The mercury woman

Yesterday I woke up and I looked at my clock and it said 5:55. Gaz had left for work already, so I lay there on my own and watched the sun come higher and higher through the gaps in the blinds. Our garden is full of birds. While I lay there they moved through their trills and their scales and each one was a little different. And the bed was warm and comfortable and the sun was yellow and soft and and everything was perfect except that during the night, someone had come and tied tiny metal weights to my fingers, to my toes, to my ears. I had been pinned to the bed by all these weights, and I could not get up.

I lay like that for a couple of hours. In the hallway, my children got themselves ready and made their lunches and had a few fights, as is customary. They fed the dogs and fed the cats and fed themselves, and all the while I just lay there under the force of these weights and listened to them and watched the sun come brighter and brighter through the blinds, until finally I had no choice but to at least take my children to school.

When I got out of bed I felt the weights droop low to the floor and for a moment I thought I might just go down on the floor with them, so I tried crying. It seemed that when I cried, I rose a little higher, like a hot air balloon dropping bags of sand. I cried all the way down the hall and into the bathroom and I sat there and cried until I had dumped quite a bit of water weight and was mobile again. Then I went to the kitchen, and cried there too and cried at the table and cried at the bench and cried in the chair, and all the while I was creating a river I could use to manoeuvre my way out to the car and off to school.

What I didn’t realise was that I was creating a counterweight. That I was so loaded up with the weights attached to my fingers and my toes and my ears that I had spewed out all these parts of myself to regain my balance. And that instead of taking the weights away, I had let them replace what I had had inside of me.

So I called my doctor.

I called my doctor and I sat in his waiting room and I thought about waiting room and how it was, for me yesterday, a weighting room, and I laughed a bit because I was hysterical, filled up on the inside with mercury instead of my own private self, and I thought about how I would go into his room and cry and cry and fill up his whole room with parts of myself as well. And I wondered if that would make it harder for him to diagnose his other patients, if they had bits of me getting into them, like if they had come there because they had a rash on their arm and all of a sudden they would have whatever it was that I had too, whatever this thing was that had made me dump out myself and take on these weights.

When he called me to his room I had briefly stopped crying, so I told him about my hayfever and he said, in a judgemental way, “What are you doing about it?” and I thought, how can I tell him about the weights on my fingers and toes and ears when I can’t even do hayfever properly? So I let him prescribe me a nasal spray and talked to him about oak pollen and then, when we had finally talked about my hayfever enough to satisfy him, I said, “I am so tired.” and then I cried.

I cried until the room was filled with bits of me but then I kept crying until the whole building had me in it, the weighting room and the pathology clinic and the toilets and all the baskets of toys they put in the corners for children. All of those places had to be filled with me to make room for the many, many small weights I had to carry inside of me yesterday, when I had woken up and watched the sun stream through the blinds and been stuck to my bed.

And my doctor said, “I’m having trouble summarising this for your referral,” so I said, “can you just put ‘is no longer a human person’?” and he said he couldn’t because that’s not a clinical term. The woman at the psychiatrist’s office told me I would have to fax the referral so the doctor could decide whether or not he wanted to see me, on account of usually only admitting actual humans, but he could consider making an exception for a skeleton with mercury between its bones.

Last night when I went to bed I tried to loosen the strings of the weights and maybe I got one or two of them off so I put them in my bedside drawer. Then the doctor called and said he would see me, in three weeks, but could I please try not to cry out too much more of myself between now and then?


“Anna Spargo-Ryan returns with another impressive novel that will have readers feeling every emotion experienced by the beautifully written characters.” Books + Publishing

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I’m Anna, a digital strategist and writer who likes to drink 'Ice Tea' but doesn't understand why it's not called 'Iced Tea'. By night and occasionally morning, I eat things, write things, berate my children, walk my dogs and hug my chocolate.

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