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Swamp country

Swamp country

by Stephanie on July 4, 2010

I spent the last nine days in the bush with a collection of family and friends. A party of twelve. I wrote in notebooks with bugs squashed between the pages. My feet are still black from dirt and burnt spinifex, a stubbed toe, a banged-up chin, mosquito bites itched open and bleeding—hundreds of pinpricks that have swollen to welts the size of twenty-cent pieces. Bruises and blood met most days and this song is now playing on repeat in my head:

Delia, oh Delia
Delia all my life

I spent Friday night in secret hot springs, silver fish with red eyes swimming between my thighs, owls swooping low over the water, fingers swollen and scaly, nails chipped and black. My knees ached from rock-hopping. I crawled into my swag at five in the morning, discarding a couple of moonlit tears. But I was drunk and the curlews were crying.

If I hadn’ter shot poor Delia
I’d-a had her for my wife

New friends that had materialised in the last couple of weeks disappeared again, and I thought, how do you hold on to people? How does anyone ever hold on to people? I want to keep you in my pocket. The universe knocks us into each other sideways and provides only scraps of time as fuel—it’s no wonder we all feel lonely. Social niceties are hardly worth the time they swallow, surely—let’s embrace instead like long-lost lovers after five minutes of mirth-bubbled banter.

Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

Sometimes I want to turn off these nerve endings, these synapses cracking, these red-raw impulses and sympathies, and when we got back to Darwin I squeezed my feet into my high-heeled boots to hide my mosquito-eaten and apple-bruised legs. Just to remember how to wear them. Just to remember how it felt to teeter, to be your doll. But even then my elbows itched, my eyes were tired-swollen, my face unpainted, my manners lax and my enthusiasm low. Alcohol strips me of my ability to provide a shield for myself and I’m feeling the full force of it now, poisonous drug—nausea and the need for a cocoon, even one spun from mud and sun. Even one as remote as this.

Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

If this were a conversation, I would end it with a kiss.

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