Saturday 6 June 2020

'Built-in Obsolescence' by Lucy Goldring

Protruding from under my old bed: a clear plastic carry case. One of the lilac clasps is snapped, the other missing. The raised lid looks like a mouth waiting to speak.

I glide the case across the thick pink rug. There’s the crack across its lid where my sister flumped down on it, all drama; some lad saying she liked some other lad when she hadn’t even decided yet.

There are twenty-one square compartments and a long rectangle at the front for tweenage-sized tools. And there are the loom bands: hundreds of rubber circlets. The compartments form a sequence, a gradated rainbow ending in a range of gaudy neons. Yet it is the uniformity of each penned-in heap that draws the eye, its jarring synthetic sameness.

Dad had presented it, this most anticipated of presents, as a tackle box for a psychedelic angler. I’d laughed as though I’d fully understood and said Don’t you mean spaghetti hoops for aliens? and he’d pretended to scoff handfuls of bands whilst making mad, googly eyes at me.

I pinch some orange bands between my fingers and note the subtle change in their texture: the beginnings of a long and listless process of decay.

It’s just tat now, I say out loud: more poison for the planet.

Perched on the bed, I lift the treasure onto my lap. The realisation that its case and contents will outlive us, will divide and divide until light enough to ride on a drop of water, or a whisper of air, bound for some vestige of wilderness: it multiplies my weight.

I snatch at threads of thought: coloured, twisting, dancing. My mind is a loom ready to weave a hopeful story. But these threads, once grasped, they dissolve to almost nothing.

And in my heart I am done. And I say out loud to everyone and everything:

Sorry, but I am obsolete. 

'Built-in Obsolescence' was first published in Lunate Fiction on 11th May 2020.

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