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 décor 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.”


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.”


“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.


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.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Seeing Sam before the world ended.

It was on the 21st May 2011, that Sam and I spoke for the first time in three years. Our relationship had been hampered by a death, a divorce, copious infidelity, drug abuse, homelessness and mental illness. Neither of us experienced all these things personally, but they had all, in one way or another, affected our friendship. It was on the day the world could have ended that I decided to contact Sam. I knew where to find him.

It was 7pm and knowable Sam was reading on the Swan St footbridge. Andrew was nowhere in sight.

“Sam - ”, I was only 90% sure it was him.


“How are you?”

“Cold. It’s freezing out.”

“Usually that’s something someone says when they’re inside, after being outside.”

“We’re not inside.”

I knew we weren’t inside. It was comforting to hear he was aware of where we were, though.

“Do you want to come over for dinner?” I offer.

“No. But I will come over for a snack and maybe a wash. Would that be ok?”

It took less than 15 minutes to drive back to North Melbourne.

“Andrew and I used to enjoy this walk home. Lots of things to look at.”

Sam spoke from the side of his mouth like a businessman smoking a cigar. He always had. To my knowledge Sam had never smoked a cigar, though his father certainly would have.

I nodded. Not at anything in particular. But as if his very presence in my ’84 Honda Civic needed some sort of positive affirmation.

“Did you see that program about the girl who is addicted to eating chalk?”

Sam had never owned a TV in his life, of course he hadn’t seen chalk girl.

“Andrew passed away last month.”

Keep driving.

“She couldn’t stop eating chalk. I just kept asking myself what her dentist might say. You know? It wasn’t just white chalk either. It was blue, green, even pink chalk. This girl, she worked as an understudy on Broadway. Of course. I mean, of course she was an understudy on Broadway. Fucked if I ever reckon she’ll get on stage with a chalk fetish and teeth like that, though.”

I pull the car up to the curb and shot Sam a smile. He knew I’d heard him, heard him say that Andrew had passed away. He also knew I wasn’t much good at talking and driving, particularly sober. So we went inside and I poured us a drink each.

Time passed, mainly with Sam staring into his whiskey. I bet he hadn’t drunk from a glass like that in months, maybe since he moved out from here.

“We had some good times. Me. You. Andrew. Right here in this house, J. We had some good times.” He said, looking around the room as if searching for those good times.

No one had called me J since Sam had moved out. It was out of respect, I guess. Just like how I’d never call any other girl ‘Chook’. Coming out of my mouth, Sarah was the only girl that name belonged to. Sarah was ‘Chook’ to me, just like I was ‘J’ to Sam.

“Do you remember when the three of us would borrow shapes from things?”

“What do you mean ‘borrow shapes’? How can you borrow a shape?”

“You know… We’d see a clock, so the three of us would lie on the ground and curl up into a ball. And then we’d take photos in our mind from above. And we’d look like three clocks on the ground, or that polkadot shirt I used to borrow from you for dates. Do you remember?”


“Or the time you had to fix the light globe in that ceiling?”

Sam pointed to the sunroom’s ceiling. It was high, really high. Beams ran off it. We once strung a piñata up there. Sam had made it. When it finally cracked 7 parcels fell out, each containing a different colour of jelly. He just laughed when they fell to the ground. He laughed and handed me a spoon and that’s when I knew he was starting to lose it.

“No, Sammy, I don’t remember… Are you feeling ok? Like, you know, with the whole…” I probed, pointing to my head, alluding to his.

“You called me Sammy. No one’s called me that in years.”

“And no one’s called me J.”

“Why’d you kick me out?”

“Because I no longer felt safe.”

“Sarah too?”

“Sarah as well.”

“Let’s talk about it in the morning. I am tired. Haven’t been in a house in a while. Might be nice to get some shut-eye.”

I hated him using the expression ‘shut-eye’, but I let it go. He took the couch and I watched Good Will Hunting in my bedroom. Branches were swiping at my window, confused by the wind. I closed the blinds to stop the shadows and locked the door and lay on the left-hand side of our old bed. Sarah and my old bed. A small kitchen knife on the other pillow, where her head should have been.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The 3 Bs

This morning Grace passed the place where she lost her virginity. She prefers to think of it as the place where she left her virginity, as if it were a jumper or clue for a treasure map. The man, or boy, who stole her innocence, was Jack – captain of the U14s local footy team. He was bulky for his age, and boisterous and brave. When Grace was 13 years old she didn’t even know what ‘boisterous’ meant; not until Jack said that a teacher had used this word to describe his actions in class on his report card. It had stuck with her.

Since that evening, the name Jack had sent cold through her body whenever it was uttered. So much so that it made her nipples tense and brittle. Now, passing that park again, the cold came back, catching her out in its headlights. Grace was never quite sure why it still bothered her, almost ten years on, but she knows now she hadn’t handled the experience with great elegance.

So there she was, with hardened nipples and a head full of troubling memories, thinking about the future and how it was still tainted by the past. She hadn’t dated in over two years. She hadn’t felt close to someone since her father passed away. She could barely hold the gaze of a male stranger, even the policeman who delivered the news that almost ended her short life. And, as she contemplates the three ways to pull herself away from this ten-year-old tragedy, a man walks past. He is bulky. He is shouting loutish things at passersby, and dashing in and out of traffic.

“Jack!”, she shouts.

“Adam’s the name, bitch.”

Grace realised, right then, that somewhere in the world there was another girl, sitting around the corner from a park, crying and wondering why. Why, at only 13 years of age, something can happen that will change a person’s life forever.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The impossible thought is when- when should I unleash the beast?

Jeremy’s spent the first two hours of his working day staring at the back of his hand. He’s been eating biscuits too, but mainly staring at the back of his hand, and wondering what is happening. There’s a vagueness to him today. Immediately after his first coffee, which usually pulls him clear of the shadows of thought, Jeremy goes to the urinal to relieve himself. He imagines the alcohol exiting his system, but is quickly weighed down by the memories surrounding how it entered. Jeremy doesn’t shake and it leaks in his pants. Now he’s sitting, staring at the back of his hand, smelling of urine and wondering if he’s going to snap out of this living coma any time soon.

Soon it’s lunchtime. He takes a book from his bag – the one that has lived there for over a year – and opens to the page he last read. There is a photo of a girl he once knew. On the back is some writing he chooses not to repeat in his brain, in case it sticks. Instead, he lets the words slide like a pickle down a window, to the floor and out of his mind. Barely leaving a streak. He then replaces the photo, thinks for a second and throws The Great Gatsby from three stories onto St Kilda Rd.

On the way home, Jeremy realises he has no dish washing liquid. He surveys the aisle and picks up the box that corresponds to the television ad he has chosen to recall, the one that says the diamond finish. ‘Finish’ is the name of the brand and it seems apt. The ad, he remembers, shows all the muck that gathers in a dishwasher over the years, and how this particular product can wash it all away. Jeremy considers drinking it, but remembers he has band practice in a few hours and doesn’t want to taint his voice.

Instead, he picks up the ‘Finish’, walks to the counter, opens his new wallet – the one that has no small window for a photograph – and pays. As he walks the final stretch, Jeremy looks at the back of his hand one last time and makes out three words of the sentence he’s been trying to decipher the entire day: “right” / “now” / “gone”.

Finally, he remembers it all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Old - Part One.

It was a Wednesday and Wil was sick of writing. He had gone to the street market in search of mouldy cheese and inspiration, a canvas bag swaying on his forearm. She had seemed foreign, like him, fingering courgettes and apples, smiling, but never buying. He had followed her through rows of home-made cotton shawls, rotisseries and piles of orange skins, until she spun and they collided. Caught and speechless, his eyes focused on her chest, envisioning her showering, making savoury crepes and stealing from faceless corporations in the name of anti-globalisation. This was the first time he smelt Sofiane.

Everything moved more quickly in Paris, Wil noticed. Dogs and their owners spent no time admiring the small parks that dotted the city and economised walking time by shitting on the footpath, taxis went as quickly down six-lane boulevards as they did cobbled laneways and baristas had no lavish routine when serving coffee, distributing espressos with the flick of a wrist. Tourists who hesitated when ordering at a patisserie were shunted, often removing themselves to observe the procession. Wil would have been intimidated if not for Sofiane - but he was one of them now, by association.

Sofiane worked at the local Ed supermarket on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. She was from Lyon and had never finished the final semester of her degree in Art History. She ate with her mouth open, and had a birthmark on the upper part of her left arm that Wil had named Shelley, as the skin was two-toned and coarse. Her parents owned a military and aviation bookshop in the same quarter as her grandmother’s boulangerie and her feet swelled in summer, meaning their closet was full of footwear that hibernated until the picnic weather arrived.

She was well traveled and a passive animal rights activist. She ignored Wil’s contention that the modern France lacked the culture and sophistication for which it was renowned. This was often a topic of argument as it was the misconception responsible for Wil’s moving to Paris. He had pictured finding inspiration for the male protagonist of his novel, Nico, in the city’s artists and philosophers, and those of the ‘indie’ music scene. Wil wondered if Picasso had drawn pigeons at the same canal where he took polaroids, and if the drawings had always been good.

He felt quite sure he’d never finish the novel with the brilliant title, but he would see plenty more breasts on TV. He told Sofiane that she was the only reason he stayed.

After lunch, Wil ran a bath, soaking his underwear in the warm water near his feet. She would leave for Lyon in the morning. Sofiane told Wil that he didn’t have to go with her, so he didn’t. In the morning he would lie about loving her from the warmth of their bed, but wouldn’t get up to see her off.

The next day, on the metro home from Oberkampf, Wil took out his earphones and studied a girl worthy of being his female protagonist, Julienne. He quickly wrote notes on the back of a discarded leaflet:

Her left eye narrows into a squint, and she is either plotting or trying to find the bit of apple peel in her molars. Everyone can be more graceful if they need to be. If she had known someone was watching, her eyes would have remained full, and open, but she hadn’t.

She got off at Galleries LaFayette and he followed her; she stopped at a café, so he ordered a coffee.

She put her hand on her hip, and made a diamond shape that went the length of her elbow, into the curve of her torso, and back again. His eyes traced the shape, and when he looked up her hoop eyes met his. They bore the softness of a childhood loss, maybe her mother. When Nico was catching the metro home the boy opposite played with a rubix cube, and he thought of her.

The girl walked past Wil, and no scent lingered behind her. He scrunched the leaflet into his coat pocket and chased.