I came home today in a state of glorious hope.
You know that feeling when you get home and take off the bra and the tight impractical work skirt, kick off the heels, wipe off the make-up, so you can relax in a pair of cotton pants and t-shirt, maybe watch a bit of TV, whatever the hell you want?
I’m like that with the duct tape.
Especially the tape around the neck; it can get very stifling on even a mild day, not to mention that I wear a high collar or scarf to hide it. Otherwise people stare and avoid asking questions.
But the legs and arms too. Let the body air a bit, free to move.
It can be risky. I was at my computer once and sneezed, and my head fell off.
Normally when I’m about to sneeze I whisk my hands to my head and hold on, so it doesn’t fall anywhere irretrievable. But on this occasion I was focussed on what I was typing and didn’t heed the warning signals, so the head flew off, crashed on to the keyboard (and erased everything I had typed as I later found out when I’d got myself together again), then rolled on to my lap and then to the floor. That hurt too: I landed on my right cheek.
Luckily I ended face up, and could see my mute body, hands on the keyboard, sitting there like a tailor’s dummy waiting for a suit.
The risk is a loss of circulation, so you (I) have to reconnect pretty damn quick. Not so easy when the head’s fallen off. The thing that can see can’t move, and the thing that can move can’t see.
The body goes into panic mode after about five seconds, and starts blindly floundering around for the head. I could see the arms whacking the keyboard as it felt about for its head. Then it activated gravity mode and leapt down on hands and knees to feel about for where the head might be. Its fingers skewered my eye, so not only did I have a sore cheek bone, but a small shiner as well. But, having located me, I was flung shoulder-ward and clamped on to my neck. I massaged the skin around the area, flexed my neck and was right again.
It’s a condition. My mother has a colostomy bag. Compared to that, I’d rather be a Collapser.
But as I said, I came home today in a state of hope.
I’d met a man, who just might, might be the one.
Sure, I’ve been on plenty of dates, but most men (Rigids, we call hem – people who can’t collapse) baulk at the tape. They make a bit of polite conversation, like ‘oh everybody’s got their thing that’s okay by me,’ and then they leave, hastily. Cos you know, normal people don’t wear tape round their necks.
The few who have got past the tape stage will, to a man – and this includes those for whom the tapes suggest they might be into some kind of kink – run a mile when a fling turns into, you know, a fling. We’re say, on the couch, mid snog, when off pops an arm or a leg and they stare at it in horror. Then when I pick it up and nonchalantly put it back on they yell freak and run.
One guy once, my head fell off, and when it asked him to put it back on to the body he screamed. He was so frightened in fact he did, like a true gentleman, and then fainted. He would have died if he’d seen the body in gravity mode: a headless body crawling about the floor looking for a bodiless head. When he woke up I pretended we’d had a great sleep on the couch. He was all shy and inquiring, but I think I convinced him he’d had a bad dream. He didn’t return my calls though. Pity, he was a nice guy.
So you’ll understand, we Collapsers don’t have a vibrant love life.
There just aren’t the avenues to meet up with fellow Collapsers. It is a rare condition, not like, say, philatelalia, or the numismatics, where you can get together with fellow sufferers and look at each other’s stamps or coins. In fact, I don’t know any others like me.
But, as I say, I’ve met someone who just might be, might be.
In fact, I literally bumped into him.
He was jogging. It was mid-afternoon, and I wanted a coffee. I spotted him sprinting the nearby stairs as I’d descended in the glass lift. He was shirtless, and buff. I’m not ashamed to admit I gawked a little, a lot, as long as the lift let me.
So I was happily distracted when he came around the corner near the coffee cart and headed my way. He disappeared from my line of sight behind the cart, so I stepped out to see him and bang, he ran into me. My tapes held, but my coffee went flying and I looked around to apologise.
I was expecting him to be angry, but his stare was stark embarrassment, shame even. Then I noticed his arm lying on the cobble stones beside us. In an odd twist of irony it was holding my coffee, the lid slightly ajar and coffee trickling out on to the pavement.
My heart leapt. Could this really be a fellow Collapser? And such a handsome one at that? Who is very embarrassed at having revealed his secret. There is nothing sexier than a good looking man who lets himself be vulnerable.
‘I see you caught my latte,’ I said, and extracted the now empty cup from his fingers.
Then he found some confidence.
‘I’d still feel it though,’ he said.
I knew then that he knew me. When an arm falls off you can still feel through it. It’s as if the brain sees what is happening and triggers the mental/sensory response.
‘Here, let me,’ I said, and went to put his arm into its socket. It’s not that difficult really; it’s like putting a complex HDMI cable into the side of your computer. But I played it up a bit to get a feel of his muscles. I said it was different putting someone else back together, and told him to clench his fist, or his triceps, or biceps, and let them harden in my fingers. Eventually I had to let him go, before it got creepy. He wriggled his arm and swung it up and down, just as I do when I’ve put mine back in.
‘I’m Cassie,’ I said, and pulled down my neck scarf to reveal the day’s tape.
His grin was as wide as the street.
‘Crollo,’ he said.
‘Is that Italian?’ I asked, keenly hoping for a yes.
‘My parents came out as newlyweds, but I was born here.’
A buff Latin Collapser. All my fantasies in one. I ogled him. A swathe of dark hair, a styled stubble, vital eyes and lips. He had a slender neck, but muscular, and his chest was chiselled, with beads of perspiration on a span of soft hair. Oo-lala.
‘I don’t tape up while jogging,’ he said. ‘It gets too hot. So I exercise at this time of day, when there’s less risk of bumping into people.’
‘I’m the exception that proved the rule,’ I said.
‘Which means you are exceptional,’ he said.
Swoon. I nearly fell apart at that: lucky my tapes held. It was my turn to say, ‘Ummm.’
He chuckled, and walked over to the coffee cart. I saw him converse with the vendor, and when he came back he extended his newly restored arm toward me, a fresh coffee in his hand.
‘Here’s a replacement,’ he said. Then he winked and ran off.
When he was out of sight I looked at the lid. It said ‘Crollo,’ and under it was his phone number.
And so it was with an enormous sense of hope that I came home, flung off my work gear and tapes and collapsed into my couch in a dream cloud of anticipation.
Then I pulled my phone from my bag, and went straight to Google.
I only had his first name, but I was determined. I trawled social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, anything that might give me clue, and, in true listicle style, what I found – or didn’t find – shocked me.
There was no-one of that name anywhere. Nothing. There was a video game creator on Facebook, and an album called Crollo by an Italian rap artist, and a bunch of anime figures. But that was it. Nothing on any of the other sites. Not a single human being with that name among them, living or dead, with the name Crollo. Nothing. Zilch. Zip.
Alarm bells rang, and my heart sank. I mean, who has a name that isn’t somewhere on social media? Mr Invisible? Mr Ancient? Is it possible he is so otherworldly that he has no internet presence?
I checked UrbanDictionary. It said Crollo is the “mother-effing original gangster.” Its sample usage was, “I locked my doors at night but Crollo was found lying in my fiancée’s room the next morning”. Oh dear. He’s a murderer after all, not a nice buff Italian hunk who wants to meet up a fellow Collapser for walks on the beach and romantic evenings in the sack.
Why are men so disappointing?
I got up and flung the coffee lid into the bin. I poured myself a comfort wine from the fridge, put a comfort sized slab of brie on a comfort cracker and stared disconsolately at my screen. Another failure, made all the more heartbreaking by the fact he is a Collapser like me.
It was the photos that gave it away, and all of them in Italy. A collapsed church dome, a ruined school in Puglia, a landslide in Savena, and then a 2004 painting of broken things by an artist named Vincenzo Conciatori, entitled Crollo delle Certezze. Google Translate called this The Collapse of Certainties.
Dumbo, I thought, no wonder the whole first page of search responses was definitions. Crollo isn’t a name, it’s a word, Italian for Collapse.
And more importantly, it is a masculine noun. And a masculine noun with a sense of humour to boot.
Yay, back on track. This guy had wit, and muscles and a spine-tingling smile, not to mention those sparkling eyes.
I retrieved the coffee lid from the bin. Damn, the last digit had been smudged by something horrid. Was that a ‘4’ or a ‘9’? If I wiped it off, I’d lose the entire digit. I had a 50/50 chance.
I opened Messages. I had to return his humour, while inviting his curiosity. I typed ‘I enjoyed bumping into you this afternoon. Hope I got your arm in correctly. Meet up again soon? Cheers, Cassie Smontata.’
I went with the end ‘4’ and pressed send.
In case you’re wondering, Google translate says ‘smontata’ means dismantled. It’s feminine too. He’d get that. I think it should mean dismanned because that’s how I’d felt for along while.
I stacked another cracker with brie when the phone jiggled. It read, ‘Arm in? WTF?’
So, not Crollo. Wrong digit.
I resent the message, but this time to the number ending in ‘9’, then replied to Mr WTF ‘Sorry, wrong number.’
Then the phone jumped – ‘Arm incorrectly? Wot can that mean, Cassie?’ – oh dear he had my name, and had picked up on my typo – and jumped again. ‘Dinner tomorrow, 7pm Francesca’s on the harbour? BTW, the name is Ricardo Valentini, if you want to google me.’ Smiley face.
Dick Valentine: it had everything I wanted, plus, he was sooo nice, and it was only at the texting stage.
I texted back ‘Sounds great, see you then. Cassie Simpson if you want to do the same.’ Two smiley faces and an Italian flag.
‘Do I know a Cassie Simpson? Do the same wot?’
Damn. Obviously in my excitement my thumbs had come a bit loose. (That’s a joke by the way – you have to tug the fingers pretty hard before they come off the hand. I don’t normally need to tape them, but I always make sure my handshake is soft and “lady like” in case someone wants to shake vigorously).
I decided to ignore Wrong Man Number 4 and concentrate on Love Potion Number 9.
I texted him, ‘I’d love to have dinner tomorrow. It’s a … date (?)’, being just a bit cautious there with the (?). I didn’t want to look desperate, but had to make my hopes clear. I added an uncertain smiley face and fingers crossed in support. He texted back a thumbs up and a kiss.
Yay! We were on. Wrong Man Number 4 texted ‘Hello?’ I replied “Good-bye.’
This development was worth dreaming about. I ran a bath, stretched out in the bubbles, and searched Ricardo Valentini.
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Photo by Tamara Malaniy via Unsplash