I should be packing but I keep getting distracted. It’s my last night with my own room, my own bed. I’m trying to work out what to take and what to leave behind. The place Sam and I will be living in together is all shiny surfaces and Scandinavian design and it feels like a new start, a step into adulthood. Besides which, it’s an inner city studio, and space is at a premium. My books are stacked in boxes pilfered from the bottl-o. My clothes are pulled from their hangers, strewn over the bed and the floor, I’ve been trying them on and then stepping out of them, leaving them where they fall.
I pull on a skirt that belonged to my grandma: colourful diamonds of patchwork tie-dye, and there we are: dancing to the fuzzy radio in the dusty summer sunlight. The veranda looks over the slow, salty river and the air smells of mud. I’m still in my swimming costume and she’s wearing the patchwork skirt. Hand in hand we move to the songs, crazy and twirling and laughing. We are the same height, the same shape, so when I slip into her wardrobe to pull the clothes from their hangers and try them on in front of the shadowy, half-lit mirror they fit perfectly. Long patterned skirts and all the bright colours, the silk and cotton, sliding on like skin. Continue reading
In all the days we wrote: the lazy mornings of piled limbs and shared breath, lunch in the sun, slow afternoons walking by the river and talking.
“One summer we ate nothing but mangos, they must have been cheap that year because Mum bought trays of them. We’d eat them over the sink with the juice all over our faces, dripping down our arms, smeared through our hair. There’s a Cantonese saying that eating too much mango hurts your arse. Well it’s true.”
“That fluttering in your chest when you think about the sheer fucking miracle of being alive, of this being the time out of billions of years that you have consciousness and that any second it will end. That the world is just so beautiful and unlikely and how is it we’re here? On this round floating green and blue thing in the middle of a universe that might be limitless. That at this precise moment all you really want to do is watch reruns of Friends.” Continue reading
He garlanded her in seaweed, wrote his name in salt on the skin of her thighs. He kept his gaze levelled on the horizon. And then he left with a store of her kisses stacked like smuggler’s gold in his mouth. She dives under the water, her shadow is a fish on the sandy floor – mysterious and bizarre. She sits with the fishermen and they tell her the names of the fish as they scale them, wipe the sand from the discs of their eyes so she can examine their pupils. The blue spotted sting rays, the gaping mouths of eels – this dead, shining bounty. All the colours of the sea.
Red lipstick, wobbly anyway, highlights the downward curve of her stroke-weathered face under her dyed red bob, a green felt hat hiding the white roots. Clasping rosary beads, a red pen because the ink’s easier to read in the shaking, sloping letters – as old books are packed up and sent across cities, skyward across eucalyptus hazed mountains to dried up country towns, to Melbourne, to Queensland, unexpected, to her family.
She reads into the night, doesn’t sleep, there are piles of books in the bookshelf still. Her husband’s book, which she funded from her savings and never read. Another one, somehow secret, writing in blue ink in the front – not read for sixty years, because no-one speaks Italian. I can’t help imagining a terrible stain from the blood that had been seeping and sticky when her husband took it from a corpse in the war. He had good intentions. And now her husband is dead as well. There’s just his book, unread, and her, alone in this room. Amongst the crowding chatter of the pages; of romance, facts and fictions, sometimes sex.
Even alone, even lonely it’s ok. Because somewhere in this city there’s a boy on his bike and there’s beer in his belly, and he’s gliding through the lights reflected in the puddles on his way home to read Steinbeck.