Dedicated to KP who inspired this allegory. Conversations after ‘Missionary Midnight’ are always the best.
Once there was a box of jigsaw pieces which sat on the Dining Table. The pieces were very happy together even though they were all a bit of a jumble and enjoyed the jostle and bustle of life together. Some found their edges matched and became much closer friends. Larger groups formed gradually and became cliques but that was okay because, over all, everyone was pretty tolerant of everybody else.
Then, one day, The One-who-was-having-a-dinner-party-that-evening moved the box of jigsaw pieces from the Table to the Desk. The Desk was a strange land and though the pieces couldn’t see much over the high borders of their box, they could see enough to intrigue them (even though it was a little scary too). So they decided to push one of the pieces out of the box to go investigate this strange place and report back to them of all he found. He was an insignificant little piece but friendly enough and adventurous so he was glad to go and felt good to be supported by so many friends who had helped push him up and over the wall.
Meanwhile The One-who-was-clearing-up returned to the Desk and took the box of jigsaw pieces back to the Table, leaving the lone jigsaw piece in the land of the Desk.
Back at the Table, times were exciting. Now the pieces were removed from their box home and spread out. Borders began to form and quickly and idea of who they were and who they could become started to take shape.
The lone piece was also enjoying an exciting time. The Desk was such a different place to the flat Table which had so little features of interest. Here there were mountains of paperwork, wide rivers of pens and pencils, huge edifices of lamps and great museums of encyclopedias and dictionaries. He missed his friends back at the box of course, but this was still a wonderful place. Best of all was the sunshine which shone down so brightly all day from the window onto the Desk in ways it never did over in the corner where the Table lay.
Over time, the cliques grew larger and now anchored themselves firmly to the borders of the jigsaw puzzle and began to take charge of where the other pieces should go. It was an efficient process with lots of meetings and discussions and plans. Many of the pieces missed the lone piece and enjoyed hearing from him occasionally as he would shout from the Desk to tell them what he could see and how life was over there. Some even hesitated for a while and wondered about making the journey over to the Desk to visit their friend. But, in the end, they decided there was too much to do here at the Table and they were far too busy. Besides, it still sounded quite dangerous and… well… foreign over there. There was so much still to do in their own little world which in recent days had started really coming together well. The grand picture was really taking shape now.
And the lone piece continued to explore the Desk and loved everything he found there. He noticed that just as the sun shone down so brightly during the day, so the stars lit up the sky at night making an amazing tapestry of art which he had never seen before in his life. He learned much from the books, grew fit from climbing the mountains of papers and generally felt his life was bigger and more certain than it had ever been before. Yes, the sun was so hot it was sometimes unbearable but it was worth it for the beauty of all he could see.
Back at the Table, the pieces had finally all joined together and found their proper place too. But there was a big hole which was so obvious now that everyone was in place. They all missed the lone jigsaw piece and thought of him often. They looked forward to his return.
One day, The One-who-likes-to-finish-things-off picked up the lone piece from the Desk where the sun shone so brightly and returned him to the Table, putting him into the hole made just for him. There was so much excitement over his return! Oh how perfectly snugly he fitted into place (almost like he’d never been away) and how good it was to be back among his friends. How they had missed him! For quite some time he regaled them of tales about the Desk and all he saw and learned there.
But there was a problem.
The sun which had been so wonderful, so invigorating for the lone piece all that time, had also changed his colour. While the piece fitted perfectly in place in the jigsaw puzzle world, he was a completely different shade to the rest. The lines and contours across him matched with those around and there was no doubt he was part of the picture yet…somehow…he was too… different. The other pieces were very kind to him initially. They sympathised saying how hard it must be to have come back to boring old flat Table land after all his adventures at the Desk, how different he must feel. But eventually, there was nothing more they could say, nothing left to talk about. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t his. It just was.
And so they all fell into a group silence around the piece. They acknowledged his presence each day but otherwise ignored him and he felt it. He knew he was different, knew he belonged yet didn’t belong. He longed for the Desk but knew he didn’t belong there either. And so he sat, in place, and waited, and waited.
Today, he’s still waiting.