Sunday, February 17, 2019

Fucktangent Wicking Water

Continued from Why Big Sister Loves What Little Sister Hates

Someone was losing their shit and it wasn't in Number 3. The sounds of objects being hurled across the room were well within earshot of anyone sitting on the stairwell and the foul language clearly audible to a small boy sitting on the steps waiting for his dad to come home.

"Fucking things . . " A female voice was going off tap. "$150 bucks for you cheap ass pieces of shit. Water wicking capability I'll be damned. Slimming . . .lose 2 kilos in a week . . that's some bullshit right there."

The door from the middle apartment on the first floor opened with a flamboyant jerk as a scrunched black chunk of fabric is hurled across the hallway, narrowly missing the small boy with pen and paper in his hand and unravelling just centimetres before the front doorway.

"Good riddance..." mumbled the voice before slamming her front door so hard that the dried flower wreath adorning it's knocker smashed to the floor, papery petals drifting like airborne feathers down the hall.

Apparently, these super high tech leggings were supposed to speed up fat loss, flatten your stomach, reduce muscle fatigue, smooth cellulite, and moisturize your gams all that the same time. Sound like something you'd never want to take off?

Alicia Channel had fallen for the hype - and it wasn't the first time. She'd struggled with dieting, hated exercise and these seemed to be the panacea to her woes. Protein Bars twice a day and a salad of kale and egg would drop 2 kg a week. The Keto Diet would render her svelte just by dropping carbs like hot potatoes. In fact, the lashings of butter and cream atop her evening meal had helped her gain an extra 4kgs coverage on her already portly frame. That vibration plate that you stand on for 20 minutes a day would not only help her tone her core but also drop the flab. Of course, none of them had worked. She was still 160cms tall and weighed 75 kilos.

Now, she'd spent a small fortune on magic pants and failed to see the results despite complying with the company suggestion to wear them for eight hours a day, six days a week.  The leggings' fabric fibers supposedly contained microcapsules filled with copaiba, which the manufacturers had warranted would tone and moisturizes, red algae, to stimulate fat burning, and sophora japonica, to render skin smooth and soft. When worn, the friction between the leggings skin breaks open the microcapsules and disperse these ingredients. Yes, Alicia was a gullible person. She hadn't lost weight and was now suffering from a red itchy rash. Probably an allergy to sophora japonica, whatever that was.

It wasn't just the Fucktangent tantrum over a pair of water-wicking leggings that branded her a bimbo. She'd spent a fortune on infomercial products because some celebrity had promised results and despite years of disappointment habitually watched the shopping channel. She had knife sharpeners that didn't sharpen, hair straighteners that didn't straighten, skin creams and lotions that simply didn't do anything for the tiny crows feet dancing around her blue eyes and lip plumpers that did nothing for the small smoker's cracks on her thinning upper lip.

After standing against her door and taking a few deep breaths, she realised that the tantrum was probably a little over the top. Especially since it had been witnessed by her neighbour's boy. She also realised that the pants had cost her $150 after all, and were in too good condition to leave languishing in the hallway. She sheepishly headed into the hallway to retrieve them, spying the small boy on the steps as she did.

"Hey Rolly, sorry about that kiddo. Just got a little frustrated."

Rolly was head down and doodling, trying to ignore the rather blustery woman who tended to over fuss whenever he was around.

"You waiting for your dad? You on your own? How long have you been sitting out here? Why don't you have a key?"

The boy looked up briefly from his doodling and smiled. 

"Do you want to come into my place. I just baked some cookies?"

Rolly politely declined, "It's okay, thank you. I have a muesli bar and I'll be talking to Alex in a minute."

Without paying any particular attention and the tension of the tantrum diffused, she strode past him to retrieve the black bundle and stroked his hair as she returned. 

"Well if you change your mind, just knock.I'm always good for a chat and would love to know what you and your Dad have been up to."

She always considered herself an empath but basically she was the nosey tenant. The one who wanted to know everyone's business and of course to pass on the business of others. She was the gossip of Sanctuary Gardens and an absolute sponge for chatter, soaking up nuance even if the information was unsubstantiated (never let the truth get in the way of a good story) and wringing out every piece of it to all and sundry.  Everyone knew her. She'd introduced herself to everyone with plates of warm brownies - everyone except those who hadn't answered their door. Then even they, had brownies left and a little note of introduction.
"Hi, I'm Alicia. Just moved into Sanctuary Gardens at 2 on the ground floor. Please feel free to make yourself known. I'd love to be a good neighbour and share some more brownies and get to know you." 
Within a day of moving into number 2 on the ground floor, she was checking the multiple mail boxes,making small judgments about those labelled 'No Junk Mail'. Why wouldn't they want junk mail? That's where she gets all her information on specials, potions and gorgeous gadgets. Those who don't want the regular catalogues outlining Aldi specials must be some kind of weird. 

Although having someone look out for the odd, the unusual, occasionally had it's benefits.She was always the one who noticed the strange visitors or when tenants had ''company'', she kept an eye on deliveries and could tell you exactly where Number 7 bought their groceries and Number 5 their soft furnishings. Indeed once she had caught a nuisance person trying to pry open the mail boxes and had shooed a homeless person from the front stoop just as he looked as if he needed to sit. 

It hadn't gone past her to actually lift the lids on unlocked mail boxes and try to ascertain what was inside so many window-faced envelopes, or who's corporate logo was plastered on the exterior. She knew who had what bank account, who received dividends each quarter. She knew who had friends overseas and who was thinking of adopting a dog - simply from the advertising on the exterior of each envelope. She was busting a gut to know what mail was received by Number 3 but they kept their mail flap locked. She had once received mail for them in error, a careless postie putting their mail in her slot. "Department of Human Services" was brandished over the letter and tempted as she was to steam it open, she was not without principles and had replaced it in the correct mail slot. 

"Department of Human Services . . .now that might explain the tantrums, the shouting, the regular repositioning of furnishings." 

Her imagination often got the better of her. Human Services usually dealt with social housing, health, pensions and dole payments, refugee resettlements, carers and people with disabilities. Perhaps the residents in Number 3 were dole bludgers, perhaps they were druggies, perhaps they were homeless and getting their rent paid on her tax dollar. Perhaps they were migrants, or worse, refugees . . .that's it! She had made up her mind, sight unseen that the occupants of Number 3 were not only refugees but Muslim. That's why she couldn't understand the conversations.That's why she'd never seen the woman of the house. Probably incarcerated in the kitchen cooking goat whilst wearing a full nijab. That would explain the loudness . . I mean . . 

"Look at the trolley boys outside Coles," she gossiped to Iris one morning as the twin retrieved her mail, "They're all Afghans you know, all of them. They yell so loud you can hear them over the Muzak. Just yelling at each other and waving their hands around. I tell you, they're just waiting to bring Sharia law to Lilydale. They have no place here these foreigners."

Iris smiled, "You do realise my mum was a 'foreigner'? And most people I meed think I'm a foreigner?"

Alicia bowed her head in faux shame, "Yes, but your mother wasn't Muslim being supported by the Government! And you were born here, so you're OK."

Iris shook her head and bid farewell, leaving Alicia staring wildly at the brass number on the Muslim terrorist's door. That was it. She was convinced. Time to call the Body Corporate together and find out exactly who these people are and to get them the hell out of Sanctuary Gardens.

But not before another half hour on the Shopping Channel. There's this new bra that guarantees firmer breasts and a slimmer torso. Oh! And perfect for the gym thanks to it's ability to wick water. 

Posted for Tenth Daughter Of Memory - 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 4:  Fucktangent Wicking Water

Saturday, February 16, 2019

"Why Big Sister Loves What Little Sister Hates"

Continued from "Formless Devolution"

They were like chalk and cheese. Twins born just minutes apart. Of course, being Chinese Australians, the racists would say they couldn't tell the difference since they all look the same anyway, although the differences were indeed marked. Perhaps more by personality than physical attributes and lets face it, they had played jokes on unsuspecting acquaintances and boyfriends in the past. The joke made all the more befuddling since they were actually 'mixed'. They had never known their real father.  The man who raised them had come into their lives when they started school.

In their youth, a conventional mother dressed them the same, cut their hair in the same styles, took advantage of their 'cuteness'.. She insisted they learn the violin and piano, attended preparatory classes for selective schools, engendering them with traditional ways and European manners. She encouraged them to mix within a social strata way above her own means. She'd worked tirelessly to afford private schools and permit them every privilege a white child could imagine - every educational privilege.  They were never encouraged to play sport, participate in school dramatics or socialise widely unless the path to social acceptance meant potential financial security.

By the time they were 20, they both had made a concerted effort to separate from each other. They wanted their own style in clothes, hobbies, music playlists, and of course their own friends. After one moved to New Zealand for a brief period, she even stopped telling people that she had a sister. So desperate was the attempt separate and break free from her doppelganger. She was tired of being seen as one’ or being seen as ‘one of the two’ when all she was trying to do was assert some independence from someone who looked like her, but was nothing like her, and for a while, they drifted apart.

Iris, the youngest by five minutes was the least dominant of the two, quiet, compliant, dedicated to family. She was artistic, sociable, amenable and embraced the traditional ways whilst simultaneously carving her own future. Ruby. the first to be ripped by Cesarean Section from her mother's womb embraced the world with vigour and selfishness, the prowess of a tigress. She was financially motivated, impersonal and cavalier with relationships.

Iris was convinced that nobody suffered the way she did at the side of her twin. Her teen diaries, testament to the clawing suffocation of having Ruby in her life,

"Nobody suffers the way I do ... This sister of mine, a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight, is my one and only torment,” she wrote.

Ruby agreed, writing in her own childhood diary: “We have become fatal enemies in each other’s eyes," but her prose was softened with the realisation of a rhetorical question, "Can I get rid of my own shadow? Without my shadow, would I gain life, be free or left to die?”

Only the untimely passing of their mother had seen them reunite our of obligation and develop a more bonded relationship based more on their differences than their physical likeness portrayed.  Their mother, completely unbeknown to them, had purchased an apartment building decades ago. This had become their legacy but her proviso was that it had to be shared.  Originally purchased for a song as an investment property, in an impoverished inner suburb, it was now an old building in a very desirable neighbourhood. Some tenants had been there for years, others, new.  Her rationale being that owning property as an immigrant would be a great achievement and the rent it had provided over the past, enabled her daughters to receive the very best education and opportunities.

Ruby was disgruntled that she hadn't been left the familial home. Despite the fact that their step-father still lived there and was permitted to do so until his death. Iris, was delighted. It was close to work, restaurants and the hub of city life. The two girls agreed to a personal truce and occupied number 7.  Iris was pleased for the concession. Ruby saw it as an economic agreement and had no intention of keeping contact once the obligatory residential period required to avoid capital gains tax had expired.  And so, an uneasy truce between two identical women with vastly disparate personalities was embarked upon.

There were arguments. One messy, one virtually OCD. One fiscally responsible, one couldn't care less. One social and engaging, the other isolationist and financially motivated. One giving and generous, the other mean and malicious. Still, rules posted on the fridge, a few arguments and a work life that kept them largely separated during the day and Iris' social life which took up her evenings, helped the uncomfortable arrangement work.

The girls took a favoured apartment overlooking the garden on the third level, just across the hall from their cantankerous, aged neighbour and 2 floors above the melee that often exploded in Apartment 3

Iris was convinced that someone downstairs was in an abusive relationship and the muffled thumps and shrill cries that emanated from the flat were from a woman or maybe a teenager crying for help. Ruby told her to mind her own business and that the stay in Sanctuary Gardens was temporary. She would work out some way to evict the tenants in number 3 and install more lucrative, quieter renters. Iris wanted to check out the downstairs apartment. It was their right as landladys to have regular inspections but Ruby didn't care, they'd gut the apartment once they could squeeze the nuisance tenants out.

"Iris, you don't treat tenants like friends, they're a meal ticket. I'll get them evicted. Stop investing in people you don't know. They're trouble and I want them out. Just don't engage or get emotionally involved!"

Iris meekly accepted this uncomfortable arrangement. Ruby was a bitch, a go-getter, a money grubber. Unlike Iris, compassionate, self aware and the darling of all who met her. Well, when they knew it was Iris that they were meeting.

Unlike her sister, Iris had familiarised (or attempted to) herself with most of the residents of Sanctuary Gardens. She took Moon Cakes to those who answered during Chinese New Year. She occasionally babysat for the little boy downstairs, teaching the bright child how to play mahjong while his father worked late (feeling a little guilt that she had introduced him to gambling - although the stakes were merely lollies or an extra half-hour up before bed.)

She'd met the couple upstairs but they were so busy being busy that she hadn't talked to them since their first introduction. She'd tried to talk to the family in number 3 but her knocks on their door were unanswered, even though she knew they were home. She'd formed a bond with Charlie Brick upstairs as his "Pink Lady", the volunteer who just came to chat, listen to his stories and help relieve his loneliness. She just wished he didn't smoke so much.  She had met a rather odd being leaving the Gazebo in the garden not long after they'd moved in.  She couldn't tell their sex due to medium length hair falling over the face and their head shrouded by a grey football hoodie. Looked like a man, moved like a woman. She'd engaged with the lycra donning divorcee on level three and everyone else in the building just through casual engagement or stairwell conversations.

She did baulk a little at the day she wondered out to the garden Gazebo and saw someone who looked like they were perhaps rehearsing a speech or a play.

"Hey! I'm Iris, I live in. . . ." she smiled and proferred the plate she was carrying.

No sooner had the offering been made and a thin, middle aged man swept past and scooped 'the hoodie' clad person under his arms with a level of urgency that surprised her. As they passed, the hoodie spoke.

"Have to go. Mum'll be worried . . " was all they said, pulling the hood closer across their face, bowing their head even lower towards the crazy paving pathway and pushing frantically by the pretty Asian girl holding a plate full of Moon Cake, leaving her a little confused and disappointed. She wasn't used to social rejection and his reaction was definitely a little weird.

She was pretty sure that Ruby played on their identical looks and avoided contact with disgruntled tenants by also claiming that she was Iris. That's exactly the sort of thing she'd do. Anything rather than make face contact or confront the very people she needed to communicate with. Ruby did everything by the letter, first a phone call, then a letter, then a warning, then some nasty notice delivered by mail and if necessary followed by the bullying tactics of someone else hired to collect debts. She would never face up to anyone personally. Always needed an audit trail. Never, have a meeting face-to-face and risk being challenged on a personal level.

Iris was the opposite. She loved personal interaction, social events, human contact. Sadly, being so identical to her sister, she'd met with mixed reactions. If they thought she was Ruby, she'd be ignored or would have to correct them.

"Ruby, I have a problem with my hot water on the...."

"Sorry, I'm Iris. You'll have to call Ruby about that."

Then the disgruntled tenant, thinking they'd finally made contact with their superintendent to have some minor problem fixed would sulkily continue on their way."

Ruby on the other hand, had no time for neighbours. She was the President of the Body Corporate through self-interested motivation of course. She was interested in elevating the gentrification of the building in which she'd inherited property. Her accounting expertise was sharp and innovative but brutal. Her reluctance to tolerate anything but the most urgent of repairs had put her offside with many of the older tenants. She didn't care. This was a business proposition and she has two years to make good. She wanted to be rid of her troublesome neighbours. Particularly those in No. 3. She'd served them with noise notices. She slid notes beneath the door but to no effect. They hadn't broken any laws, they paid their rent on time. They were just . . .well . . .annoying. She'd have to fabricate something before she could issue an eviction. But issue an eviction, she was determined to do.

During dinner one evening, Ruby was lamenting yet another disturbance downstairs.

"Do they ever shut the fuck up?"

Her gentler sibling raised her head from a book, "Why does it bother you, it's not like they're killing each other. All families have arguments. The walls are thin, just chill. And it doesn't last long. I just think they have a difficult child. It's all quiet after 8. If it bothers you that much, go talk to them!"

"I've tried, I've slid notes under the door. I've knocked when I damn well know they're home and they won't answer."

Iris sighs, "Look, you know the story about the man with the coat and the wind and sun have an argument about how to get him to remove it?"

Ruby loses tolerance and walks towards the pantry to pour a glass of red. "Jesus Iris, you're such a romantic idiot. I want them out! Better tenants in, higher rent blardy blar just don't get it"

Iris continues unfazed, "The wind blew at the man, increasing the chill factor. He wrapped his greatcoat tighter around his body to resist. The sun, shone bright, warmed the air around him and the man took off his coat!"

Ruby literally skulls half a glass of wine,gesticulates a finger in mouth gag motion and pours another, yelling from the kitchen.

"Well I'm not the fucking sun! I'm the fucking Super and owner of that damn flat and I need a reason to get them out, raise the rent and get someone other than argumentative, secretive, wall bashing riff-raff into my building!"

"Our building..." Iris whispers into her book.

Iris shrugs off her sister's anger. It's just threats and bluster. Until she remembers Rolly's words, softly spoken over the placement of a mahjong tile the other evening.

"I think someone's trying to hurt Alex...."

Posted for 10thDom River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 3 Why Big Sister Loves What Little Sister Hates

Friday, February 15, 2019

Formless Devolution

Continued from: The Only Thing She Left Me Was Tar Filled Lungs

He couldn’t remember exactly when it started. He remembered that it wasn’t long after they were married when the rock on which he thought it was based began to crumble. First in small random grains, then pebbles before the whole thing just crumbled. There was something about being married that changed her or perhaps there was something about being single that had blinded him against seeing who or what she really was.

It was a lavish wedding. Way beyond the means of either family but somehow it came together. He, born in Australia, had met Marina during one of his many visits back to Surigao City, from where his family came. They insisted that he marry a nice Filipina on home turf. Hell, they were paying for it so he acquiesced.

A Catholic Church service of course, complete with sponsors and veil ceremony. He had donned the familiar barong, this time made from silk with his initials embroidered on the collar, she a less traditional version of the Filipiniana and without the puffed sleeves. The reception was also a lavish affair complete with dollar dance as guests pinned pesos to their clothes. Enough to cover a modest honeymoon on Siargao before their return to Australia and a new, better life.

Ferds was not an educated man but he was a hard working man. His job erecting commercial roofing took him away from home more often than not but the money was good and allowed his young bride to remain at home and hone her domestic skills, settle into a new country, make friends.

As fast as he could earn, money seemed to disappear. As with most couples, money was the cause of many rows but he never truly learned where she spent it. Lunch with friends, the odd piece of clothing but nobody could call her Imelda Marcos, there was little evidence as to where his cash was going. When grilled she took it badly, defensively and he’d receive days of silent treatment and lectures about lack of trust. She was erratic and unreasonable.

Yet there were also times when she was sweet, attentive, sexy. He loved the softness of her skin, the tone of it, the smell of it, the gentleness of her voice, the erotica of her moans. At times like those he forgave her lack of fiscal responsibility.

When Ronaldo was born, Fernando was besotted, Marina less so. The birth had been difficult, the baby large and later, demanding. Within weeks her mood swings became more pronounced. He would come home and find the baby screaming, unchanged and alone in his cot. Marina asleep on the couch, oblivious to the noise. Or a note on the table saying she’d ‘gone out for a breather’ and the baby was with their neighbor.

When he was home, they fought. She accusing him of not providing enough support, emotionally and financially. He accusing her of overspending and neglecting their son. The arguments became more frequent, the lovemaking less so until it all culminated in one awful night where he lost his temper. She’d slapped him in a rage of pique and he’d retaliated and pushed her hard against the closet. While she scorned him, he looked down at his hands in dismay. How could he even contemplate such a thing. He left in a fit of confused rage, sadness and shame.

The long and the short of it, she retained custody of Rolly, she was after all his mother and he just a toddler, dependent on what the courts deemed ‘her attention and maternal care’. Despite her lack of enthusiasm for the boy, despite leaving him for prolonged periods unattended, or with friends and neighbours. In fact, she abandoned him among her small group of peers so often that even they were dwindling.

He had visitations of course but they were at her whim. The push had cost him heavily as she’d claimed to be a battered wife during the divorce proceedings and he was deemed too dangerous to be with her and the boy without supervision. The shame crushed him. The lack of contact with his precious boy devastated him.

It was about 3pm on a rare day off when the phone rang,

“Mr Molina? This is Sgt, Carmello, Lilydale Local Area Command. I don’t want to alarm you sir, but we believe your son was abandoned for a significant amount of time today. We responded to a complaint from your wife’s neighbor”…

“Ex-wife.” Fernando corrected.

“… that a child had been crying for some time inside the home without supervision. We responded and did indeed find the boy alone at home. He’s now safe with us but your wife…”

“Ex! . . Ex wife!” Ferds interrupted.

“Your EX WIFE, took it upon herself to attend the Casino and left the child for over 12 hours, unattended. She is now in custody and being questioned. Are you able to come to the . . . ”

The officer need not have waited for a reply.

He gently slid his razor upwards from throat to chin. His Negrito skin betraying his Aeta Philipino ancestry and contrasting sharply against the white shaving foam now almost eradicated from his face. Once clean -shaven and patted dry, his face began to beam, his eyes piercing the mirror in front of him. This would be a special day, the culmination of a battle fought long and hard.

Years after the final breakdown of his disastrous marriage, months of proving his worth in the Children’s Court, weeks of waiting for final confirmation . . .the day arrived when he could finally pick up his son, be rid of the bain of his life and begin again – sole custodian of his beloved son.

Fernando Molina straightened the clean white collar of his son’s polo shirt and brushed imaginary dandruff from his shoulders.. It was the first day of Grade 3 and Rolly was excited to be returning to school.

“Remember Rolly, Mrs Puleheteoa will bring you home this afternoon, I’m going to be a little bit late so, just wait on the doorstep until I get here. Or if you get lonely you can go upstairs and talk to Mr Charlie.”

The boy beamed with a nod. He was so proud to be trusted alone at the ripe old age of 8, even if it was for just half an hour and right outside his own front door. Since he’d been with his father, the child had overcome his abandonment issues and had been nurtured into a bright, precocious kid. This demonstration of trust by his father, normally a helicopter parent, was a coup and he knew it.

“I’ll be fine Daddy. I can talk to Alex through the door…”
His words trailed after his father who was already headed down the hallway and stepping into the street.

“Rolly! C’mon, we’ll be late.”

It wasn’t until he finally arrived at work that the thought hit him, “Who the heck is Alex?”

Posted for Tenth Daughter Of Memory - 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 2: Formless Devolution

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Only Thing She Left Me Was Tar Filled Lungs

He doesn’t leave his room much these days. His meals are delivered by the nice ladies at ‘Meals on Wheels’. Home Help, pops in three times a week to make his bed, ensure that he’s shower, clean and to dump a few paltry items of laundry from the washer to the dryer. He’s capable of folding his own clothes although it takes him half a day to do so. One thing he does enjoy about the 21st Century is that he no longer has to iron anything. Some precision folding does the trick thanks to these newfangled synthetic fabrics.

He’s lived at Sanctury Gardens since the early 50’s when Lilydale was a working class inner suburb. He’s gazed through his windows and seen it slowly gentrify. It used to be a convalescent home for tuberculosis patients but it’s seen some changes. The only betrayal of it’s history the art deco exterior and the wider than usual hallways that once wheeled patients from their room into the healing sunshine on the roof garden. Each floor now converted into studio, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. It’s only 3 storeys with a former basement converted into a 10 car parking lot with secure gate and keyless entry. He’s not a fan of electronics but now he no longer drives, he doesn’t care. He hasn’t cared about much in the past 10 years. Not since Elsie died.

Charles Brick coughs up a lung and temporarily places the unfiltered cigarette between nicotine stained, gnarled fingers and takes another drag. The smoke permeates his mouth and oozes lazily from his ever growing nostrils. He can hear her voice.
“Those damn things will kill you Chuck, you need to give that shit up!”

He had given up for a while but without her, there seemed little point taking care of his health. He was in God’s waiting room and happy to be there. He never liked her voice, 50 years of marriage and it remained as shrill as the day he met her but she was cute when they met. She only turned  into a banshee when he began smoking indoors. He only began smoking indoors because the neighbourhood became noisier with traffic and the buzz of renovation. Now he can puff away to his lung’s content without recrimination or the piercing tones of her reprimands. The safe suck of sadness had become both his saviour and his scourge. He missed her terribly, just not her voice.

He wishes he couldn’t hear the piercing tones of her downstairs. The interiors might have been brightened and altered but the walls were thin and the family in number two were a constant irritation to him. Only one day a week did the screaming and tantrums cease. He wasn’t sure why but all seemed quiet on Thursdays. A van did turn up around 8am and a young man, at least he assumed it was a young man, hard to tell from the third floor and with failing eyesight – anyway, a person, usually in a hoodie and slippers would slide the side door and disappear into its bowels until at least 5 in the evening. He’d noticed longish hair on occasion which made identifying gender even harder and the grey smudge of a tattoo on the person’s wrist but too far away to discern exactly what it was, he saw but a glimpse as a thin fingered hand grabbed the handle inside the van door.  He never thought much of it until today.

His chain smoking was interrupted by the flash of red and blue on his nicotine yellowed walls. He fondled the electronic control on his recliner. Getting into a standing position with his arthritis and shallow breathing wasn’t easy. He groaned as his sinews began to stretch and shuffled over to the open window and surveyed the street below. An ambulance, a couple of police cars – lights flashing and making more of a fuss than Charles thought necessary. Two uniformed cops interviewing a woman with greying hair as she flailed  and wailed with wild hand gesticulations. She didn’t seem happy – or perhaps she was, he couldn’t tell from three floors up. The hoodie person was resisting being contained by ambulance officers and bundled into the vehicle. The screaming of the woman reminded him of Elsie and his mind wondered.

‘None of my business,’ he mumbled to himself and pulled the tray window down, shutting out the hullaballoo.

He re-positioned himself in the now forward positioned recliner. Fiddled with the controls, and slid back into his former position. Liver spotted hands and fingers fumbled into the packet of Drum tobacco pulling out another Tallyho paper, he wet the corner with his lips and left it hanging there while shaking hands released tangled tobacco from it’s pouch, just enough for a tightly rolled cigarette. One thing he could still do was roll like a pro. He smoothed the baccy between his palms, took the paper from his lip and delicately sealed the ‘nurrell’. Another sputum laden cough emanated from his now blackened lungs before he spat into the fireplace with perfect aim and lit yet another cigarette. He took a slow, deep drag and wished the ambulance had been for him. Wished again that perhaps it could have been a hearse.  He felt way past his use by date as the sirens diminished into the background.

He could still hear the woman’s shrill protests and a quieter voice consoling her or perhaps reprimanding her, it was hard to tell from three floors up. Then the door at number three on the ground floor slammed shut and their voices became muted.

“Shut the fuck up Elsie . . you’re long gone and still in my head!’ He vocalised the thought as he took a slow gaze at her photograph on the mantle.

She’d left him bitter and bereft and with little more than a lung full of tar. He didn’t really care what had happened downstairs, just that now, it might stay quiet.

Posted for Tenth Daughter Of Memory - 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 1: The Only Thing She Left Me Was Tar Filled Lungs

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Last Love of My Life

I know him but I’ve built a picture in my head shrouded in self-deception. It's a partial truth, a partial lie. Pieces I've chosen to remember, some I've relegated to forgetting. Denial is a strong emotion when you’re in love. I thought I was in love. I think for a while I was, but unreciprocated kindness soon falls foul. Emotional abuse can only be sustained for so long, even with one as co-dependent as I.  

I know how he eats noodles and Burritos and sucks a popsicle stick. I know how he moves on his feet, in a chair or swings a baseball bat. I know how he rumbles his dog, my dog, and pets his cats.  I know how he folds his socks, his shirts. I've watched him towel down after a shower with no regard for his nakedness. I know how he looks when he comes and falls asleep after sex. I know every inch of his body, every hair on his head - pony-tailed, braided, combed smooth - even the grey ones I've plucked out while he winced.  I know how he washes dishes, drives, walks, talks feels. I know how he's nervous in the passenger seat and keeps one hand on the hand break. And once, during a time of duress, just held my hand on 395. I know how he once held a cigarette a little two low, between fingers, below the first knuckles, and how he spits once he's exhaled the smoke or how he flicks the glowing tip to extinguish the embers.

Yes I know how he feels to touch and hold. His skin sallow and smooth. His scars, his aches. The patch on the side of his left calf that hair won't cover.  I know how he smiles when skin's touched with tongue, nose, breasts and how he flinches his left leg when tickled.  I’ve felt his hands through my hair his fingers caress my breasts, the press of his mouth and tongue. The smack of a casual kiss, the firm shoulder rub, the gentle embrace, the patronising pat - I know him - all too well - the curve of his neck, back and thighs. The breadth of his shoulders, the firmness of his biceps the slender lines of almost feminine hands and fingers. His, 'meeting you for the first time' face, his 'disapproving face' and the myriad of expressions that make him almost mercurial, looking different in every photograph and situation. I also know his selfishness, his moodiness, his casual whims that translate to psychological torture. He is a manipulator of great finesse.
I know his cruelty when he ignores me. I know the 'distance' he keeps when we're in public. I know not to touch unless we're alone, not to stroke unless there's nobody around, not to argue for fear he'll hang up in narcissistic petulance. How to lie about our intimacy.

I know his likes, dislikes. I know his arrogance, his intelligence. I know his moods and his petulance, his creativity and intellect, his memory and recall, his articulation and argument only falling slightly short of genius. I know he likes cheescake and brownies. I  know his fears and tribulations. I've seen him at his lowest, I've seen him high and happy. I've seen him shit in a hole, vomit in a bucket.  I've heard him sing, yell, whisper, moan - I've even seen him dance. I've rarely (actually never) heard him say sorry,  I love you or thank you. I've rarely heard him say 'I'm wrong' or 'My behaviour is poor'. I've heard him call himself a failure and I've bolstered him up at times when he was desperate. I've lent him money, support and affection. For a short while I gave him my body, and he gave me his, without reservation, without inhibition. Yet I feel like I'm being manipulated, unworthy of his affections. I know he'll move on if I delete him from my life and add me to  his list of crazy women.

I don’t know why he deserts me when I disagree with him. I don’t know why he’s so rude when confronted with the truth. Narcissim? Selfishness and self absorption? I can only guess. I do know that he’s blunt. I do know that I'm jealous.  He'll have a 'plan' in his head, a punishment plan. Leave me waiting, wanting, bleating like a lamb. Me!  Full of life experience reduced to tears and knots. Ringing ears and a palpitating heart while he remains cool and quiet and unperturbed by the pain of others. A lamb that keeps bleating until he finally shuts me up and demands space. A pebble in his shoe, a thorn in his side....he does not care yet I allow him to use me.
He waxes on about loyalty but shows little. He writes beautifully about love but is incapable of it.  He is of rare intellect yet has low emotional intelligence. He has a wonderful talent but after a life of enablement, is unable or unwilling to fend for himself.  He is the only man I know who can fake an orgasm.

I fear for him, I fear for us, I fear for his future. Women are attracted to him like a jar of flies but repelled in an instant. His sweetness on the surface, his temper unpredictable, his selfishness legendary, his insecurities so large that he will push away the very ones he wants to control, the very ones he wants to love. The women he chooses are all deemed 'crazy', he never makes the first move unless he's drunk, or if sober, preambled by panic attacks of low confidence, and they seem to slip through his fingers with incredible ease.
Such a shame, such potential all doomed to a lifetime of self-denial all for the want of letting go, being vulnerable, showing kindness - love.

Yes I know him, he's my sweetest friend. I have difficulty letting him go.  I am a jealous friend, but a friend. He feels nothing for me but resentment. I look at how to leave but can't.  I love him, intensely. I am a co-dependent, emotional, irrational, venomous, toxic, filled with bitterness and vitriol and love and compassion, and probably insane but, I know him. 

He laments that he's never had that 'true love' and is envious that, perhaps I have. To be honest, until you let it all go, you become vulnerable, speak the truth, admit your failures and will never find the person that truly understands you. I think that's something that me and this strange bedfellow have in common. If it weren't for a 21 year age gap . . . this post would be redundant. It's here because he demanded it and because I hurt him badly yesterday and complied with his wishes.  He is the last love of my life and that, I will take to the grave. 

He wanted me to listen to a particular piece of music to write this but . . memories of my mother's piano flooded back. Even as a six year old, but I bowed to his will. And now, I'm angry, lost, depressed, weak, embarrassed, distressed, vulnerable. Controlled.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Nelllie

Continued from Muse 8

It was a small crowd that ventured into the chapel. She hadn't established many friends, some had passed, some had lost contact. It had been years since she'd heard from either of her brothers. The select and solemn group included close friends, her sister and family and of course, her own children and grandchildren. Each filed in quietly greeting each other ignoring the time-pressured funeral director peering from behind the crematorium curtain, eager for his cue to begin the ceremony. 

All took their seats as he began the non-denominational service, welcoming all and activating a data projector which showed slides of her rather ordinary life and some extraordinary travel to those who cared to look.  She had been explicit during her life that she didn't want a funeral. Her son and daughter had arranged it more to provide closure for themselves. She'd never know, the old atheist didn't believe in such things.

She didn't want a eulogy from people who had not expressed their affection for her during her lifetime. In fact, she had been so adamant that she'd written her own as part of a writing competition, never really expecting anyone to see or read it other than her fellow writers. Her daughter stood and walked up to the small podium, glanced briefly at the coffin on it's scissor lift and thought, 'How did my mother fit in there, it looks so small and fragile?' 

She began to read the words her mother wrote.

"I didn’t do much with my life that would put me in the history books. I was good, empathic, raised two children pretty much alone. I guess they were my main achievement. I was sometimes happy, often sad, always lonely. Years of moves and relocations saw friends come and go. Desperate times saw me widowed and orphaned too young.  Retrenchments and financial strain seemed to take too much cerebral space that should have been assigned to love and grace, charity and hope.  But by and large, I was fairly happy.
 My childhood was incredibly happy. The first 11 years of my life spent in country England when it was safe to ride a tricycle to the local building site and marvel at Irish labourers fiddling with solder - they shared their chips with me and had handkerchiefs on their heads with knots tied on each corner. I was even happier when each birthday, high day and holiday, someone paid for a horse riding lesson or better still a day trek at the local riding school. On those days, we  rode and froze before returning and chowing on beans on toast and jacket potatoes.   
I was happy when I went to my Nana's each Saturday. She owned a pub in Manchester so while she and my mother drank tea and gossiped, we kids ran riot in the supply room in the basement, pinching corners of jelly and drinking little bottles of coke and mini packets of chips in the days before they were pre-salted. We dressed up in swags of feathery, sparkly clothes and buckets of cheap jewels. If I ever stayed over, she would saunter out of bed at 2.00pm and talk some restaurant into staying open for very posh late lunch. I had my first prawn cocktail when I was 7!
 I was pretty happy when I first arrived in Australia although it was very, very different. Big. The fields were bigger, the trees were bigger, the cars were bigger - even that expanse of blue sky looked bigger. It took us a long time to settle and we moved from Melbourne to Sydney - 4 primary schools and 3 high schools later we stayed put in the North West of  Sydney. I never had the urge to move anywhere else after that.
Of course I was happy falling in love, getting married, delivering two perfect children. My pigeon pair. Then nine years of blissful and uneventful marriage sustained that euphoric state. It wasn't without it's moments but in retrospect, I was very happy with my lovely husband, my tiny house, my lovely children and massive mortgage. Left a widow too young, alone and in the depths of grief, my children made me happy. 
I was pretty happy at work too. I had a great bunch of colleagues in a creative environment and we socialized and worked together. I still keep in touch with them and our quarterly lunches at each other's houses are really worth looking forward to. A couple have since moved overseas but the core sticks together. They were halcyon days filled with art and music, differing opinions and weird clothes. After that, it was an assortment of jobs and careers. Some were wonderful, many were not but earning an income was an evil necessity so I did what I had to do. 
I was happy camping when the children were younger. I had a little trailer tent which I could put up myself in minutes but as they grew older the trips became few and far between so I sold it, something I regret now. We went from beach to bush, caving, swimming, walking - no TV, no mobiles.
I was very happy when my younger brother and his family moved in next door after our Dad died but it was short-lived. The gloss soon disappeared as his anger and abuse increased, we no longer speak. My other brother turned out to be a vegetarian narcissistic hedonist by his own admission, we rarely speak. 
I was always happy travelling. Lucky enough to enjoy Fiji, Tahiti, England, Scotland, Wales, Channel Islands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria. I even found a travel companion in my twilight years that made me incredibly happy as we explored, Australia and America together.  Those times made me extremely happy, until my arthritis became so painful that I had to let him go and resigned myself to travelling vicariously.
I was happy on Saturday mornings having coffee at home with my sister and catching up, making sure the horses were groomed and fed. I was always happy smelling like hay and horses, always.  I was happy catching up with friends. They are few and far between and some have relocated great distances but reunions are filled with joy, gossip and laughter, they have been my rocks in times of dire need and sadness. 
In the end, I was happy with the little things. That time in the evening just before the sun goes down and it's cooling off and the birds are settling and we sit out in the garden or dangle our legs in the pool. Those times when we dangled legs in the pool and bathed in the very summery fragrance of jasmine and gardenia. The times we had family dinners, movie nights, veranda fights and conversations, bear hugs from my son and snuggles with my daughter. 
I didn’t achieve much throughout my life, my glass seemed always half empty. But as I ponder and recall the little things, I know I was a good person, a great mother, a loyal friend and an empathic being. I guess that too, made me happy. 
Some great part of me too, hopes I may have shared that joy with someone else, perhaps made a difference to someone else...made them happy."

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 9 "Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Father

Continued from Muse 7

One of the last conversations I had with my father was while I was massaging his frail hands. He was in the late stages of metastatic liver cancer and fading fast. We discussed what tales those square "Irish Mitts" could tell about his 73 years on this earth.

As tiny hands many years go, they held the handle bars of a bicycle when he would reluctantly deliver bread from the family bakery. During the Manchester blitz, that bicycle manouvred it's way through the rubble in as a small boy searched for wartime treasure. They held pieces of shrapnel, traded like swap cards as childhood trophies during the Blitz.

They wielded a mighty lacrosse stick during his years at Hume Grammar School. I remember his bruises and bashed shins after a game he was far too old to play but loved it and the 'old boys' club.

Those crusty phalanges endured four years of Salford University, no mean feat for a man from a working class background. They turned the pages of chemistry and textile texts, performed scientific experiments, dug up corn and wheat in the pursuit of High Amylayse starch, a product that is in just about everything but one that he developed. Their solid fingers, scribing pages in black fountain pen to prove that he could be something, could be someone, a phoenix from the ashes and more than a baker's son.

These tired, and rough old hands once clasped the hands of another, his one and only love, his wife.  For the first two years of their marriage, those hands held her close through  of tuburculosis contracted only a year before penicillin put a stop to its awful black death. She was a nurse, and contracted it looking after children. He cared not. He caressed her through surgery and those mighty hands brought her through the abyss and into safety. Until she died, his hands wrapped around her waist while she was washing dishes, dried her tears of lament at being so separated from her own family and rubbed her feet after long days delivering babies in maternity hospitals.

They have wrapped his four children and seven grandchildren in their embrace and occasionally left their imprint on a few deserving backsides. 

They rested assertively on boardroom tables, laboured in five gardens, pulled thousands of weeds, repaired metres of fence and pruned tonnes of hedgerows.

They lead reluctant ponies along kilometres of roadside and applauded furiously at hundreds of soccer games.

They have slapped the kitchen table in heated discussion and firmly shaken the hands of friends and acquaintances. They made toboggans and assembled bicycles, go-carts and all manner of machinery to entertain.

Dad's hands had masterfully guided his favourite Waterman Pen through thousands of Herald crosswords and fumbled clumsily with a computer keyboard. They have firmly grasped many a glass of scotch and wine, even whilst he dozed in front of the TV they never fell from his vice like grip.

They have gently folded around a golf stick whose head and shaft has driven more than one hole in one and clutched the odd trophy. 

They reached long and often into the lolly tin, plucking a handful for his grandchildren, and long and often into his deep pockets to subsidize his own children's mad exploits.

With these same hands, he consoled us through our personal trials, applauded our achievements, celebrated our milestones and softly pushed us forward. They were the hands of a gentle giant, a loving husband, dad and grandpa and I will forever miss their touch.

R.I. P 
Charles Dunn 1936 - 2006
A Gentle Man

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 8 "Sticks Shafts and Tender Hands"