Pour briser une marionette by Emma Nay 

His deep over-familiarity with her repulsed him. She was like a puppet master who had
intertwined her strings with every fibre of his being. Every time he opened a book his brain was
jerked back and forth between images of her face; stories of her childhood; the smell of her
clothes. He was tortured by the endless reams of knowledge he possessed about her – which had
little to no use. Yet he could not loosen her grip on the strings because he was the one who knew
her best. And that privilege he could not bear to relinquish.
So he and his wife lived side by side with a chasm of silence between them. He dared not talk to
her lest another song, sunset or season be ensnared in her web. Although the couple had ceased
to share a bed there she was, comfortably, living inside of his head.
His friends had said that he needed to exorcise her. To make himself so big that she could no
longer nestle in his head. But it was too late for that now. He had lost himself in that thicket of
strings. Everything he loved was tied up in her and there seemed no way to loosen the hold.
On occasion he would really look closely at the phantom in his house. He could not believe that
she was of real flesh and bone; that she could bleed and cry. She barely resembled the woman in
his head. They seemed worlds apart. From the distance reality allowed him he could see her as a
human. She tucked her hair behind her ear, she scowled, she blinked. She seemed as much of an
empty vessel as he. Momentarily her grips on the strings would slip. He would endlessly wonder
how could the universe be so semantically bound to one woman But then, if a slow song came on
the radio and drew a soft smile to her lips the strings would tighten like the laces on a corset.
The song was now encompassed in her net. Every time he heard that song after that, her smile
would drift across his mind- pulling several more inescapable memories.
One day on the way to the post office he came across a bookshop. He could barely see inside for
the endless stacks of books that crowded the shop. He pondered the shop for quite a while as he
didn’t recall it being there when his wife got drenched in rain running for a bus, nor when she
had tripped by the traffic lights and ripped her tights. He could not place the shop anywhere in
the endless tableaux that usually tormented him when he walked down said street.
Stepping inside the shop was like submerging himself in water so black that one cannot see the
surface. He couldn’t see the world without her and yet it lay before him. Cold, calm and
He suspended his breath and awaited a tidal wave of memories to bear down upon him. But none
came. Everything in the room was strange to him. The light was a cool blue and dust wavered on
the air. It was so unlike the brassy yellow tint of his first walk with his wife. The shop was static
or he was projecting his own inner stillness on the clustered room. He tentatively walked toward
a pile of leather bound books, their deep emerald covers bearing no resemblance to his over-
thumbed paperbacks. The title appeared to be in Russian so he could gleam no impression of its
contents. As he turned over volume after volume it became clear that all the books were written
in an exotic tongue. Romanian, Mandarin, Zulu and Gaelic; each possessing their own wealth of
He had no idea how long he spent gazing at those covers. He dreamed of her waiting at home for
him: lost without her sad puppet and now idea where his strings now lead. Maybe if he hid for
long enough she would start leafing through his letters and burying her face in his baggy
jumpers. She would remember the time he cooked lobster for dinner. Maybe she would see that
the strings go both ways.

After what may have been years of handling the antique books he found one with a title he could


comprehend: “Pour briser une marionette”. He opened it and with his limited French could


make out certain words. “Absence”, “bloom”, “capture” and “solace” leapt from the pages.


This accompanied by the rich illustrations of sphinx’ and nymphs enthralled him. He immediately


threw himself into translating the vast passages.



He felt a building sense of satisfaction and mystery. This could be what saves him from his


entrapment. This small secret would be enough to keep him safe from being overwhelmed in his


wife’s cradle of memories. It was a piece of his own mind that he could physically hold and


protect. He hurriedly bought the book and dashed home feeling like ten men. Maybe with this


simple device to step free from the strings he would once again be able to appreciate his wife

like a doting school boy. He couldn’t wait for him to look up at his reanimated features.




Yet when he burst through the door he met an emptiness to which he wasn’t accustomed. Once


again no memories flocked to mind, yet the satisfaction was gone. Where was all the furniture,


pictures and books? He flung open every cupboard in every room. No wife and no clothes. No


suitcase either.




In the months that followed people whispered that she had cut off all ties with him. But that


was preposterously wrong. The ties wound all around him, choking him until they formed a thick


rope around his neck. And from that rope he swung and swung.