Like Mr Ford frothing at the mouth, there are always tiny bubbles in the space between bubbles, tinier bubbles in the space between tiny bubbles, like the cosmic soup of the universe, like the average colour of the universe, like getting lost in the absence of a latte, percolating between lips, like a Ford factory, where metal is being stamped in sync with other metal being folded and one can’t be stamped if the other isn’t folded, and the women pass the metal through the machines, like the only thing they can do anymore is this single gesture, because it’s the only thing they can do, except in one gesture there are smaller gestures nested, and it takes up an infinite amount of these gestures to complete one gesture in the factory, but it is only one gesture of a potential infinite gestures in the production line, because some infinities are bigger than others.
Anita thinks, oh crap, I can’t remember if I used my left or right hand first, then, what nonsense is that, it’s left, I’m left-handed, pick it up with my left, work with my right, no, wouldn’t I work with my left and pick it up with my right, what is everyone else doing, I can copy, but that doesn’t feel right, maybe if I shake it off, NO BREAKS, okay, no breaks, which ever hand it is, I’ll just use one, this one, which one is this, okay it’s the right, I’m sticking with the right, in and out of the bubbles, bouncing from tinier ones to less tinier ones, sometimes they pop but another slides in to take its place. Gestures over and over until the day is over.
Anita, on the train, on the toilet. Anita bumping about in the stall as the train switches tracks, splashing water onto her thighs. Anita reads from the wall, ‘girls, it gets better.’ (Ha ha, not really). She thinks about her IBS and her job and can’t decide which is worse. She wouldn’t have her IBS if it wasn’t for her job, and she wouldn’t have her job if it weren’t for IBS, except not that, which is just a reversal of facts.
No breaks, though.
NO BREAKS rings in her ears when she goes to bed at night and if it is a good dream, she takes a break, and uses the toilet. She is resentful towards her boss, who doesn’t know she has IBS, nor can he ever, because he might fire her and say, YES BREAKS, as in, bye bye, see ya, you’re done. No breaks, IBS, and RSI in one hand, left or right, it doesn’t matter which, she can’t tell.
She tries to describe to herself the feeling of needing to defecate, always, but finds the words around it to be inadequate. It’s more than a pressure, she thinks, or a feeling of something pulling out / drawing downwards / weighing on, but like a tender fist nudging its way through her body. Comparable sometimes to period pain, an elastic band gripping ovaries, being pulled tighter and tighter. Or to indigestion, a bloating burning just below ribs, but pushed further backwards, like a string being pulled tighter and tighter around her spine, and if she could just loosen it, or untie it, grab hold of one end and pull it out, all of it, she might feel better.
Anita, on the rock, can see across the way somewhere more fluid, where all the particles float in and out, replace each other when one gets tired. On the rock she is confined to the dark troughs, held there by those on the peaks, where they can keep an eye on everything Down Below. Down Below can only see their direct neighbours, all somehow connected by two degrees, three degrees, something, kept apart by high walls. They can smell each other, detect each other’s presence through alterations in scent densities. Those Above don’t see a threat in shifting smells, as long as they remain in the depths. Anita sometimes hears the constant chatter across the way, exchanges of sound she can’t quite piece into words, make sentences. Anita’s envy grows as she sinks into the mud. She can feel eyes penetrate her, from Those Above, but she cannot sink low enough to escape them, even if she fills herself with the stink.
Those Above try to pry themselves apart from the smell, to lift above it, but it always follows them, creeps into their clothes, their teeth, their beds. Dammit, they say, build these walls higher, get closer to the breeze, leave that smell down in the dark! But it won’t leave them alone. They don’t understand that they’ve grown from it, and the higher they try to climb, the tighter it will cling to them, even if they can manage to keep it at the height of their ankles, it will wrap itself around, like an anklet, a toe-ring, nail-polish painted directly to the pinkie skin to mimic the nail that has atrophied and fallen off.
Anita thinks, somewhere, in an alternate universe, Anita can take as many breaks as she wants. She doesn’t have IBS or RSI and she knows exactly which hand she prefers to use. She doesn’t even need to take the train. She doesn’t even need a job. Anita doesn’t know what this Anita does with her time. It’s useless to even wonder, Anita wonders, as far as I know, no train stops there. She doesn’t know that this Anita lives in a left-handed world, where everything is the same, but mirrored. Anita is right, the train doesn’t stop there, it doesn’t know how to get to the station.
Anita, back at work, at the factory. Anita, docking in, reads a new instruction to employees: ‘All Must Report To Head Office For Taping.’ There is no-one yet on the floor, but a giant man stands in front of the bathroom. Mr Ford, in head office, asks the women to line up and pull down their pants. Anita says, pardon? Mr Ford says, Pull Down Your Pants. Pull Down Your Underwear. Anita says, what? Mr Ford pulls down Anita’s pants and Anita’s underwear and duct tapes a big, black X over her anus, closing the cheeks together. Anita says, stop and Mr Ford pulls up her pants. Mr Ford says, Today, Our Stockholders Are Taking Stock, There Will Be NO BREAKS. Anita says, no. Mr Ford says, Yes, Or You’re Fired. Anita says, no, and goes to her station.
The tape pulls on her tiny hairs and on the skin covering tiny ingrown hairs. The tape makes points of her skin where it pulls, all pointing inwards, towards her butthole, like big, flashing arrows that say ‘Pay Attention! Look Here!’ Anita thinks, oh crap, and picks up with her left, works with her right, no, picks up with her right, works with her left.
Anita’s mind is in her bowels. The factory line is digestive system, working in reverse, parts are shaped, added to one another, added to other parts, all added together, to be sold as a contained thing, a thing to be dismantled, later, when it’s waste again. All workers performing their own task, with one or two of their hands, sitting on piles or haemorrhoids or hernias, squeezing cheeks together, holding themselves together. Mr Ford shows the other Fords around the factory, their hot breath on the women’s necks, their sweaty fingers poking and prodding, wiping the oil from their upper lips, wiping it on a woman’s shirt as they pat her back. Thank you, they say.
Taped up tight, sitting there, Anita squirms. Down-Below-Anita is choked up, running out of air in her swamp, and those above her feeling woozy from the thick stench brought up with rising tides. The Big-Anita starts to sweat, working fast with Ford eyes watching, left and right hands, doing something, she isn’t sure what, just letting them go, knowing they’ll do something, it’s been burnt into their flesh. Anita, all of her, hands too, is sweating. It’s building up inside her and she’s holding herself together as much as she can, her abdomen numbing, teeth tearing into her dry lips, snot dripping, a damp heart rate in her ears, faster than normal, trying to pass the blood through her veins, flood her lungs. Her toes are scrunched in her shoes, the nails pulled back by the sole, a flush rising in her neck, Mr Ford glaring. His eyes narrow towards her, with a smile shining at his guests. She can’t breathe, isn’t breathing, she must have held her breath before, didn’t notice. Her hands are starting to let things slip and the tape over her ass is starting to slip.
She can hear NO BREAKS somewhere, the past maybe, and it starts to go dark around the edges, a few bright lines dart across, but slowly trickle away and then she is standing up and climbing onto the conveyor and then Anita and Anita-Inside let their breaths go.
And then it’s everywhere. Pants and underwear off, Anita releases all her muscles. She’s on the conveyor, moving through the factory, spilling out onto Ford, and his Ford friends, pent up sulphur flinging into corners, between fingers, under stools. Her shit is wet and hot, her arms and legs are spread. Inside-Anita surfs out on a wave’s frothy tip, diving under as it curls in on itself, becoming Outside-Anita, kicking those from the top of the rock, pushing them under, watching them flail. The factory is drenched in it, Ford drenched in it, metal drenched in it, her sloppy dung. Anitas catch each other’s eye and smile, Once-Inside-Now-Outside-Anita splashing in the shallows, Big-Anita with bowels relieved. She finds the black tape X stuck to her leg, and shaking off, she leaps to Mr Ford and covers his putrid mouth.