Perpetual Motion Machine

I’ve just passed my driving test, about adecade later than planned but passed is passed. Learning was an elongated palava – a story of its own and for another time – but amidst it all I had an outer 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 going back about 12 years to tell you about the time I found myself driving a very different kind of machine, my own perpetual motion machine:

It was when I was at uni - I was walking through the park to get to my morning lecture. It was a grey day, it might even have been drizzling slightly. I was anxious and felt very much like an outsider at the art school, I was northern, hadn’t done a foundation course (which for those who don’t know, most art students do before there their undergrad) I felt less intelligent, less cool, less calm, less collected. The most out of my depth.

I was walking through the park with my headphones on and trying to catch my breath, except I couldn’t. I couldn’t catch my breath. It’s not that I wasn’t breathing, I was, but every breath was a decision, not the smooth production line of perfectly uniform gulps of air but rather a frantic output of irregular hand-formed gasps.

I took my headphones out and that did make a bit of an improvement, as if the headphones had been causing some sort of blockage between input and output, but it didn’t quite get the production line up and running again, just seemed to reduce the pressure.

So I decided to think of something rhythmic that I might be able to recalibrate my breathing to. My pace, my walking, my arms swinging back and forth. Except… as I focused in on those I noticed my arms were fractionally delayed, like a clock’s pendulum ever so slightly too long, losing time with each swing.

I tried bending my arms a fraction to make them shorter… but that also made them more rigid and harder to swing altogether.

I tried to slow my pace to match them, but that just had the effect of essentially disengaging my metaphorical bicycle chain 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 one disgruntled automaton dismantled by my amateur inner-engineer. My palms were sweaty with fear that I might not get it all together again… ever. Was this state irreversible? And how do you begin to ask for help with that?

Do you call 999 – “err I think someone over-wound me and I’m broken, I can’t step in time!” “Madam, you’re wasting valuable NHS time! We don’t treat mechanical dolls!”

the AA? “so my tyres won’t go round, and the wheel doesn’t work but the engine’s still running!... except when I say tyres I mean legs, and when I say wheel I mean arms, and when I say engine I mean… (receiver slams down)

horologist? Might be able to sort out my dodgy pendulum.

Who do you ask for help if you’re not one thing 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, bu-bum bu-bum bu-bum

become aware of that clumsy jack-of-all-trades brain of mine starting to open her bag of cheap tools – NO!! No! Leave it!!

And you might all be relieved to know she/I did, backing sheepishly into her disorderly brain office like a mate you wish you’d never called in your moment of crisis. Silence. I was alone in my broken vehicle.

I watched a dog chase a squirrel for a while, a woman walk past pushing a pram she couldn't be more disinterested in; and I got up to walk to my lecture without thinking.

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