To read the handwritten letter click here.
Tuesday, 31st July, 2012
The paper is smooth. I’ve never thought of the tactile qualities of paper, but now, as the numbness gives away, everything has a heightened feel. When I run my finger tips over the blank page I can feel the smoothness of your back and chest, the circle on the inside of your thighs where jeans have rubbed away the hair.
It wasn’t the brittle bits of plastic on the beach that fascinated me, like it did you. For me it was the glass, dulled and worn smooth by the sand and salt and motion of the sea. They were my secret treasures. I cut my finger on the plastic once. A stupid cut on the inside of my hand that stung when the salt settled in it, from where you dunked my hand to wash away the blood. Because of where it was, the skin flexing with the movement of my hand, it took forever to heal. The glass pebbles once dangerous, jagged edges waiting to cut, now blunted, are the true jewels of the sea.
Jude, I’ve lived my entire life on the edge of disaster. Working uncover there’s the constant fear of being found out, of one of your own ratting to the enemy. There’s the loss of self. Am I Ella-Louise, Charlotte, Ruby-Rose, Anna Franco? You have to understand that lying with you in the lounge room, letting you worship me like I’d always wanted, I didn’t cling to you because I wanted it to last forever (or hold you to me forever, though I did) or because I was totally lost in the swell of passionate abandonment crashing through me and needing an anchor (though it was), it was because for a precious few hours I could just be me. No masks. No barricades. No necessary lies. And because of that I gave you all of myself with no regard to for what came next.
And why I was there waiting on Sunday afternoon. It was like I was alive. That each kiss and caress breathed life back into the decayed husk I’d become. Finding my way back after years of being lost.
For the first time in ten years I made love to a man. I gave myself to the closeness, where the boundaries of bodies and personhood dissolve and there’s a transcendental existence. How my body sung and throbbed and ached and I wanted to possess every inch of you in return. Creating my own road map of your body, recognising the moles and little scars, so it was familiar and unknown. How the boy I knew and loved had the body of a man now and how lying sweaty and breathless in your arms was the home I’d been looking for all these years.
And then you left, Jude. How could you have looked at me like you did and then just walked out without a word.
You didn’t do it for us. You did it for you. Don’t delude yourself… you gave me no say in it. I came out of the shower talking about finding that place you’d promised to take me to after graduation, my body still strung out from having you in the shower and there was nothing but a two dollar coin you’d dropped. I looked for another note, turned the entire house upside down. Found lingerie Ava had jammed into a corner of my bag and just sat on the mess of a bed, the thrill of your loving turning to a bone deep chill I still haven’t shaken.
I knew you weren’t coming back. And I read your letter and I have no idea what you wanted from me, or what you want from me now.
You got to go home to your house, your wife and your kids. When I finally made it home my house had a new roof, ceilings and a fucking new bathroom I didn’t want… but it was empty. There’s only me. And the only other person I want, can’t share it with me.
I lied when I said I wasn’t going to the reunion. When I was certain it was safe to go inside (the Francos go on trial late September and I’ve never been certain of how well I covered my tracks. I was certain if they were going to find me it would be at the reunion) I went in.
It was 10:00pm. The party was in full swing. I hung at the door. It seemed like a mad carnival of faces. My whole professional life I’ve been terrified of being recognised and here I was, waiting for someone to see me and welcome me. But I was on the outside, like always. Even in the short colourful dress, among the blue jeans and black dresses and nondescript suits, I was invisible. I saw you and Rebecca with Natalie and Mandy. I saw the way you had your arm around her waist, holding her close, they way she looked at you… and I wanted it to be me. It was like being kicked in the stomach with safety boots. You looked in my direction and I stepped back into the shadows and left.
Back at the house I hung the dress over the couch, put on all my warm clothes and went up to The Point. I didn’t think you’d come. Actually I was certain you wouldn’t. The air chilled my cheeks, the kind of cold that hurts. But I climbed to the top and sat there in the full blast of the wind. I thought of how I felt sick and lost when you came to the house Thursday… how you were buried under layers of someone else. You kissed me on the cheek, your cheek rough against mine and when I stepped away you were there; a small flicker that grew until it consumed me whole on the floor in front of the heater. That you reached out for me like I’d always wanted you to.
Now I wake in the middle of the night unable to breath, aftershocks of an orgasm trembling through me and I reach for you and you’re not there. And in the dark, it comes crashing back to me that you left. And I don’t want the dreams to stop but they come with the crushing truth of it all.
Did you use me? Did I fill a hole in your marriage? Was I just some wish fulfilment?
I didn’t go after you. Maybe I should have?
By the time I’d got myself together enough to pack and leave, I stopped in on the way out of town to get hot chips. I asked the lady behind the counter if she knew where Blue Fin Drive was, that I was lost. She looked at me weirdly and told me Blue Fin Drive was in the new industrial estate north. So you hadn’t even been writing to me from your home address.
I ended up at the nursing home. Of all the places to go, I ended up with your Dad. The nurse on duty was a little suspicious of me, but they got an aide to get your Dad dressed to go out. I couldn’t believe how emaciated and fragile he looked; his hair almost white. But his eyes lit up when he saw me. They lent us a fold up wheelchair and told me he had to back by 8pm and he made a strangled kind of laugh.
I took him to the Eden Surf Club and sat patiently as he told me his news. I cut up his spaghetti bog and helped him eat it. He patted my hand and said “Thank you for not pitying me.” I told him couldn’t pity him. I loved him in my own way. To me he’d been the father I never had. I told him bits and pieces of the last 20 years.
He didn’t ask if I’d seen you or if I’d been to the reunion. He didn’t ask why I’d come alone on a Sunday night and driven him somewhere no one would easily recognise us.
I’d found a limited edition live recording of The Beach Boys in Sydney. I got it out of my bag and his eyes welled up when he opened and read the card. I’d never been brave enough to give him a Father’s Day card when we were teenagers. It would’ve just made things difficult. He leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and its stubbled roughness reminded me of your first kiss.
I kept it together until we got back to the nursing home. I turned the engine off, the lights went off and I went to get out, but couldn’t. The rain was pummeling the car. It took a moment for your Dad to realise I was crying. Sobbing so hard I could barely breath. I felt his hand fall hard against my knee, his weak fingers trying to squeeze my knee. When I’d got control of myself he said, “Jude was an idiot.” And then opened the door and the howling wind filled the car. I was soaked by the time I got the wheel chair out and your Dad back inside.
I went back to the McCracken place and curled up on the floor in front of the heater, around the pillow that smelled of you and cried myself to sleep. And I left the next morning numb. A chill so deep inside me I couldn’t soak it out with hot water, or purge it with music or running. I even slept with Zeke to try and find the heat you’d taken from me.
And now I have that to deal with. His touch was not yours. His kisses not yours. It was like what Helena did to you years ago when you cried about a bee sting and she booted you in the nuts and told you that was a real reason to cry. But trying to hurt myself with Zeke, to dull the pain, didn’t work.
I can’t even be angry with you Jude. I don’t know how to make the chill and numbness go away. As I get to the end of this I realise I’m not really feeling anything differently. Handle paper the wrong way and it will draw blood. And the weight of the doona isn’t you. The slide of the sheet is not your leg moving against mine.
The bruises on the inside of my thighs from your hipbones are long gone. Until your letter arrived I could have pretended it never happened. I’m the consummate actress; you saw that on Thursday night when you came over, who I’m capable of being. But I just want to be me. With you…
We ain’t that different, you and me
Cause I’m scared the storm gonna take me away.
Or maybe it took me away all those years ago?
You don’t have the monopoly of being caught in circular thinking. But at least you know why you left without a word.
PS: “I’m sorry I was not your “always and ever” what the hell do you mean by that? Do you feel the knife twist of your original betrayal and what might have been when I needed you in Sydney? If I’d stayed I’d never have needed to be put back together. I’m Inana, destroyed by the underworld.