a dense short story exploring the vicissitudes of memory. spectral remembrance crawling out of the gutters and rusty skips of inner-urban melbourne, or lying dormant as slumping archives under sagging empty beds. long ago memory given lumpen form and stuttering motion. a patchwork quilt tavels through time.
Creativity; Experimental; Sexuality; Queerness
… and just what is my relationship to memory?
sea eyes turning perlite.
she’s staring at the back of his head, her legs folded over the back of the iron bench, still in fluffy pyjamas, butt balancing on a narrow beam. he’s staircase suntrap sitting, cigarette rolling, damiana and tobacco. she’s judgey about the smoking. you know.
well yes. exactly.
she bottoms out for a breathless moment when she realises what he is saying/not saying.
she thinks: guess i thought that nobody else knew. or see my holes.
there’s a patch of hair he’s missed with the clippers. she imagines the awkward position of the arm getting the spot behind the crown. elbow bent like a broken wing, scapula poking bluntly through the skin. the articulation of the interior. he’s going going gone grey. she’s gone every colour grey.
problems with retrieval. cough. mmmmmfragments.
not so much fragments. as. huge bloody gaps. cache erasure. i mean, we’re
talking lacunae, blind spots, chasms, whacking great bleeding bloody
they both nod, traversing emptiness.
i remember coming home one afternoon when we were sharing that place
the corner of your nice rug hanging out of the dumpster. i liked that rug.
oh! what did the rug look like? knitted? squares? yellow, red… ?
mmmm… I’ll send you a photo
later, he sends her a [photo] and a [message]
looked like this. handmade crocheted, black squares with various brightly
coloured centres not unlike the one i found in the cupboard here.
she thinks: maybe i threw it all out with the rug, into the skip outside the flats on
clyde street: the back garden shed which was more
garden than shed was gradually made into a by-the-
hour shanty. rotting chairs and carpet rolls dragged in
off the street created a dank boudoir for the working
girls. the atrium that opened out onto the street and
the hallway through to the back verandah became an
all-day thoroughfare for the girls and their johns. hi.
g’day, hello. cup of tea? outside the bedroom window:
sleepers, or dead people.
she doesn’t remember throwing her life into the skip. well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t. blank(et)ed. problems with retrieval. fossicking through the odds and sodden ends,
shadowing her eyes against the sharpness of a million
refractions. the broken hill bottle dump, glittering, like
a shattered sea. pellucid, cloudy glasses and bright.
surgent shard heaps, crunching underboot. she doesn’t
survive well away from the sea, beachcombs the tip as if
it is the littoral zone.
searching for a memento. what to do with a life-to-date and its accretions? you put it all neatly to bed in a skip, covered by a favorite rug, the crocheted op-shop rug, the comforter. you leave one woolen corner draped over the metal edging. a friend recovers the coveted comforter. it becomes part of the archives. the mongrel archives. the shapeless and fluxing interpretive archives, boxes growing soft with time and slumping under the weight of stories.
so whose rug is this?
they wonder, together.
and whose story, then?
whose rug, so tenderly rescued, bed-ended, lap-draped? and whose story, wet with tears and sharp with hurt? full of scissures, seizures and slippages. all this boxed and under-the-bed. dormant, quietly sporulating, two of everything, biding, awaiting exhumation.
his head makes small movements as he talks. she can’t see his face. said he pulled on the corner of the rug and like a strand of hair you drag out of the drain it dislodged sludgy enmeshed remains. abject but fascinating. body parts fused to light paper. smiles fading. love running away in writing.
so i pulled on the corner of the rug and disturbed your sleeping or
dead people. retrieved that lot for you. for later. after the flood.
she nods. sun illuminates. she is a see-through membrane. she almost
the yellow skip, like a boat, a rusty metal boat on land,
on asphalt, conveying broken half-lives to the place
where they all rot together, sorting out their differences
in a heated compostable earthing. there were three on
the street, an uncomfortable three catastrophising
three bodies suddenly erupting into an intimacy of fists
connecting with skins sliding across bones, the fluids of
three bodies mingling in a loud puddle of tears. a
cartoon scuffle, a souring of desire, a breaking of
hearts you can hear. crying. she watched from the
window sill, the scene speeding away in a perspectival
dissociation. all she wanted to do was throw them and
everything they had ever touched into the boat and
float it off down the inner city river of muck with all the
rusty bicycles of dread.
cough-cry. blush. flood sigh laugh. memory wounds bloom and bloom, like blood curdling in milk, boiling crimson. a persistent florescing. petal after petal unfurling, falling, unfurling, falling, in a time-lapse of fresh new colour fading into deadheaded entropy.
are you ok?
overcome. she. just with the breath and under the influence whispers
hhhhhh. yes. mmmmmmnnnnuhuh. [nod]
flood memory: adeline tried to hang herself, she was
amber’s girlfriend. amber was mean, and stole bikes.
river stole bikes too, and one morning real early she
was banging at the huge front door screaming for us to
let her in. she’d racked someone’s bike and wanted to
hide it in our backyard until she could respray it, sell it.
river was, oh river was. samara’s lover, eventually.
how did we all end up in a hazy warm tangle of sheets
and limbs. with with withwithwith. such fucked
bed. familiar and different skins.
her heart is busy in her chest. he doesn’t hear the banging.
how indeed, ending or seeming to, asleep in a double
bedded dumpster with all the lovers, tangled in sheets,
stiff with salt and iron. It starts here: in the front seat of
a rusted carbody. yellow corrugated awning: SMASH
REPA RS AND TOWI G a blue car and an awkward,
uncertain kiss. ask if it’s ok. yes.
nods. there’s this space between them, and their mouths
part, and they watch each other’s lips and they inch
forward. two wounds kissing, open wounds. mash
repairs. is this how it
her heart. busy in her chest.
i know how this sounds, i know, i know. believe me. i know how this
well you were, you know, in a liminal place…
marking time in fits and starts.
there was an architecture i used to go from here to there, and
um, yeah, a crossing ov
to you liminal means the point at which things change, because to me
liminal means the point of uncertainty, the point between certainties
well, yes, this thing called instability
she is breathless. she holds it.
we are breathless together, stealing the air in a hyper
ventilation. my desire bleeds out of me. our dreams
riot and slam. she takes my arm gently and tells me
what will happen.
i perform the gestures of receiving as if i know them.
he breathes in and out, smoke escaping the top of his head, it dances in curlicues and impressionistic ampersands as he fleshes memory to word.
laughing, a tangential reflection: one day i was standing at the sink
and watched as someone feebly attempted a very stoned break in. i
mean, the window was open, right! he got his head through the
window and saw me. oh sorry mate, i didn’t think there was anyone
home… got any money?
laugh, he and she both. laugh cry cry laugh. she even says
christ! [so queasy] i hurt so bad for myself. then and now. she
makes a patchwork rug for her bones. makes it from a
suffocating love. makes it from her own skin. wraps it
around and around a hundred hundred thousand
times, but not too tightly. sews up the little grazes, the
nicks cuts tears that love has inflicted upon her with a
small golden needle.
this one time. we were really close to the television, the image broken
up into coloured snow, everything was partial, nothing resolved. lying
across the bed, chin resting in hands. i’m swinging my feet into the air
and then letting them drop, bouncing on the mattress. substances for
days and a destitution of sleep.
i perform the gestures of receiving as if i know them.
we’re laughing a bit, buzzing a bit, in a not unpleasant way. my cheek
resting on the crochet rug, the one you rescued.
he nods, remembering the open window through which
so anyway i’m watching her and she’s looking away from me at the
wall. she’s watching a spider crawl up the wall. except, see, there is no
spider. her head is following the spider-that-isn’t-there up and up.
and i’m thinking: necks don’t twist that far. suddenly she’s a body in
flight, or rictus. she’s dancing the epileptic tarantella and i’m ringing
911 and wondering why no one answers and freaking out watching
limbs do things limbs should never do, but she’s in flight. i listen for
the sound of breaking bones. eventually, itfeels like eventually, there
is just labored breathing and mouth froth and dead eyes. looking into
the face of, of what do you call that? it’s breathing, so not dead,
autonomic. i want to reach inside those huge black pupils and drag her
out. calling her back, calling her back.
i ended up on a bloody hospital gurney myself that night, white waffle
blanket muffling my panic. amygdala running hot.
he turned around to look at her, one eye closed against the brightness of the sun. her head disappearing in a nimbus.
and not for the last time.
curtained cubicles hospital gurneys waffle blankets we
always stole rubber tubing gauze kidneydishes
starched pillows cases laughing nurses flickering
fluorescent tubes ignore the junkie ignore the attempted
suicide ignore the nutjob ignore the flicker flicke flicker
dance dance dance
her voice emanating as rays from her sun-head. hot words and blind.
no, not for the last… not even for the last. time.
we all fall down among the pungent flowerings
i am a lifetime of conflicts, an archive gone bad, a slump of cardboard,
a curl of paper, a ravel of threads, a stolen bicycle, a schiz of vision.
and you. you in your blue you in your red, your pink, you in all the
hues, you shame me a sham a shame, a vocabulary of sighs, a library
of lamentation, you. are so. sanguine. to my green. there are seven fat
shivering drops. lachrimae. music
accompanies the fall. i have them still, stiff little spots on linen. they
hold all the information i might ever need. this is the archive.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.
© Copyright 2015 La Trobe University. All rights reserved.