It wasn’t until I was out the door, down the street, outside the post-office and adjusting my overcoat, that I noticed the tear in the side of my jeans. Running alongside the outer seam, the slash in my pant leg — though not bleeding below — was held together only by six or seven cotton fibres. I have no recollection of where the tear came from, but I imagined it had been there for some time now. I had made the jeans myself, as we ought to, as we have to in many regards — not only in garment manufacturing. I suppose not everyone makes their own jeans, but I know a lot of people that do. I can’t help but question again and again why the tear is there at all. The jeans I had made were navy and I was wearing them with a white cotton shirt and an overcoat (wool) over top. Now the fabric, the fabric of the jeans, had in some small way betrayed me. With the tear in my side, with no anthropomorphised folds in the fabric to speak to, I was infuriated.
I found my way inside a work shop, next to the post-office, that makes coffees and sells small cakes for much more than their value — at least monetarily. I don’t know of any societal significance of this small venue, thus I cannot speak of the coffee and small cakes’ non-monetary value. I sit down at a table in the back, against a small portable radiator. I believe the venue has issues with cold air. I mark down the time – nine forty-seven in the morning — in a small forest green book. I couldn’t go to the post-office now, not until I had taken a moment aside. I assess the tear in my jeans more closely now. A teacup of coffee is placed in front of me. I didn’t order it, yet I drink it anyway.
I look around the room, the small venue has been laid out with several benches, work benches it appears, in rows. Colleagues sit communally along their wooden surface on individual stools. Staff members of the work shop periodically serve cups of coffee to colleagues without their asking for them. There’s a woman sitting at a table two rows ahead of me, she looks my age, similar build, mid length hair like mine. I wonder, there, if she could ever feel as uncertain as I do now? I look away, she appears to be deep in thought — writing in a notepad, four empty cups surround her. In front of her and to the left is a man, I can only see the back of his head from where I’m sitting, he appears to have just arrived, the same as I have. I can only just make out the image of a dog he’s drawing on a small circular piece of paper. He only has one cup of coffee, he tentatively sips from it.
I pull out a blue pen from my overcoat pocket and place it on the table along with a scrap of paper I find in the pocket of my jeans. I write to myself, in an effort to assimilate into the work shop, “HOW HAD I NOT NOTICED THE TEAR BEFORE? I NEVER THOUGHT THIS COULD HAPPEN TO ME.” To me of all people, I think. I can’t imagine anyone here with a tear in their jeans. The coffee has now gone cold, I drink it anyway, too fast, I choke a little. As hard as I can, mustering as much concentration, I force my brain and body to believe I am not choking, that the foreign body inside my throat, tickling my windpipe, is completely fine being there. Red faced, I push myself from the table and cough in the public bathroom.
The woman, who is about my age, with the mid length hair, and a similar build comes out of the toilet cubicle behind me. She’s on the phone, with it lifted to her ear, listening intently. I look at her from the corner of my left eye, in the mirror, as I wash my hands in the sink in front of me. She pays me no mind, hangs up the phone, washes her hands beside me and leaves. I quickly leave the work shop without paying for the coffee I didn’t order. I mark down the time – ten twenty-four in the morning — in the small forest green book.
Stood on the pavement now, there are cars passing by, a bus arrives at the bus stop. I continue walking as I had done not more than an hour ago; before I noticed the tear in my jeans, before I sat in the coffee venue, before I stole a coffee, before I humiliated myself in a public bathroom. I had walked past the post-office and failed to go inside, my productivity side-lined by an inconvenience, a feeling of unrest. Inside two aisles of envelopes, packing paper, bubble wrap and HB pencils lay ahead of me to invade. Beyond is a man, he sits in a chair behind glass — looking like an exhibit, an interactive performance in which you speak into a microphone on the desk in front of him, and await his response. He has allocated a small divot in the desk for items to be placed in. Throughout the participatory action a small sheet of plastic, that moves perpendicular to the sheet of glass dividing us, allows for only one participant’s hands to experience the divot at a time. I put a small piece of paper, with my address written on it, inside. He moves the plastic towards me. He replaces the small piece of paper in the divot with a small parcel and moves the plastic away from me.
I snatch at the parcel and leave the post-office, head back up the street and back into the living venue I had left several hours ago. The staircase to the top of the building is tiled and lathered, lathered in a way that would suggest the product will be removed. The lathered material is stuck to the bottom of my shoes, I wipe the gel on the welcome mat — effectively — with the back and forth motion of my legs, I remove my shoes at the door. My bare feet pad along the hardwood floor, sanded and treated to prevent uncomfortable splinters. I pad into my bedroom, sit on the edge of my bed and remove the trousers with the tear in the side. I reach over to my left and pick up a long skirt I had placed out earlier. I put it on and organise my belongings, I put the trousers back on their hanger and place them in the wardrobe. I gather the parcel and sit cross-legged on the hardwood table in the small dining room adjacent to my bedroom. I mark down the time.
I live alone, there’s no one in the living venue to argue over sitting etiquette, no estranged guests in forgotten rooms. I open the parcel and place the items on my lap, in the hammock of my skirt, between my crossed legs, in the horizontal centre of my two knees and the vertical centre of my abdomen and overlapping calves. The packaging — an accruement of pink bubble wrap, paper printed with blue, iconography and yellow tape — fall to the floor. I lift a note from the donor, the products are from Peel Eezy, and there is little information from the donor on the product’s origin or intent. I refrain from contacting the artists themselves, for as to do so would impede my employer — the donor. As opposed, or in opposition some might say, to a public critic I am a private critic — meaning I am sent product to assess from a third party member — not by a gallery or an artist. The note from the donor, in this instance Frankie Rose Baker, sits on my knee. Baker works for a procurement company, a company that obtains artwork products for the purpose of retailing to private collectors. Reviews assist with retailing. I place the piece of paper to one side and continue my assessment.
Four ceramic brooches in the shape of a hand, an arch, a vase and a face lay one on top of each other. I pick the hand up and pin it to my white shirt just below one of the points of my narrow spread collar on the right hand side. I pick up the vase and pin it to the outside of the left upper arm of my shirt — as a shoulder badge. I pin the arch just above my bellybutton, between the sixth and seventh button of my shirt. Lastly, I pin the face to the seam running down my side.
I attempt to look at them first by pressing my chin into my chest. After little success, I find a mirror to look in. Looking at my forehead only, I hope to concentrate my thoughts by willing them into existence behind my skin, tissue and bones. Twenty minutes pass, as they ought to, and I sit back down on the dining room table — now dangling my legs off its edge, arms forcing my shoulders up on either side of me, holding onto the wooden lip, my neck hung low, looking at my feet.
I fall from the table, I go back to my bedroom, face the far right hand corner and take off my shirt. I place the shirt on my bed, button it back up and flatten out the folds. The shirt appears on the bed as if a person, as though I, had disappeared from inside it, evaporated from between the front and the back. I look at the brooches once more, I look at the face, the face looks at me. What are we going to do here? I ask the brooch. I look at it all the more intently, the sun has gone and my room is lit only from the hallway light I forgot to switch off before I left the house this morning.
Finally without much more thought, I turn to the desk opposite the foot of my bed. I stand over a piece of paper and an envelope that I had laid out earlier in the day, when the man from the post-office called to inform me that the Peel Eezy brooches had arrived. I hold a HB pencil in my left hand and write my address in the top right hand corner of the piece of paper, I write the return address from the parcel packaging on the envelope and turn back to the brooches. Still leaning, I print two and a half inches down from the address,
DEAR MS BAKER,
THANK YOU FOR THE PEEL EEZY BROOCHES. I HAVE LOOKED AT THEM.
I remove the carbon paper from beneath the piece of paper and store it in a basket on the desk. The basket holds a collection of first drafts for various publications I am affiliated with in various capacities. I C-fold the piece of paper and place it in the envelope to be sent to Frankie Rose Baker. I take out the small forest green book and mark down the time, I tear out the page which reads: Invoice 014432; nine forty-seven in the morning; ten twenty four in the morning; eleven thirty in the morning; four fifty-six in the afternoon; three hundred and sixty three minutes. Baker’s decision to procure the works, or not, will be influenced by myself and many others. I place the invoice inside and seal the envelope with the saliva from my tongue●