I have no friends who ask about me. Well except Mov.
“Oi get in,” she says.
I climb into her blue panel van. She looks wrecked. I am wrecked. Two wrecked women. Her cigarette is smoldering—ash falls to her jeans. Children play on bikes up ahead.
She rolls down her window, “Get the fuck out of my way.” She doesn’t give a shit.
Her van smells of fresh cut wood and something metal clunks around in the back.
“My dumbarse brother needs us,” She waits a moment then looks at me, unable to find my answer. “What’s wrong Pip? You okay?”
“I’m good,” I signal. “Let’s listen to the radio.” She turns it on. It’s something 80s. Something rock. We motion iconic dance moves. We laugh.
Mov is right, her brother is a dumbarse. His ceiling is leaking and he hasn’t bothered to put a bucket or a pot underneath. The carpet smells like mold. He is curled in a corner, afraid of the water unpredictable in its dripping. I give him tea. Mov gives him a lecture.
On Friday Mother calls with some bad news, “Your Dad is on his last legs.”
She cries. I pretend to cry. It is the greatest gift you can give the bereaved – sympathy. But then as you hang up the phone, you can return to your day, go on about it, nothing has changed you.
Mov buttons up her black jacket and packs her pockets with rolled up toilet tissue.
“Does your Mum like orchids?”
I think so, so I nod. Dad’s casket is closed which is a relief because he wasn’t a pretty man. Some say I look like him but I think I am a cross between Mother and the neighbour from my childhood home. Everyone has secrets.
There is someone in my bed. I’ve forgotten his name. From the lump under the blanket, I am guessing he is bulky. I put my wet hair up in a clip, feed my cat. I poke the lump. It grizzles. He could be a person from the funeral: one of Dad’s friends, a co-worker, an estranged Uncle. I hope that my Dad wasn’t watching. I can’t wait to change the sheets.
Mov’s brother is in the corner again but his hand is bleeding and he has a black eye. He says he fell but I am not naive. He weeps and I regret thinking of him poorly. I wrap him in a blanket; he has sharp bony edges unlike his sister. He is so light. I carry him to bed. Mov has shot off down in her car to find his boyfriend.
Mother can’t understand why I’ve let Mov’s brother live with me. She says that the first man to move in should be someone who loves me. I brush my hand in the air; she’ll get over it. Anyway it is nice to have folk around, Mov comes over more, promises she doesn’t mind my mess. I pretend that we are all younger and that we are siblings.
I think I see a ghost. It is a soft light on the wall of my room, flickering.
“Dad?” I whisper.
But it could be anyone.
Mov and her brother fight like mad. I close my bedroom door; I am not part of it. It makes me sad. I wish I were fighting with them.
“Why didn’t you have another child?” I’ve called Mother.
There is a silence that stretches too long.
After Mov and I do a job (someone’s front fence needed fixing) I visit Dad. Graveyards have a funny smell—fresh cut meat. Mov has left the engine running and I can hear she is listening to music in the car park. A fairy-wren swings from the sky and sits on the tomb. It does a little shit down the epitaph. I should clean it but I can’t be bothered walking to the van and wetting a cloth. Besides I am only here because this is what you are supposed to do. I’m doing it but not feeling it. I think that maybe that is the quintessence of Western existence. But then philosophy is replaced by hunger and I forget the idea.
On another Friday a man comes to the door. He is unrecognisable at first but then I read his wrinkles like they are a language and understand that he is my old neighbour. Mother bustles behind him holding a trifle. Mov’s brother has been wrist cutting but wears a long cotton shirt to hide his scars. I’ve been soul searching and hide my bong. We all eat lunch together. I like the neighbour. He touches my hand softly and says, “Pip, you are a sweetheart.” He doesn’t know me very well, he only has the memory of me as a child and everyone is basically a sweetheart as a child.
It is a very sunny day and I terrorise my cat by reflecting light on the wall with my wristwatch. Mov and her brother talk about growing up, running through water sprinklers, their Aunty’s plum tree. I wonder what it must be like to share flesh and blood with someone. Even if siblings hated each other they are still bound through DNA. Even this still doesn’t make me long for my father. It makes me long for someone who was never made.
Mov asks me, “What ya thinking Pip?”
“Oh,” I say. “Nothing.”
Caitlin Farrugia is a writer and producer from Melbourne, Australia. Her pieces often embrace themes of gender, feminism, social class, motherhood and the social worlds of children. Previous publications include Verity La, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Squawk Back and Pink Cover Zine. You can follow her at www.caitlinfarrugia.com or @ohuniverse.