I was born a human jigsaw puzzle. I emerged from my mother’s womb, not as a whole baby, but in scattered pieces. The doctors worked non-stop as they assembled me. They put all my bones in the correct places. They stuck all my organs where they were meant to go. They attached my stomach to my small intestine, and then my small intestine to my large intestine. They glued my muscles to my bones. They stuck my eyeballs in my sockets and shoved my brain into my skull.
But like all puzzles, I was missing a piece. No matter how hard the doctors tried, they couldn’t find my nose. They looked under the hospital bed. They checked in their pockets. They even peered up into my mother’s uterus like she was a carboard puzzle box and the piece was simple stuck inside. But in the end, they couldn’t find it.
Finally, the doctors handed me off to my parents and we headed home. They were in such a state of shock from watching my assembly, they forgot to name me.
The first few years of my life I kept falling apart. When I was breastfeeding one of my eyes rolled out. When I learned to crawl, one of my legs came off. When I learned to walk one of my arms fell off. When I learned to speak my lips landed in my bowl of baby food.
My parents kept taking me back to the doctors. My muscles were glued back together and my limbs stitched back on, but once we got back home something else would fall off. Soon my parents resorted to gluing me back together with Elmer’s glue.
Once I reached school age, this was an everyday occurrence. I carried around a bottle of glue with me wherever I went just in case I needed to stick my fingernails back on or cement my teeth back in place. I became known as No-Nose Glue Girl.
I didn’t have any friends, but I was always prepared for arts and crafts. I could glue my toes back on and then glue my macaroni into the shape of a cat. I didn’t give it much thought that no one wanted to talk to me because I could make awesome elementary school art.
Then one day during recess while in the midst of gluing my arm back on after an unfortunate monkey bar accident, I saw Carl being pushed into the mud by Ricky. Before I put my arm back in place, I ran over and slapped Ricky across the face with the detached limb. I was suspended for a few days, but I gained my first friend.
Carl thought it was funny that my body came apart so easily. He wanted his body parts to come off the same way mine did. He wanted me to help him loosen on of teeth and pull it out so he could be missing something like me. So excited about having a friend, I convinced him we should remove his nose so he would look like me too. I took a pair of scissors to the tip of his nose. Blood was everywhere. Carl fainted. My parents told me I was no longer allowed to make friends.
In my twenties, I learned that I had the unique talent of making other people turn into puzzles as well.
I met a man by the intriguing name of Josh. He had all the markers of boringness: khakis, plain polo shirts, and white athletic shoes. I hadn’t made any friends after Carl. Josh was perfect. He didn’t mind that I was missing a nose. He didn’t seem to care that I had to glue myself together all the time. He even carried around an extra bottle of Elmer’s glue in his back pocket just in case. He liked me and that was enough for me to like him back.
One night we made it to the bedroom. We planned it out weeks ahead of time. A bottle of glue and a bottle of lube sat at the ready on the nightstand. Everything was going accordingly. That is until his penis fell off inside of me.
I didn’t feel anything abnormal, but Josh started screaming. He told me to give it back. I didn’t understand what he was talking about until I looked at his crotch. Before I could do anything, he reached into me and pulled it out. He grabbed the glue off the nightstand and frantically tried to put his penis back on. It wouldn’t stick.
Then his fingers started falling off, one by one. Then his toes. Then his eyes, ears, and mouth. Soon he was a jumbled pile of human body pieces. Same as I had been when I exited the womb. I wasn’t sure what to do when another person fell apart.
I tried to glue him back together. It didn’t work with his penis and it didn’t work with the rest of him either. I decided it was best to just call 911. I sat there, waiting for the paramedics among a pile of a man. I stuck my ears back on while I waited.
The doctors were able to put Josh back together, but they never were able to reattach his penis. I was never able to take another lover.
The older I got the harder it became to fit my pieces back together. My shoulder sockets were worn down from the number of times my arms fell out, my hips dislocated nearly every time I took a step, and my lips flew off every time I tried to speak.
I ran through gallons of Elmer’s glue every week, but I couldn’t keep up. I went to doctor after doctor, but they all told me the same thing; “That’s what happens.” I was a puzzle that didn’t fit together anymore.
I quit my job. I gave up painting. I could barely watch TV without one of my eyeballs drooping out. Nothing was holding me together anymore. Soon I was a pile of pieces carefully placed in a wheelchair I couldn’t use because my arms weren’t attached to my body. At least no one noticed I didn’t have a nose. If the doctors had found my nose when I was born, would I have stayed together?
The nurses checked on me every once in a while and changed the TV to something I didn’t want to watch. They always asked if I wanted a Jell-O cup, which I thought was cruel given the state of my disassembled digestive system.
One day a new, young nurse came to check on me. No one told her about my condition. She jumped, letting out a small yelp when she saw me. She apologized immediately after. She wasn’t used to being in the presence of so a beautiful lady. If my face was intact I would have rolled my eyes.
She became my regular nurse after that. Every day she would talk to me like I could respond. She told me her name was Emily She asked me about what I liked to do, what my favorite things were, and if I had seen the latest movies. Even though I never said a word, she always changed the TV channel to something I wanted to watch. She never asked me if I wanted a Jell-O cup.
One day she wheeled me out of my room, down the hall and out the building. I wanted to ask where she was taking me, but my body parts kept falling off the wheelchair. She picked them up as soon as they fell. She covered my eyes with one of my fallen legs so I couldn’t see anything.
Eventually my wheelchair stopped moving. She picked my pieces up and soon I was spread out over a bed. She moved my ribs and lungs into what I assume their correct positions. She put my tongue back in my mouth. She pulled some heavy-duty thread and started stitching arms back in place. She put steel zippers at all my joints. She rubber-cemented my teeth back in place.
I was there for what seemed to be a few days, but could have been merely a few hours. Emily would come and go, returning with more supplies. She continued patching me together. Eventually, I could sit up and speak. She worked on the more intricate parts while I told her about my favorite movies. She wrapped a zipper around each knuckle of my fingers and toes, while I told her about how much I loved Little House on the Prairie.
Suddenly, she stopped what she was doing. All done, she said. My arms felt secure as she gently tugged me to my feet. It was so long since I stood. She eased me forward. It was even longer since I walked without a limb popping off. I was shaky at first, but my legs felt solid beneath me. Step by step we made it to the bathroom. Emily stopped me right in front of the mirror.
My entire body was crisscrossed with zippers and threads. I jumped back at first. I looked like a science experiment gone wrong, but the longer I looked the more in love with it I fell. I couldn’t stop staring at my face especially. My eyes and lips looked like something out of a horror movie, but what struck me the most was a new addition. A beautifully sculpted nose sat where mine never was.
“The doctors were wrong,” Emily said. “This happens, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. Glue was only temporary. What I did isn’t permanent, but if you need to you can zip your toes back on in no time.”
Tears fell across my zippered cheeks. I wiped them away quickly. I didn’t want the zippers to rust. Emily wrapped me in her arms. I was a mishmash of zippers, thread and skin. But I was no longer a pile of puzzle pieces. I was a whole, completed jigsaw.
Amber West is a young writer based in the LA area. She mainly specializes in absurd and magical fiction imbued with themes of mental health. She is quite fond of dogs and octopuses.