A Love Story in Sydney
By Samantha Heng
The drip of your blood resounds in the deepest craters of my heart. We are here but we are not here.
I remember being on board the ferry travelling backwards from Manly, and the sun was strong but we didn't feel its rays. Fresh chills came riding on every curve of wind, striking us in the face, through our hair, microscopic salt peppering our bodies as we lunge against it, fighting it with the weight of us. Why do we fight? Why do we put our bodies up for resistance? There is something compelling about unclenching fists and loosening the knotted lumps inside our shoulders. But we cannot do that. Simply because we don't know how to.
The ferry pushed against the strength of the wind, tunnelling its way forward and we saw the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the distance – they twinkled, illuminated by a background of setting sun. An orange glow wrapped warmly around their perimeters, ensconcing them in a cottony web of security, raising them to godly status in the quiet rapture of early dusk. They are trapped inside this tangerine cage, with nowhere to go but continue to be.
I took your hand and our fingers coiled together like serpents around the tree of life. We ate the apples, and adorned ourselves in large maple leaves that fell from an estate lined with rows of autumn trees. Nobody was there to tell us that we can't, or shake their heads at us. In any case, it didn't matter much. For us the world was streaked in rust and colour, we traded ashes for beauty a long time ago.
I think that was the first time I actually saw behind your eyes. I've adopted a habit of gazing at you, staring, observing – or maybe training my eyes on you would be a better way of describing this almost-perverse hobby I've recently acquired. I know the different shades that your hair takes on in the sun, the rose powdery softness of your cheeks, that thin nose, lobeless ears and the slight bump on the tip of its curve. And your eyes are magic. They are two perfect pools of moonlight that glitter and sometimes become dark and serious. But today in the ethereal glare of sun and deep moaning winds, I looked at you and suddenly understood the things that worked behind your eyes. The reverie and pensiveness, the swings from elation to depression. You are a creature alive, and I am with you. We are in this world alone, helpless against it with our love, but we are together and this love introduces light, welcomes the blackness, transports us into an in between place that is made for lovers, and lovers only.
When the ferry docked we caught a bus into Glebe. There is a big, beautiful park there. Do you remember? The time you asked me to accompany you to a friend's housewarming party, and halfway through we got bored with hoity toity shrimp hors d'oeuvres and left for the nearest patch of grass. We smoked three Marlboro packets between us, ate store bought egg sandwiches and guzzled beer till our faces swelled up and you laughed and laughed before passing out. I spent the entire night in the most uncomfortable position, my neck cramped up pretty badly, my leg went dead but your sleeping head was in my hands, and there was nothing else I wanted to do. Your sleeping face. You angel.
So why would you tell me you wouldn't leave her? Do you know the feeling of sourness? It creeps up on you when you least expect it – as you stand in a bakery picking out your loaf of bread for the week, and decide on rye. You reach your hand into your pocket to retrieve those crushed notes, change from an earlier visit to the drugstore for sleeping pills, and fish out something else. It is a crushed ball of paper all right, but nothing like a dollar note. As you unfold it, your heart stops beating. It reads: I will love you I will love you forever because we are Time. And there is a tiny doodling of two rather spritely hearts side by side.
Time. What is time? Why do you write time with a capital "T"? La Banette was our go to Parisian fix, and now I have to find someplace else. Your face is in the sky. It is in the air that I breathe. My heart is tight. I cannot breathe. How can one breathe one's face?
Now I live in student accommodation up on a hill along George Street. It's not too big, with a communal kitchen that is never clean but I am content with grime. My heart is ledged with grime, there is only an uneven rhythm. Sometimes it goes faster than normal, when I think I see you around the corner. Inside my head I see you holding her hand. You are smiling, your perfect little white teeth mocking the world's disarray, my disarray. She has soft eyes, her hair is neat, her skin is sweet, she is slim, clean and shaves her shins. Me? I have hair running along the bone of my leg, my armpits are black, my upper lip coarse with stubble. I am not fit for a queen like you. You are the star and the galaxy, the Milky Way and the moon, the Angel Place birdcages and Sappho's sun dappled courtyard.
Suspended in a dream, gamely feeling for our way through thick mist. We were unbeatable. The world cowered when we came close, and opened up its velvety greenness to admit our golden bodies, gilded hearts. Where did things go wrong? When we stepped into Clipper Cafe and you ordered a long black, I should have known. I should have seen the signs. You would never drink black coffee unless something was bothering you. And then you said you didn't feel like eating. The bicycle cast a deathly shadow across the wall, splaying ominously above us. At the time I admired its beauty.
You fidgeted with your spoon, your brows slightly crimped with worry. I dismissed it as fatigue from the day we'd spent on the beach – you nose deep in your novel, while I admired your toes. I held your hand and you remarked that I had rather rough knuckles. I thought you were kidding. By the time my pancakes arrived, I had worked up an appetite. You were a picture of gloomy skies and I refused to acknowledge the dull greys, choosing instead to anticipate a long night of tender lovemaking, gentle caresses. My mind wandered to a later time that never happened. I saw you naked, your skin smooth and slightly burnt from the deceiving sun. You are the Madonna, my holy virgin, pristine darling, untouched by the raggedness of the world, unmarred by the malevolence of human nature. Your back faced to me, the moonlight streaming in through the window, curtains gently lifting in the ebb and flow of midnight breezes. I am watching you, but you do not see me. I am wet with want, but you seem to be deep in thought. My bed is small, but we are smaller yet. The tightness of space, silvery nocturnal glow. It makes your body glimmer. I reach out for you and you turn to touch my fingers. We frolic for hours, and love each other's bodies deep into the night, early into the morning, until everything else is a blur. Or perhaps we are the blur, movement defines us, and everything else is pulled into greater clarity. You become all the more obvious to me. I love you, I whisper into your ear. Time is ours, you say.QLRS Vol. 12 No. 3 Jul 2013