Barbara runs into me at the rocks by the north quay ferry. She’s getting off and I’m taking my time. We say, ‘Hey,’ in uncertain cadences like chastened children forced to make nice after a fight. It was never so hard before. She looks at my shoes and the stairs and the rocks and the sky and all the spaces where something might be that isn’t me. There’s no silence in the city. Pointing away, I tell her, I’d better go, but she’s already a few steps above me. Indirectly she says, ‘Nice seeing you,’ and continues her ascension.
Beyond the flesh I miss her mind, or moreover her presence now in absence. In cerebral invasion I envision this floating thing, like an orb unmoored by gravity, a hovering visage flitting and forming simple actions and single lines, slices of time that, like scientific slides, cut a swatch of understanding from the whole. I guess you could say, the soul, but it’s divorced from dogma and drawn in cotton watercolour. Well, whatever the render, it’s what it represents. Memories and summaries that somehow draw a person in relief. Beyond the flesh. Beyond belief. Totally occupied by her vagrancy.
Sometimes I take cigarette breaks I don’t really want just so I have a good reason to be alone. A lifetime of tiny deaths seem worth the price of a little isolation. It’s not that I don’t like people but I don’t want to be around them when the cost of even the best interaction is deep and swiftly taken, leaving me shucked. It’s nobody’s fault but mine maybe, for feeling myself so seperate from the rest. Sometimes I just need a minute, to recalibrate, breathe, and become human again in my own way. One day I’ll give up.
Once year I smash a bottle of Southern Comfort on the ground. She would hate that, I hope, it was her favourite and her favourites were sacrosanct. The pleasure it gives me is short but large though largely without solace. I look at the shards and sticky liqueur and say it’s a metaphor, that it’s symbolic. I say that, but it’s not, it’s wasteful, scattered thoughts, passions, anger and obsession. I hurt myself in ways she would love and say it’s expression. Of what I don’t know, but once a year I smash a bottle and remember being broken.
One hundred seventy eight square centimetres of contact from shoulder to shin. Palm to palm, forty six when pressed flush. A rush of blood in a minute round trip, tip to tip, past the heart. Two spoons, one big, one little, hard held in tapered flesh. The breaths are a current across neck and shoulder atomic flecks that rise and blend with periodic heat, see oh two, particles mixed and settling into concentration. Presupposed adipose tissue with no limp lipids is crackling with kinetics, so rate of force is of course glorious and love is the result-cum-catalyst.
When you write a sigh it loses its subtlety, becomes less than punctuation or something strong as a sentence, turns sassy like irony or onomatopoeia. Sigh. So audibly versatile. It could be exclamation or ellipses, exasperated and punchy or forlorn and drawn, but give it textual context and it dries on the page. Sigh with rage. I wish things were simply what they meant and often lament their transmutative action for lack of explanatory traction. I wish a sigh on paper or in aether would have it’s meaning be clearer than being heard in the head or merely read.
Neither of us cries and the air grows thick with precipitation. In times of drought, I tell her, people of the Balkans would pray to Perperuna, a ceremony and god, Pagan in principal. She was the goddess of rain. A little smile breaks, as sunlight does, and penetrates the cloud. ‘Does this mean you would dance for me?’ For you, yes, but not for rain, I say. Naša dodo Boga moli, my aim would be to stave the storm. ‘Then start,’ she tells me, ‘and let us both enjoy the sun.’ We hold hands and move to warmer climes.
In bed with my stuck headed ways, thinking about lie and lay, ley line, lain, lei, lion and lying, dying linguistic miseries over and again. I want silence, stillness, but there’s still no release when these troupes of tropes traipse for days in lackadaisical ways through the malaise of my brain. Like, why is and y in Spanish when et is and in Latin too. Do you see? ¿no o si? Maybe it’s just me, or the inner eye that’s seen too much. I guess oui? Maybe we’ll never know, or maybe I need to give me a rest.
I buried my face in your pillow till I’d nearly suffocated with your scent. Parts of the house move on their own without you. I’d not realised how full your stewardship was, how your body kept the creak and decay away. I breathe you in again and talk to the fibres. All they tell are ghost stories and promises, richly woven but lacking comfort. The nightbirds skylark and the panes rattle; midnight sounds abound. I am deaf, I tell them, and dream of losing myself in your memory. In some other elsewhere I know you smile upon the world.
I perform a thousand compulsions every day, inexplicable obligations to unnecessary notions. My mind forces me into tired retreads of circular ruts, fourth, fifth, and sixth repetitions, wanting to assuaged suspicions in the wake of existing confirmation. I know what I know doesn’t go anywhere, but certainty fades to febrile dusk and shimmers painfully on the fringes of ephemera and unlikelihood. I close my eyes, open my mind, and dive. Deep inside the world swirls and I, lost to potential, die a little as everything that never was and everything that could ever be roils away inside of me.
She falls asleep while I talk about my issues and I keep going because I can’t afford therapy. I wish I had more happiness to share, I say, but I can’t remember anything. She growls softly from beyond and I stroke her hair. Everything nice includes you now and the other things are someone else’s life, like episodes from an out of syndication show. I can’t hold on to the past anymore. I know it’s time to stop when she shifts and nuzzles into me, so I put out the light and try to meet her there in dreams.
The front of my head is a dam for tears and the stress is intense. When I move my skull I can feel the pressure shift and slosh and threaten to spill. I struggle desperately to quell the flow, thinking of the runoff and overflow. All those wet inhabitants dealing with the collateral. Why should they suffer because I wasn’t able? So I shore myself up, constantly building bricks out of vice and mortar in pestilent habits between so the cracks stay unseen and the rocky foundations seem stable when viewed from afar. I keep it together for them.
I don’t know if it’s universal but her love for me feels unique. Certainly my situation is idiosyncratic. You see, historically I’ve always paid for love — one way or another, up front or in arrears, I always get given the cheque. Love meant pain, time and again, but, like air, I needed it to live. Though I didn’t live well. Breathing in a smoggy hell made from human machination, I never knew what purity was or that it only cost more love. Now I am spoilt, Midas in perpetuity surrounded by wealth I have to learn that I deserve.
I grab my towel before turning off the shower and make fully one sweep before realising I’m not dry. There’ve been a lot of these off key incidents lately, miniature self-sabotages that must surely be a result of absent mindedness if not just metaphysically pimpled manifestations of a clenched inner discord. Clumsy volcanos erupting in stubbed toes and throes of heroic social misconduct through semiotic mistranslation. The whole thing reeks of a vaudeville vortex with no comedic payoff. So I turn off the shower and shiver, waiting for the air to dry me like some kind of jerky.
Six stories up in the middle of the night there’s an owl in my house. ‘It’s actually a frogmouth,’ Arris says, ‘tawny.’ Sat at the head of the dining table, still as old growth in variegated shades of eucalypt bark. It stares at us with deep amber jewels, calculating our worth from its strange stoic perch. A partner waits from the balcony, on guard for prospects and threats. ‘They mate for life,’ I hear. Arris takes my hand and we breathe in the night together. I want this to be good luck, I tell her, reading signs of life.