I stopped sharing blog posts on body, remember twelve months and a few days ago, after my father got sick. In the year since then, so much has happened, a complete rearrangement, and any time I went to write about this new world I found myself in, the words got stuck, generally somewhere between my heart and my fingertips.
Fortunately for me, editing comes a little easier than excavating. Since my Dad passed in September, I’ve been working hard on a new draft for my manuscript, formerly known here as What We Have Left. The new title is The Weight of Her Remains and with the story now out there in the query trenches, I figured it was time to come back to where it all started. In 2020, having survived the maelstrom that was 2019, I plan to share some of my favourite paragraphs and moments from The Weight of Her Remains* on this blog, along with what happens next in the bigger story of my own life and this little novel of mine. I hope you enjoy.
Or cry. Crying from time to time would be okay, too 😉
When all that is left is your bones. I will still feel the weight of you. Your mouth on my shoulder, the world made small and true in the press of your lips.
I can survive the vast and empty roads ahead with this memory of you (and I) at its edges.
You say there is no meaning. And I want to lean over, kiss your moving mouth. To prove my point that even the smallest thing matters. To show you how something as simple as my lips on yours would tip the table, smash the row of glasses between us. You and I, met in the middle, would set this entire room spinning.
You think it is about what we construct. But I know it’s what we leave out that keeps a world intact (when you want to stay safe inside it). So I remain where I am. Bite my thumb. Pour another and another drink. Try to smile at you as I swallow. Knowing too, in the deepest down, just why I wanted this argument won.
(Character building. Or revealing character flaws, perhaps)
Last night I poured my vodka down the sink and fell asleep on the bathroom floor. I fall deepest when the sun comes up, and wake disoriented from my morning travels. Everything is the wrong way round here, or I am. So much corner turning, so much emerging from below, and it creates a kind of alert exhaustion, an expectation that something is about to happen today if I just get up and in it.
It all feels so possible, so utterly and entirely possible, this living on the brink.
“I did not belong there,” Joan Didion said of this city. And I recognise her words, because I know I do not belong here either. I do not know the rhythm and the rules. I am a step out of time, backwards dancing across these cracked pavements and sticky stairwells.
And like Joan Didion, I am in love. I am in love with this grimy, swollen, stinking city. With her teeming masses, and the bare-bone trees of winter, waiting.
They are anonymous, quiet like me.
And I too am on the verge of blooming.
My first blog post from New York, back in April, 2015. And now …
The first time your heart shatters, you become one woman or another.
The first can only ever love the broken after that. She sees damage as her canvas, and she spends the rest of her life trying to make it beautiful. Cobbling together the lost and fragmented, soothing their sadness and their grief. She creates a mosaic from their stories and their sorrow, mends the pieces into something whole again. Because if she can love something back together, it means nothing, no one is too far gone for saving.
The other starts to sees damage as inevitable. So she strikes first, destroys anything that comes too close. This kind of woman will sabotage her own happiness, snap it clean in two, rather than let someone or some thing surprise her again. Her heart inured, she will be the one to lay siege from now on. For her, it is obvious people were never meant to stay whole. And to survive this world, we must learn to live with what we have left.
Very few people are all bad. Hardly anybody at all really. Maybe an irredeemable handful who were born with their wires muddled, missing. But the rest of us are works in progress. Reacting to our environments, growing or shrinking according to whatever light gets shined on us. It’s no excuse. Cruelty and ignorance cannot always be forgiven. But I guess, if we want to, we can understand it. We can look at it up close, we can examine all the ways there are to hurt someone. And we can decide what we will not do.
Perhaps the rest is all chance. You really can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. All those things they say when they want to blame someone for the bad things done to them. But not in the way of it being your fault, let’s be clear. A chance encounter, by its definition, cannot be your fault. And here’s the thing. What if you do change your behavior to avoid those chance encounters. What if you alter how you live in this world because there are those who would do to you what you would never do to someone else? It doesn’t make anyone safer, in the end. It really doesn’t.
Because let’s be clear about one more thing. If you change your behavior, and he does not, then you are safe.
She is supposed to be his safe haven, the place he can go to when he is exhausted. Didn’t he tell her once that she was the shore, or had she imagined that after he played her a song with such words? Has she afforded him a depth of feeling and meaning that he has never really possessed?
What would it be like if she could see him going about his day just now. The care he gives to others, the attention he bestows on anyone not her. Perhaps, just a little, he hates her. Despises how she has led him down a path he cannot return from. Cannot make up from. He forgets all this in her arms, of course, or when he is alone in another clean, wide-bed hotel room and he has had one too many wines to fall asleep. In these moment she is all he can think of. His dark-eyed lover, the one whose body he has traversed and drowned in and drunk from, all these years. Sometimes the ache for her is no different from thirst or hunger. A primal need her skin and scent satisfies.
Other times, like now, when she sends her SOS from across the ocean, he wishes she would leave him be, thinks of life before her, and after her, too, if he could just say the words he needs to. Why doesn’t she understand? Why does she keep coming back for more? She cannot lose him, he was never hers to begin with, he never offered himself the way she offered herself to him. This is not his fault. What is he supposed to do? Leave his wife and children for a woman he barely knows, barely even likes, if he’s honest?
If he’s honest.
Thanks to her, he feels as if he has never been honest a single day of his life.
This, this was the day your life changed. Slowly, then all in a rush. You used to think it was the day before you met him. You used to think about the lack of hunger, the lack of yearning, the something missing-ness of your life. You got so used to recognizing him, the back of him, in any room, in any anecdote or situation that you forgot who you were the day before. Let me tell you. If I could sit down with you on that last day, when you did not know him, did not think of him in some way.
You were healing, piecing yourself back together. And it suited him to keep you broken.
The world has always looked different with him in it. When she saw him walking up the stairs, when she looked up from the text he’d just sent – I got lost. Bloody Melbourne alleyways! But I think I’m at the right place. Up on the roof, yeah? – and their eyes met, it was that same sudden, silver glow. Clouds moving away from the sun, and every particle of light directed at her.
She forgot, for a second, how to breathe.
(By the time she’s finished her third wine she’s taken to tilting her glass at him whenever she makes a point or declaration, flirting over her nervousness, drinking it away)