Perpetual Motion Machine
I’ve just passed my driving test, about adecade later than planned but passed is passed. Learning was an elongatedpalava – a story of its own and for another time – but amidst it all I had anouter body or I should say inner-body experience. It gave me a sense of déjà-vu– not the first time I’ve had one of these “episodes” as it were – so I’m goingback about 12 years to tell you about the time I found myself driving a verydifferent kind of machine, my own perpetual motion machine:
It was when I was at uni - I was walkingthrough the park to get to my morning lecture. It was a grey day, it might evenhave been drizzling slightly. I was anxious and felt very much like an outsiderat the art school, I was northern, hadn’t done a foundation course (which forthose who don’t know, most art students do before there their undergrad) I feltless intelligent, less cool, less calm, less collected. The most out of mydepth.
I was walking through the park with myheadphones on and trying to catch my breath, except I couldn’t. I couldn’tcatch my breath. It’s not that I wasn’t breathing, I was, but every breath wasa decision, not the smooth production line of perfectly uniform gulps of airbut rather a frantic output of irregular hand-formed gasps.
I took my headphones out and that did makea bit of an improvement, as if the headphones had been causing some sort ofblockage between input and output, but it didn’t quite get the production lineup and running again, just seemed to reduce the pressure.
So I decided to think of something rhythmicthat I might be able to recalibrate my breathing to. My pace, my walking, myarms swinging back and forth. Except… as I focused in on those I noticed myarms were fractionally delayed, like a clock’s pendulum ever so slightly toolong, losing time with each swing.
I tried bending my arms a fraction to makethem shorter… but that also made them more rigid and harder to swingaltogether.
I tried to slow my pace to match them, butthat just had the effect of essentially disengaging my metaphorical bicyclechain mid-pedal… I free-wheeled for a while but soon came to a clattering stop,like a tangled puppet dropped on a stage floor.
I plonked myself down on a bench, I was onedisgruntled automaton dismantled by my amateur inner-engineer. My palms weresweaty with fear that I might not get it all together again… ever. Was thisstate irreversible? And how do you begin to ask for help with that?
Do you call 999 – “err I think someoneover-wound me and I’m broken, I can’t step in time!” “Madam, you’re wastingvaluable NHS time! We don’t treat mechanical dolls!”
the AA? “so my tyres won’t go round, andthe wheel doesn’t work but the engine’s still running!... except when I saytyres I mean legs, and when I say wheel I mean arms, and when I say engine Imean… (receiver slams down)
horologist? Might be able to sort out mydodgy pendulum.
Who do you ask for help if you’re not onething or another?
So instead I just sat slumped on that bench,feeling a bit nauseous and becoming more and more aware of my quickening heartbeat of mine, bu-bum bu-bum bu-bum
and then that clumsy jack-of-all-tradesbrain of mine starting to open her bag of cheap tools – NO!! No! Leave it!!
And you might all be relieved to know she/Idid, backing sheepishly into her disorderly brain office like a mate you wishyou’d never called in your moment of crisis. Silence, I was alone in my brokenvehicle.
I watched a dog chase a squirrel for awhile and got up to walk to my lecture without thinking.