regional – marginal – comical
Melanie had taken her medicine, just as the doctor had ordered, more than the doctor had ordered. more is better right, right! And she had taken what her friend had given her and the tablets she had found that she remembered had been good and the few drops of what was left in the bottle, and she had woken later on her birthday. the day that Melanie turned 40.
On that day, her hair was turned by a breeze and she fell pregnant. simple, easy, unpredictable and complete. Was it the breeze, or turning forty or Melanie that caused it to happen? Her memory of failed relationships, intentional and unintentional had filled her life to that point.
She lay on the bed feeling her belly. For nine months she lay there feeling for a life as her belly grew like a balloon, then, her baby was born.
She looked down and between her legs at the end of the bed sat a rag doll baby with an old man’s face. An old man with an ugly face. She had wanted this baby for so long, this relationship, this need to mother that she took the baby in her arms and held it to her and stroked its head, soothed its cries and put it to her breast where it suckled instantly. She cooed to her baby, “there there it’s all right, mama’s here”. she ran her fingers over its hairy face, it’s pocked cheek, over its cracked lips and its saggy ears.
The baby had the face of her stepfather who beat her, it had the face of her uncle who touched her, it had the face of her teacher in grade four who ridiculed her. This baby doll had the face of a grey old man. the hair of greasy sea weed, the skin of used sand paper. It turned its head toward her and said in a clear voice “mamma” then again in a way more directed “mamma” and then it thew up all the milk she had given it. over her and over her shoulder and beyond her. It had thrown up like it was watering the garden.
Melanie was named after a song, or because of song or instead of a song. Her mother would change the story as if it were a guessing game to which she could stab the answers until the correct one would burst like a party popper.
The rag doll baby, the doctors said, had come early and would not live. they had placed it on her because that is what is done. Melanie had held on to the baby long after it should have died and slept and the nurses had forgotten about her and gone home and she had woken and wandered back to a place she knew and had given her rag doll a name and held it tight and waited.
She had waited and a white cockatoo had flown over and then a peewee and then a black cat walked past and all the while the baby had not died. she had found a shopping trolley and placed the baby it in.
Old women would look in on the child asleep in that trolley and gasp. they would say “oh what a beautiful…oooh it’s like just a rag doll, it’s an old man rag doll, you naughty girl, i thought you had a baby.”
She would sit on the steps of the stadium holding her baby and waiting for people to discard their food from the takeaway. she would feed her baby from the milk cartons and the wrappers and the baby grew and talked and ran through the vacant lots of the half torn down factories and she would let him run and run a run. faster than a welfare officer, faster than a policeman’s heavy boots, over the walls and down the steep concrete slops out through the drains and down to the over flow. they would met up again in the playground of the old railway station. where they would wait for the train and talk about where it would take them both, back to Camelot, back to Utopia. Next train Xanadu all aboard. They would giggle at the lateness of the train and talk about the tickets they had bought, First Class sleeper, Fist Class Cabin with complimentary drinks and caviar. they would talk about the satin pillows and the embroidered sheets and the black curtains that flicked the flashing lights of the passing towns away. her little raggedie little man with his old man’s face and button up shirt and faster than water legs and his big feet all tared and split like an old shoe.
This boy who looked like her stepfather and was supposed to die. he was taller than a gatepost and stronger than bike lock. he could run and jump away from trouble and disappear in the shadow and reappear whenever she sat down. holding out a prize he had found, a flower a book, a plastic toy on a plastic chain. his face had grown a beard like a unkempt park. all uneven and random, long or bare and deep pocks and lines on his brow and on his cheeks and scars on his chin and his eyebrows, On his own he slept like a discarded plaything, Together, they would lie with their arms around each other like an non pruned citrus tree. twisting and bowing and scraping and unconformable all in a great knot.
In the early hours of the morning Melanie climbed through the fence into the big yard. the grand house at the end other end of the garden was stone and three storied. it’s lights flicked through the trees and twinkled like a jeweled rock. In the garden she knew where all the fruit was. she listened for the flying foxes screech with pleasure and followed their joy and the sent of falling ripe fruit. in the soft light she’d pick up berries and mangoes, mandarins, oranges. and bananas. in season there were custard apples, guavas, pomegranates, and passionfruit. she and the boy would eat til they could chew no more. load a bag with more and lie on the wet benches or under the pergola.
All his life he had no name, she had been told he would die and there seemed little point to naming a dead boy. she called to him “boy o” and he would come like wave up a beach. But now as he got older he was and she had become more like a dead person an he more like a ninja she called him Monkey.
They sat in the shadows of the big house eating bananas, bits of bananas that the fruit bats had eaten and bits that fell on the ground. they had no cares, no home no shelter no fridge only bananas. they held the still night in their arms, quiet, peaceful and abundant. The fruit bats had flown away because of their presents, the air was still and full of darkness. She told Monkey that she had a vision, a dream of the future. she held his hand and said “in time you will have more than you need, more than you can think of to use, a water fall of gold and wealth will pour over you like a flood. you will float away on the river of wealth like a drowning man. you will float like a life raft, like a shipwrecked sailor. every where you look will be gold and money and wealth and no matter how hard you try you will not be able to get out of the wealth.
Monkey held his breath, his face was squished up and he panted out a breath out than in. He pulled his shirt over his head and threw a banana at the tree.
Melanie and Monkey laying in the wet grass.
just then a light shone across the grass. and a man with dog came through the trees. ” i thought you were possums, glad you are people, and a little one, it’s ok i’m not going to hut you. just scaring the possums. ”
the dog wagged its tail and made for the boy who jumps up the tree.
“oh he scared you, he wont bite, just wants to lick you and find food, that’s all”
Monkey came down the tree and the dog sniffed him and gave a lick and lent against him.
My name’s Rommel
the man’s face was distorted as if he’d had a stroke. his bottom lip bulged as if it had been punched and his eye lids sagged down in a permanent sad looking way. he looked incredibly old, but his body was youthful and straight.
He put the torch down on the ground and it shone in no particular direction.
“truth is I been watching you, got cameras up at the house and seen you coming and going, it’s ok, i don’t mind, better you eating the fruit than the possums.”
Rommel sat down on the iron seat.
“i got something you might want.” he reached into his bag
“have you had one of theses?” “it’s a paw paw, got them going well up new the house but have to keep an eye on them. ”
he pulled out a knife and sliced the fruit into long thin boat shapes, flicked the seeds out and handed one to Melanie.
“You want some?” he gestured to the boy. Monkey held out his hand.
“there you go young fella”
The three of them sat delicately eating the paw paw.
“what’s the boy’s name?”
They all sit silently.
“you want to know how i got my name?” ” came back from the deserts of Afghanistan, my patrol got hit by an IED, a bomb” “two dead another one lost a leg. I was luck just got it in the face, before that i was pretty ugly. ”
“in rehab i got called Rommel cause i came out of the desert. my real name is Barry but i kinda like Rommel. It suits me now never liked the name Barry.”
“his name is Monkey”
“Monkey heh, now that’s a cool name. wish i had a cool name like Monkey”
“I got some more paw paws in my bag, I’ll leave them for you here on the seat.”
with that said Rommel got up and went to leave.
“I’ll leave some other stuff here on the seat from time to time, just don’t go into the green house, it trips the alarm..”
and he was gone.
Monkey held his head in his hands. he pulled his lip down and made a face like Rommels, pulling his lip sideways and his left hand side into a tight squint.
“he had a face like that, but he was nice wasn’t he.”
The next day the rain came down and the two of them trudged on along the wet train tracks.
a crow sat on the platform as if waiting for a train.
The wind was full of heavy mist now and they climbed into the old station and under the awning and held the plastic bag from their bag around them.
It was cool but not cold and the day had a thickness to the air.
Melanie coughed into her hand. a cough as little as the flap of a bird’s wing. In her hand she could feel moisture. She looked down and was surprised by the red dot on her palm. she wiped it with her other hand and it spread like a brush stroke. She pushed her lips out and looked across at Monkey. he held her gaze. They both knew what that red dot meant. like it was a x on a door.
They sat closer, Monkey fidgeting with a loose thread on Melanie’s dress.
The crow came closer in away from the edge.
on a far away track a train traveled past. It sounded urgent and forceful. unstoppable. In the wind was a smell of dirt. it ground the skin and clogged the nose. it felt like sand being blasted into the face.
a plastic wrapper formed around a post clinging to hold on, wet and tenaciously.
Melanie again looked at her hand. the red mark had dried darker.
four young boys round the corner. they look at the woman and one throws a bottle and it smashes at her feet. “What are you looking at you bitch.”
“oh go get stuffed” Melanie screams at the boys.
Monkey climbs onto the roof and picks up rocks and trows them with great accuracy at the boys. They duck and run and he climbs back down and picks up the bag that had dropped to the ground.
when she was a girl she used to play under the house, hide there while the fights were big, hide a midst the foundations, hear the floorboards shake and bounce. hear my father throw down the rage like an earthquake.
Hear her mother crying and screaming and begging and pleading.
Hear the silences that were as bad as the screaming, know that someone had been thrown down like a sack. hear the door slammed and the windows rattled and the plates fall. see the neighbors’ curtains pulled shut against the raw display of rage.
Stay home from school with bruising and shame. Stay home for want of a pencil or lunch. Stay home for fear of neglected shoes or cloths. Pick her way through a picture book with pages missing and soiled from just being in the same house.
She would sit at her window and play with fly’s trapped in the corners of the glass.
she would look at the world outside, watch the deliveries and the people going up the street and back again. watch the mothers pushing prams and holding the hands of toddlers and people walking dogs and riding bikes and driving cars. watch as if it was her trapped inside with the flys, that the glass trapped stuff. that the world was outside the cage and that she was never allow out there.
she breathed in the mildewed air. the dust, the grime on the glass. the fly specs, the cockroach wings. the split beer, left over food scraps. she would hold the smell in her nose and take it in.
her mother would sulk about like a prisoner, move from the shadows to the bathroom. close the doors with a soft touch that disturbed no one.
At 14 she fled out of the house one day knowing that she would never return. she stayed up all night. she walked between houses and took cloths from the line and money from the cars in the driveway and she walked into the city.
She stayed under a food van parked on the side street. she followed the suns rise into the park and lay in the sun on the play ground. she had bright clean cloths on and she had changed the smell inside her nose. she saw a man in the park who asked her if she wanted some of his coffee.
she wanted to say no but he had a warm coat and a friendly firm hand and she sat opposite him and drank from his cup.
he placed his hand on hers and said drink it all i can buy another one later.
It warmed her deep down and she slid loosely into her new cloths like a snake in a new skin.
he led her down a street and into a ground floor flat.
Lie down if you like he said. have a rest.
there’s a shower, i’ll make some breakfast.
want some pancakes, with cream or ice cream.
her new snakes skin felt just right. as if she had slipped into a new body.
taken over a new person. she went into the shower but left the door wide open. She dropped her new cloths on the floor and turned the water on full and stepped inside. the water washed away even more of her old skin, washed away the layers of dirt that formed like a crust against her. fell down like a seed pod opening up revealing a new seed.
she washed and washed and watered herself as if her skin was drinking like a camel ready for a desert walk.
her eyes were shut and her hair was flowing down her shoulders and her back looking like a big shinny black rock.
she felt a hand across her lower back she stayed still as a deer. the hand moved across and back again all soapy and smooth. it slid like a skater on ice. dancing here dancing there touching her new body for the first time. for the first time she had been touched and felt what it was like to have her body had been noticed. her inside wanted to jump out and meet her new body. she wanted to turn herself inside out and say hello to her new self. to calm herself down and say it’s ok we are going to be alright together.
The hand slid with random precision between here and there and nowhere. as if it had places to go and yet now place in particular to be.
suddenly there were two hands then a warm body wet and soft holding her entire body, taking the place of the old seed pod, taking the place of the mud, taking the place of the cockroach wings and fly specs. coating her in an armor against beatings, against poverty, against neglect and against humiliation. this firm warm wet soapy body working like a soft glove against the world. then just as suddenly she was taken, shaken inside out like her outside and inside were both the same thing. she didn’t resist she knew it was necessary to become a new being. she let the water and the hands and the body twist her inside out and she kept hold of the idea that she would never go back. never be able to fit inside the body that she had been. knew that she was now and for ever a new person.
There was a bed and a warm quilt, and Melanie lay down on top. stretched out like a full cat, pretending to be warmed by the sun that wasn’t shining. She lay with one hand up to the sky and one down to the bed. taking in and protecting herself at the same time.
In the corner of the far room Alex sat smoking a drug pipe. wafting smoke into the air like a small stationary train stuck at the station. the smoke billowed around his face and hair and head blurring the edges of his features, making it all a bit out of focus. He puffed and puffed, smoke coming out his nose and mouth and entering his space, attracted like mist on a pond. no matter how hard he puffed the smoke slunk round his face wrapped in a veil.
Tall Alex sat small in his chair, subdued and settled by the smoke. Alex, she could tell, was younger than 30 with handsome broad hands and thinning face made more angular by his goatee beard irregularly planted on his chin like a badly sown crop brought on by irregular and uneven rain.
an athletic body slightly shrunk over large bones. cling wrapped skin protruding over a healthy carcass of a man.
His bandanna enclosed the tops of his ears and his forehead. Red and white and dirty with use it arranged like a bandage around his head, hemorrhaging from within with a split watermelon look. Melanie lay with her head sideways, and partly upside down looking at Alex, changing the image, processing the things she saw with what she knew he would look like if right way up.
Alex noticed her looking and gave her a wink or a half eye falling shut and opening again. his head went lower as if the weight of his eyelid overwhelmed him. The smoke carried him out of his chair and over to her bed.
“here try some”
he held the small pipe to her lips and relit the pipe which cracked and spat like a toffee cooking on a pan.
It was like nothing Melanie had ever inhaled before. it raced through like a non stop roller-coaster going through her veins. It surged to the ends of her fingers and then made a mad dash back to her heart crashing through and down her legs. and up through her brain. she lay still for fear her body might be ripped apart and scattered if she altered the course of the ride. Over taken by woken dream a new world or rediscovered vision of the once ordinary. Her body no longer had pain or limits or anything. she had become the universe and the universe had become her.
eventually she fell into a coma that was a border-less frontier expanding out with every way it could be taken.
it was beyond thinking, it was pointless to try and understand or perceive what or where or who she was. She was riding a thousand horses all going at different speeds in different directions. her past was like a small misprinted add on in the front of a library of books. a small page of a story that had now been consumed by an ocean of books, their pages let lose on the wind. Her story, all sadness and damp fell away into this glow of warmth and happiness and color and pace. she sank deeper into the bed.
at some point in the night Melanie drifted to the bathroom and vomited from deep within. it was like a release of everything that had sat stagnant within her. building like a sediment it flushed out her mouth with the pleasure of an escaping felon trapped in a prison cell.
It its place she filled the void with an expanse of understanding, forgiveness and love.
she was never going back.
In the morning she woke with the curtain’s smell brushing insistently on her nose, urging her to move or be taken over. she walked to the kitchen to see Alex drying dishes and pouring coffee and making breakfast at the same time.
“want some?” he said noticing her and motioning toward the cup.
“you slept well got worried.” You’ve never had any of that before.”
Melanie took the coffee and sipped it.
“want toast only got butter, might be a bit of jam” Alex opens a jar and looks deep into it and shakes his head.
“maybe not, just butter”
“we had a bit of fun last night, eh, heh i don’t even know your name. Mine’s Alex” he said holding out his hand to shake.
Melanie put the coffee down and pushed the toast to the side and took his hand in hers
“Melanie, sounds a bit like melody. I like that like a song. Melody.”
Alex sniffs in his nasal phlegm,”anyway i got to met some bloke” he scratches his shoulder and rubs his goatee, what you doing? want to met up again later? ”
“you kinda can’t stay here cause the land lord might freak” he rubs his goatee again and pulls his face up like he’s eat something bad. “you understand. look he’s five bucks. to buy… something. If you want to hock up again i’ll met you in the park later.
Melanie walks to the door and Alex goes out first looking around like he’s checking for snippers.
“Ok” he says “I’ll see you later maybe”
he bends down and gives her a misdirected kiss on the side of her nose.
“it was fun last night, look I probably shouldn’t have done what i did last night. but you didn’t mind did ya? Had to happen some day. I like you I didn’t think much about you but now that we kinda did it together. It’s cool eh. Look i really got to go I gotta go and, you know. Catch you later. ok.”
With that and the door locked and the direction of his look Alex walked into the morning toward the sun. Melanie walked in the other direction not cause she knew where she was going but because she knew where she was not going. she walked several paces and stopped and watched as Alex walked up the street his thin bones protruding through his black leather look pants and his shirt tied in a front knot to reveal a dark jumble of tattoos running round his back like a page of abandoned doodles.
She watched as he skipped between cars, across the street at the top of the hill and down a lane and out of sight.
Melanie walked with a light slow step down the other way. as if she was as much slowing her decent as causing it.
She felt as if she had landed on this planet for the first time and was noticing the similarities but also the differences to her old planet. The air was different the sun on her face and her body was lighter on this planet like the ground had it’s own spring and all you had to do was head in a direction and it would take you there like a Segway ride.
Melanie was wide eyed at this new world and it was pleased to see her. her new cloths were lose and bright and her body was warm and taller. she came to a shop and looked in it was a cafe of sorts, like book store with things that hung down in the window that you could eat or use or look at. It seemed even the shops on this new planet were different. She kept looking in the window finding a new focus. it was bright and mouth-watering at the same time. On the foot path there were tables and chairs and people eating and talking on mobile phones and she smiled at a lady in white track pants and tight blue top. Just a small smile like a “I’m new to this planet” kind of smile.
The woman smiled back, half trying to establish if they knew each other.
“Hi” the woman in blue said. “i like your top” said Melanie
“thanks, i like it too. do i know your name?”
“I’m Sara, nice to met you, you waiting for someone? you want to have coffee?”
“yeah that would be nice” the woman motioned to the staff inside
“I’ll have another macchiato” she looked at Melanie for her order
“me too” she said not knowing how to even say it let alone know what it was.
The woman pushed her toast to the middle of the table have a piece. “It’s raisin toast. I really shouldn’t have two slices.”
Melanie nibbled the edges like a careful rat.
the two sat looking at each other smiling for no good reason than the sun was shinning and they were sharing a table and some toast. The coffee came out and they sipped from the tiny glass and nibbled and smiled some more.
“you look so happy, as if you’ve just heard good news, i don’t see that many happy people these days around here.”
Melanie nodded and let the bitter coffee roll onto her tongue and around her mouth.
As if it couldn’t get any better the coffee lifted her thoughts and brightened her mood even more.
“you live around here?”
“i didn’t, but i do now, sort of, just moving in”
“nice, i have been here too long” she looked across the street as if she were looking far far away tryng to see a ship far at sea. “i’m juts about to leave, I hope It hasn’t been working for me lately, time for a change.
Melanie nodded. “me too”
“Change is good, never hurt anyone, well that’s not really true is it.”
they both laughed
“you look kinda young, if you don’t mind me saying.”
Melanie sensed a coldness if she thought she was talking to a child
“yeah i get that a lot, i just look young. I just turned 18, yesterday”
“oh” the woman said knowing it was probably not true but thinking it maybe was. “well happy birthday for yesterday.Well you’ll be thankful for that little trick as you get older”
“just makes it hard now, getting stuff, you know. people think i’m just a kid.”
Sara smiled. “we never get to the age we want to be. either too old or too young”
” I’m sitting here with you, you young thing, and my friend has just told me she’s found someone else someone younger. ” You know what i’m pissed off about? It’s the fact that I’ve wasted all that time with her, to find out that she liked me for my age. that’s the piss off.”
Melanie didn’t understand. “she”
“oh yeah, i kinda thought you could tell, by the way you looked at m, not that you should be able to tell, well i’m making this more awkward than it should be. yeah I’m, you know., a lesbian.”
Melanie knew what a lesbian was but she had not ever really met one for sure.
“oh, that’s cool I was just, I just assumed you had a boy friend.”
“not for a long while, my last boyfriend was when i was, well your age.” sara rolled out her tongue and said “ugggh”
as if she was spitting out an invisible pea.
“sorry just not for me, i’m thinking that you have a boy friend. am i right?”
“sort of, kinda”
“yeah, relationships, do you have them or do you not have them? you never really know.”
“it’s never about sex you know. it’s about finding stuff out about who you are, catching yourself looking at the other person and saying I didn’t know that about you.and now i do and sharing”
“In the end it’s about. what would i know what’s it’s about, I’ve just been dumped.”
they sat silently both now looking out to the imaginary sea.
“it’s about taking you to a place you hadn’t planned to go and finding something that you like about yourself there.” said Melanie to the air.
“taking you to a new place eh. That’s the nicest thing you could have said”
She patted the back of Melanie’s hand. Melanie rolled her hand over like a puppy wanting it’s belly rubbed.
Sara lifted her hand in fright and looked into Melanie’s eyes.
Melanie kept her hand still and her eye fixed.
Sara breathed out. “this day just got a lot more complicated than i’d planned. you really want to complicated day?’ Sara said looking hard at Melanie.
“well just a little bit complicated” said Melanie “maybe”.
A Police car rolled slowly past.
Sara helped Melanie to her feet and they weaved their way between the tables onto the street street as the Police car sped up and drove away.
Melanie looked across at Sara as they walked, eyeing her like a newly found species. Sara felt encouraged by the attention and brightened her step. Sara touched her arm to direct her to cross the street and Melanie reached over to hold Sara’s hand. Sara stopped and was taken back by the gesture but squeezed it tight and crossed the street safely.
Sara and Melanie continued the hand holding all the way down to a long narrow high-rise where Sara fumbled for her bag and produced a single key and plunged it into the front gate lock. at a security pad Melanie watched as she entered the code and the door gave a buzz and click and they pushed on in.
They rode the lift in silence as the lift bumped against its rests.
“This is me” said Sara
inside was a large poster of a woman in a pink tango dress against a lilac wall. a long wooden bench ran the length of the wall filled with colorful glass vases and bird feathers of a range of colors and heights.
A small empty bird cage sits beside the feathers.
Inside the room as they enter is a yellow couch, a Mexican rug and blue standing lamp with gold fittings.
There is an abundance of color and objects, like color chart fitted to objects of different textures and shapes and sizes. The light from the window gives a contrast of shades and brightness and the outside is glarey and bleak in its sun washed monotone. Sara picks up a remote and music starts up filling the room so that not only the spaces are full but now the silence. Not unpleasant just full as if a space would be incomplete if there were a gap of any kind.
Melanie looks and looks around and closer. she picks up things with her eyes and puts them back, distracted by a new other thing.
Sara says” It’s cluttered I know, It’s not really my thing, my, friend has this need to have stuff, like, lots of stuff, I feel like i’m just more stuff in her life.”
“she’s just moved on and left me with this house full, like she’s shed her skin, I have what’s left she has a new skin.” Melanie knows how she feels.
Sara makes tea. she makes it in a tea pot in the shape of a cat sitting with it’s tail as the spout. and a raised front paw as the handle. The cat is back to front, like it’s pissing tea into the cup.
Sara make a movement. “yes I know, odd isn’t it. that was Lucy. odd. Psychotic odd. and he’s me a person who should have learnt. but didn’t”
“don’t get me wrong but I’m not sure about this.” she points to the two of them. “us”
“physical, you know, I’m an emotional ship wreck at the moment.” Sara sighs.
“me too, a bit” says Melanie. “i’m new to, everything.” I’m just excited to be out of where i was and i’m not going back i think”
“sounds like you’re at least on the boat, I’m still stuck at port waiting to leave.”
“so is any of this stuff yours?”
“well technically all of it. Lucy never paid for anything. she just wanted it all. including me, I was a gap in her life”
They both sat drinking tea. neither knew where this was going and why it had to go anywhere. they sat and sipped hoping the tea would construct a long enough pause in which to find out what to do.
” heh If you want any of Lucy’s stuff that she’s left, cloths and stuff you’re welcome to them. she’s about your size i think. ”
Melanie couldn’t think how many days ago she was sitting in a house waiting for the door to slam for the man of the house to come home drunk, or sober it didn’t matter. She was still coming down from being stoned and her first time with a man and now she was sitting in a safe place drinking tea with a woman old enough to be her sister who was bringing beautiful cloths out for her to try on and then give to her. she came out of the bathroom with each new outfit like a new model. The cloths were lose but well made and chic.
There was nothing working class or second hand or dirty or rejected or even worn. they all felt that they were just out of the bag new. they hung on her like fitted sheets, like a leaves on a tree, like cut grass in a lawn.
Just then there was a bang on the door.” open up, it’s me” the woman had an accent like a southern states of american accent Melanie had heard on the movies. Melanie thought it sounded dramatic like an actor playing a part.
” I thought you were never ever coming back”, It’s Lucy” Sara says to Melanie.
” look I’m sorry ok I made a mistake, damn it.”
“I’ve got someone here you can’t come in”
“that was quick, I’ve been away for a week. let me in. lets just talk.OK” she sounded more dramatic and pleading as if she was saying lines loud enough for the back row at the theatre to hear.
Sara looks at Melanie with her hands raised as if asking for forgiveness.
The first words Lucy said were “what’s that bitch doing in my cloths. and how old are you anyway ?” she directs at Melanie ” and i was the bad person going out with someone younger.”
“you left remember”
“oh I’d left dear and you found someone to take over, same size, same shape, same bed. I think you better leave. I want to talk to Sara alone” she said and folded her arms in a determined stance.
“you can’t just do that”
“do what? be in love with you and know that I’ve thrown everything away.” Lucy starts to cry, then sob then throw things across the room. “it’s just that i thought we had something and i came back to it and this is how i’m repaid. This.” she points at Melanie.
“you’d better go” Sara says apologetically.
” We never done anything, we’re not, anything, we were just trying on clothes. “
“my clothes I don’t want them back after she’s worn them. Here” she picks up all the clothes on the bathroom floor and puts them into a garbage bag. “put them in the garbage on your way out.”
“I’ll get you a cab”
“no need, I’ll just leave,
Melanie walks to the door and realises it’s night outside. she doesn’t know what time or really where she is but she walks into the night like a swimmer getting into cool uncharted water. Sara leds her down to the front gate. “sorry about this, I just don’t want you to have to see the scene she’s going to create. Maybe we’ll catch up for coffee again at Zars.” she kisses Melanie on the cheek then more passionately on the lips. “sorry” she says and turns.
The front gate shuts like a steel moat door.
Melanie stays put, the glimmer of street lights break through the night like a concentration camp watching for a prisoner’s escape. She walks the way she remembers she came. vaguely identifying the darkened versions of the daytime landmarks she paid no attention to. She gets to the coffee shop and sees it dim and abandoned without customers, light or sounds. lifeless.
Melanie stood looking inside trying to wish the start of the day to come. she didn’t know how many hours she had to wish for. it was like looking into an x-ray, seeing the skeletons of the shelving, the coffee machine, the tables and chairs stacked throughout. the random shadows and misshapes that an expert in cafe layouts could tell what was what but the untrained eye saw as blurry mistaken form that blended against the frame of the outside window.
Melanie put her hand into her pocket and produced a crumpled $5 note. marked by use and lack of use. she unwrapped it and displayed it’s uselessness to the world as if it were a message in a foreign language.
She turned around remembering how she came across the note but not exactly where Alex lived or where she had lived. she walked toward the top of the hill, knowing she had come down a long hill to get here that morning. she was thirsty, cold, and hungry. There was no one on the street, no cars, no dogs, no birds or life. A street light ahead of her popped and splinted onto the road in an ark of sparks set against the field of darkness.
it was like a falling star and she wondered should she make a wish.
find Alex’s place she thought to herself as if that were the best wish she could hope for.
In the side street she saw a light on a house that looked like the one she’d been in with Alex. A car pulled up outside and two men got out and stood still beside the rear doors. she froze under the darkness of the empty street light.
she watched as one man opened the car door and pulled something out. he struggled like pulling out an ill fitted roll of carpet. as it fell to the ground the man gave it a short kick, then another. Then they leaned over the heap on the ground talked in aggressive whispers, with the occasional word like cunt and fucked clear and formed and loud enough, then the two walked back to the car through a lit cigarette out and drove away.
She could see the form rise like a sculpture taking form from the bitumen. she could now see it was a tall thin man as he steadied himself against the street post and then the fence. She made out enough to see that it was Alex, probably Alex.
she slide her way to the man.
“Alex, it’s me.”
Alex bent round trying to defend himself from further attack as well as hold his side at the same time.
“Melanie, from yesterday” she said getting closer.
“oh fuck, I got fucked over, Fucking cunts.” he yells to the empty street.
Alex laughs, “cause they are stupid cunts. Think i have something that they want. Well they’re not getting any of it”
“you been waiting here?”
“no just well just lucky”
“I’m all fucked up i gotta get out of here, They’re coming back.”
he limps toward his door holding things on the way. Melanie walks beside him as one crutch.
at the door Alex looks around to the empty street then at Melanie.
“above the door way over there near that piece of wood there’s a key.”
Melanie pulls the key out from it’s space and opens the door.
“we got about an hour or two before they come back. we gotta get out of here. ”
Alex garbs some clothes and stuffs them into a back pack. he reaches behind a painting and gets a packet and pulls a small bag of money and a plastic bag of white smaller packets. “those cunts won’t get it if it ain’t here.”
“you got any money?” he turns to Melanie. she pulls the $5 out of her pocket again.
“your a good saver we may need that” he says taking it back from her.
There’s another bag, put your stuff in it if you’re coming with me. ”
Together they were packed, their whole life. his possessions were reduced to what fitted in a bag and her’s had expanded since this morning to fit in a bag.
Alex jammed the the drugs and his money down into his pants front and pulled a blunt looking kitchen knife out of the kitchen and placed it in his bag.
“never know when that might come in handy”
Alex went to the sink and washed his face of some of the blood. It dripped and ran like a new spring. he wiped it with an old towel and held it firm against his face.
“how do i look” he said holding his face at different profiles for Melanie to see.
He looked like he’d been punched, kicked and beaten. His lip was swollen and there was blood oozing from his ear.
“Fine, Ok” melanie assured him.
” I know a place we can go before these pricks come back.”
In the near dark of the squat. Alex found a sleeping bag and a pillow. He struck a match and lit some paper on the floor and flicked it into the fireplace. There was a flash of orange and red around the room and then it was dark again. Alex lite another bit of paper and this time he was able to find more and kindle it to a flame for a minute. The room was bare of furniture but had dark curtains mostly across the only window in the room. The walls were streaked with missing wallpaper and graffiti. There were empty bottles in a corner and piles of rubbish taking a random form in another.
“not a bad place to hang out” Alex announced. and he rolled out the sleeping bag and put his bag behind it. “if you cold you can get in but I’m just happy to lie on the carpet. ”
Alex pulled out a pipe and packed it and lit it so that the hiss and smoke and light sent uneven ghostly shadows through the smoke around the room.
“fuck em” he announced. he sat staring at the slightly drawn curtains.
Melanie was cold, hungry and tired. she sat shivering in her new cotton dress then pulled an outfit out of the bag she had of other cloths shed got from Sara.
she wrapped a dress loosely round her shoulders.
“here this’ll warm you up.” Alex held out the pipe for her and she put it gently to her mouth whilst he fumbled for a light. Again she sucked the sticky tarred drug into her mouth and again she felt it warm her through and lay her down into a dream of contentment.
This was the second stone she’d had in her life, both unplanned, unexpected. As if she were taking a cure for an illness she didn’t know she had and suddenly had found a transformation to wellness beyond belief. Found that she was taken out of her coma and into the new world.
This was better than before, now she rode the waves of illusion with experience and awareness. her fear and control had gone. she was now on the crest of a giant tsunami of light and sounds and vision all in her head. she sat staring at Alex, watching his face glow and flicker and change from orange to red to dark black. watching as he transformed racial features and body shape. going in and out of human and animal form and blending into and out of darkness.
There was a crackling sound and then a howling sound and the movement of light and sound and smoke and screaming and voices and she was asleep.
when she woke it was in the back of an ambulance, she was aware of the lights flashing inside against the walls. through the open door she could see fire engines and people scattered like a movie set, in place but without order.
A person was leaning over her, talking. His voice was clear but the words were bouncing off her without getting through. “Do you know your name?” of course i know my name she thought. i can picture everything about me and the name and who i was and where i was and where i’ve been and everything that has happened. Melanie stayed silent. “do you know where you live” I live here, in my body again a silly question.
“You were in a fire, you’ve breathed some smoke” yes i breathed some smoke from the pipe she thought.
Then the door was slide shut and the ambulance exploded in sounds of sirens and flashing lights and she was taken through a valley of passing street light and darkness.
she was rolling along still on this unfamiliar wave. on peaks and troughs with the waves breaking over her and through her and beyond her. taking her apart, separating her, then putting her pieces back together badly.
she let the wave take her and place her softly on the beach and there she stayed, asleep.
In the morning she could see out of the window that the sky and the trees had joined together to form a moving page across the glass. She could she another bed next to her, vacant, with tight sheets pulled around like a tight coat of thick paint.
she went to get up but her arms and legs wouldn’t give way to her thoughts. she looks across and saw that her hands and feet were strapped to the bed.
she let out the sound of a fox in a trap.
A woman in tight white clothes came up to her face. “settled down, eventually, i see.”
This is my life, strapped to a bed. yesterday i was homeless, bedless, today i am bed bound she thought.
The window was within reach and sight but not if you were strapped to abed. she looked and could imagine the latch being opened and looking down and stepping onto the ledge and beyond down to the concrete below. the final sound and ending being the cracking of her bones as they sumcumed to the strenght of the pavement.
She imagined her last thoughts like the cone of an ice cream that had landed wrong way up on a hot road surface and had melted leaving an askew point like a witches hat balanced on the pool of her body parts.
she wished she could break the straps and the gravity and the window and the life she had had to that moment and go back and start again. be reborn in another life form, another body, another planet, or time or place. To float like a gas and be mixed with other gases, scattered bits of atoms, dried like dust washed like sediment, eaten like flesh, her carbon burnt, her blood licked by dogs or ants or drying winds.
instead she lay here.
The nurse returned with a doctor.
they mumbled together. as if they were able to talk in their own lanugage.
“substance induced psychosis. a little bit of rest.” he said to her then turned and again spoke to the nurse in their special language.
a needle was produced and Melany was injected again.
In the next phase of her consciousness she noticed that it was night again. the window was black and the nurse was joined with others. The trolley she lay on was wheeled out to the room and through a series of corridors.
people were talking in high voices and screams in different states of unease or delusion as she past.
eventually she was taken into an operating room with high ceilings and black paddles were placed on her head. a rubber tube pushed into her mouth and she remembered nothing more but darkness. like her thoughts had been erased. not just her thoughts but her connection too thinking had gone.
she lay on the bed trying to work out what was the difference between her hers open and her eyes shut.
A face came close to her and she knew it was a face but not whoses or how she could find out.
she shut her eyes and opened them again. she could remember now that open was light and shut was dark. she made out that the face had things she knew about a face. the eyes and ears and nose and mouth.
her brain felt like a sponge that had been squeezed dry.
Open my hand she thought to herself. move my foot she thought and she did all that. that was all she could do. tell herself commands like a simple robot and watch herself react.
“you’re going to be released today” she heard a voice say.
“straight after breakfast. you’re out of here.”
A tray was brought and a table and plates and cups. later they were taken away. It all happened like a production assembly.
Melanie found herself being straightened and dressed and hair combed and her buttons done up and her shoes put on and being stood upright like a window display.
A man came to the bed. Ok time to sign some papers and your out of here.
suddenly she was standing at the front door with the light in her eyes and her bag limply held in her hand and moving off toward the sun as the door shut and she knew that was a place she didn’t want to be.
she shuffled down the street down with the direction of the slope. not knowing what the names of things were but recognising that she knew there shapes.
The street came to a point where she would have to go up not down hill and she stood challenged by the rise.
she sat down and a man came to her and said.
“I think i know you. You’re names Melanie isn’t it.”
when Melanie was 18 she found herself on the back of a motor bike going over a bridge. The lights of a siren screaming behind her. the sparks of the exhaust pipes hitting the roadway as they went round corners lit their past.
down city streets and lanes, through parks and over foot bridges.
Up the mountain road they went faster and faster getting to the point that the sirens were distant and soft. The bike pulled into a long driveway and turned the lights off. The rider grabbed Melanie’s leg and said “having fun?”
They put the bike on it’s stand and rolled down the grass that surrounded them.
At the bottom the man said, “i love chases, they never catch me, never.”
“It’s like i was a kid again and they are my brothers. they just can’t get close. It’s why i ride.”
“my brothers are all lawyers and judges, I love thinking they just want to get me and arrest me and lock me up and control me. I don’t want to be controlled, ever.”
“they want me to do stuff. like get a job in the system, I want to fuck the system. The system is a cage for tame birds. I am not a tame bird. I am a free bird. a bird that flies north or south or east or fucken west.”
“I don’t to be feed in a cage i want to go out and get my own food, shit on the heads of those below, fly to the top of the tree and land on the water’s edge.”
“I want to flap my wings in snow and dive through the water into the sea to catch fish and sit in trees surrounded by wild fermenting berries that i eat and get drunk from and fall out of the tree. ”
“i don’t want a fucken cracker and my names not fucken Polly.”
he lay on the ground moving his arms across the wet grass.
On the far hill flashing lights raced through the forest making shadows through the trees of red and blue.
This man, who was not a caged bird, had taken Melanie on a flight through the city with her holding tight against his slippery leather back. her tight beneath the line of his shoulders to protect her against the wind and the flying bugs made senseless by the light. with the sound of a song she’d remembered from youth taking the place of ideas. she gripped the pockets so tight that her knuckles went numb against the cold slap of breeze.
flying in formation.
Melanie had been happy for a whole year.
She was twenty five and she had been out of prison and institution for eight months. her skin looked healthy and the parole board had found her a job at the meat packing plant. her job was to put the pieces of meat neatly int the wrapper box and vacuum the plastic. she dreamed her way into the work. putting the meat down like laying a fairy into a bed. Placing a plastic sheet across it and tucking it in. thousands of fairies got tucked into bed. the company had never had such successful worker. never a tear, never a misplaced piece. never a piece short or a piece over packed.
She would come home exhausted and with a state of completion as if the world had been put in order. she had not a care in the world. her medication had been stabilized. her step father had been buried and she had gone and thrown dirt in his grave. more dirt than was needed. more dirt than others. she saw it flop down and bounce on the lid and had gone unstable as someone moved her on. taken her focus and her strength. she had listened to the eulogies and the sermon wondering if this was another man being buried to the hateful man she knew. But the photo and the reassurance that this was indeed her step dad helped her know that the dirt was correctly directed.
There was nothing that she could do now. there was no digging him up to check his features. to take the old man from the box and see if the palm of his hand fitted neatly across her face. To make him talk and say something belittling about who she was and what she’d done and make her run under the house or hide in a cupboard.
She flopped her way home, singing out of tune songs and beaming at the death of a ghost of past terror.
The darkness of the shadows held little fear and she stepped into their hidden traps.
into the dark long shadows she held no fear.
Into the light she held no caution. she crossed roads and climbed hills and went into tunnels all the way home.
At the boarder of a street lined with cars she waited for a bicycle to pass and the it turned round and came back into her sight.
“i know you. You remember me? Alex ? I was staying with you the night of the fire.”
his hands were in gloves and his arms were hidden by long sleeves.
I always wandered what happened to you.”
I fucken ran. what a night. I only just got out. glad to see you got out ok.
You live round here?”
“yeah up the road”
they talked and Melanie found that they were together all the way up the street and stood outside her place with him still talking.
“you want to come in?” she said
Alex had a small backpack which he laid down on the floor. watching it as if it were about to walk away.
Alex was a lot older now. he had a strap around his leg as if it had been bitten by a dog and fixed badly.
Melanie opened the fridge and offered Alex a drink. she made a dinner of spaghetti from a tin on white toast.
Alex opened up his bag and pulled out a pipe.
“you still into this?”
Melanie looked on excitedly remembering what the feeling was like to race ahead of the thoughts. she thought she might get her memory back.
the memories of things that happened to her that she had forgot the details and only remembered the thoughts like they were bundles of colored string all knotted together.
Once again she drew in the smoke and it all rushed in. filling her up like air in a jumping castle.
A complete inflated body of love.
she lay down and let Alex get beside her, his body was inside and on top and surrounding her.
she was outside her thoughts and never closer to some aspect that was like light coming from a bulb.
That was when Melanie finally got hooked. she knew that she was now a slave to the feeling. that she had what she wanted and no matter what it took she needed that in her life.
It was who she was. she was this love and even if she needed to do anything to get this feeling she would get this feeling when ever she could.
In the morning she went to work but the meat packing was not that important. her fairies need to make their own arrangements about getting lined up in their beds.
She had become someone who cared little about the world and what it was and more about the feelings that she could get any time.
The world had become a place in which to catch this bus. A transit lounge and a terminal.
Alex was ticket collector.
She remembers being very young and having her father giving her a ride on her shoulders high above the people below. she did not remember where they were or why but she remembers the first ride up high. the sensation of holding his hair and his head with her arms and hands and looking beyond people as if she were in a plane.
she remembers being feed by him. his giant fingers holding a piece of water melon cool from the fridge and sweet and her understanding that for the first time this sensation of eating of taste and texture. and knowing that it was from these giant hands that the taste was coming like a gift. like a reward for being alive and being in this place. she remembered the recognition in knowing that the face she was looking at was the one who had given her laughter and song and stories and recognised that this face belonged to those hands and that that chest all covered in hair and sweat.
she remembered his voice booming across the room, and getting closer and closer and quieter and she remembered feeling the hot breath coming out of his mouth. the smell of maleness and beer and deep warmth from way within him.
she remembered going to sleep in his arms and waking still in his arms with him snoring and still holding her like a cradle.
she remembered him scaring her with the roar of a monster and then crying cause he’d sacred her.
she remembered him using his shirt to wipe her nose. the smell of oil and dirt sending a gag through her.
she remembered him arriving home at night with a singing sound under his muffled voice like he was singing to himself and it was too strong and was escaping to the world. she could remember him holding her in his arms and talking to a neighbour over the fence and her squirming till he put her down, half dropped her onto the grass and into the bushes.
she remembered him holding out his arms to her as she swam in the cool water under a tree with a sandy bottom.
she remembered these things all scattered about like toys lying round a bedroom after a child had played with them. all scattered and with no clear reason to there place or relationship to each other all on top of each other or apart from each other.
all unrelated other than they had both him and her in the memory.
these memories that sat together like strangers on a bus with no connection to each other than where they had been seated and where they had come from. all these memories all going down a road all sitting next to each other or apart all nodding in agreement to the driver all saying nothing and seeing the view out the window from different parts of the bus. all playing there parts or being witness to the journey but independent of it’s purpose.
These pickup sticks of recollecting. and then just as if the game had been thrown out the window, put in the garbage. she had no memory of him. as if the blinds were shut the windows drawn, the door closed.
she remembered only the big car coming up the driveway and parking half across the lawn as if it had lost it’s way.
Two men in long black coats and floppy dark hats walked to the door and knocked and she could make out from the upstairs window the men bowing their heads and looking down and then entering the house and the house filled with screaming and then crying and the men holding her mother and the men making phone calls as if they owned the place and the world never letting her see he father ever again.
She remembered the dark morning getting dressed with old women who she didn’t know dressing her stiffly, pulling her arms to fit into and under tight places. doing up bows and briskly brushing hair and shining shoes and putting on lipstick which she had never worn before and powdering her face and spraying perfume over her like a small grown tree.
These old women who she didn’t know who called each other by their first names but called her child. and snapped bands of elastic belched from both ends and brushed her down like a stray dog in need of a home.
They called to each other as one would leave the room and tsk tsk at something the other had said or the clothes the other had chosen. and coats were put on and taken off and belts were put on and tightened and loosened and pulled higher or lower for no reason she could tell. and she remembered the church and the darkness of the high ceilings going on into the distance like an inverted hole.
She remembered being held standing as a group of men carried a wooden box down the long aisle and out the door.
later she remembered sitting on a plastic chair beside a deep hole in the ground with fake green carpet and a man in a white dress talking while the other men lowered the box into the ground. then she remembered all the people putting dirt on the box in the ground and she thought how odd that such a fine wooden box should be buried in such away.
she looked up into the light coming through clouds and the trees, the birds jumping from branch to branch in the misty light rain.
The she remembered an old woman holding her hand tightly and leading her quickly away.
That was it. that was her father. That was like an introduction on a speed dating site. She knew she would have to hold onto those memories because she could never remake them. she even struggled with the idea that maybe she was forgetting things that happened and that she was inventing new things to take their place. she would go over and over the memories like a favourite record played until the grooves were cut deep and the sound was distorted and the song was clearer in the head than it was in the sound.
she could know what a good father does with a child and know she liked it and know that it was worth putting away in the memory. and she also knew that there were things that started happening that she put deep in a vault in her memory, dark secrets that she had experienced that could not be forgotten and had to be moved to a basement room and covered with old rugs and boxes. memories that oozed out from beneath those rugs across the room and into cracks and holes across her mind and seeped into her thoughts from time to time. sticky thoughts with taste and smells that would get onto and into every waking moment. no matter how much you walked around the mess you would eventually step into the mess and it would follow on your footwear everywhere you walked. she knew from an early age that this was what the opposite of what she had had with her father. That this was like a deep pool of oil that reflected goodness but was tacky and desperate to invade her.
She would lay on her bed and into the night would come these oily slicks, rolling her over and covering her no matter how hard she tried to stay clean. In the morning these oily monsters would transform into old men with shaking hands and stiff voices that asked how you slept and offered money to buy lollies.
These old actors, taken from TV and thrown over her like old blankets to keep out goodness.
keep out the warmth of good love.
These wet smelly blankets all oily and sticky thrown off yet unable to be removed.
Her mother would drag these old blankets home stuck to her legs like old banagages.
Sometimes they would be the same old one brought home night after night until one day it was settled and a big man with an open wound in his heart came in and never left. she imagined his chest seeping out dried gunk as if it were a hole in a tank full of sewage.
He would hold her head under the tap until she blacked out and she would have to say she was sorry.
she had to say what ever he said she had to say like she were a reluctant puppet. like he had lost the ability to say things and she had to say them on his behalf.
Her mouth was used to be his excuse for his thoughts and his deeds. Say you’re sorry. what are you smiling about? did you leave the milk out and now it’s been knocked over? why have you got no clean clothes?
Have you been stealing money from my wallet?
She learnt to hide her face, to hide if she was smiling, smirking, looking pleased with herself, looking like she owned the place, like she had the cream like a cat, like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, like she had the last pice of cake.
She learnt to hide tears, to hide sobs, to not look like she wanted something to whinge about.
She hid her face and her thoughts and used the words that he wanted her to use and the places he wanted her to be and the coming when she was called and going when she was not and the hiding under the house for fear of not getting her face right, her words right, her movements right, her place in the house right. she hide and she put her outside self deep inside her self behind a deep thick curtain of skin held tight across her face.
Not an eyebrow, or a shoulder twitch or a lip curled up or a nostril flared out.
for 10 years she learnt to hide.
It was only when she ran from home. walked calmly from home on a warm spring morning that she was able to find bigger places to hide. bigger places to walk into the field of people and still be hidden inside her skin.
keep her face covered with her skin, her still lips her unmoving nose her unblinking eyes and her thought deep within her. her good thoughts and her dark secrets.
All trapped inside swarms of competing insects in a tight dark jar.
All buzzing with activity and urgency trying to get to the exits and being held trapped. all bumping into each other not knowing if they were part of each others business or not.
She was trapped within. her promises to herself became who she was. silent, calm detached from engagement. friendless. and that’s when she met Alex in that park.
his own trapped nervousness. his brain letting words escape from his mouth and his quiet gaze at the same time.
His tall frame all held up and together with ill fitting bones all poked into a sac of skin.
Alex was a man mirror of herself. aged and dismembered and reassembled into this unnatural shape and form.
She knew that Alex was as imperfect as she was. as trapped inside his outwardness as she was.
When she was with him that first time it was like being pulled apart by an inside out bystander on an alien planet.
his hands and his body molded her like a clay model and reassembled her back into the form she could now take.
The smoke from the drugs just helped to flush out any residual insects trapped inside the dark jar.
Alex had turned her into a new shape to which she was made up of bits and pieces of the old.
There was bread on the table being eaten by cockroaches.
She was hungry and the cockroaches scurried away but she looked at the bread and thought that she wasn’t that hungry.
she went back into her room and put a coat on.
Alex was lying on the bed his head open at the mouth like a badly put together puppet.
she grabbed his pants and pulled some change from under a flap.
as she entered the shop she could see there was a line up of people queuing.
She went to the far corner and opened some biscuits and ate several. then she put some cheese sticks down her pants.
At the counter she waited in line and bought some milk and placed the money neatly in a pile.
anything else the shop keeper said.
Just the milk.
what about down your pants.
at that Melanie ran from the shop.
around the corner she ate the cheese and drank some of the bread.
Back home she knew there would be no sharing of the cheese sticks.
She walked in the house and she could smell Alex. he was like an animal smell even after he washed. it was like he smelled the same inside and out.