where the buttons go.

Tuesday, April 14

Buttons are always falling off of me. I’m always losing them. They are always losing me. Sometimes they dangle for weeks – hanging off my coat like a wobbling tooth until I tug. Snap. And all that’s left is the thread. Sometimes they disappear without saying goodbye. Ping. Pop. Rattle. Bounce. Rolling down pavements, down the gutter. Down and down. Never to be seen again.

There’s a place underground where the buttons go. Buttons and socks and kirbies and rings and keys and shoes and tights and teeth. And that red Polly Pocket I lost when I was five. And the words I forgot in the middle of talking. All the things that I’ve lost. Marbles and dice. And watches and pens and letters and names and needles and doodles and Monopoly houses. And all of those photographs that were wiped from the computer. Quite without warning. Just one day: deleted. The three of us shivering in the pool in the summer. Emilie hopping in the garden, bare feet. That one of me, twelve, in Budapest heat, so small, smiling under the willow tree’s sway. Gone. Gone. Not a pixel left over.

All the things that I’ve lost. All my vests. Those addresses. The person I was until something else happened. The person I thought I was likely to be. All my chewing-gum packets, and hair bands, and scotch tape. The minutes I’ve spent on trains that aren’t moving. The minutes I’ve spent squeezing spots by the sink. All the minutes I’ve spent on the bus, in a queue, on my phone, by the mirror. Or just waiting for someone. All that waiting. And waiting. All the thoughts in my head that I didn’t write down.

That’s where the buttons go. Or so I imagine. They're all there, underground, where the lost things live.

This is a piece that came out of a free-writing exercise I gave my students on the last day of class. I like buttons, so I thought, 'Hey, why not? I'll do it too'. The writing prompt (in case you'd like to do also) is pretty much: 'pick a button, look at it, turn it over, think about what it reminds you of, who it might've belonged to, set a timer for 15 minutes, don't plan, just start writing, and writing, and writing until the time runs out. Just see what happens.' Some people wrote stories. Some wrote descriptions. This is (a slightly edited version of) what I came up with

My Gran kindly donated the buttons we used in class. We spent the Friday evening before, sifting through her button box, looking for the ones with the most 'story potential'. (Thank you, Grannie-Anne.)


  1. Wow. Just wow! This really touched me, it's beautiful. I always wonder where all the lost things go! This reminded me so much of an Italian book I used to love as a kid, roughly translated it should be "the island of lost time" written by Silvana Gandolfi. Basically all of the lost things, from abandoned objects to lost people end up on this desert island. Lost time is present too, in the form of bright fountains if it's time lost for fun activities or in the form of toxic fumes when it's just wasted time.
    Sorry for the long comment, but this post made me think a lot!

    Laura x


    1. Thanks so much for your message, Laura. I'll need to look out that book. Wonder if there's an English translation (...although maybe the original would be nice. I was recently in France and bought two children's books ...even though I don't speak French very well. They were just too cute to *not* buy. Seems like reading children's books could be a good way to learn a language)


  2. Oh I love this; I'm delighted to find your blog. A favorite tidbit: "The person I was until something else happened. The person I thought I was likely to be."

    1. Oh thank you very much! Delighted to be found.



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