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An eddy and the undertow

An eddy and the undertow

by Stephanie on October 1, 2009

I have perfected the art of the 24-hour lament. If you can call it a lament. An expulsion. Catharsis. A moment of reflection before the purge. I let you into my body momentarily, now I am pushing you out again.

Before that: I found precisely eleven post-it notes in my copy of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Eight of them were blank. The ninth, tenth and eleventh read, in this order:

1. The picture being seen,
2. the feather falling—
3. hiding oneself.

Before that: the silence of snow was unexpected. Surely something that so changes the shape of the world should come crashing in, clamouring, announcing its arrival triumphantly, flamboyantly? Thunderstorms break out the symphony. Thunderstorms are the narcissists, the attention-seekers, the drama students hoping to shock and slander and find notoriety in a quickened heartbeat. Snow is the solitary artist in the basement, meticulous and meditative, painting perfect miniatures. The silence of snow was unexpected and eerie. My skin craved salt in the water and sunlight that would burn and blister.

Before that: my hands smelt like soap and the soap-on-skin smelt like being in the bush when I was twelve, in hand-me-down cargo pants and a black singlet top. It rained most of the night. We walked without torches, hoping the adults wouldn’t catch us. I wore a blue jumper under my coat. We sat on the wobbling wooden bench in the mess tent, listening to the rain on the canvas, and I ended up with a mouthful of your warm tongue.

Before that: I was skinny-legged and daydreamy, too tall for my age, too smart to sit on my hands in class, too shy to know what to say to their faces, holding both hands full of dewy bluebells from under the plum tree in my grandmother’s garden. My Dad nailed planks of wood to the arching branches of the fig tree and I sat among the mosquitoes and turned myself inside out. I wanted fairytales, and never weddings.

Before that: my mother.

Before that: dust.

There is a fast-flowing river, heading for the ocean, and the tributaries are growing. Other people’s faith is both buoyant and a burden. My own faith is caged but still flutters wildly. I’ll do one quick revolution—a somersault, a pause—and smile perhaps, then catch the current again.

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