CW: Reference to therapist
Space Hoppers come in colours other than orange.
Not everyone calls them Space Hoppers, either. They have many names: moon hopper, skippyball, kangaroo ball, bouncer (lack of imagination there), sit and bounce (likewise) and then my favourite:
Google is a veritable mine of information.
My therapist, Steven, asked me if I think my fact-finding habit is an attempt to establish emotional regularity. I looked that up too, but still have no idea what it means.
When Hoppity Hop arrives, I unpack it and lay it flat then sit staring at it from the sofa. The orange monstrosity grins (Steven was horrified when I suggested buying a blue one- insisted on orange).
I finally summon the courage to begin pumping it up; resist inflating it to its maximum size. The bigger the Space Hopper, the bigger the mouth - even at this size his face is forty percent teeth.
In our session the next day, Steven asks,
‘Have you tried it yet?’
I try to explain my irrational fear. Fail. This is one of the reasons I booked a therapist. I need help expressing my feelings. At least, once I’ve dug them from beneath the surface of my skin.
Steven thinks I’m embarrassed. He suggests trying it out in an ‘untainted’ space. He calls this ‘compartmentalisation’.
That’s how I end up here: in the wardrobe with a fully inflated Space Hopper.
It’s dark. A sliver of light creeps through a crack in the wood, falls at just the right angle to illuminate the garish grin. I turn it so the teeth are facing the doors, and lean back, my shoulders touching the roughened back wall of the wardrobe. Breathe.
Once I’ve clambered on, it takes me a second or two to balance. I congratulate myself for having had the foresight to buy a huge wardrobe, even if I do have to squeeze around it to get into bed, even if Narnia turns out not to exist.
Before long, we’ve got a kind of rhythm going and it’s actually quite fun. So fun that I bounce for ages; my cheek muscles ache from beaming and my laugh is a loud, frantic bark. It dawns on me my face is wet. I hear a kind of wailing sound and it takes a long time, a really long time, before I work out that it’s coming from me, this siren sound, following me round and round the wooden walls until, without knowing how I get there, I’m off the Hopper and curled up: a whimpering ball in a corner of the dark.
Hoppity stares at me, but he looks different now. Unbidden, a fact from the internet pops into my mind: Space Hoppers are good for the heart, providing both cardiovascular and strength exercise.
Hoppity bounces towards me. Or perhaps I go to him. Either way, we’re together and I hold him close.
I whisper the words which fizz on my tongue,
‘Hoppity-hop, Happity-hop, Happity-hap. Happy.’
Later I will look up the colour orange, learn it is associated with excitement, enthusiasm, sunshine, warmth. I smile. My mouth stretches wide; just like Hoppity Hop, it now covers forty percent of my face.
Surely sunshine is coming.
Abi lives in Brighton and spends her time teaching, walking by the sea and making up stories. Her work has popped up in various places, including Splonk, Free Flash Fiction, Molotov Cocktail and Ellipsis Zine. She tweets @abihennig