Monday, November 14, 2011

How Was Your Weekend?

Something buckles in your brain on the second day. It’s when the eyes wobble that the conversation strays from vaguely intelligent, to straight up strange.

“Would you rather have 5ml of urine dribble involuntarily from your cock every five minutes for a year, or eat a used tampon a month?”

“Can I cook the tampon?” I was sure there’d be a sauce to complement.

“Don’t be an idiot, of course you can’t cook the tampon.” Smiling now. A handsome man, even in the throws of a bender.

“Ok – and can I wear a nappy?”

“Dude, no.”

“So, if I take the urine scenario, right, then that would happen 12 times an hour.”

“Like you’re swimming.”

Like I’m swimming? Don’t think too much on it. Not on the swimming. Answer him.

“12 times an hour, for 24 hours… for 365 days…. That’s gotta be over 100,000 times.” I’m chuffed with my speedy addition.

“Or 12 tampons. 100,000 dribbles of piss, or 12 tampons.”

“Bring on the tampons. We’ll make it an event, you know?”

He did know. When the question swung his way, he took the tampons without hesitation. I’d done all the speculating.

Our Would You Rather game starts to teeter on the edge of absurdity, so we move on.

“Noah is the name of the dude in The Notebook, right? But there was no mention of his owning a boat.”

My friend has a valid argument. Nothing controversial here.

“Do you remember that TV commercial for the Webber BBQ?

“Yeah.”

“Has too many adjectives…”

“Like Sean Connery.”

“How is that like Sean Connery?” I’m sure he had a point somewhere. He always had a point. I felt stupid for not being able to piece together how the BBQ ad with too many adjectives related to Sean Connery.

“Well, he’s the least attractive Bond of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love the accent, but let’s be honest, he’s a bit fucked. You know, visually.”

And there the night and conversation ended. We’d talked about the idea of “terminal loneliness”, whether Bono was related to Ono, if you can hear someone smiling on the other end of a telephone, whether cemeteries conspire with florists and if someone can 100% replicate the sound a typewriter makes. I went to bed, fearful of ageing poorly and being terminally lonely. Only to die, piss my pants and have no one attend my funeral. My body would be offered up to Science, to experiment on. And they’d marvel at my lungs and their holes and the length of my big toe and the triangle shape my shoulders make and the 12 tampons lodged in my lower bowels. And they’d smile on the end of the telephone, telling their loved ones of their discovery, picking up a steak on the way home, to be seasoned with exotic spices and accompanied with a Would You Rather conversation concerning tropical paradises, jail and polka dot dresses.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Explosion on the tram.

There’s a man on the tram with a forehead so bulbous I imagine it's pregnant. His head skin doesn't have anymore stretch, pushed to its limits. Inside, there's one idea feeding off every piece of information he's ever consumed, drawing on everyone he's ever met. His head cap is stretched to its limits, veins bursting. He motions for a book in his satchel but I distract him with a yelp.

“Are you ok?” He asks.

“Yes. Just startled easily by...” I search the tram. A lady and her headscarf eye me lazily. “... by pigeons. I'm startled easily by pigeons.”

I couldn't risk having his head explode through the carriage. I'd be implicated in some sort of terrorist plot. I'd go to court, plead ignorance, but the prosecutor would know better:

“Mr Coleman, you knew a book like that could push a man's brain cap beyond its capacity, didn't you?”

“Yes, yes I did. But it was not my book.”

“Not your book you say...?” The wigged prosecutor for the Crown would mumble before screaming ‘AHA, it just so happens’ and introducing the court to a person I’d never seen before who’d ultimately be responsible for my demise.

I'd go to jail for 20 years. A book would be written about me. In the end I'd confess, but in the decades following, would make several appeals claiming police had intimidated me into my statement of guilt. The title of the book would be "Mind Trials" and upon my release would have sold more than two million copies. I'd never see a coin.

“You're startled by pigeons?”

“Yes sir, could never survive in Rome, much less as a fountain.”

“But there aren't any pigeons around here?”

I searched the tram for the headscarf, but it was gliding through a mass of school bags and blazers and newspapers to the doorway. I started to move for her, to grab her, prove to this man that pigeons could be on trams. She escaped and we lurched forward. I could never explain now, so it was time to depart from this man and his bulbous, pregnant brain. But not before I let him know, warn him.

"By the way, don't read that book."

"And why would that be?" He asks in a most demeaning way.

"It’ll make your head e... Don't worry. Sorry."

No insanity plea today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This is what happens when I am left alone to pee.

I’m stuck at a urinal.
The dark matter expelling from my anteater stinks like vodka, or at least the smell I associate with vodka. A smell wedged somewhere between sour milk and the fart of a child who hasn’t yet moved on to solids. It’s entirely illogical, but so is sleeping with a kitchen knife under your pillow on lonely nights, or buying a People magazine from a service station at 4am with money you could have spent on a Paddle Pop.

So my urine is spilling and swirling down four holes that look as ominous as the pursed rear of a stray cat. It’s spilling and splashing and swirling and creating a sort of white wash. It reminds me of long summers body boarding in Merimbula. Being driven into the shoreline over and over until it was time to retrieve a Vegemite sandwich and juice box from the esky. Sucking on the straw until it made a slurping sound, then continuing to suck until being scolded and reminded of the dangers of going beyond the yellow flags. Cubba, don’t go past the yellow flags. And stop that slurping noise!
The beautiful memory doesn’t stay for long, quickly receding back into my ocean-brain. Back into vast amounts of water, filled with dangerous sharks and horny dolphins. Dolphins that pack-raped their own, practicing Japanese wax torture on the weak, before expelling their own fluids; a white wash synchronised with my own.

Look down. Some of the dark matter has, in all the chaos of spilling and swirling, ricocheted onto my khaki pants. The urine bullets are dark and noticeable, like a Batman symbol in the clear night sky. I bet this never happens to the Illuminati.
Calm. If people in the restaurant stare tell them you’re a descendent of the Tupi Indian, an extremely hygienic people. Then further explain how the Tupi washed 12 times a day, and burnt their dead, then crushed their bones into dust and blew them across a –

I catch myself and laugh at the ridiculousness of my standing there.
How long have I been here? I mumble.
I turn to my right to find a proper gentleman looking at me as if I were the first woman he’d seen naked. He doesn’t answer my question. Instead, he zips, bypasses the hand basin and pulls on the door. A roar of laughter and conversation and orders being shouted inside the restaurant echoes around the bathroom for a few moments and then disappears, leaving me with my thoughts again.
A new man enters and I apologise in advance without even beginning to explain.
I zip, bypass the hand basin and burst back into the roar of conversation and laughter and orders being shouted.
As I sit down at the table for two, her hand finds my stained thigh. Our eyes are wide in the darkness of the fancy sushi bar, and I realise I’ve found the only girl who may begin to comprehend the trauma of pissing on your pants. One of my tribe, a Tupi. 

We Should Never Leave.

The supermarket aisles were teeming. The businesswomen’s stilettos tapping out their staccato in the organic food and fruit sections. The school children collecting change and lint from cotton shorts, surveying the shelves for an affordable sugar hit. The junkies by the juices, assessing the security landscape. It was a Friday afternoon, when we wheeled out the discounted items trolley. One lurking pensioner caught my attention. She was mouthing the words to “Sweat” by Inner Circle playing over the speakers, fondling courgettes and tapping out a rhythm on her white blouse. Ignorant of the dark sexual innuendo of the lyrics, like I had been when I first heard the song in my early teens.

“Excuse me, dear –“ The decaying lady and her over-sized trolley stared up at me.

“Yes, there. How can I help?”

“Can you point me to the Milo?”

“It’s a bit difficult to find”, I started futiley, navigating the aisles with a crooked finger, “but I’d be happy to show you. Here, I’ll grab this.” I moved for her trolley. It contained only three items, one I identified as panty liners for the incontinent.

“Dear, where do I know you from?”

“I am not sure you do. Know me, I mean.” We were in front of the Milo now.

“No, no. I feel I do. Do you attend church?” Here we go. It started with an innocuous ‘dear’, it’ll end with us getting matching tattoos of Jesus’ face.

“No, I don’t, I’m sorry. Not that I have anything against those that do. I grew up with religion, I suppose, I just don’t see, you know, how it’s relative to me now.”

“Not to worry. You seem like a boy who knows where he is going.”

I wasn’t. I was working in a supermarket, having relinquished a six-figure salary as a copywriter to stack shelves, as a promise of sorts. So I could finally write that novel. The one with the beautiful title. The self-indulgent, depressing tale of a 29-year-old early success, who lost the girl of his dreams to…

“Wait a moment – “

“Yes?”

“From the church. I recall seeing your face at our church. You were at that young lady’s funeral not six months ago. At St Bede’s. You were… I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry. That must have been…”

“It’s ok.”

“Very unfortunate thing to have happen. At such a young age, too.” She held onto the such, as if it were her misery. “Genevieve was her name, was it not?”

“It was. I’m actually going to a wedding at St Bede’s tomorrow. Her father is re-marrying. It has been a hard six months for him, too. As you can imagine.”

People have wonderful imaginations.

“I won’t be attending that particular service but I look after the Father in the small terrace next door. If you have a moment you could come after mass? We can have tea.”

“You know, well, I have…” I began considering the reality of tomorrow’s events, “Actually, I’d like that. Thank you. What was your name, sorry?”

“Jane.”

“Like my late grandmother. Funny. Mine is Jeremy. Nice to meet you, Jane.”

“And you, Jeremy. Thank you for showing me to the Milo. I hope to see you tomorrow. It is the terrace next door, shouldn’t be too hard to find, it’s the only one. Come any time after the service, just knock at the front door.”

“I will.”

The next day there was nothing in my head, save a rounded, aquarium-like silence. Wind beaten petals from a nearby florist jumped from the pavement, crashing into my face. I fell into consciousness at the church’s entrance, pulled tight my tie and took position on her father’s side. He saw me from a distance, flashing a smile. The type of smile that said you’re not the only one who misses her. Halfway through the service I cried, imagining myself as her only true living embodiment. I imagined her eyes would have been clear, but unfocused as usual. Genevieve had forever looked like she was underwater.

Before the Pontiac pulled away I offered my congratulations. The mixed pain and happiness in her father’s face shot me back into the aquarium-silence. We held each other and didn’t let go for what seemed an inappropriate amount of time.

I watched the Pontiac leave on its journey, withdrew a cigarette and the letter from the inside of my borrowed suit jacket, and stole a position on the bluestone perimeter. I read until the fear of blotting the ink became too real and returned the unremarkable, folded paper to the safety of my pocket.

It took several knocks for Jane to come to the door.

“I heard it was an amazing ceremony. How are you, Jeremy? Do come in. I am boiling some water. I was hoping you’d come. Do come in. Sorry about the mess. Go on in - straight down the hallway.”

I entered without an opportunity to return the greeting, and searched for the alleged mess. Half way down the ordered corridor I spun, narrowly avoiding collision with the frail woman.

“Thanks for having me. I am not exactly sure what I am doing here, to be honest. But thank you for having me.”

“It’s no problem, dear. Just keep straight down the corridor, the sitting room is to the left. Sit anywhere, I’ll be with you in a moment.”

I took a seat in a large burgundy armchair and felt curiously uneasy, like the first time I’d seen a psychiatrist.

“Do you take sugar, dear?” Jane shouted from across the corridor. “For your tea.”

“Yes, please – one – thank you.”

“And cream?”

“Cream?”

“Milk.”

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

Two minutes later the delicate figure set a tray down on the coffee table that doubled as a chessboard.

“Do you play chess, Jane?”

“No, not anymore. It belonged to my late husband, David. A great man. Very good at chess and the like.”

“Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Oh, please, dear, don’t be. Not at all. He hasn’t been with us for almost 15 years. David is with Him now, and that seems just fine. To me.”

“How did you start living here, Jane?”

“Well, after David’s passing, I was spending a lot of time in and around the Parish. I guess I was seeking guidance, from whom I don’t know. And as it happened I found a good friend in Father Geoff. When he realised I didn’t have much to support myself – David hadn’t been the wealthiest of men at the time of his passing – the Father took me in. As repayment, I look after him, so to speak. Do some cooking, a bit of washing, help out in the Church when it’s needed. On the day of that young lady’s service…”

“Genevieve – “

“Yes, Genevieve’s service, I was helping out with some bits and pieces. I remember your eulogy, actually. Stirring words. They had a great, lasting, impact. As you can imagine, there aren’t too many things I can recall so vividly after six months.”

“Why?”

“Why can’t I remember things? Old age, I suppose.”

“No – why did my words have ‘great impact’ on you?”

“I suppose I can’t put my finger on the exact words. More, I can remember the way you spoke. It was the most composed sadness I have ever witnessed. As if you’d made a promise to her to say everything clearly. Making sure it was heard. It is hard. Losing someone to suicide. Someone you loved more than anything.”

You think it’s hard?”

“Yes, dear, I do think it is hard.”

Backing away from my tea, I stared plainly at this woman. There was something beneath the fragility and warmth that had dried up. Like a grape turned saltana.

“I have Gen’s letter here.”

“The one you read from in the eulogy?”

“That’s the one!” My tone pregnant with hollow enthusiasm.

“Will you read me some?”

“I suppose. It’s not, you know, much to…”

“If it’s all too much, needn’t worry.”

I shook my head.

“Look, Jeremey, I can’t wait until I see you again. Until I see your stupid eyes. And you say those ridiculous things that, if they came from anyone else, wouldn’t get more than an awkward smile from me. Like the time you talked about wanting to stack shelves in a supermarket just so we could spend time together during the day. So you could write a novel, and then we could move to Lake Como and you would write and I could draw. I can’t wait until I draw you again. I still draw you. I have a stack on my desk of sketches of you. I haven’t forgotten what you look like. You’ll forever be burnt into my memory. And it stings to recall you sometimes. But it’s a nice pain. A pain that reminds me I’ll soon be in your arms again. On your pillow. Smelling your morning breath.

Jeremy, it seems silly to say this via a letter, particularly after only being away for three weeks, with so long to go. But you know those times we’ve been on the phone and I’ve told you I wanted to say something, and just started crying? Well, I’ve wanted to say this for a long time. Even in the first few months of our being together. While we were talking ‘hypothetically’ about those future days overseas, you and your book, me and my drawing, the entire time I have wanted to say it. I love you, Jeremy. I love you so much. And I am starting to think that these plans aren’t just fantasies to fill in conversation. I honestly believe I want to move away with you. Forever maybe, and we’ll stay until we never leave, if that even makes sense. and isn’t too scary an idea.

Anyhow, for now, I love you, from all the way over here.

Yours,


Gen.”


I started breathing again.

“She seemed so happy, from that letter?” It was the first time I heard Jane’s voice crack.

I looked up from my letter. She was crying now. And all I’d done was read a letter, from a girl she had never met. I’d read it without emotion. It wasn’t even an emotive letter, for outsiders to hear, anyhow. I put my arm around her. I let Jane cry into my shoulder. Her frail hand scratching at my stubble-face.

“It’s ok.”

“She seemed so happy. You were making plans… She seemed so happy. How did she…”

“Disappeared from our apartment. I got a call six hours later. She had hung herself from a tree. It was a special tree in the Carlton Gardens. We’d first kissed there after a long night of drinking. She was hanging from the tree. Still. Just hanging and someone found her and she was dead and they couldn’t do anything and then I got a call from the police and they told me she was dead and I couldn’t do anything and, like, and I was…”

We were holding each other now. And I knew David had killed himself, too. I knew and I didn’t have to ask. Jane was crying like it was her loss. I could feel a heart gasp through her frail, flat chest against me. I kissed her hair and rubbed her back, knocking over a tea with my bent leg. And she didn’t move, except her chest that shuddered like a mower starting.

When we finally broke from our embrace I returned to my seat and searched for the letter. I found it on the ground in front me, limp, stained with tea. The ink had smudged, the paper was torn in places where I must have stood on it.

After long minutes trying to piece together letters, the only words I could make out clearly were “stay until we never leave”, and I guess that’s all I needed. The rest was burnt into my memory, like a picture I couldn’t throw away.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fell asleep, booked a flight to India.

Hours pass and my anxiety is too intense to leave the armchair to dash to the bathroom. I fantacise about what might happen if I got up. If a man appeared in a black hooded jumper with a bat, or knife, or monkey trained in martial arts. I envision the fight that would ensue in which my lung would be punctured, an artery severed, an ear torn from the side of my head and flung toward the kitchen to be lost among the lint beneath the refrigerator. The man would leave with a handful of change I’d thrifted from my mum’s parking money, my laptop and the one-eyed cat, which I could only assume he’d feed to the rest of his martial-arts-expert-monkey-clan.

On the bright side, maybe, if I did suffer these injuries, I could take a break from the vocational stresses rendering me impotent of creativity. Maybe then I could write the novel with the beautiful title and characters with double barreled surnames and thick British accents. The novel with the women with fake breasts and men with real leopard skin coat lining and money clips and secret child pornography syndicates. The men would have to be Dutch, I’d finally decide. No one would believe a well-to-do Pom to have such perversions. Not unless those perversions involved a type of hunting dog or string of transvestites in over-the-top hats. What do they call hat makers, again?

I wake to a text from a friend saying that he has booked a retreat at some sort of ‘silent convent’ in India. No alcohol he says. No talking at any time, he’s been assured. This is the same friend that, six months earlier, was charged with the aggravated assault of a police officer after a street fight with some strip club bouncers on King St. He’d called one of the dancers a “filthy prostitute”. He then spent a further 15 minutes arguing the nuance between being a body for hire and a body to watch. Ultimately the girl, likely to be some sort of Communications student paying off a loan and methamphetamine debt to her tattoo-sleeved ex-boyfriend, grew tired of the insults and called over one of the bouncers to eject my friend. “The slut tried to fuck me”, he said.

This was my friend who was moving to India to be sober. To meditate. To be alone with his words and his thoughts. I had the impossible feeling that perhaps he was to feel more pain than any nunchuck-wielding orangutan could ever inflict on me. And I got the sudden urge to go with him.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eaten more than jelly.

For someone who is meant to be under observation for a head injury they aren’t doing much observing. Perhaps it was just a name they gave it, observation. It sounded official, had a ring to it, made you want to come again, like good service at a terrible restaurant, or a drink after sex. Come again to hospital for observation. To be looked at. Watched over. Observed. I’d come again.

I would like to see more of that nurse. Karen I think her name was. She was nice. Brought me that jelly. It had an interesting consistency. The same as Mexican style chocolate mousse from Taco Bill. I’m still convinced that on the half-price nights they switch the chocolate for sand.

Karen had a sweet ring in her voice. It was a ring that could make you fall in love with her after a long day at work, or hours of vomiting bile, beer and chicken nuggets. Almost anyone can give you a reason for loving them.

I wonder if I pull all the cords out if anyone will notice. I doubt it. Try to stand. Ok.

It’s not so easy to stand. My legs aren’t talking to my head. Though it’s probably the other way around. The head talks to the legs… Hey, where do you think you’re going? Nowhere, nowhere head. Nowhere without you. That’s right, you’re not going anywhere. Now, stay here. Let me look at those sexy toes. Yeah, yeah, come on - yeah, that’s right!! Give us a look at those sexy, grey, buckled toes.

Ok. So my head has a foot fetish. Not my head, but my brain. My brain. Man, hospitals can send you round the trail. Track. Round the bend. They can send you a bit mad, I reckon.

I wonder if J is going to come back. Take me home with him. I wonder if he’ll let me stay there for a while. Like the old days. The days that have grown old now. Tired and old and senile.

The days in between those days and these days have made those days grow even older, more distant. Faraway.

The days that held times, moments. Like the first time the three of us shared icecream, went to the movies or played naked Twister. Or, rather, the first night I came home high, took off my pants, and forced them watch me do a poorly choreographed dance to Freestyler. Penis swinging.

I’d been asleep for almost 12 hours. Karen must have checked on me while I was sleeping. Luckily I hadn’t urinated in my bed. Not yet. I couldn’t use those pans they give you anyhow. The cold metal stung my genitals and the splash back was unforgiving, I think I copped it in the eye once. Just ring the bell.

I ring the bell.

“Where’s Karen?”

“She does the early. I’m Jennifer. You can call me Jenn.”

A thick Scottish accent, no ring.

“Jane, I am about to piss my pants. Well, you and I both know I am not wearing pants. I am about to piss my gown and these polyester rags holding me in place. Do you mind helping me go to the toilet, Jane? I am not asking you to come in and hold it. Just, I don’t know, help me out and maybe let me lean on you. I didn’t mean it, as in my penis. Well, I did. But I didn’t mean for you to hold it. Sorry.”

“Of course.”

“I will pretend I am drunk. With the leaning thing. Easier for both of us. Everything becomes easier when I pretend to be drunk. Even driving.”

She nods.

When I get inside the semi-circle toilet area it’s obvious.

I could smell she’d been there. I could smell her urine, and her perfume and even a hint of her fart. I had become an expert of these smells when she lived with us. Jeremy had picked up on it one day. “You’re always in there after her”, he had said. I was. I’d lock the door and scan the room like a truffle pig, hunting smells.

She’d been in there. Sarah had been in there and now the blood was running from my bowels and I felt sick and nervous and full of desire.

“Are you ok in there?” Nurse Jane called from outside the door.

“I think I lost something.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I think I lost something. It’s making me sick. But happy. It’s fine, Jane. Wrapping it all up now.”

I finished and wiped away what was left of the thing I’d had to swallow some time earlier.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stuck on these mornings.

Our bodies bare and marginally separated, a reaction to the heat. Her spine exposed, legs slightly bent, a small stream of dribble running from her mouth. Save the dribble and the disciplined thud of her breath against the cold air, she could have been mistaken for a mannequin. One of the mannequins you see, undressed in windows, that you can actually imagine fucking.

On these mornings, once her body was stroked to life, there was little we could do. A half-open look into each other’s bloodshot eyes and the motions began. Deep, dry kisses on necks, mouths, backs, other places. On these mornings we didn’t bother brushing our teeth. Self-consciousness had disappeared months ago. It had disappeared from smells, noises, bodily functions, inebriated actions. On these mornings there was the shared, assumed knowledge that I would soon propose. The idea hung over our bed on these mornings like marijuana smoke over a Dutch canal. Intoxicating everyone beneath it, talking to the foreigners in a language they couldn’t begin to understand.

I got up off the toilet. I had to stop thinking about things like this. Sarah-related things.

“That took a while.”

“You know me, Sam. Sometimes I get stuck.”

“Thinking Sarah things, I bet.”

“Thinking Sarah things.”

“Which ones?”

“None of your business.”

“Why she left?”

“She left because of you.” I said sternly. Looking him in the eyes.

“She left because of us. Not me and her. I mean us - as in you and me, J.”

“Let’s not talk about it.”

“She’s not sick, J.”

“So why did you let me sit on the toilet, crying and thinking about her for an hour, thinking she was sick?”

“She’s not sick. Sarah’s not sick - she’s dead.”

“Go fuck yourself, Sam.”

“As soon as I’m out of here, I will.”

I left without so much as a goodbye. On the way out of the hospital I stopped at the canteen and bought a potato cake. The brown paper saturated quickly. I focused on it. I focused on paper soaking. I remembered a time when I read a note. The last note Sarah left me. The paper had soaked just as quickly.

Before I exited through the last of the electric doors – the ones that could sense I wanted to pass through them – I spent $35 on flowers. Typical gift-shop flowers, more wilted and less glamorous than their fresh-florist counterparts. I let water drip from the stems onto my arms and walked to the car. I knew where I could find her.

Monday, June 13, 2011

House Inspection.

You do understand that, if you were Picachu, I’d choose you, right?

I remember when Jeremy found this note. It was on the mantle piece of his bedroom, next to photos of his days as a boom-operator on the set of Gladiator. It had been expertly wedged between the breasts of a statuette Jeremy’s Dad had found in a market in Zimbabwe. The note was written on Sarah’s work stationery. Dotted around the house were other clues that she found us intriguing, in particular, Jeremy. It was the strangest house inspection we’d ever heard of.

Above his writing desk she placed a post-it that read: “If I could read the future from now on, I would.” It hadn’t made sense at the time. Above our toilet she wrote, “Smells like rain. Unusual.” It was a peculiar thing to write, but on reflection, the air was damp in our bathroom because of the leaks and it did smell like rain. By far the most poignant was the note that neither of us found. It was discovered by Anne, Jeremy’s girlfriend at the time: “I’ve inspected. Successfully complete with a hug and kiss. I’ve enjoyed being in your room. I’d like to have my head above this note. And get to know you there. Sarah. Xo.”

As you can imagine, the note raised questions. Not just the standard Are you cheating on me? type questions, but ones that derived from the understanding of a phrase that Anne believed only her and Jeremy shared. And, to be fair to Jeremy, no one else had known. It was their phrase. One he’d conjured in the foothills of Mt Etna only months before. He’d turned to Anne and said, with great honesty – fleeting honesty, but honesty nonetheless – that he loved her. That he was glad he’d met her on this trip and that he finally felt like he knew someone better than anyone else in the world. The reason he gave was that “You never truly know someone until their head is on your pillow.” In the end it was the notion that perhaps this saying was no longer just theirs that drove Jeremy and Anne apart.

As one relationship crumbled, Jeremy laid the foundations of something new, and so did I. What we drew from the notes was vastly different. They made Jeremy feel interesting for the first time in his short life. Similarly they’d sparked something in me, a sort of disappointment. I was always regarded as the more interesting of the two of us and I felt a little cheated. Had I not cleaned my room prior to inspection, perhaps the notes would have been left for me. Had I strategically placed some of my trinkets, books, photos of dogs in parks, perhaps Sarah would have fallen in love with my room. I grew increasingly jealous as Jeremy filtered pieces of information back to me from their first date, first night of love-making and their first meal that ensued. So much so that I stood outside his door most nights in the hope I’d hear them in the throws of passion. Though the only sound I ever heard was a giggle. And it was his. His distinct, sharp, innocent giggle. It made me sick.

I found Andrew two weeks after Sarah moved into our house, four months after the first notes. He was bleeding profusely from one ear, groaning in pain. One of his legs was badly broken and I assumed he’d been hit by a car. I called an ambulance, then decided against it and hailed a taxi. After he was released from hospital I nursed him in my room for five months, with Jeremy on the other side of the wall, rehabilitating nothing. It was during those five months that I started stealing Sarah’s underwear from the laundry, and sleeping with them inside my pillowcase. Dribbling on them, snoring on them, lying face down into them. The best days were when I found dirty ones. The scent would stay for two days at least and for those two days my nose owned her. Andrew never seemed to mind.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sam gets his head fixed.

The hallways are typically stark, save the oil paintings of founding nuns and pedophilic looking philanthropists. Consequently there was little to stimulate my mind, aside from the lingering thought of Sarah. Lingering would suggest that it was on the periphery, walking back and forth; perhaps ‘loitering’ was a better description. That’s it, Sarah was loitering in my thoughts and she couldn’t be moved on.


Sam had been transferred from the ER to the neurosurgical ward. Last I knew, Sarah was working in the cardiac unit, so the chances of seeing her were slim as they were in different wings. With this knowledge I decide to wait in a non-descript room – not ready to see Sam just yet. I take a seat and the d├ęcor looks as if it had been switched out of an airport terminal and given just the right amount of sheen.


“Honey, what’s this mean?”

“Nee, honey.”

“Right.”

I watch as the grown man next to me writes “nay” as his place of birth.

His stupidity astounds me, but I guess the explanation he was given by his companion wasn’t exactly textbook.

“Did you dream last night, sweetie?” He asks her.

“Honey, fill out the form.” She fires back.

“So you didn’t dream then?”

“I dreamt we’d be here.”

“Really?”

“No, now fill out the form.”


A man, his head holding pace with the ground, moves past us carrying a bunch of flowers, ones you wouldn’t find in the hospital’s gift shop. These were pre-meditated flowers. To be given with more purpose than their gift shop counterparts.


“Over here, mate.” The ‘nay’ sayer calls, nodding at the man’s flowers and nudging his companion in the ribs.

She laughs and now I hate them both. The poor man, forced to halt by the idiot’s call, turns back in the direction he was headed and closes his eyes, as if to find strength. Finally, he gathers enough momentum and starts walking the corridor again, his head barely holding pace with the ground. I couldn’t believe the idiot next to me, and I almost say something. Then I imagine sticking the stalks of the flowers up his ass, and my lips give way to a chuckle when I think that they might start growing again.


It seems an appropriate time, so I move down the corridor to the neurosurgical ward.

“Sam Howard, please.”

After much deliberation and rustling of papers, the nurse, with enormous lumps on either side of her stethoscope, replies, “Sorry sir, there is no Sam Howard in this ward.”

“Sean Howard. I mean, Sean Howard is his name. Apologies. When we were kids he…” She interrupts -

“Room 4; down the corridor; on the left.” She motions, head still down, pre-occupied with a roster of some description.

“Thank you, Sister.”

I wasn’t sure if she was a nun and I didn’t give a fuck. Rude as anything. Prude as anything, even? I wasn’t sure.


The room smelt of Sam already, it was quite extraordinary.

“Hey mate, how you feeling?” I fane curiosity, with a touch of sympathy and concern.

“Not too bad, thanks, J.”

“No, but really, how you feeling?” Now choosing to adopt the tone of a school bully, mocking his victim on the ground in front of the other kids.

“J, you know what? You’ve got more grey hairs than dollars.”

“How long have you been holding that one in?”

I had no idea what he meant, but as usual my brain began to tangle itself in order to untangle his mess of thought. What does this mean? That I am too stressed? Is he saying I should work less? Or that I have heaps of money? I know I have lots of greys, Sarah always used to tell me that. She used to say, Jezza, you’ve got salt and pepper hair. The difference is, she always said it made me look distinguished. I doubt if that’s what Sam meant. Perhaps he was merely trying to weasel Sarah back into conversation, into my head. He knew that she always spoke of my grey hairs.

“What the fuck, Sam? Trying to get Sarah back into my head?”

“She’s not here, by the way, you can relax.”

I instantly relax.

“What? I don’t care.”

I did care.

“She’s not well, J. Something about going off the rails. Not like a train wreck or anything, she’s not physically harmed. The nurse said something about her not having worked in a while. Not well, she said. It’s no good.”

“Why the fuck were you even asking about her!?”

“J – even after everything, she’s still the love of my life.”

It was the first thing he’d said since returning to my life that I instantly understood. That I understood on face-value. The first thing he’d said, that I too felt, and believed.

“Ok.”


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Skate, or not, Sam.

When we got to the Parliament steps, Sam turned into an 8 year old kid again. He stood at the top of the 10-step drop and smiled. There was no fear behind his eyes. There was no knowledge of pain, broken bones, blood – all that seemed to have dissipated. He was 8 years old again. Believing that a board to the testicles would tickle, that a knee would bleed not crumble, that his bones were rubber not breakable. I stood at the base and watched him pace toward the centuries-old building. He spun, as if to showcase his outfit, and started on his way, his right foot slapping the polished stone furiously, a strain on his face as if he were about to orgasm. Still, even as he came within a foot of the stair-edge, there was no fear. He brought his right foot onto the board, shuffled both feet, moved weight to the back and hit the kick precisely at the top of the stairs. I held my breath as he sank in the air, hit the ground, and watched the board come from beneath him. The crack of his skull sent a tense feeling from the back of my head to the bottom of my tailbone. Blood ran immediately and furiously toward the gutter. And selfishly, only one thing ran through my mind:

I hope she isn’t working, I hope she isn’t working today. I hope Sarah isn’t working the late shift today.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sam bought it high on ice.

The next morning I woke to some movement. The type of movement that stirs you even though it doesn’t make a sound. You can sense it through closed eyelids.

“What the fuck are you doing?! How the fuck did you get in here?!” Sitting upright, switching on the light – the door still looked closed.

“Through your window, I didn’t think…” Sam trailed off, seemingly hurt that I was angry.

“Dude, get out. Honestly.” I reached for the knife. It wasn’t on the pillow next to me. I fumbled under the sheets, holding his stare and blindly pricked myself on the forefinger. My right hand quickly resembled a strawberry sundae; I didn’t bother preventing droplets of blood from taking to my sheets.

“Man, you’re bleeding.” A hint of concern in his tone.

“I know”, I said calmly, “now please, please, get the fuck out.”

When I got out of bed, I used a pillow case to stem the bleeding. Sam had left my room and I saw what he’d been doing. At first I was angry, then confused, then dumfounded by how he’d done what he’d done with such little light.

On a sheet of butcher’s paper – the origin of which created even more confusion – Sam had sketched out a pyramid that resembled Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Funnily enough, on the top of the butcher’s paper, was the title of his creation: My Interpretation of Malo’s Hierarchy of Needs. I didn’t know who ‘Malo’ was – it could have been Sam’s idea of a cryptic joke. It could have been an example of his extreme wit, or, just as probable, an example of his ridiculousness. Though, knowing Sam, it was probably just something ‘stuck in his head’. He often described these thoughts as permanent graffiti. How they were expressions of someone else’s idea, completely unsolicited and lodged on the side of his ‘brain wall’. I always figured this gave him room for the ideas and thoughts to be ridiculous and potentially destructive.

His theory read, from top to bottom, in a pyramid shape:

‘My Interpretation of Malo’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Dating all the way back to the time J explained the need hierarchy thing to me, back at high school. I like to think of that dude’s pyramid as a tree. And thus, my interpretation of the “NEEDS” is as follows:

Climbing to get an apple

Get higher so you’re away from a tiger

Higher so you feel like you’ve gone high

Higher so people respect how much higher you are than them

Most people will stop here. Only a few will feel there is more tree. But no one gets to the top of the tree.’

I re-read it four times. I surveyed it. I tried to imagine the landscape. This place with an apple tree and a tiger and people climbing. I imagined those falling, along with apples, to the base of the tree, being torn apart limb from limb by ever-hungry tigers. People screaming, until there was only one person left on the final branch.

The branch snapped and I shook the thought from my head, left-to-right, and marched the long Victorian corridor to the kitchen.

“Sammy. We need to talk.”

“I didn’t mark the wall, I swear. The marks were already there.”

I hadn’t seen any marks.

“Forget the marks, dude. We need to talk.”

“I’m sorry, I think my feet scuffed the wall when I tried to climb it.”

I couldn’t be angry. His mind was agitated, throbbing like a mosquito bite that he couldn’t keep from scratching. Even as kids he’d had a beautiful mind. Seeing things from different angles, smelling things that weren’t there, tasting ingredients that, for most seven year olds, had never existed. With every year his way of seeing the world grew more informed – to him at least - and more reckless and less linear for the rest of us. There was an excitement added to every trip to the beach that would, or could, never have existed without him. A moment at the dinner table that no one else could create. An insight into a movie that not even its writer could have dreamt. I suppose Sarah shared these reasons for loving him, and ultimately, falling in love with him.

“Have you still got that deck I bought you in Tokyo?”

After a four-day ice bender, Sam had used the last of his money to buy me a skateboard. When he returned to the hostel, after his 96-hour adventure, I cried. I’d filed a missing persons report at the police station two days earlier. He’d quite literally had me worried sick. I couldn’t help but vomit, constantly living out the moment where I’d explain to his parents, Marg and Simon, how their son had been lost on my watch. But when he finally returned to me, I cried, and he smiled and then held out the skateboard with extended arms. I want you to learn, he had said. In the five years since, I think the board had left its shoulder bag twice. Both times, this vehicle had left me bruised, physically and emotionally.

“Yep, it’s still in my closet. Why?”

“I thought I’d go for a skate in the city. Near the Parliament steps. Like we used to.”

“We never skated near the Parliament steps.”

“Not even as kids?”

“Not even as kids.”

“Well, no time like the present.”

While I’d never understood the saying, I felt compelled to follow him to the city. There was an energy about Sam you just couldn’t deny, even after being bitter and angry at him for so long.