A long time ago, I promised my partner that I would start writing again. As much as I would have loved to have kept that promise, I have very much struggled to find the inspiration to write anything. Now, I find myself unable to leave the house save for household essentials or a swift jog. I have nothing but time on my hands.
This morning, I found a personal essay and some short stories that I wrote in my final year of university. I thought that the best place to start here, would be to revisit these. The thing they all have in common is that they were all inspired by my family and where I grew up in Australia. I have always found that personal writing is what comes most naturally to me. If you know me or follow me on social media you will know that I love to write about the people I love. So I want to use these pieces as a jumping off point and my hope is that they will get a ball rolling. In the time in between writing these and now, so much has happened. I live in a different country, I have different interests and I fell in love. I haven’t written anything about it!
So here is a short story that I wrote in 2014. I was living with my dad in Brisbane. It also strangely references time standing still which I thought was apt for the current situation we find ourselves in.
Grady arrived early, like always. He curled his top lip and checked his teeth in the rear view mirror. He hesitated as he went to walk into the restaurant and instead loitered outside. After a good ten minutes of rocking from the heels to the balls of his feet, rubbing spots off his windscreen and sprinkling the lint from his pockets onto the pavement, he walked inside. He shooed away an eager waiter and peered into the dining room from behind a potted palm. She was early, too. She sat with her knees leaning against each other and pigeon toes. She surveyed their rocky table and bent down to stuff a folded napkin under one of the table legs. She bounced the end of her bobbed hair on two open palms either side of her head. Grady checked his breath into a cupped hand and smoothed his hair. He closed his eyes softly and took a deep breath.
He opened his eyes. There was an immediate pang in his stomach. He rolled onto his back and closed his eyes hard. His hand slid over to the other half of the bed. The sheets were undisturbed. He lay that way for some time before he sat up and threw his legs off the side of the bed. His feet felt for his slippers as his hands slipped a silver chain around his neck, with a small, silver vial hanging off it. He pulled on his joggers and an old, green jumper that sat in a basket at the end of his bed. The dog began to scratch at the bedroom door as soon as it had heard Grady’s feet hit the floor. He splashed his face with cold water. His chain hung down and alternated between tapping against the sink and being immersed by the rush of water pouring from the tap. The tap continued to run as he placed his hands either side of the sink and hung his head. Droplets of water gathered at the tip of his nose and the tip of his chin before free-falling into the sink below. He turned off the tap and wiped his nose between his thumb and four curled fingers.
He drenched his Shredded Wheat in honey and milk. With the bowl in the microwave, he punched 1:30 on the panel. While he waited for the countdown, he turned on the computer. Hunched over his bowl and spooning the soggy breakfast into his mouth, he checked the news. He placed the bowl on the ground for the dog to clean. Minutes later, crumbs from his fruit toast dropped into the keyboard as he clicked onto his guilty pleasure. The thylacine was a large, carnivorous marsupial long believed to be extinct. Every morning of late, Grady had been carried away reading about reported sightings of the animal. Researchers believed that expanding civilisation had pushed the species back into the bush where humans were unable to reach them. What was once a means of distraction had grown into a belief in the thylacine’s existence and Grady enjoyed the mythological proportions that the animal had taken on. This particular morning, he grasped at the air as he reached out for his cup of tea, unable to tear his eyes away from the computer screen where one ‘Wild’ Bill Flowers was recreating sightings with a cardboard thylacine. With the last grasp, he knocked the cup over. He watched as the tea glided over the desk. He let it drip down onto his lap and waited for it to seep through his pyjama pants and onto his skin.
He matched a polo shirt with a pair of cargo shorts and laid them out on his bed. The dog scratched at the carpet in his den under the bed. He pulled on the shorts before turning to his dressing table and grabbing his can of deodorant. After he sprayed, he looked down at his bare torso and then at his reflection in the mirror. He turned side on and watched himself pat his belly. He stuck out his bottom lip and shrugged. As he lifted the shirt over his head, the chain was caught on his arm as he reached for the sleeve. With head and arms through their respective shirt holes, he watched as the chain slinked down to the carpet. He picked it up and found the clasp bent out of shape. He carried it gingerly and hung it over the bed head on the side that wasn’t his.
An assortment of scents and colours filtered through the botanic gardens. He held a cup of coffee in his hands and let the heat penetrate his skin. The pastry from an apple danish melted in his mouth. He ran his fingers through the different bushes in the herb garden. The herbs were turned to dust between his thumb and index finger. Lifting his hand to his nose, the scents travelled down his nasal passage and lingered at the back of his throat. He picked a pome from a cockspur thorn plant and enjoyed the contrast of its vivid orange against his white palm. He popped the pome inside of his mouth and waited for his taste buds to react to the sweetness and the tang. With mouth agape and nose screwed up, he tried to peek inside of a stingless bee hive. He turned his ear towards the hive, and let the hum from the bees vibrate in his head.
He wandered into the Planetarium and looked at the shows that were on offer. He began to read a poster about a show that would discuss black holes, the breakdown of universal order and imagining a place where time stands still.
“Can you imagine it?” Grady turned around to put a face to the voice.
“A place where time stands still, imagine that,” the man at the information desk said. Grady feigned a smile and nodded.
At the show’s end, he began to climb path after path until he had reached, what he believed to be, the highest point of the gardens. He sat on a bench, crossed one leg over the other and extended one arm along the back of the bench. The moment of quiet and solitude saw the pang in his stomach return. He placed his feet firmly on the ground and leaned over as his palms took on the weight of his head. He closed his eyes and listened hard for the sound of her voice. He turned his head and looked at the space beside him on the bench. He put his hand on the empty space. It was the kind of warm that someone leaves behind after sitting for a long time. It was that kind of warm, or the warm from the sun. He stood up and made his way back down the garden paths.
The dog ambushed him at the door and Grady allowed himself to be scratched at and licked. He stood at the bathroom mirror, towel around his shoulders, and gave himself a haircut. There was still enough to cut from around his ears and down to his neck. He shaved before running himself a hot bath which he soaked in for twenty minutes. His daughter had hung an outfit for him to wear on the back of his wardrobe door. He laid it out on his bed and rubbed his chin. He picked up a flat cap and hung it gently on the bedpost, confirming that he would lie when his daughter asked if he had worn it. He went down to the garden and picked some purple orchids. He attempted to wrap them in some burlap and red string which his daughter had shown him how to do the day before. Tying the stems together with the red string sufficed when the burlap wouldn’t cooperate.
Before he left, he went and sat on the side of the bed that wasn’t is. He slid his hand over the sheets and cocked his head. With one ear pointing towards the ceiling, he listened hard. He picked up the chain and vial hanging on the bed head and went to the kitchen. He pulled a pair of pliers from an old Milo tin that sat on top of the fridge and used them to bend the clasp on the chain back into shape. He hung the chain around his neck and tucked it into his shirt where the vial hung next to his heart. The orchids sat on the passenger seat as he drove away from the house.
Grady arrived early, like always.
I will share the other story, or something else, soon.