The puzzle pieces, dumped unceremoniously upon the dining room table, hide a magic surprise. I pick carefully through the pile, categorizing pieces by color, sliding edges to the side. Puzzles require thinking inside the box, so establishing borders comes first. Straight lines and matching designs group and regroup until I form pairs and short chains. Once the boundaries hold firm, the real work begins. My hands dance through the choreography: pick up, turn, twist, match, fit. Again and again until out of chaos emerges the picture. Gestalt.
Then disassembly begins. Tearing down the whole back into the individual bits, I bend and separate until chaos piles again on the tabletop. Haphazardly, I swipe everything back into the box, not noticing a lone piece hiding under the edge of a book. Now the puzzle, unknown to me, loses its wholeness. The lone piece longs for reunification. When I pull another puzzle out of its box and spill it across the table, the hidden part slips into the mound, trying to belong where it no longer fits.
The piece carries similar colors and shapes to this new picture. I don’t notice the subtle differences each time I try to find a place for it. I pick it up, scrutinizing it meticulously as I try to find a mate. Near matches frustrate me as I try to force the bit into belonging. I even resort to pounding it with my fist before casting it aside. I pick up my rhythm once the piece sits in isolation, an outcast within the group. Eventually, the picture sits in completeness upon my table. My eyes draw over to the castaway that caused me so much irritation, and in shame I realize my mistake. Picking up the stray piece, I recall the picture of the last puzzle I’d assembled. I go directly to my shelved boxes, pluck open the correct box, and return the piece to its home.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman