Questions, part 4

THE ROSES. THE END.

NOTE: For this story, to make it easier to read, Alex is represented in the italics.

It’s light outside, and I turn on my side to find the darkness. The alarm goes off and my phone tells me it’s twenty six degrees outside, but I’m freezing. It rings again. I press the lock button long enough for it to turn off. I get into the shower. I watch my heart beat under my breast. Is it the fault of that little beating heart that I hurt so badly? If I could, I would tear it out, like the warlock from Beadle’s tales. It’s been three days since the revelation.

It’s been three days since she disappeared. I came back home and she was gone. Just like that. For the first time in my life I’d allowed myself to love, and so for the first time in my life, I experienced the fear of losing someone. I drove for hours. In the end I called a friend I do some work for sometimes, Pip.

So Xander calls me up, and he’s like, hey man I can’t find my wife. I’m like, well I’ll ring her for you and you see if you can hear her. And he gets all huffy, and so I’m like calm your farm, gimme an hour.

Pip found her in half an hour. She’d moved hotels three times in two days. Without answering my texts, she had left me a message loud and clear. I knew exactly where she was and yet I didn’t go and see her. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether she still loved me, and that was, for the first time in my life, one question that I couldn’t ask.

Alexander’s wife left him. I don’t know where she went. I don’t know what it’s going to do to him. I had never seen him truly love until I saw them together. She came to the house a few times, yes, to say hello, meet the future mother in law, et cetera. But on their wedding day, with a bouquet of white roses, she looked beautiful, and that was shown in the most exquisite way simply by the way my son looked at her. I’ve never liked Sarah, but I’m ever grateful to her for what she did for my son. I had never seen him truly smile until he smiled at her. And I know I will see him die if he cannot find her, and fix this. This is something I cannot fix for him.

 

Questions has rejected four jobs in the past few days, including the one we were working on when his wife walked in on us. I don’t know what’s happening but any fool can tell it is not a good thing.

 

I feel alone. I get in my car and drive through the city, and through the neighbourhood I grew up in, past mum and dad’s house, and I drive past the house of every friend I’ve ever made, but I do not stop. Because I feel alone. There is no one I can tell this to, no one to share my burden. There is no one. I am alone. Last night I tried to hate Alex. I sat on my bed and pieced together who he was, and I tried to hate him. But as much as the murderer I now knew did not fit in with lover, husband and friend I had known for so long, I couldn’t. As much as I did not want to think of Alex being something more than what I’d thought, I could not hate him. My mother once told me perfect love drives out fear. If I could not hate him, and I could not be afraid of him, where was I? Did that mean I still loved him? How could I? And so, I ended up beginning to hate myself.

Being with Alex changed me. Suddenly I wasn’t the ugly duckling of the family, or the frumpy friend. Suddenly, every dress I put on fit perfectly. Suddenly, I had no shortage of friends. But was my beauty mine, or his? Was it the dresses I tried on that changed or him the one that convinced me they were different? Were they friends really friends at all? Did I live in his shadow, and had I been okay with that? If I had been, could I continue to knowing it was that much darker?

 

Pip kept me updated on where she was going. At one point I drove to her hotel and sat in my car across the road. I watched the door, knowing full well she might never leave the hotel, but at about three thirty, she did. She was wearing a jumper I’d bought her for her birthday and sweat pants. Her hair was in a bun, and a few hairs had somehow escaped. She was wearing no make up and still looked beautiful.  

          You know, in nature, it’s always the male who tries the hardest to impress the female. It is the male monkey that beats his chest, it is the male cricket who sings the song, and it is the male bird that looks the prettiest and even builds the nest. It is humanity that refuses to do things the way they work, forcing the women to look the best, sing the loudest and make the home. But not for me. With Sarah, I knew after a while I would need her to survive, and so I tried to do things the way they worked for every other species. I was the one who worked, and maybe I worked too hard so that one day, if she ever had a reason not to be with me anymore, she would decide to stay with me anyway. If I worked harder to build a stronger foundation than was needed, no storm would blow us over. And we’d be okay. Better than okay. But now the storm was here, and I was doubting my work. I was doubting everything I’d ever believed. Because it meant Sarah.

 

I was walking to the shops to get a cheap coffee, and I look across and there is Alex. He’s sitting in someone else’s car, pretending not to see me, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t come to this exact spot by accident. I don’t know whether to say anything to him, so I keep walking. A few days ago, I found out that I was pregnant. Yesterday, I found out that was no longer an issue.

 

She walks to a Mr Whippy Van- you know, the ones that travel around playing Greensleeves with scary looking men inside who look like ex-cons. I already know what she’s going to order, and how many sugars she’s going to put in. I know every detail about her, which is why, I guess, I knew what would happen when she found out. Which is why I didn’t tell her. But the one thing I don’t know is what is going to happen now. What is the next step?

 

When I came back to the hotel, he was still sitting there. He had some sunglasses now, but he mustn’t of been thinking straight, because I gave them to him for Christmas. I went up to the car and he nearly jumped out of his skin. I told him he wasn’t as smooth as he thought he was. Then I asked him to follow me back to the hotel room. He immediately got up and followed. Almost forgot to lock the car.

On the way up, we didn’t speak. I guess we were just thinking about what we were going to say. When we reached my room, I sat down with my coffee and took a slow sip as if I had all the time in the world. He sat on the edge of the bed. I spoke first.

 

I asked him how he’d been.

I was honest- I told her that she’d been driving me out of my mind.

I asked him, point blank, what he would have done in my place.

I told her that I probably would have done the same, but that didn’t make it easier. I have a feeling, if the shoe were on the other foot, she would have handled it much better anyway.

I laughed. I couldn’t even imagine being in his place. His little secret had come out, and there was absolutely no way I could imagine myself with the same secret.

I didn’t want her to imagine being in my position, I didn’t want to imagine her being in my position.

I asked him where we were to go from here. He asked me what I wanted to do. I pointed out there were two ways this could go.

She outlined it very clearly and very simply. She could either stay, which would mean this was okay with everything, and she wasn’t, or she could go, which would mean letting go of me.

And I just didn’t think I could do that. To change the subject, I asked him what his tattoos meant.

What?

What did his tattoos mean?

I was a little thrown, but I played along. I explained that the Road Runner was me as a child. Ideas of running away, of being bright and lovely, and thinking of a better life. The Pelican is the mother, my mother. The Sparrow was a friend of mine named Spencer [I was not about to go into detail about that one], and she was the Peacock. Before I could finish, she stood up and spilled her coffee.

You think of me as the peacock? The most narcissistic and cocky animal on the planet?

I explained that the female peacock, though, the red peacock was much different.

I looked down and realised there was coffee all down the front of my dress. I started to dab at it, and suddenly the futility of it all hit me. Not just the coffee, but the whole damn situation. And, despite myself, I started to cry.

I went over and comforted her, and this time she let me.

And we sat down on the bed and I cried on his shoulder for what seemed like hours.

My arm was around her, and after a while, she was quiet. And we just sat there. And then I explained the final part of the tattoos. The roses. The roses were the end. They were the flowers at Spencer’s funeral, they were the main part of my father’s floral arrangement at his funeral, and they will be on my coffin at mine. Because, for all life is, it will end the same way for everyone. That first time at the tattoo parlour, I got the Road Runner which reminded me of my father, the pelican to remind me of my mother, and the sparrow to remind me of the only friend I’d ever truly loved. And the roses were intertwined to remind me of what happened to them, because of me. And the roses were to remind me of what my end would be too.

And then I met Sarah. Because of one person I had gone from living life to death to living life for the sake of living. Each day was different, and special, and I realised I could do something. Sarah gave me a purpose.

 

And yet, I whispered, you continued to kill.

But if I had stopped, it would have all been exposed, and everything would have finished before it began.

I think I still would have loved you, if I had found out at the very beginning.

I don’t.

It’s not for me that you would have stopped. You enjoyed it. It’s for you you must stop.

But you let me grow to a point where I could stop.

And yet, you didn’t.

And there it was. The unavoidable thing to sit between us. The wedge. I could have stopped, but I didn’t. If she hadn’t of found out, I would have kept doing it. If she left me, perhaps I would even return to work tomorrow. Perhaps I would do what we both expected and continue. Or, perhaps I would break. I was silent, and so was she.

 

In the morning, they awoke tangled together. She stirred first, and stared at his face. She did not know him, and that would make this easier. He woke up slowly and looked at her. Perhaps he believed the past few days had all been a terrible nightmare. She stood up, grabbed clean clothes and walked to the bathroom. She was just going to change, but she had never had a problem with changing in front of him before. She could not afford to make him suspicious. She had a shower. He sat on the bed and looked out the window. She walked into the room. Her hair was wet and made parts of her dress darker. She stood in front of him and delivered her verdict. She loved the Alex she knew. He was not the Alex she knew. She could not do this. She turned to grab her bag. He stood up and forced her back around. She was startled. He kissed her. She would not leave him. He continued to kiss her until he could taste her blood. He let her drop to the ground and put his gun back in his chest pocket. As he walked down the corridor, he rolled his sleeve down over his tattoos, over the peacock in amongst the roses. He shut the door at the end of the hallway and kept walking.

 

As he came to the lobby of the hotel, he reached for his gun once more. He pulled the trigger for the last time. Finally the last question was answered. He knew who he was. He was fulfilled. He died.

Control

In a world ruled and created through chaos, human beings were given, or developed, the capacity for logical thinking. The very first thing they did was create order through control. They built farms in place of hunting, started languages as better ways of communicating which they’ve since then refined and perfected, and they organised villages, cities, towns, countries and governments. This was all to bring order.

To this day, humans crave control. We control our lives, our family’s lives, our friends lives. We have calendars on every gadget, every machine tells us the time and we further communication through social media and telecommunication as a form of being able to reach people. We need control. One of the most common precursors to OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder is a lack of order during developmental stages. The need to make life overly organised stems from no or little order. Western society is seeing an ever increasing rise in anxiety orders, although whether this is because our society is more worried than our ancestor’s, or because it’s easier to diagnose, who knows? Everyone has their “thing”- the doors need to be shut, the bed needs to be made, the power point needs to be off [that’s mine]. When pushed to extremities, we end up with dictators and totalitarian governments. We end up with wars because governments cannot stand to give in and feel like they’re losing control. We end up putting loved ones away in hospitals, nursing homes, asylums, because they’ve “lost control”. We say children, animals, teenagers, adults, others, ourselves are “losing control”. Humanity craves control.

People reject governments, parents, religions, gods, God, lovers, friends, teachers, institutions, certain restaurants, whatever, because they are made to feel like they are not in control. People “snap” because they don’t have control. You have to excuse yourself because you’ve lost control.

I guess my question is, where does this need come from and what does it mean? How do people become so controlling? Why? I know that when I lose control, it feels like the world is falling apart and I can’t breathe or move, and it hurts and I feel like everyone is staring at me because they’ve got control and I haven’t. I can’t tell you why, though. I know that when others make me feel like I’m not in control, it makes me pretty angry, but I can’t tell you why. It’s not logical- or is it?

 

Control.

 

Food for thought.

Questions, part 3

THE PEACOCK

My day started off pretty usual. I vacuumed, cleaned the oven, had some lunch and then went to work my shift at the local café. I make the little cakes and deserts and stuff, and sometimes lend a hand with waitressing if it’s needed. Then I had to do some laundry, pick up some printing [I’m trying to get a better job, which means resumes], and change the sheets.

 

My day started off pretty usual. There was a pot head who I had to get some locations off [the idiot didn’t know he’d actually stolen millions of dollars worth of art, and had hidden his stash with plans of selling off each piece for $20]. There was a murderer who had hidden some bodies, a maid who knew about her boss’ affair, and there was a homeless kid who’d read some plans and contracts of a multimillion dollar organisation. As I said, pretty usual.

Then, around nine or ten thirty, Alex came home and we had dinner together. I always wait for him before I eat because my mum always taught me that food was a communal thing. It doesn’t just nourish the body, but provides opportunities to nourish the soul. She’s a hippie. We ate dinner together and he told me about a few people he’d interviewed today, and I told him about all the problems I had with customers during the day. I felt better for it. Then I had a shower, and he had a shower and we kissed and said goodnight.

I think that part of the reason I love Sarah is because she’s normal. There is nothing out there, suspicious or extraordinary about her to anyone but me. To me, the way she brushes her teeth is extraordinary. The way she folds her clothes is amazing. The way she eats her toast upside down so she can actually taste the spread is out of this world. I didn’t grow up in a normal way, but Sarah is the universe balancing all that out.
Sometimes, though, it feels too normal. I’ll buy her normal flowers, she’ll thank me normally and often we’ll do what couples usually do in the usual way. And it’ll be fine. But humans are hardwired to want more than fine. When I go to work, though, I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the normal, and so it’s fine. It’s balanced. But there came a time when I didn’t have work for a while. When no one called for weeks. And my balance was disrupted.

I never thought that the life of a police interrogator could be so sporadic. Sometimes Alex will have three jobs in a day. Sometimes he won’t have a job for three weeks. Little did I know that a week ago would be the beginning of one of those dry patches.
Suddenly, he’s at home all the time. He’s in my way when I try to do things. He doesn’t want to come out to help with errands and then complains that he never goes out. He’s mopey because no one’s calling for him and he feels like that’s some sort of reflection on the quality of his work. He eats too much, he sleeps too much, and I have three times the cleaning to do, without even the satisfaction of watching something I cleaned be clean for a while. I have to admit, it started to grate on my nerves. I always look forward to the silence of the morning, but with Alex at home, it’s just noise in the morning, noise in the afternoon, noise at night. No one ever stops talking. He even snores, which I guess is just a point all men will reach in their lives. It started to drive me up the wall.

I called Pablo maybe four times last night, begging him to tell me that someone had called him with a job for me. He said that no one had, and I just had to sit tight. For Pablo, it’s all about the money, and he’s got enough of it, plus a million creative ways to spend it. For me, it’s about getting out there. Escaping to work and then escaping from work. It helps keep me focused. I even considered giving a few of my people a call, and asking them to find me work, but one thing I refuse to be seen as is desperate. But I had an inkling htat by this point I was starting to send Sarah up the wall.

 

Questions calls and he’s full on in withdrawal. He’s like, dude you’ve got to have a job for me, and I need a job now, and I need to get out of the house, and surely someone’s called you. I got four girls in two different rooms, a few bottles of real expensive wine, and the football on, and I say, no man, you just gotta wait, man. And he says he can hear Manchester United in the background. I say, well, you wanna come over and watch. He says, you got girls? I say yea, and he says no thank you. I hang up on him and flick channels.

I was at the bank this morning when I got a call from Alexander’s wife, Sarah. I picked up and almost immediately the girl asks me whether I would like to go to coffee with my son tomorrow morning. I inquire as to why it is not him calling me? She replies that it had probably slipped his mind. I smile. I am currently waiting in the office of a bank manager, and so of course nothing better to do with my time crosses my mind. I decide to play a little game with Alexander’s wife.
I ask her why she does not want to come to coffee with me. The girl sounds flustered. She tells me that she is busy and it really is her husband that would love to spend time with me. I tell her that we’ll schedule for some time next week, then? For her and I to get together and have a little ladies night? The manager walks in with the boy. I just wanted to transfer some money over to my son’s bank account for his birthday and he starts telling me about protocol. I called him a troglodyte. He got visibly offended, although I doubt the Neanderthal understood what I was saying. He says to me, honey you’re drunk. In my tweed suit and switching my Jimmy Choo handbag to my other hand, I clocked him in the face. Of course I am, I said to him as he lay on the ground. Now he’s in the room with his boss and I stare proudly at the lovely bruise beginning to form on his face. I let Alexander’s wife off the hook and tell her I’ll call her back, but breakfast with my son would be lovely tomorrow thank you. She sounds relieved as she tells me she’ll pass the message on. She hangs up and I turn to the two suited men I’m about to give an earful.

Sarah arranged breakfast for me and my mother. On one hand I was miffed that she was clearly trying to get rid of me. On the other hand, I was grateful. The breakfast itself wasn’t too bad, but it was what I saw when I was leaving that really caught my attention. There was a man who looked Fifty Three to me [one of the many divisions of Sydney’s gang culture] standing behind two thugs beating up a rough looking junkie. I quickly crossed the street and went over to them. Without addressing the thugs, I bent over and looked the junkie in the eye. They were questioning him as to whether he’d seen anything two nights ago. I think one of their people had been killed. He looked at me gratefully and told me, well and truly, that he hadn’t seen a thing. I pulled out my gun and shot him between the eyes. He had been telling the truth, and I told the men that. I also told them that I could get the truth out of anyone they gave me. My name was Questions. Funnily enough, they’d heard of me. I had the job.

Alex came home later that evening. I had come home to an empty house and figured the spirit of being outside the house had come upon him and he was just out having fun. When he walked through the door, I noticed three things were different. One, he had brought home some ice cream and wine. Two, he looked a heck of a lot happier. Three, he was wearing a different shirt. The third, in light of the first two, I overlooked. I do that sometimes with Alex. It’s just easier. And I wanted ice cream.
An hour later, we’re sitting on the couch cuddling with our empty wine glasses on the table, the empty tub of ice cream in the bin and romance in the air. I don’t know what had happened during his day, but it felt like our balance had been brought back.

The next day on the way to work, the traffic was crazy. Alex had left maybe ten o’clock in the morning for his new job? And I was trying to get my way, through the rain [which always seems to make drivers lose all sense of logic] to the café to get started on tomorrow’s soufflés. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I could swear I see Alex. The station he works at is meant to be towns over, and yet, here he is, in the middle of the day, ten minutes from home. Well, I didn’t want to go to work anyway. So, I turn the car around and drive towards him, preparing to park. He gets in a taxi and drives away. Without giving myself time to overthink, I follow him.

I was across the road from Sarah’s café when she was meant to be there, and I considered walking in and surprising her, but it would have raised questions. The only reason I was there in the first place was to pick up some money from my newest employer and find out where my next job was going to be. Then I got into a taxi in the pouring rain. It turns out there was a murder the other night in the gang, and they needed to know who had done it, to do whatever gangs do to people who make them mad. I heard it was someone quite high up as well, and so this job was really important. The pay was good, even when split in three, and I was just so happy to be getting back to it. As I sat in the taxi, I planned out my questions and started writing them on my phone. I had a good feeling about it.

He took a turn out of the city, and into the lesser populated parts of Sydney. We were going into an area life had never taken me, and looking around, I was grateful for it. I remembered all of the things Alex had made fun of me last time that had given away I was following him and tried to be better about it, staying a few cars away while still keeping him in view. I figured I was doing quite well, because he didn’t turn around and head back, like I kept expecting him to. The taxi fare must have cost him a fortune, but he works on commission, and a pretty hefty one. The most awkward thing my Dad said in his wedding speech had to do with Alex and money, but it was true. Money meant nothing to Alex.
As we drove I tried to keep a mental map of where we were in regards to where he said he worked. I didn’t have a GPS in the car, and so I had no clue where we were, but I’m pretty sure we were heading north when he said his job had been out west. It seemed like an eternity before we finally stopped, and when we did I almost considered turning back.

I grew up in a pretty poor part of the Western suburbs, the son of two people from very poor parts of very poor nations. My mother was Mexican, hence the Pablo, and my father was Italian, hence migrating to the outer skirts of Sydney. The only things I ever had going for me was my hair and my hand eye coordination. By the time I was twenty, the hair was gone, and nobody seemed to care that I could hit a ball like Donald Bradman. I got a job pushing trolleys back to where people are meant to put them anyway but never do, and made friends with a few people, one of whom was short, stocky and strong. He was quiet and I liked that, so we usually paired up to work together, get the same shifts and stuff. When Questions asked to hire me, I picked that guy to come and help. We make a pretty good team, the three of us. I’m the hands, he’s the legs and Questions of course, is the brains. Or at least, that’s what I thought. So how could he have made such an elementary mistake?

Alex had stopped in front of a dentist’s. I figured that he was just getting his teeth cleaned or something, and that I had followed him all this way for nothing. He was just going to come home and surprise me with some very white teeth. But then, I don’t know what, but something seemed out of place to me. Something seemed really out of place. Still not really thinking about what I was doing, I got out of the car. Alex paid the cabbie and walked in. I counted to ten and walked after him.

Inside, it was dirty. The walls seemed like they were once white, but were now a sad grey. The tiles on the floors were all essentially black. There were one or two lights still attempting to flicker, and failing, like old fireflies. I saw Alex turn a corner and hurried to catch up. This was one place I did not want to get lost or be left alone. He walked through some swinging doors into what looked like it used to be a surgery, and I looked through the little windows at the top to make sure I knew where he was going and he hadn’t stopped. My curiosity was building. I suddenly needed to know where he was going.
Walking down a corridor, he came to stop- I realised he’d been counting the numbers on the doors. The rooms looked like they’d been a mixture of storage rooms and surgeries. I walked to the door, which had swung shut behind him and just listened for a little bit. I could hear there were at least three people in the room, including Alex. He would ask something and someone would answer. His voice was cold and clinical, like I’d never heard it before. A third person just seemed to be making comments here and there. I was frozen to the spot for a few minutes. I couldn’t even understand what they were saying, but I had a feeling that whatever was on the other side of that door could not be good. Could not be good at all.

 

We were standing around the newest witness in the case, and he was tied to the chair. Pablo and his friend were standing in the corner, Pablo sometimes asking the man, who was missing a lot of teeth, to repeat what he said. We always recorded the interviews because it intimidated people to have the clients in the room. I asked the man whether he was sure of what he’d seen. He replied yes, it had definitely been a woman in the alleyway, and he thinks that’s why the victim had followed her in the first place. I just start to get into what this said woman looks like, when my wife walks in and screams.

I couldn’t help it. The man strapped to the chair looked so helpless. Most of his teeth had been knocked out and a few were still hanging from the roots- the irony of us being in a dentist surgery. He was bruised from head to toe and almost naked. He clearly couldn’t move and there were two men in the background, one of whom was playing with a handgun as if it were worry beads or a phone. The thing that scared me the most about the scene, though, was Alex. His sleeves were rolled up, and when I walked in he was leaning against the back of a chair, as if it were something ordinary. I couldn’t help but scream- there seemed like nothing else logical to do. The one thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was run. Not before Alex grabbed me.

She was swaying and I thought she was going to faint, but when I grabbed her she tensed. She’s never done that before. I let go as if she’d electrocuted me. In a way, the jolt I got, she had.

Today we met his wife. She met us. She was none too happy about it.

I took her arm again. She couldn’t just keep looking at this. We needed to get out of here. I put my hand on her shoulder and gently steered her out of the room. She let me this time, like a limp doll.
I took her out into the hallway and then into a little office. We sat down on chairs facing each other, like we were going to have a perfectly normal conversation. I let go of her as soon as she sat down. I think a part of me knew that, as much as she couldn’t say it, my touch disgusted her. Like my mother on the night with Spencer- for loving me, she didn’t say it, but from that day she couldn’t stand to be close to me. Something undefinable between us had broken. I think that’s what was happening between Sarah and I in that moment.

I waited for her to look me in the eye, but when she finally did, I didn’t know what to say. Should I explain what I do for a living? Should I leave it unspoken? Heck, did she already know? And so we sat in silence for a while, looking at each other, before she went back to looking at the ground. She was expecting me to say something. But what?

We were silent for maybe fifteen minutes before he began to speak.
He told me that his job was asking questions for people. Not official people, just people. Anyone. He was an interrogator, but not for the police. This is what he does for a living. He enjoys this. Before I asked, he told me that they kill the people after they’re done with them. He sounded like he was telling me the ingredients in a recipe. First, you kidnap the person. Then, poke, prod and knead them for a few hours. Leave to rest on a bench. Return and ask your questions. Finally, shoot them in the head and dump them somewhere their families will never have the closure of finding them and giving them a respectful funeral. Murder human beings so the scum of the Earth can have what they want. When he finished talking, I went to the window and vomited.

I went over to try and put a hand on her back, and she turned around like a threatened lioness. Sarah wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and looked up at me. She ran out of the room and I stood there, unable to move. That look.

I ran to the car and drove blindly home. I swerved to avoid a bicycle and swore at him, which I’ve never done before. I drove through a red light and a flash went off somewhere- by Monday I’d have a ticket, which I’ve never had before. I stopped the car outside the house without bothering to turn it off, ran inside, packed a bag with everything I thought I might need and threw it in the car. I ran like I had somewhere to be, when in reality I just had quite a few places not to be. I hit my leg on the coffee table on the way out. I’ve never done that before.
I found out my husband’s a murderer. How have I never done that before?

Questions, Part 2

THE PELICAN AND THE SPARROW

I wake up to a pounding headache in someone else’s bed. I check my top pocket- yea, my gun’s still there. I try to stand up and slowly sit back down. Not a good idea. I realise I’m cold. I’m still wearing my shoes. I can’t see Sarah. Is this a hotel? I walk out into the hallway. There’s a girl lying dead on the floor. Last night comes back to me.

 

I try calling his mobile. It’s much too late for him to be out. It’s not even late, it’s early. He should be back by now. The little part of me I figure will make me a great mother is screaming out, sirens going off. I worry about him sometimes. I asked him what his tattoos mean once. He has this huge sleeve on his arm, you see, with the Road Runner at the top, like from the Warner Brothers cartoon, and below that a pelican. Then a sparrow and a red peacock. Behind them all is this beautiful collage of roses, and it takes up pretty much his entire arm. He wouldn’t tell me. On the right side of his chest he got tattooed my name, and on the left side, above his heart is a question mark. When I saw that, it brought everything into focus, for my husband’s heart is definitely one hidden in questions.

 

 

I go and get an aspirin from her kitchen. Of course a woman would keep her Panadol in the kitchen. Why not in the bathroom next to the toilet where people spew several dry scotches, where they shower to try and clear their heads, where they vomit again in the sink? My mouth feels furry so I use her toothbrush. It’s not like she can complain. I groan as I wrap her in a sheet from the linen cupboard. Swinging her over my shoulder, I carry her outside to my car. I’ve learned how to look inconspicuous. Dad would be proud. I’m going to take her to Pablo, who will do with her whatever he does with the rest of them. This isn’t the first body I’ve taken to him, and it won’t be the last.

To be honest, when it comes to the job I do, it never surprised me. It never shocked me that I could witness death without shuddering. It never confused me that people always wanted to bare me their souls. It never fazed me that I didn’t finish high school because I wanted to get out of home. I knew the path my life would take. I hired Pablo and his friend one day walking out of the shopping market. They were pushing around trolleys, for goodness sake, and I was maybe nineteen at this point? And I told them I’d give them money for one to shoot and one to carry. They didn’t even ask any questions, just got into my car. We usually ask that the clients provide the location, and that’s what we’ve been doing for around seven years now. I actually know quite a lot about them, and Pablo’s actually the emergency contact on my driver’s licence- after all, if a client went wrong, I wouldn’t want Sarah to get involved. I’ve managed to keep her apart from it all, so far, surprisingly.

 

My son used to have a friend called Spencer. He was as tall as Alexander, which not many people are, and wore glasses. They were friends for most of high school, and they were into many of the same thing. Crime shows, murder mysteries, that sort of thing, although their teachers tried to encourage things like basketball, what with their height. Spencer couldn’t see all that well anyhow. They used to hang out quite a lot, and because Alexander never really showed that much interest in other kids his age, I encouraged it. I invited Spencer over for dinners, and gave Alexander more money than usual for his Christmas and birthday parties. No one could have expected the repercussion of what I’d thought was so simple.

 

I’m in front of the tv when I wake up to a knock on the door. I disturb a packet of chips and two beer bottles, one of which smashes against the tiles. I utter a curse word my mother would have washed my mouth out for. I’m halfway to the door before I realise I don’t have any pants on. That was a near miss. I stumble to the door and Questions is standing there. Almost immediately, I’m alert and ready for what he’s got for me. Not only has this guy made me a very rich man, but I have to say, I got a lot of respect for him. He’s a pretty cool guy. He wordlessly motions to his car- I reckon he’s got the same kind of headache I’ve got right now- and I find a pretty girl rolled up in what looks to me like a sheet. I pick her up and take her inside. He turns around, closes the boot and drives away.

 

When I open the door, Alex is standing there, smelling weirdly like a soap flavoured with pears and honey. I slap him hard on the arm. He doesn’t flinch. I notice he’s wearing the same shirt as last night, and has dark circles under his eyes. He comes inside. I go and boil the kettle. Ten minutes later, he’s changed, shaved and sitting down. We’ve both got tea. He refuses to tell me where he was last night, and we are both getting increasingly frustrated that neither my questions nor his attempts to deflect them are working. I want to know where he was before he turned up at midday. He clearly doesn’t want me to know. This has happened only a handful of times before. It usually ends in a huge fight, some silent treatment and then kissing and making up. Now that I know the routine, though, I want to challenge it. It’s probably why Alex finds these little confrontations so frustrating- I know his techniques too well. I surprise myself in that it’s me who gets up and walks away first. I need time to plan.

 

I don’t understand why she can’t just accept that there are logical reasons behind me not telling her where I was last night. If she needed to know, she would know straight away. The only thing that keeps me from blowing up is that I checked my phone before I walked in the door. 56 missed calls and 14 texts. She was worried, I understand. But I’m safe, she shouldn’t be worried any more. Why can’t she just let it drop? And then she gets up and walks away. I beckon Sofa towards me and put her on my lap as I drink my tea. Yet, it never crosses my mind to wonder if this is all worth it. Being married to Sarah is worth everything I have, and yet everything I have just might cost me Sarah. Sofa nestles her head under my arm and promptly falls asleep.

 

It was three oh two in the morning on a Thursday when I got a call from Alexander that he was too far away to walk home and he couldn’t find a taxi, so could I please come and pick him up? By this point, he’d moved out, and Robert had entered that phase that all men will one day enter of snoring incessantly. I put on an overcoat and slipped some jeans on under my nighty before grabbing the car keys. I didn’t recognise the address Alexander gave me, and when I entered it into the GPS, the car just started blurting out instructions. I didn’t realise it would take me three and a half hours to find my son. I didn’t realise he’d be sitting next to a dead body.

Spencer was lying on the ground, and in the early morning light I could see that his throat was cut. He was looking at me, eerily, when I stepped out of the car, and I noticed his glasses had slipped off his nose, onto the ground. His hair was mussed up and he was lying on a pillow of his own blood. His trousers were grubby, and so was his jumper, but his sky blue shirt was miraculously clean. He was missing a shoe, and his sock had a hole in it. His hand was reached out, as if imploring me to stop his death before it came, and his lips were open as if he was still about to convince me. Alex was just sitting cross legged on the ground staring at the wallpaper in this house. There was no one else in that house. After Spencer’s body was found there never was anyone again.

 

It took me forever to come up with a new plan. I realised I’d learned everything I’d ever learned about my husband from observing him, really, and so, with a washed face and a nice dress on, I went out into the dining room and told him I didn’t need to know. I’m almost certain he knew I was lying through my teeth, but he was either grateful or gracious enough to overlook that, stand up and embrace me. I love my husband, but I needed to know. So, we got through a day quite peacefully. It was quite forced, and both of us knew that, but we were both just glad it was there, and it would be celebrated during the day with a kiss here or a hug there. He even went and got me a flower from outside. For that day, we were happy. And then, when he got a call on his work phone, he kissed me very fully on the lips and said he had to go to work. And I was fine with that. And he put on a coat and went out to the car and drove away. And I put on a coat and went out to Stacey’s car and followed him. I’ve been saving that favour from Stacey for three years. I never really expected she’d fulfil it in a plan involving a drive and Alex once more.

 

I went over to Alexander and grabbed him by the arm. I reminded him he’d asked for a lift and we certainly could not be seen in this place by anyone, so we should go. He looked up at me, like I was either an angel or a devil , and followed me as if he’d given up on his soul anyway. I took him out to the car and opened his door for him. He made no move to do so, so I put on his seatbelt for him. I then got in the car and drove. We were silent for almost three hours before I finally gathered up the – what? Courage? Curiosity? Maternity? to ask. What had happened? He continued to stare straight ahead. My voice broke and I shouted at him. That avoiding questions thing may have worked with the world, but it most certainly would not work with me. I was his mother. Now answer the question. His voice came out almost robotic. He’d killed Spencer, it was as simple as that. He’d always wanted to kill Spencer and Spencer had, he said, always wanted to die. We were silent for the rest of the drive home. Yes, I was Alexander’s mother. But who was Alexander?

 

I knew as soon as she walked into the room that she was going to follow me. She was going to do exactly what I would have done if I were in her position. I would have followed her to the ends of the Earth if I thought she was in danger. Or if I thought she was having an affair. All the same, I played her game. I kissed her, and hugged her and got in my car like the perfect imbecile she wanted for a husband, and started driving. I’d had all day to plan where I was going to go, and yet I still hadn’t thought of somewhere appropriate. Of course, I could just lose her in the traffic. I did get a call from a client, and so I did actually have somewhere to be. A part of me considered just taking her there, and letting all of the façade go. But I’m not that brave. Not when it comes down to it. So, I took her to the park. I drove around it about four times before I finally parked and watched her park about a hundred metres away. She really wasn’t so good at the following thing. I got out and ran to her before she could even get out of her car. She stood up and I kissed her, and she sat down and we did that for a while, me sort of sitting on her while trying not to crush her. And she looked up at me and asked me what I did last night. I laughed.

 

He said that he’d been at a bar. He’d had a tough day at work and gone to a nearby bar and drowned his sorrows. I asked why this had been so hard to tell me and he awkwardly slid around me to sit in the passenger seat, his legs still over mine. I held them in place while he leant against the door, facing me. He just shrugged, suggested he may have found it more fun to play with me. I pointed out that that was very mean. He smiled a very rare smile of his, that on one hand is his genuine smile and on the other makes him look like the Joker. He put his hands behind his hand and leant back further, looking through the sunroof of the car. I too looked up, and saw the stars above us. And we sat like that for a while, just staring up at the sky and wondering about each other, and loving.

 

For the rest of the day, we went about our business like usual. I took him to the house Robert and I had raised him in, silently refusing to leave him alone. Robert didn’t notice anything of course, and went to work like a fool without even saying hello to his son. I made bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for Alexander and I. We ate in silence. For a few hours, he went and sat in his room, which was perfectly preserved as he’d liked it, and read a book. I had no idea how he could appear so calm, and yet had no questions to ask him and nothing to say. Perhaps he was the same. At about six in the afternoon, he got up and said he would catch the bus home. My heart broke a little to hear that he didn’t think of where we were as home, that he thought of some building, somewhere else, as home. It chilled me a little to think that he lived with a room mate, who would never know what Alexander had done. It angered me that Alexander didn’t want to sit down and talk to me, that despite everything I’d done for him, he didn’t seem to feel any closer to me. He’d just stayed at home all day to appease me. I didn’t say a thing, and stood aside as he left me again. I went and got a bottle of wine, not touching any of the glasses.

 

On the night that I killed Spencer, there were stars everywhere. That’s what I was thinking about when I looked through the sun roof of Sarah’s friend’s car. They were positively crammed in the sky, like the sky was craft made by a child with too much glitter and too much glue. We were looking at the stars when we walked to an old abandoned building in our area, and we were thinking of the stars when we sat down in some stranger’s living room. Spencer started talking about how the buildings had been found to contain traces of asbestos, and so the whole thing was going to be knocked down to make a shopping mall. He rarely talked about the future, and it surprised me, so I let him talk. He took off his jumper as we carefully lit two cones we’d bought on the way, and I looked at his arms because he was wearing a t-shirt. I reckon he was wearing that t-shirt just to piss me off. Spencer never explained to me why he wanted to die, but he certainly talked about it enough, like a hobby. Like, what are you doing after school today, Spencer? I’m going to commit suicide. My mother bought a new oven today, Spencer. Oh, the things I could do with an oven. We’re driving over the Harbour Bridge, Spencer. Let me out, and I’ll jump off it, unless I get hit by a truck before then. It weighed on my soul, just listening to him. At first it was murder mysteries that made us friends. I was interested in the career of interrogation, because I knew I was good at it. He was interested in the murders. It got so bad that one day I just asked him whether he was being serious and he said, oh yes, deadly serious. And laughed. And so we made a plan. On this day, I’d kill him and he’d stop complaining about it. He agreed. And I saw the scars on his arms, everywhere like a warped game of noughts and crosses and I flipped out my knife and I went behind him and he said thank you and I killed him. And he was quiet, and then he fell over, and he died. And I finished my cone, and I finished his. And I called my mum.

When I got home, she was all happy because she thought I was good to be at home with her. To be honest, the first thing I did was set up my Dad’s death. I knew I never had a problem with death, or killing, but at that point, I felt dirty, and that I hadn’t expected. I felt ashamed of killing Spencer. My simple, clear as day, friend Spencer. So I killed someone I was always going to be proud of killing. And that was logical to me. On that day, that was the only thing I could think of doing. And when Dad died, Mum still didn’t ask questions.

 

My drive home was much nicer than my drive to the park. I’d been following Alex for hours, wondering where we were going to end up, and getting tenser all the time, but when he went round the park the third time, I knew he knew. When he went round the fourth time, I figured out he was stuffing with me. When we made out in the car, and then he answered the question, I knew I probably should be mad, but then all of the things I’d been wondering it if was ran through my mind and all I could be was relieved. He wasn’t doing anything bad last night, and he’d been fine. He was innocent.

 

As the years have gone by, Alexander and I have never talked about it. We’ve never discussed that morning, or the day that followed it. We barely even talk any more. Robert’s gone, but I still drink. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all Robert’s fault in the end, or if he’s just easier to blame it on than my perfect little boy. In ancient Greek mythology it was said that the pelican would peck out her breast for her children to feed on her blood rather than let them die. When I first heard that, I was with a friend who assured me that if the time ever came, she would do that for her child and we laughed, but on the day I came to collect Alexander, as I washed the blood off his hands, it occurred to me that I am the pelican. I did give my life for my child, and now I’m just lying here, slowly bleeding out and waiting for death. My little boy killed me too, yet I gave what I had to make him innocent.

 

Questions

Questions

I’ve had a story floating around my head for a few years [I know, a long time], and the other day I finally got around to writing it down. If all goes well, I’ll write a few more, but for the moment, meet Questions. It’s a group of short stories that make a rather long one, but they’ll come out in segments. Hopefully you all enjoy them [they’re made for 13+, I’d say by the way]. Please leave comments on what you think, including the bad and the ugly. Otherwise, here’s the first segment!

Questions, part 1

QUESTIONS storyTHE ROAD RUNNER.

It’s dark in the room. This has gone a lot further than I intended it to. I just hope they didn’t hurt Cheryl and the kids. I don’t know where I am, but I can feel the plastic cable ties cutting into my wrists. To think, so easy to put on and so hard to get off. My heart is pumping a little faster than it does usually. I can’t remember if I had a chance to take my pills before they took me. Took me like a particularly fancy wine, or a lollipop from a child. Three or four thugs in black clothing, like it happens in the movies. I was sitting down in my study, about to crack open a new bottle of whiskey as old as my youngest son, when they barged in, and then it was all blind folds and rough shoves. I never thought it would get me into this much trouble.

The lights come on suddenly. I wasn’t expecting them, and suddenly they split into a million little lights, dancing all over my eyes and actually hindering me from seeing. I’d laugh at the irony if I felt anywhere near like being funny, and yet here I am. Tied to a chair, abducted by some guys I may or may not have taken a little too much money off. I laugh anyway. But, when my vision clears [where did I leave my glasses?], it’s not the thugs I see, but a thin young man. He’s well presented, a collared shirt and tie. He’s attractive, but not in a threatening way. I feel a little bit of my tension dissipate. After all, how much harm could he do? He sits down, and straightens his shirt, and puts my glasses on the table. I can’t help but smile at him. A little voice in my head says I might just get out of this alive- I mean, surely murderers don’t hand you your personals before they do away with you? I find myself distracted by the urge to straighten my own shirt out- surely it’s crumpled in a most unfashionable manner. He asks me if I want a glass of water, and his voice is smooth, calm, professional. I lean back in my chair, my hands slipping between the seat and the back rest. I politely decline, afraid I’m still of a disposition to vomit anything I swallow. He asks me without further ado whether I’ve done what they think I’ve done. I ask him whether my children are safe. He asks if they’ve done anything wrong. Well, of course they haven’t, I reply. They don’t even know what I’ve done. He smiles. So, he concludes, I have done something? He’s pretty on the ball, this fellow. Yes, I took some money. Maybe more than some money. He asks if it’s still available to me- I recognise the polite query as to whether I’ve still got it. Well, as much as I hate to disappoint the man [surely he hasn’t seen thirty yet?], I shake my head. It went as quick as it came. I’d love to say it went to college funds and the leak in the roof, but I feel this man deserves my honesty. I outright explain my recent problems with Cheryl and some ladies who were much more accommodating. Frankly, it surprised me how little the money went with them, but I had my fun. He purses his lips in mock disapproval and stands up. He winks at me and walks out of the room. The last thing I notice is a nod he gives to someone unseen.

The thing that surprises everyone about the man we only know as “Questions” is that he’s pretty quiet. For someone whose entire job is comprised of talking to people and getting answers, he doesn’t actually say much when he isn’t on the job. Pablo and I realised quite early on that he doesn’t actually answer questions. Like, you’ll ask him how his day was, and he’ll ask you whether yours was alright. That’s one of the things he does a lot- answers a question with a question until you’re answering questions and you realise he never told you how he was. After working with the guy a while, you pick up on this shit. Like, I know he’s married. He wears a ring with some clients- they’re all different, but that ring is definitely not a fake. It’s real worn on the outside. So, I know somewhere he’s got a wife, but he doesn’t talk about her. Pab thought he had a photo of her in his wallet, so one day I stole it just to look and there was a picture of a lady, but I think it was his mum. She was kinda old, unless he’s into that kind of thing. But we’ll never know, right, because he’ll never tell us. All we know is that we call him Questions, and that he gets answers for whoever will pay his price. Sometimes that’s the mob, sometimes that’s random rich people, and I even heard he got the Feds in his phone. I don’t know. They say we call him Questions because he asks the right ones- I say we call him that because he knows how to avoid every one.

I met Alex at a function around three years ago. We were waiting in line at the bar, and I was at a hen’s which I did not want to be at. A friend from high school, Gabriella, was marrying a fancy doctor that had given her a fancy ring [which she couldn’t stop showing to everyone, including one blind lady. She went to the trouble of describing it. I mean, that’s Gabby in a nutshell] but couldn’t even pay for her own drinks. So, I’m looking through my wallet for the extra fifty cents that I know I’ve got and the guy behind me slowly places one on the counter for me. “It’s on me,” he says. Well, I’ve had it up to my neck with people for an entire night- I live alone, spare a dog and perhaps a mouse or two- and I was about to give him a real earful, but I turned around and he seemed pretty legitimate. Apart from that, he was really hot. He said, “If I had to deal with the crowd you were with tonight, I wouldn’t want to have to think about anything else for a week.” I thanked him, slid the change over and stepped out of line. I was thinking about it as I walked back to the table, so much so that I thought I’d walked to the wrong one, but no, everyone had just left. I slumped down into a chair. I’d gotten a lift off the maid of honour [although, in medieval terms, Stacey was definitely not a maid], and I had no idea how to get home- a taxi would cost money I’d just spent on two hours’ worth of tequila. Then, my new guardian angel reappeared- man from the bar – and extended a hand. I put mine in his, in a sort of questioning handshake, and he pulled me up. “I’ll give you a lift”, he said, and those are the single most beautiful words anyone has ever said to me.

I think the best thing I’ve ever seen Questions work on was this chick. She was, maybe, twenty four? From memory she was wanted by some rich family she’d shagged the son of, and as with most cases, the order was to ask the questions and then for me to do what I do best- quick and painless [although, tell me, how am I ever gonna know whether it’s actually painless?]. If we let people live, then they’d lead people back to Questions and the people who’d hired him, so instead, we make it a policy to only take on people who nobody wants around anymore. This lady definitely fit that category. She was all fidgety, and dressed like a tart, and so he adapts to that, like a chameleon. Watching him prep is always the best part. She got the special treatment. Hair slicked back, sleeves rolled up [to show off some pretty major ink], no tie and a button undone. Just that button has had girls confessing their sins. He strolls in there and hands her a glass of wine, you know, loosen her up a bit. He’s done in ten minutes, with all the answers they wanted and the lady nicely wrapped up to boot.

When I was a kid, my Dad would refuse to teach me all of the things I wanted to be taught. Unlike every other dad I knew, he wouldn’t teach me how to ride a bike or to fish. He said I should learn anything I wanted myself. Any piece of information was out there to be had, and so he wouldn’t let me have it on a silver platter. In the end, I broke my arm teaching myself to climb a tree. I knew the theory, but unlike every other kid in my class, didn’t have someone waiting to catch me when I got it wrong. Dad was pretty old when he had me. He was interrogated by some pretty rough people overseas during the purges that went on over there. Told me he was never into politics, and yet seemed to be a magnet for people who wanted him to be. When I was fifteen or so, he told me the one piece of information he ever let me have for free. Never tell anyone anything. Knowledge is power, but the mother of knowledge is information. Ergo, you never have to give anyone power. That lead to my affinity for avoiding questions and I guess, in not answering questions, I started hearing a lot of them, and noticing which ones worked on people. That’s how I got so good at my job.

It was about a year into dating that I realised he never answered questions outright. It wasn’t as though I didn’t know anything about him; it was just that he’d never really told me. I knew how he took his coffee, because I’d watched him order it. I knew that he liked Sofa [my dog] because he let her try and climb him, when most people peeled her off like sunburn. I knew that he liked me, because, unlike every other jerk I’d ever dated, he called when he said he would, turned up on time, and remembered our anniversaries [some of which I forgot myself]. For some reason, Alex not answering my questions didn’t bug me. I did address the issue a few times, and he said he didn’t answer my questions because he liked seeing me figure it out for myself. I think he meant that it reassured him because I was actually bothered to try and make him happy, but in response I asked whether he liked chocolate and then bought him a bar of vegan carob. I hope that taught him a lesson, but when I asked if he liked it, he just smiled and popped the whole thing in his mouth. Then, around our second anniversary, I told him something that I’d been waiting to say for a while. I guess I knew it on that first night he drove me home, but it’s a scary thing to tell someone. Yet, over dinner, I mustered up the courage to tell Alex I loved him. He looked at me and excused himself. I think he went to the bathroom. I’ll never know because, in shock, panic and a lot of mad rage, I grabbed my coat and ran. And if I ask where he went, he probably wouldn’t tell me.

He came to my house later, and I answered the door with a tub of ice-cream and my flannel pyjamas on. Sofa had the decency to lower her tail after I didn’t say anything.

The first time I walked into a tattoo parlour, it was simply because of what the logo was on the outside. “You tell the world who you are not by what you say, but by what you do. This means your facial expressions, your clothes and, inevitably, your tattoos.” As someone who’s indoctrinated themselves into not being able to tell the Subway lady that yes, he would like salt and pepper, the idea of documenting my story in plain sight of anyone who wanted to know it appealed to me. Everyone would know just who I was if they wanted to. So, I got pretty much my entire body inked. I was remarkably specific as to what I wanted and where, all the while avoiding questions as to the meaning of everything and realising that my plan had failed. Whatever these tattoos might mean to me, nobody would ever get close enough to know for themselves. And yet, I sat through it, and let it happen. After all, Cinderella wore bloody glass slippers to a ball in the hope that, out of a million girls, she’d be the one to catch the prince’s attention. She had hope, no matter how much those kicks would have killed. I wanted to have hope too.

I used to watch those cartoons as a kid, like Bugs Bunny and stuff. I used to think that the little Chicken hawk had the big Chicken hawk, and that Peter Parker had Uncle Ben for a bit, and Aunty Em who cared. I used to wonder when the Professor Xavier to my Wolverine would come along, when the guy who would teach me all those little things, like how to pick up chicks and do up a tie would come into my life. And, over time, I learned all those things for myself, including to stop waiting for him.

He walked through my door, and I followed him, slowly gathering up a spoonful of carbs, brain freeze and probably unpronounceable chemicals to shove in my face. I couldn’t help wondering if I had ice-cream on my nose, or if my hair was really frizzy, but I looked down at my pink ugg boots and gave up any reserve of self-consciousness. Take me or leave me, warts and all. He sat down at the dining table and I sat down, plonking my ice cream right in front of me, and cradling it with one arm. It was really my only friend, for even Sofa had gone and sat by his feet. In the next five minutes he explained that he just wasn’t really good at telling people how he felt, stuff about himself, etc. He said he was over the moon that I loved him, and that he had just been scared to say out loud that yea, he loved me back. All the while, I’m scraping the bottom of the tub, praying it’ll just reappear so I can 1) keep eating and 2) not have to look him in the eye. It had escalated pretty quickly. I told him, you know, that it was okay, and stuff. I was just really awkward, actually. I just sat there and let the flush creep up my neck until I could feel the calories burning off just through pure awkwardness. And then he leaned over and kissed me. My arms swung by my sides and my stupid dog ran over and licked my fingers as the man that I loved kissed me. It was all I could do to whack Sofa with my spoon.

My husband died when my son was eighteen, but by then it didn’t really matter. Alexander had moved out of home and was living with a friend, and I had finally turned the way all women turn when their husbands outstay their welcome- to the bottle. It came slowly at first. A bottle of wine you received as a birthday gift sitting unopened in a cabinet calls to you. Your husband yells that he wants his dinner. A drink. You’re walking through the supermarket and you see some cheap, nasty stuff on sale. You realise you need to buy beans even though you hate beans because otherwise he’ll complain. A drink. Your son calls and talks to you and sounds happier than he ever did at home, and your heart warms in the light of motherly love. No thanks, he doesn’t want to talk to his father. A few drinks. By the time Robert passed away, I didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t feel a thing. The only thing I thought about during the entire awful process of the funeral- signing things and meeting people and smiling and crying and embracing people you haven’t seen in years for very good reasons- was that I’d finally get to see Alexander again before he disappeared. That maybe he wouldn’t disappear this time now that there was no longer anything to run away from. And yet, a few days later, he was standing at the door with his suitcase telling me he loved me and stooping down to kiss me. A drink.

After our little heart to heart, it got easier. He would actually start answering my questions if they were simple enough. Want to have a shower? Yep. Can I borrow your phone? Of course. Cheesecake or chocolate? Whatever you want, honey. [He knows it’ll be chocolate, so it’s pretty much an answer.] Another year progressed and we just kept going like that, steadily building up until it was things like have you called your mum lately? No, I’ll do that tonight. What do you want for dinner? Chicken curry, I feel like rice. I love you. I love you too. [Because when someone says I love you, it’s definitely a question that warrants an answer.] Suddenly, a little trove of amazingness with this man opened up, and that tiny little pocket of tension dissipated. We were normaller. We were fine. We were in love. And then, one day, he asked me a question I definitely wanted to answer. Will you marry me? Yes.

Meeting Sarah was one of the stupidest coincidences that has ever occurred. I had an assignment I had to finish, she was holding up the queue at a bar I’d been procrastinating at, and when I’d finally gotten the courage to go and try finish my essay, I couldn’t. I heard that she was short of fifty cents, dropped it on the counter and waited for her to get out of the way. Then, as I’m walking out, I look over and she’s sitting by herself at a table. In line, she was slightly aggravated [and aggravating, yes], but still had this beautiful light in her eyes, like she was ready for anything that might come her way. At that table, I don’t know. Something was missing. So, I offered her a lift home after discovering the bitchy little witches she’d been at a table with had dumped her, and I got her number before she walked through her door. I needed to see that spark again. That kind of thing spreads easily, you know. I never expected to actually go anywhere with the relationship, but every time we left it was the same feeling, that I needed to see her again. I needed another fix. I never expected to end up here.

So, we’ve been married for a year now.
I can’t believe we’ve been married for a year now.
My son has been married for a year now.
I heard he’s been married for a year now.

I wonder if he’s married?
I mean, he’s just sitting across from me at this bar, staring into his drink in this really sexy way, but he’s clearly wearing a gold band on the right finger. Unless he’s doing that thing guys are trying now with jewellery. Or he’s gay. But I feel like I should go up to him. I also feel like my dress is too short. All the same, I pick up my virgin gin and tonic [no one needs to know, right?] and I saunter over to him in my sexiest wiggly hip way that I really just learnt off soap operas.

This woman comes over to me and I wonder if she’s drunk or twisted an ankle. I go over to take her hand either way; because it’s clear she needs help.

He takes my hand and I realise that he’s definitely not gay, and doesn’t seem to care if he’s married. I offer to buy him a drink and he lifts an eyebrow, but he doesn’t say no, so I ask the bartender for another of both.

People rarely want information about you for any good reason. Think about it. When you give your details to an online competition, what are the chances you’re going to win what they say you’ll win stacked up against the chances you’ll receive a bunch of coupons and surveys? When I met Sarah, it took me three years to build up the amount of trust I have with her. I realised that was so priceless that I had to secure it, hence the marriage bit. But with this girl, it might have been the fact that I’d had around five drinks before she wobbled over, or the fact that today I dealt with a tough case, but I found myself pouring my heart out to her.

See, sometimes we have to deal with stuff that nobody wants to deal with. We got paid five times our usual amount today because a young girl got pregnant with a young boy and the young boy’s family didn’t want to have to deal with it. Questions had to find out who knew, and I had to stop their problem. I’m not even gonna say solve, because I didn’t solve anything. If that kid’s got any heart, he’ll hate himself for the rest of his life. Unless, of course, his parents have any brains, in which case their kid is thinking she’s half way across the world and a new millionaire. I dunno. But today was just one of those days. We do what we do, but we’re not pyschos. Actually, I don’t know about Questions. Nobody knows anything about Questions.

She ends up taking me back to her place. She says she’s drunk, when really she smells as fresh as a daisy and I’ve literally lost count of how many tumblers I’ve had. We walk through her door, and I can tell she’s anticipating coitus. Doesn’t she realise I’m married? As if I’d cheat on my wife, with a little… a wave of nausea hits me. I suddenly remember why I don’t get drunk. I hate having a lack of control over my body. Well, over anything really. The girl comes to kiss me and before she’s moved two steps, she’s bleeding out on the floor. A small revolver seems to have moved from my top pocket to my hand before I could stop it. She knew too much. I’m too drunk to deal with this. I walk to her bedroom and fall asleep without even taking off my shoes.

There are nights that Alex tells me he has to work late. He’s an interrogator for a police station a few towns over, so he’s usually pretty late anyway, but a handful of times since I’ve known him he just hasn’t come home. He tells me he either rents a hotel room or stays with a friend who lives roughly half way. The morning after he comes back, he’s usually pretty jolly, and so I don’t ask what’s happened for fear of what he’ll tell me, but sometimes, in the midst of it all, I’ll catch him off his guard staring into space as if he’s looking for answers he’ll never find.

The Reason for Continuing This Blog

When I tell people I write a blog, many of them ask why. At this point, I’ve been blogging for maybe over 6 months [?], written 140ish posts and have around 50 followers [when lovely photos of food can get thousands!]. I still get enjoyment out of it, though, and here, my friend, is why.

Summed up by the great Reverend, Doctor [I felt you needed the comma to breathe for this epic name] Martin Luther King Junior.

“If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he’s travelling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.”

As for whether anything I say will ever get noticed, I don’t mind how many people like, comment or follow [although it is a lovely feeling.] The beginning of his sermon, which I have written in my diary, and everyone should probably have on a wall somewhere-

“Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. .. Don’t give up on this instinct. If you want to be recognised, wonderful. But recognise that he who is greatest amongst you shall be your servant. That is the new definition of greatness.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the shallow things will not matter… I just want to leave a committed life behind.

And that’s all I want to say.”

A Good Psalm

Going through the book of Psalms in my Bible study the other day, I came across this and thought it might encourage someone. [This is from the Message version, btw.]

“I’m asking God for one thing,
only one thing:
To live with him in his house
my whole life long.

I’ll contemplate his beauty,
I’ll study at his feet.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
in a noisy world.
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
I’m making music to God.”

Psalm 27:4-6

Hillsong Conference this year is based on whether, in a noisy world, we’ve dulled our senses to cope. Everything’s loud, and we have no quiet. But God is quiet. He’s not silent, but quiet. He’s in the little things, although he is so big. He can protect us from everything and yet watches over us from before we’re born to when we’re on our death bed without being obtrusive, just prompting, suggesting, blessing, loving. Our God. The big and the small. The lion and the lamb. The Father and the Son. Our God.

Suicide

People say scrolling through Facebook is shallow, it’s a waste of time. I don’t think they realise just how revealing it can be of humanity’s spirit.

Today, the 14th of April, 2015, at 3:25 pm in the afternoon, this photograph had 24,050 likes. That means that 24,050 people related to it in some way or another.

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The other day, I had someone whom I like very much comment on Facebook that if they were to disappear, nobody would care, after a while. I feel the need to rectify this.

A few days ago, at camp, I was talking to a friend of mine about a friend of hers who had died unexpectedly. As she talked, she began to cry, and she told me about wristbands that had been given out at her funeral. It just so happens the day before I had actually seen someone wearing that very wristband, like a God-given coincidence. I heard the pain in her voice, and I couldn’t help but think, nobody saw this coming, and there was nothing anyone could do. The same is not always so for suicide, but the pain of the people left in the aftermath is.

Suicide is the act of killing oneself, but it is also the act of killing others. In the wake of suicide, one person manages to leave everyone who could have helped, whether they’d known it or not, bearing the weight of a guilt they can never fix. If you tell someone you need help, they can help you. If you don’t, you deny them the opportunity and yet place upon them the guilt. Because, no matter what anyone believes, they are loved. Whatever you may believe in the moment, day, week or month leading up to the death you are to inflict, you have people who love you. Whether they express it, they love you. Furthermore, all of the people that would have loved you- the person you would have married, the kids you would have had, the friends you would have made- they will never meet you and love you the way you deserve. You are denying yourself and them that relationship, those connections.

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Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, had blogged about being suicidal after classmates incessantly taunted him for being gay. Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2041622/Jamey-Rodemeyer-Lady-Gaga-sings-moving-tribute-gay-teen-committed-suicide.html

Suicide is not a solution, it is a problem. It is the taking away of opportunity to fix the problem. If things will suddenly change tomorrow or the next day, you will never know because you gave up today. If you could help someone tomorrow or the next day, they will never know because you left today. The pain and suffering of the people you will leave behind you will never know because you died today. Do you ever read of people who have never even met people who committed suicide who turn up to the funerals? They connect, and they want to reach out, and they would have been there for you. But you stopped your opportunity to fix things the day you decided it was over.

To finish up, I’d like to share a little of my own journey. About six months ago, I myself would have connected to that photograph, because I felt I was in the shadow of a much more desirable person. She was prettier, smarter, and more confident. She would bring light to the room she walked into, and every time I walked into a room, I felt like people were just waiting for her, so I’d walk behind her and slip in unnoticed. In that, though, I realised that who I was was becoming lost in who she was. I was allowing myself to be defined by her personality, as “her friend”, and not as myself. In that case, the solution was separating myself and taking the time to build my own personality. That took time, and it hurt, but I knew things would be just a little better tomorrow. Your solution might be different. It might be talking to a councillor, or someone you trust. It might be spending some time alone. It might be finding who you are in God, or in your own interests. It could be any number of things, but to commit suicide is to deny tomorrow. Is to not take the chance on things getting better.

Tomorrow will never be the same as today.

Never let your expectations be defined by your experiences.

And whoever you are, you are loved.

Food for thought.

What Actually Happens When Donating Blood?

So, I just got home after giving blood and I realised how little I actually knew about the process before I went in there. I guess, for many people, the scariest prat is not knowing, and that can be a bit of a turn off. Well, never let it be an excuse! For here is a step by step process of what you’ll actually be going through.

You walk in the door, and if you’re a first time donor, there’s a lot to fill out. Some things I wasn’t expecting included whether you’ve been overseas in the past six months, have you had any new piercings done [apparently, ears are fine], and quite a bit about your sex life. Make sure before hand you’ve had plenty of water to drink [they say three large glasses, but I’d definitely say more, much more]. Water increases the volume of your blood and gives it a good clean, so you’ll feel better after having given it and they’ll find your veins easier. Also make sure to eat heaps. First time, I had vegetarian noodles. I got a few bad looks. We’re talking bacon and eggs.

After you’ve handed in your form, you’ll have an interview. This is someone going over the points in your forms that are a bit questionable [for instance, have you had any cuts? branches off to are they big, are they dry, how did you get them?] They’ll also check your haemoglobin [oxygen carrying parts] by pricking your finger, and check your weight. If you’ve passed all of that, you’re ready to move on to the actual blood donating.

You sit in this seat with heaps of chairs all around you and it lifts you up and back. A nurse will then ask you your name [to make sure you’re still able to comprehend English, and haven’t passed out], and start poking around your arm for veins. Because I’m a noodle, I had to lift some weights before I came, so maybe keep that in mind if you’re not the buffest. The nurse couldn’t find mine [STILL!], so she put a heat pack on my arm to help them pop out a little. BTW: for blood preservation purposes, it is freaking cold in those rooms, so bring a jacket or something, although they provide blankets too. You also get to squish this little squeegdy thing. Once they’ve got something they’re happy with, then comes the needle.

The needle is pretty large. I have an industrial bar in my ear, so I kind of just assured myself it would be about that painful. It wasn’t nearly as much as painful as my piercing. However, if you are unaccustomed to large metal objects being shoved through your skin, I could see how it could hurt. I made a little grunting noise, and my nurse sort of inwardly laughed at me. Easy for her to do. It hurts a little, it does, but that pain subsides within twenty seconds. You’ll be fine. As for coming out, I literally didn’t even feel it [she was pretty good at her job, admittedly]. All this time you’re squeezing your little thing and I moved my feet about too to get the blood flowing. It’s so easy to ignore though, because you’ve got a tv in front of you, your phone with you and free wifi.

After that, you hold a little swab to your arm, and it gets bandaged up [keep that on for two hours]. No strenuous exercise [I’m trying to get out of walking the dog, but so far no good] and have cold liquids for a while. You get free food afterwards too!

So, through everything, remember that you’re doing a good thing. The needle is the scariest part for most people, and it honestly didn’t hurt as much as I’d thought. The scariest part was watching my own blood come out of me!

Have fun. 🙂