Admittedly some of that time had been spent in an orderly queue of egg sacks while she’d still been in nymph form, but she’d nevertheless been conscious of waiting for something of the utmost significance. The thing that would ignite her faith in the point of existence. The source of all passion and joy.
That thing was definitely not meant to be snot. She was fairly sure of that. Unfortunately, the Bureaucracy Fairy had wrinkled her upturned nose and frowned down at her furled scrolls before declaring that this was, in fact, exactly her calling.
She was the Snot Fairy.
She’d been handed a crumpled scrap of bin liner, several wooden buckets, one burlap sack, and a gluey looking feather. She’d seen the looks the other fairies gave her, the wide berth she had suddenly gained. Their slender arms were filled with pots of glitter, gauzy lilac wing extensions, baskets of daisies, tubes of luminescent paint.
She slumped away to blend into the smudge of night.
The manual had waxed lyrical about the range of skills she was to deploy. There was the bucket of transparent snot that she had to tip at the very top of the nasal cavities so as to ensure a constant sticky trickle. There was the sack of squishy pink-grey lumps she had to haul down into the darkened passages of the lungs, ready to be cough-retched out the next morning. There was the incessant tickling of feathers followed by the art of maintaining a strong grip to avoid being swept out in the ensuing sneeze-fest. She had to pay careful attention to map out who each human made contact with, so as to plan the next target on her route, and she would spin from respiratory tract to respiratory tract with expert speed and accuracy.
Some nights she would spot one of her compatriots – the real kind, not the glitzy kind – bringing in veruccas or athlete’s foot, or painstakingly gluing stubble to twitching expanses of skin. They would nod to each other, acknowledging a fellow occupant of the bodily trenches. And they might share an eye roll if a flower fairy giggled at them from a nearby vase.
Some nights she was left alone in bedrooms filled with the sound of blocked sinuses. And she’d wonder what exactly it was about her that screamed ‘snot’. Why was she more snot than chicken, or begonia, or book?
And somewhere in her bin-liner draped body, there lit a fire of resistance.
The scent of the sewage works is sliding around the window. Not exactly offensive, just faintly organic. A nasal weathercock that signifies an easterly breeze.
It’s raining on the shed below (and, unsurprisingly, elsewhere), and each drop has its knees bent up, arms wrapped around for maximum velocity, and is making a satisfying thwack-splat on the plastic-wrapped roof.
Through the collisions of kamikaze rain come the sounds of planes, every takeoff and landing a slow, deep rumbling sigh in the contented chest of the heavens.
I can feel all those sounds in my bones, the smells trickle along vertebrae, and that grey light – so often loathed – offers a soft cloud buffer between the world and me.
I’m a little raw today.
Last night, I unlocked one of those boxes I keep in my head and spilled its contents out, despite my brain’s best efforts to squirm and wriggle out from under your mercilessly gentle spotlight.
And under that light, the shadows of the Dread Shame might have faded a bit.
So I’m wrapping myself in greys and rumbles, bathing in the faint scent of sewage, and hoping I’ll have a while before doubt wheedles its way back in.
It’s been a while since we got to do this, you and me.
We’re clanking into gear, picking up speed, finding those tracks we’d neglected and re-railing.
There’s a beautiful flow when we get going. Clacking puzzle tiles that constantly shuffle and reshuffle as more information gets added, or new ideas nudge their way out of the bag and click onto the board.
There’s a game of hot potato afoot, email ping pong, a chance to make a tiny piece of the world as I wish it were. And this absolute focus and the desire to shrivel apathy into a puff of long-forgotten ash.
The division was pleasingly symmetric, although it got a bit wonky along the spine (it’s not all that easy to do with a kitchen knife).
My left side had finally had enough of being the silent partner, the good one, the better half, always held back by its troublesome twin. All those shows it had to miss, the dinners it didn’t get to eat, and the sleep it could never recover.
My right side is the problem child. It throws tantrums until the whole body has to vomit, and it ruins everything. It gets all the attention: ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Do you need anything else? Shall I get you some ice?’
My left side just watched all the while.
I’m not sure what pushed it over the edge. Maybe the conversation I had with the doctor about having to wait even longer for another referral. Maybe the paddy my right side pulled that meant I missed Hamilton (left side really likes musicals).
It’s free now in any case. A bit wobbly on its newborn single sole, and with half a tongue poking through half a jaw of teeth whenever its hand tries to do anything fiddly. But it’ll get there.
No longer hidden backstage, my left side finally has the spotlight.
I always talk about not having a real role – no jobs with my initials, no tasks that are mine and mine alone. The baby quite often doesn’t, especially when surrounded by Gods of Practicality. I’ve always pattered around and lent a hand where needed: I hold up planks, check ovens, weed unruly patches, carry washing, grab people when it’s time to eat.
But I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it’s okay for my role to be invisible rather than practical.
I am the glue. And occasionally, the WD40.
I trot from one workplace to the next – shed, garden, house – find a perch and begin my work.
I listen for the things that create frustration, the needs unmet, and when I move on to the next person, I carefully pollinate ideas to improve understanding.
I translate when you’re listening wholly with your assumptions and pipette an appropriate amount of humour into the situation, defusing the tension.
I acknowledge frustration and gently attempt to lend you someone else’s shoes to try on.
I tease, peeling up the edges of sunken spirits until the hulking mass begins to rise upward.
I soothe ruffled feathers, am silent when you need it, and my arms are always open.
And in return, I am the recipient of such utterly uncomplicated love that it flows from heart to heart with no hesitation.