Thursday, April 29, 2010

good cop bad cop

I am more good than you. You are more resilient. I am more compassionate. You are stronger, incapable of failure, a harder worker and less likely to quit. You are a lone wolf. I am always in search of someone to touch me, not the outside of me, but the inside places, like I can only be happy if someone is beside me with their hand inside my flesh and warming itself on my heart.

We each have our roles that we must play. So this is still that same game, the one you invented with the monopoly board that made me bankrupt, or the one I invented using chess that saw the overthow of the monarchy and the rise of the common pawns. So we have not grown then. Not now. And if not by now, not ever.

I knew a couple once. One I liked. One I did not like so much. The good boyfriend and the bad one. The bad one teased and played and was a little fun but not much really when you think about it. The nice one sat and listened to your problems and talked to you about his life and his love and he was so nice you wanted to listen to him for hours. When the nice one died I never said it but I wondered why it was the nasty one who was left in the world. Then the transformation. I caught up with the nasty one and found that he was a little bit nice after all. Then each time he was nicer and then nicer again. “It’s like I have to become a piece of my boyfriend,” he told me when I pointed out how much he had changed. “I have to take on parts of him when before I could just leave him to do the nice things by himself”

I thought about you then, my sister, and all the things we must be when we are together. The division of labour stamped so clearly on this sibling bind. I wonder if I am like the nice boyfriend only when we are together. Light and dark, day and night, key and lock, one making sense of the other’s attributes and flaws. We stay at a little distance so that I can be part bad and you can be part good. An even balance and these roles that we have a healthy respect for.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Love at First

At first we met in secret places. We were both single and hungry and stupidly young. Clutching at first things, pressing the life out of them as if they were olives. Sweet fruit on our lips. A stain.

We kissed and it was inexpert. In hindsight the kisses were less than special, possibly the worst I would ever have. Love stolen in the lounge room with my sister lurking somewhere close outside. Our hands shook, our tea jiggled in the cups. We pretended of course that we had been talking whilst my mother was in the kitchen. But our fingers smelled of sex and once, or twice our lips would be glistening with the taste of each other when she returned.

This wasn’t the first love but it was close. We practiced swelling up with emotion as we used to practice holding our breath in the deep end of the pool. We pushed and jostled each other because we were still fresh from the schoolyard and its habit of trading aggression for care.

There was that time at the drive-in, all fingers and tongues and damp almost-sex. So close we came so many times. Later, in my room, alone, he paused at the edge of consummation, refusing to go over with me when I was ready to fall.

I took this personally, this lack of penetrative sex. The first crack in the veneer, ever-widening. Weekends with him in my room and this last, unexpected dimension throbbing like a bomb in my ticking chest. Free university condoms perished in a bowl by the bed. It was the end of us.

One weekend he visited and it was all the same but it wasn’t. And then it was over.

There is no such thing as a mutual decision. One heart is broken. It becomes some cruel race to see which one survives and which one does not. I took it all at a pace and moved along without him. I looked back only once, years later. I wanted an answer to the question that remained. Sex, then, finally. Nothing better or worse than any other sex. No startling revelations.

One thing. This, I remember. When we were still shrugging the schoolyard off our clothes. We were just playing, chasing, punching, rolling, till I was tired with laughing and stopped for a moment to rest against a wall. She was there, my sister, always prepared to take one leap further than the rest. A handful of ice and summer and sweat-flesh. He and she rolling on the ground where only moments before he and I had been, rolling.

I stood back at their wedding, witness, called to sign the deed and it was all there behind the awkwardness that had formed over the intervening years. The memory of bad kisses and average love. A history. And me, uncomfortable, within it. She told them all. A speech that dredged up the guilt of hearts broken, tears shed. And set the tone for the rest of it.

I stand near his casket with a complicated mix of everything. I remember that time I made love to a girl on the couch beside him. Him and me in the past tense. The drugs turning him into a shadow of himself.

“Last night? Did I?” and his lazy decompressing nod. This pressed like moths or petals beside the moments when I could not bare to be by his bedside.

“Remember when?” He would ask and I would shake my head, practicing forgetting whilst I left him there and made tea.

“I always loved you.” An echo he would take to the grave.

Now. This confession. There is always one of us who will love more. The lesson that echoes in my brain. A lesson I forget and forget until I will cut my stomach open and tear the guts out of me with my bare hands. Knowing I will never learn. A nail in the head.

“I will always love you. I will always love you.”

Someone take that hammer out of my dumb hands.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

you and my sister

My sister disappears for a moment. She has a habit of disappearing. It is in her nature. We are so similar and yet it is described in different ways. I call you on the telephone and email you and sign in to chat and all of this to tell you I will not be contacting you. If I were my sister I would just disappear, change my email address, change my phone, move house, dig my heels in and become invisible in the manner of chameleons. We both hack and smash our way through friendships. Both she and I are much better on our own. Leave me, I say, go away, never speak to me again, and by this I mean just stay and hold me as tight as you can.

My sister’s phone is disconnected. Her email bounces back to not at this address. We will grow old, she and I, and we will become our ancestors. We will be strong and smart and shut off from the people who loved us best. All this of our own doing. All this because the world we make for ourselves constantly disappoints.

So know now that when I say go, I mean stay. When I say hate I mean love. When I say I would rather be alone I am so lonely that my bones feel like they are crumbling to nothing inside my thin skin which seems thick as armour.

My sister disappears, but if I wanted to I could find her. I could jump a plane and catch a bus and walk a bit with a map and I would recognise her because it would be like looking into a mirror. I also know how it will be, this re-uniting with myself. I will feel guilty. I will feel sad. I have been unforgivably hard on you who do not deserve it. I have said things that no one should say to someone who loves them. I have tried to wreck my bridges and dynamite my foundations and yet, we are still standing, my sister and I. And yet, you are still standing beside me.

I thank you for that.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

yellow plastic

You are pretty constant. An echo of my own voice. Always there and therefore easy to overlook and undervalue. So when you are gone I find I miss you. It is hard to formulate my own opinion without first measuring it against your own. I watch a programme that you would find pretentious and I enjoy it, in a guilty way. I read a novel quickly and in secret because it is not that great, but it is good in the same way that chocolate is good, on the tongue, in the moment, and not so much afterwards. Nothing that I do when I am alone would meet your standards which are higher even than my own. We are hard on me, you and I. We make me self-conscious. We make me know that I could do better if I put some effort in.

A hand reel bobs on the tide and it is yellow and I know you would like that it is yellow, and also that it is just too far to reach from the bank. I saw a hand reel, I would say in an email, it was yellow, and caught in the to and fro of waves just a little out of reach. I compose the email but I will not send it because the word stalkerish comes to mind. It is your word, but I have adopted it, it seems.

I think of the boy who loved me too much and held the memory of me too tight until his last breath. His constancy scared me, kept me distant. And I wonder if I am this to you.

So it is hard, but I keep myself away with my painting and my writing and my less than perfect novels and the rather lame television shows. I walk back down to the river when it seems that I will succumb to the need to contact you. The hand reel has moved a little way but it is still there, lifting up into the curl of white water, disappearing, coming up again as if to take breath. And I want to tell you about it almost more than anything. It is bumping up against the edge and I reach down and I catch it. Just a scratched and stained piece of plastic, no line attached now. Nothing special. I resist the urge to keep it, to put it in a packet addressed to you. I wish I had never pulled it from the river. It has lost all its poetry.

On the way back to my flat I place the little scrap of plastic in the bin at the edge of the park.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

dream sister

I had a terrible nightmare. It was about my sister. I woke struggling to breathe. In the dream the pool was filled with snakes and I was swimming but I saw them and realised and struggled to get out of the water. I was visiting my sister but I spent all the time with these other people. We were about to leave for good and I realised two things. The pool was full of snakes and I would leave my sister there without warning her. She would swim and she might be bitten and she might die and it would be my fault. Also I realised that I was leaving and I hadn't seen my sister much at all. In the dream this realisation made me panic I felt like a weight had landed on my chest and I couldn't breathe. I was trying to three words but it was only a shallow rasping sound. 'My heart hurts. My heart hurts. My heart hurts.'

When I woke I was stillt rying to say these words, trying to wake myself from sleep. Now awake, my lungs hurt like something large has been pushing them flat.

I must see my sister. All the terror of this and the panic that accompanies it is nothing compared to the dream of the snakes and the suffocation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

the sister book

My sister is the issue. My sister has always been the issue. This terrible sad distance. This feeling that it will fail before it has even begun.

I will tell you nothing because everthing will become ammunition in the end. Eveything by the book. my jealous love of you, our competition. The differences between us that feel manufactured. I am the bleeding heart. You, the hard heart. Me with my blank face, you with the perfectly made up mask. We are not so different, we two. We have the same beginnings, the same misplaced hope. The same inherant sadness. The same constant sense of dissapointment rising and falling like a car alarm, unattended. We have a trust issue, you and I. We have a shared guilt.

"I will never call you."

You say this, and I agree because you will never call me.

"Call me if you need me." I say, knowing you will never call. And we are lost to each other in such a sisterly way.

I got it easy or I took the easy path and my road seems somewhat familial. This safe, high, road and the fear of falling I have inherited.

You have your own familial demons and even from this distance I see them resting with you.

So, anyway, I am sorry. I say it, meaningless mantra. I'm sorry I didn't. And the excuses are so convoluted that they swallow the simplicity of the sentiment. I have failed. I have fallen. I have not met thte required standards. The story of my life.

And truthfully? I wanted to and there were all these reasons all these selfish reasons. And so now it is too late.

No atonement necessary. Just this sisterly distance. And I could kick all of it, stamp it to dust. Rage as you would rage. But it means nothing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


And then I was awake. Just like that, sitting upright in bed and my face dripping with the water she had thrown at it. I touched my pillow, which was damp. There in the early dark she stood with the empty glass in her hand.

"You said to wake you up."

And I had. It was true. I asked for a wake up call and I would have slept in. I would have turned over in my warm bed and groaned and muttered that I had changed my mind. I didn't want to be woken at all. I wanted to sleep.

She grinned, but only with half her mouth. A sly curl of the lip. Half smile, half frown.

I wondered what it would take to throw a glass of iced water into the face of a sleeping child.

"I said wake me up, not throw water at me"

"Well," she said "You're awake now. The show is about to start."

I would roll over and go back to bed. I would change my mind. Danger Man was a great show, but 4am was too early. Even Patrick McGoohan could not excite me at this time in the morning. I wanted to curl up and sleep. The pillow was worse than damp, it was soaked through. I tore back the covers and the morning was all ice. My mood was cold and surly. I glared at her and dragged myself to my feet which were numb and swollen with sleep. She wanted me to be mad at her. She wanted me to have woken into a mood. I would sway but I would not fall. I could stand up to my sister. This at least I would do. I could match her sneer with a smile so sweet that she would hate me for it.

"Thanks." I forced the smile wider, "Thanks for waking me," I said.