The café has a coffee scanner but I can’t find the extra shot option. Maybe I internalize things too much. Maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m just realistic and I stare at things in the face.
Across the road it says “thanks to all the hospital staff for keeping everyone safe during COVID”.
And anyway it’s a bit early to be crying. It’s not even hardly the start of the operation. It would be easier if it was me. But I am also glad it’s not me.There is a man in a surgical outfit ordering coffee. Hit of caffeine before the operation.
How many people have sat here doing this? Writing these exact words and thinking these same thoughts?
There is a piano player rushing too fast through his musical theme numbers. Maybe I am internalizing his playing too much.
Don’t look at me now! I’m covered in mud. So you would you if you’d lived the past seven years underground. Alone in the dark earth, every day the same, toiling with no sense of where I am going, what my destiny is, why I’m here. Time irrelevant, as my body transforms from something that is indistinct, unformed, until I get to this moment, when I break through the surface. For two short days, I will fight for my own existence, my right to express myself, and breathe in the oxygen of the earth.
Now the time is right. Now you can look. At my wings. My four delicate, glistening, glassy, transparent, stained-glass wings. See how they reflect the sun in fractured windows of iridescent light? See their colour wash of green, yellow, green blue, green pink? These wings have inspired ancient Egyptian jewellers, Greek poets, costumiers and Medieval artists. They have been outlined in watercolour and ink on handmade paper, embroidered onto silk. Our names are colours – Yellow Munday, Cherry Nose, Black Prince, Floury Baker, Greengrocer.
We live above ground for just two short days. But before we die we will make the loudest noise in the world, drowning out traffic, building sites and crashing ocean waves, singing, beating our drums from every treetop.
People rush indoors with their hands over their ears, slamming windows. Birds are beaten back by our cacophony. We are cicada, and this is our swan song, our grand finale, our moment to shine.
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
I thought my silk embroidered curtains would go up sky high but they’re just smouldering. I’ll crouch here for a moment longer. There’s a coolness here. Cool in the dark shadow of eucalyptus and asparagus fern. The embers and sparks can’t touch me.
I thought the verandah explode, but the tin roof will slow it down I guess. Listen to her – groaning under the burden of her wooden beams. She has seen it all! All the shouting and pacing, the late nights, glasses of wine hurled at the window, and me curled in bed with a pillow over my head.
I will weep in the darkness, where nobody will see. I have seen this coming. I will grieve for you but I will do it alone, where you can’t harm me, can’t stop me breathing. I feel your heat but from this distance.
I hand painted every one of those window panes, sanded, then undercoat then gloss. There’s the crack of the glass. How can you not hear that?
Should I throw petrol on it? Maybe not. Should I run for the water buckets in the out house laundry? Maybe not. Now the silk curtains are catching – look at them dancing in the light. Finally! Now that’s a big explosion at the back of the house. Lights out. Electricity down. Just darkness and this red fire. Think you can treat me like that and get away with it.! Think you can scream and shout and throw pans around my kitchen! Then ignore me, then shout, then more shit flying around!
There goes the furniture on the front verandah, it’s taking out the hammock – where we first lay, and then the sofa, and the chair where I would wait for you to come home.
And there you are – front door banging, running out into the darkness.
“What the fuck have you done! You’ve gone way too far this time!”
Read by Clare Grant, Voices of Women, 2019, EDGE Activation, Leichhardt.