"I'm coming apart at the seams," she said, and it seemed to be true. Threads revealed themselves, bordering the joints connecting her shoulders to her collarbone, her shins to her knees. Stitches appeared at the base of each ear, where cartilage met skull. Each stitch unbridled, curled, frizzed, and snapped.
She began to wear her hair down, so that it covered the seams at her ears, and to absentmindedly run her fingers over her knee sockets, which were sewn with a vibrant, blue-green string, prone to break suddenly, flinging backward and stinging her skin. At night she took needle and thread, and attempted to mend herself.
But commitments collected, mountainous: classes to teach, conferences to attend, papers to write, publications to edit. Time shrank until it was no more than a pinch of air between thumb and forefinger, a pinprick of light, and gone in an instant. She found that her eyelids began to close at these spare moments, and that needle and thread escaped her. She poked her fingers, bloodied her knees. She fell asleep with a needle pressed into her cheek.
Finally, she gave up — she showed up at meetings with fringe sticking out from the corners of her ears, unraveling and intermingling with her long, brown hair. Bits of orange fuzz sprouted from her cuticles. The blue-green string turned purple, began to dangle from her knees, and made strange, lumpen shapes beneath her stockings.
People began to react to her differently. They regarded the multi-colored threads peeking from the crevices of her body and her increasingly loose and rickety limbs with undisguised suspicion. Her student evaluations were terrible.
She tried to make the best of it. She tugged the red and blue filaments that emerged from behind her ears until they unspooled, and braided the threads into her hair. But by then, everyone was pretending not to notice that she was both growing and decaying.
Her shoulders and knees became so loose that at night she had to lace herself up, pulling at the strings like shoelaces threaded through eyelets. At times, instead of wearing a sweater or blouse, she would simply wrap herself in the soft fibers which issued from her joints. When asked, she smiled and said she was better than ever, "like a luxurious mummy." She took to knotting the strings at her knees, which seemed to restrain them, at least for a while.
But the student complaints grew louder. Some claimed to be allergic to angora, or polyester, or whatever they thought her unraveling threads were made of. Her poetry turned to enigmatic, though colorful, gibberish, and her critical work was incomprehensible.
Her teaching contract was not renewed.
She took the news softly, steadily, feeling the yarns and threads unwind, tangle, release. She gave a sharp tug at her shoulder, pulled a twist of wine-red thread, and then thought: No. Not like this.
So many bits of self, some static, electric; some brittle, some sleek. She stayed up all night weaving, in wonder at the tapestry she'd become. With a few final loops, a twist here, a snip there, she knitted herself up. She packed up her few belongings, and boarded a bus.
Gradually, she unknotted. As she breathed in and out, spools unfurled, braids unraveled. She began to undo bows and ribbing, to run her fingers through laced-up strands and loosening ties. As she disembarked, wind rustling through every shred, she felt a creature renewed, a person unbound. Threads tumbled from her suitcase, turning white with heat, blue with chill, and freezing to a stiff, inky black. She shivered, and walked into a void, feeling for fiber, finding only slick skin.
Cory Robertson lives in Oakland and works as an editor in San Francisco. She studied English at Lawrence University and the University of Maine, where she co-edited the literary magazine Stolen Island in 2013.