Monday, March 29, 2004

The Pedicure

He is concentrating, intent. His hands are so gentle on my feet, carefully he trims each toenail, I giggle when it tickles and he admonishes me, "Be still".

We are sitting either end of the sofa in his parents loungeroom. His mother is in the kitchen. She is always in the kitchen in my memory, teatowel in hand. His father sits across the tiny room from us, his feet up, newspaper dripping over his legs and his glasses halfway down his nose. Occasionally he turns his head and stares me in the eye, a comment thrown into the conversation or just that look again, the one he gave me when I arrived.

I don't remember where we caught up, probably down the main street or at the local pool. He asked me back to his place though and it was like a time warp, as if everything was alright again and when I arrived his parents greeted me the same way they had for lunch every day. Well, almost the same way. His father smiled "Lissie!" his pet name for me, the only one who ever calls me that, then he peered at me that moment too long. He took in my face, the purple marks, the swelling and his sigh said everything and nothing. She came to the kitchen door. Did we kiss hello? I don't remember but then she exclaimed "What happened to your face?"

I muttered something about friends and hockey sticks, her eyes told me she knew I would lie even before I spoke. She started to comment then pulled herself up and turned and went back to the sink.

We are sitting there laughing, chatting, the four of us feel like a family, like it always was. I want so much for this to be the reality and not the dream, he moves onto the next toenail and chides me again for not looking after my feet better. "This is horrible", he says when he comes to the toenail that was infected when I was fourteen, I flinch because it is sensitive and it grows crooked and scarred and because I am more ashamed of it in that moment than I am of my face. His mother comes to the kitchen door again, she leans lightly on the timber frame of the open glass slider.

She starts a conversation asking me about my work and my flat, then she asks about him. Her words are clipped and her eyes are hard and she tells me that I must know what I am doing. I can't look at her and instead I focus on his fingers on my feet, his hand is trembling and his skin flushes red and white. His dad is staring at me hard again, over the top of his spectacles his frighteningly familiar blue eyes bore into me. Inside I am crumpling, I am screaming, my face is hot with unspent tears. Then the dishes clang in the sink again and the I hear the crackle and flick as the next page turns. The man who writes the newspaper all week and reads it all weekend.

He runs his hands gently over my feet now, a light massage like one I gave him not long ago and aeons ago, his eyes hold mine and his touch sends tingles right through my body. It is one of the most erotic moments in my life. "Come on", he says and we stand and I grab my bag and smile goodbye, I will see you soon and his mother turns and looks hard at me again. "Take care.." she says and his father doesn't look up, "See you, Lissie." and we walk out the door.

We climb into the car. THE car. It has a bench seat in the front, it is impossible to sit in his car without thinking about all the time we have spent in there. He starts to drive and we do not speak, he doesn't switch on the radio or the tape player. He drives straight down his street heading to the school, out of town and on towards the weir, he drives by habit. I cry silently. It is very quiet.

He called on friday to wish me a happy birthday and tell me his mother is in hospital. This whole post might sound a bit foot-fetish like(ewww) but it is really about my love for his parents and something beautiful that had to be broken.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Warning number 2?

My brother came off the horse again today.

When he rang to tell me I felt a shiver of fear and then relief...again.
He so rarely rings me during the day; so, at first I looked out at the weather and wondered if it was raining out there, five hours northwest. Out where the silence is noisy and the ground has been dry enough the last ten or more years that even the crayfish almost disappeared. The creek, which was full all the time as I grew up, had been dry so long now I can barely remember what it looks like with the water lapping the sandstone cave cliff above it. 

It was full when my father and I sat those long afternoons in quiet companionship, waiting for the fish to bite. It was full the morning I sat there yabbying with my correspondence schoolwork stacked behind me when a gust of wind blew all the pages into the water. It was full that afternoon when I threw my brother's moneybox in and the long pink arms of the Bunyip reached out and caught it. Please don't tell him about the moneybox (You can tell him about the Bunyip, but he won't believe you either), I still haven't, even after thirty years. I broke one of the knobs on the door, which was set up like a little safe and I was so terrified of him finding out and twisting my arms behind my back and hurting me again that I threw the moneybox, which was full of his rare coin collection, into the creek. I had run down there with it hidden in my jumper, shaking, terrified. I threw it underarm, but it's weight carried it right out into the middle and then there was a gurgle and I saw the water swirl and something like an octopus, but pink and huge. I turned and ran, too frightened to glance back, I ran around the end of the waterhole, past where I would almost see my sister step on the tiger snake, up the hill, through the gate and I kept running until I reached my sisters' bedroom. I climbed between the trundle beds and hid. My brother and sisters were more than 300 kilometres away at boarding school, so I guess I was hiding from the Bunyip. 

Anyway I digress, today I heard my husband say hello and speak to my brother for a moment, before I heard the "Oh, No!" At first I thought of Mum, then realised it was he who was injured. You might remember my husband cracked his collarbone a few weeks ago (and has been home driving me insane ever since) so I listened to them comparing injury reports. It was his shoulder this time, I just breathed relief. 

Last time my brother came off the horse, I was working in the city when my sister called me at the shop. Last time they sent a helicopter out to get him, he had lost all feeling from the waist down and with the Osteomyelitis that ate part of the vertebrae in his neck away when he was young, we were all terrified. The osteomyelitis that plagued him right through his youth and made him edgy and unpredictable as he learned to deal with the pain and the infection. That made him the big brother I was too terrified of to tell the truth to, but the same brother who loved me like you wouldn't believe. I knew that. 

Last time I was so glad I was in the city that day because I was there when the helicopter landed at the hospital and the brought him in and he had the feeling back and it was emotional and terrifying and it felt like a warning.

When I finally got the phone today I heard the adrenalin in his voice. The neighbours had all dropped what they were doing and come miles to help get the job finished and he was boosted and flattered and numbed by the attention. My sister-in-law was loading the car and he said the pain wasn't so bad when he kept really still but maybe he would accept the pethidine the flying doctor's district rep. had offered him. He laughed and the unspoken (warning number 2) sat between us as I said I hoped it was just bruising to his shoulder. Tonight I rang her parent?s house in town and the X-rays confirm a broken collarbone. Nothing else, and I am just so glad he landed the way he did.

The horse is totally fine, he had slipped a little in a ditch and my sister in law said she watched the horse and rider disappear behind a clump of trees, but just the horse emerge. 

Anyway, my brother called today, it was nice to speak to him, but I still haven't told him about the moneybox.

Posting and Reposting...Kitchens and Memories...Deleting the wrong files....

Last week I decided that I needed to clean out my laptop, delete files, programs etc. I did the full back-up first, of course, but did not realise that the toshiba "my safe" folder I kept all my writings in wasn't going to back up correctly. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have managed to lose most of my writings. Pretty stupid hey? I have been able to find some though and stumbled across this post, below, written for what would have been my father's 78th birthday a few years back. It is rather similar to the previous post but I thought I would share it again anyway.


In the evenings it seems now that it was always just Dad and me. We would sit up late and play cards in a wonderfully comfortable quiet. When I longed for home during long freezing winters at boarding school, I longed the most for those evenings with my father. There was something in me that he understood, a thing that set us apart from the others.

He taught me to play euchre so that wherever in the world I have travelled he is with me. I feel my hands holding the cards the way his did and I rest my finger on my chin to consider my chances, as he did.

He liked a whisky late at night over those cards. He never drank more than a tiny glass or two, so I could never think of my father as an alcoholic, as my mother claimed he was. He was more a binge drinker when the cattle sales were on in town and when you consider his binges were often many months apart, for the most part he was a calm, patient and hard working man.

Every morning he woke me as he chopped the wood for the fire. I would wait until I heard the thump and rumble of the wood, and tinkle of the tinder landing in the woodbox. I would wait for the splash and crackle and roar as he lit the kerosine splattered firewood. I would listen for the sounds of his sock covered feet shuffle to the taps and fill the kettle, the scrape and grating squeak as he removed the fire cover and set the water over the new hot flames to boil. These memories of sound are like gold to me. The kettle would not take long and I would hear him feed the fire with chunks of increasing size, the final hollow pressured thump as he became satisfied with the health of the fire and rammed the firedoor shut. I would wait for this, then stumble out to the kitchen, warm now and welcoming.

We would lean inside the oven door together and let our cold hands sit on the white enamel insulated (asbestos probably) stovetop covers. His first hand rolled drum cigarette would be sending spirals of blue smoke into his eyes, and he would gaze quietly over the back paddock. I wonder now what he was thinking about. I suppose we must have spent this time talking and it seems wrong that the sounds of that room are so acute in my memory but his words seem to have drifted away and dissipated into the black soot on that vj lined ceiling.

Dad would have been seventy-eight last week. I knew even then, I think, that he would not last that long. He often joked about his smoking, that we would see the smoke rising from his grave but I looked last time and there wasn't any. I imagine him laughing and reminding me that he did give up in the end but not until two weeks before he died. It annoys me now that the doctors didn't let him live his last few weeks with that small joy. Instead they pumped him full of nicotine to stave the cravings and his weakness for just one more cigarette placed too much stress on his poor heart.

His dear heart.