Legacy: Plastic Belly

Plastic belly -The old woman is in the advanced stages of the ‘belly’ now. There is no comfort to be had, her distended gut is heavy and lies on her lap pulling her downward. There is nothing that can remove the plastic from her system. ..read more

It was as if yesterday just didn’t happen. A woman, an old woman and the rain just falling beside her,  around her. I must have dreamed that. I have lain in bed for most of today. It has not been a good day.  I only got up to eat, to toilet, today. When I say eat-there’s not much to eat. The food is mostly rancid here. It will be a few weeks before it is even safe to cross the Med. I need to cross the Med.

To focus. I try not to remember the north-the hardened snow laced with plastic. No wonder there is nothing left there. Here there are the waves to remind me that all is not well with the world, as if the gnawing constant hunger in my stomach wasn’t enough.  When it was first recognised as a phenomenon,  they called them ‘glitter waves’ or ‘sparkle surf’ because in the azure blue you could see tiny flecks of plastic, they would sometimes glint in the sun – that was before we realised we were drinking it, eating it. Another world away.

The waves make an odd sound now when they crash into the shore. They are heavier too, if one of them lands on you it hurts. Sometimes it even cuts. Surfers, I remember pictures once from before. Surfers coming out of the ocean, their wetsuits shredded from the pieces of plastic that had pounded down on them. Surfing passed from this earth, like all sport. I never tried it but oddly I miss it.

I went to the beach the day before yesterday, walked along its plastic laden multi-coloured shore, lots of pink and blue-dear god we were obsessed with those colours, they made us male and female –what a shame we realised too late that those things weren’t different. Now we strive just to hope, just to survive. I am hungry but I don’t want to beg for food.

I lie down here without purpose, just to exist. Not to sleep. Untired. Not relaxed-tense.

I can hear the rain on the roof and the waves seem closer than ever. Probably because they are. The town is overwhelmed by water again. The waves lap gently at the door, before more often than not, sneaking under it to soak all that we have left down there. Everything I have here fits into a bag and it is tucked at my feet.  We are upstairs although it is more of a platform than a floor above. I can still look over the edge and see the room below. The water and the bits of plastic swilling around coating everything. I am glad none of it is actually mine. Perhaps there was food down there. They both look at me closely. I have no reason to lay in bed. Just what’s in my head.

This morning, when I woke, the water was nipping at my mouth. Perhaps I imagined it. In the night it rained and the tide was high and the combination of the two flooded the town again.  I sat up in my bed.  Her and her mother had gone upstairs and left me there. I understand, I am another mouth to feed. I promise to myself I will help them clean up this time. I looked at the swirling water beneath me. I can see it now still from up here.  I can hear its irregular sloshing against the bits of furniture downstairs. I want to put my hand in it, to feel water again. To feel it slip through my fingers, to sense its power, to push against it. Truthfully I will just end up covered in small pieces of plastic.

I used to swim, a long time ago. I don’t think you can swim in this, there is so much plastic. It is much worse here than the channel I crossed between what used to be England and France. There the water was clean in parts. Here it is filled with small particles of plastic. I don’t even understand how plastic can float. I watch it endlessly and wonder why it all doesn’t just sink. I remember once we were worried about micro plastics because you couldn’t seem them. I know the micro plastics are still there. We still can’t see them. But all these pieces are just in the process of breaking down, of becoming micro plastics. And we can see them. We fear them. Because we have seen everything else die and now they are killing us. These will become micro plastic but we can still see them. A constant reminder of our achievements, of our folly, of our imminent death. Tiny pieces everywhere, no wonder we all have the ‘belly’. I look at it and think dear god what chance do we have.

This morning I waded through the water and upstairs. But it wasn’t the same as running my hands through it. When I got up here, they both looked at me. I saw a moment of guilt, of sadness that I was still with them but I ignored it. These are the only friends I currently have.

I had plastic all around the bottom of my trousers. It needed to be dealt with. There is a box of not clean, but relatively clean sand in the corner and I scrubbed it off and scrubbed my hands with it. Sand is all we have to keep really clean. The plastic doesn’t seem to leach deep down into the sand so if you can find sand and dig, you can get clean, if you can bear the feeling of it. But that will end soon too. The sand comes from the ocean and well you see the problem.

The old woman is in the advanced stages of the ‘belly’ now. There is no comfort to be had, her distended gut is heavy and lies on her lap pulling her downward. There is nothing that can remove the plastic from her system. She groans quietly. I don’t even think we know how it kills. At some point there is no digesting food, there is a tipping point at which the plastic is just more than the body can dispose of. It just sits there and the agony of slow death follows, malnutrition, a heart attack from the shock. It’s painful, heavy to carry around, like a kind of pregnancy only terminal.

The thing is you have to carry it literally. Your belly is so heavy you have to haul it around. In the early days there were slings, belly slings. It makes me laugh now because somehow we thought we could survive it. Some people did at first. Surgeons opened people up and removed it, you could have a plastic drain procedure. There were so many people. And then of course, there were the charlatans and the home DIY kits and it rarely worked for too long. Once the plastic in your system got to a point there was nothing you could really do, can do. It will likely happen to us all and I guess there is a kind of justice in that. I can’t remember when it overwhelmed us, when it became the most common cause of death. I can’t even pinpoint when the high tides began, the floods, the things I remember, the timing, its all gone awry. I just lie here hoping that I will feel better tomorrow than I did today.

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