The Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne. Early 2000s.
The only memories I have left of you are threadbare, and stained with the black stillness of night.
It’s 4am, and we’re falling asleep. You keep saying you’re going; I keep telling you to leave. But you don’t move, and I don’t really mean it. You’re lying with your head in my lap, the way you always do. My hand is nesting in your inky-black hair. In the darkness, your eyes are a deeper shade of ebony than the kohl that lines them. You look up at me, with something that resembles wonder on your face.
What? I ask, unsettled by the attention.
Nothing. You smile then, your fingers reaching up to stroke my cheeks, trace my lips, until I can’t help but smile back down at you.
We play variations of this night after night, until one time you ask me why I’m always the one cradling you.
Don’t you trust me?
It startles me to realise that I don’t. I haven’t let myself. But I want to try.
The next time we are together, I let myself fall back into you. In the darkness, you catch me.
It’s 2am, and it’s your turn to choose. You flick through my CDs with the kind of thought and care people put into choosing a name for their child. An appreciative smile rests briefly on my lips as you insert the disc into the car stereo. I don’t even care what you’ve chosen, I just love that it took you so long to choose.
You lean back into your seat and close your eyes; I follow suit, smiling at the song you’ve chosen.
Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay
Lay spread out before me as her body once did.
A car turns into your street behind us, its headlights infiltrating the blackness of this hidey-hole we’ve created for ourselves. My eyes open to the tell-tale markings of a police car in the rear-view mirror. I slink down in my seat a little, pulling you with me. Shhh, I gesture with one shaky finger. Icy guilt trickles through my veins, despite the fact that we’re not doing anything wrong. I feel sure they can hear my kick-drum heart and I wonder hysterically whether we are more likely to be searched for drugs, or arrested for loitering.
The car creeps slowly past, the two officers peering in at us, before they exit your street at the other end.
The hysterical laughter we break into is born at least partly of relief. We laugh for longer than we should, my hands still shaking for ages afterwards.
It’s 5am, and I’ve just gotten home. My feet are getting more practised at sneaking in, my hands more deft at opening – and closing – the front door quietly. Even before I reach my room I’m missing the warmth of your breath on my cheek, the gentleness of your fingers along my collarbone, the soft contours and hard angles of your body under my head.
I’m home, I text, smiling because I know you’ll call me now, even though I only just left. I leave the light off in my room, because it’s always easier to talk to you when it’s dark. What do we talk about, for hours every night? I don’t remember anymore. I’m sure at the time we think it very profound.
The sun has begun its rise when I finally get into bed. I pull the pillow over my head against the encroaching light, and drift off contentedly in the darkness.
It’s 1am, and we’re on the phone. I’m lying on my bed, half undressed, and I can picture you sitting on yours, then standing, pacing – bare feet restless, tense hands fidgeting, cigarette ash falling.
Come over, you plead.
I can’t, I sigh. You sigh back.
Sing to me? I ask you quietly, imploringly. I want to remember your voice when I’m gone.
I want to remember your voice when everything changes; when I no longer know you.
You start off quieter than I expect. You’re unwell; your voice is husky. Your dusty notes become grittier as you go on. You don’t quite manage to sound the highest bits, but my ears fill in your gaps and the melody you piece together is perfectly, imperfectly you.
I know some day you’ll have a beautiful life,
I know you’ll be a star,
In somebody else’s sky,
But why – why can’t it be mine?
Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when I look up at the black night sky, the stars sprinkled across it like a dusting of diamonds and alabaster, I still think of you, and smile.
© Martina Medica 2017