegoat be found and punished leaving us with a small sense of short lasting guilt and a longer lasting sense of the inconsistent injustices of the adult world.
Last year, plagued with insomnia after the second surgery, I sat in the kitchen and drew. I had been shocked and encouraged by how quickly therapy had begun. The stitches were still in, but there was no time to lose. The finger puppets sent by little sister to encourage me found their way into the early morning drawings. They came together, shoulder to shoulder, to do their bit, ‘scaring and willing’ my fingers to work, keeping me company and making me laugh. Now it was up to me to do my bit too.
My most recent Dark Matter sculptures are not quite so humorous. Under the bell jar, in a glass funnel, the bitumen model of London slowly creeps into the beaker below. It will move to ground over decades. Eventually Dark Matter: Cities – London will exist only as a pool of pitch.
Along with all the changes and transformations, the inconsistencies and injustices, the hurts and healing, the little and great monsters, we have art to show us who we are ‘all in this together’.
Note: A video of all three books of drawings can be seen by following the link (14 minutes) http://vimeo.com/41640465
More Dark Matter sculptures can be seen by following the links to Julie Mecoli Artwork on the right.
Links to the Pitch Drop Experiment which the pieces reference are also on the right.