Saturday, July 24, 2010


she only remembers your name because you are absent. There is a lesson in this, about absence and the heart. It is a cliche but it can be used over and over and we will never tire of it. I am too constant in so many parts of my life. I am the thing to be taken forgranted or overlooked. And yet it is so hard to be strong and distant and uninvolved. Hard as beginning or sticking to an exercise programme or a diet. In a handful of days I have re-learned much. Be absent. Be distant. Remove yourself from the picture and they will start to notice you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

playground scrap

So she leaned over and pulled her earings out of her ears. The sudden violence of the act astonished me. Our other friends had fled, and I barely liked her enough to stay, but that was my thing - protector of the poor; defender of the indefensible. Me by her side now and those girls too tall and mean for the both of us, belittling her accent. I had nothing against her accent, but she was a little annoying when you engaged her in conversation.

The sudden violent act was an unexpected outcome. We were used to bullying and teasing, some loss of property, a thick shove in the chest. This was a different thing. This was both surprising and bloody. Her ears dripped blood onto her school shirt, not much, but enough to bring the group of us to the attention of the bystanders. My sister included.

My sister who refused to glance in my direction if we were in company. My sister who would either deny our familial bond or shove me off the path with more force than the grade ten girls.

My sister who now stepped into the small circle of violence and she was small and tough and no one dared cross her and the grade ten girls stepped back.

Damage done. No way to take away the pain and the blood, and yet I will always remember the look on my sister's face. Unmasked anger. My defender. My protector, just for that minute.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

hate and love

I am not sure what I want to say about sisters. I am not sure if sisters are important in the scheme of things. We move on in our lives and we think of each other rarely. There is no day to day care. We are barely in each others thoughts. Then one day when things are at a low, I know I should be seeing you, touching base with someone who understands how hard it has been right from the start. You share my sense of guilt. The overwhelming guilt. You share my frustration and my anger and my sadness which is thick and terrible all the ray back to the root.

I hate and I love. You hate and you love. There is very little between us in the end.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The sisters in Tasmania

She saw now that the couple at the next table had left a single oyster untouched. She wanted it. Suddenly. She wanted to stand up and walk over to their abandoned plate and eat that last oyster. She wondered why they had left it. She calculated the cost of a plate of them. That oyster was the price of a bus fare. Sometimes at the end of the week she walked to work because she didn’t have the bus fare. Lucy licked her lips. Tasted salt.

She noticed the little cracks in the makeup, tiny little lines at the corner of her sister’s eyes. Lucy often felt that she was getting old, which meant her sister was getting even older. Somewhere under that makeup was skin as tired and patchy as her own. Her sister was thin now, but she was large once too. A fat girl squeezed into this tight new body. It was good to see Rachel looking so fit, but Lucy couldn’t help feeling that they were the same, despite their differences.

She smoothed her skirt down over her legs. For some reason, sitting here with her sister made her self conscious. People would be comparing them. They were obviously related, the same round face, the same short legs, the same accent, almost but not quite English. They had both overcompensated for their accents, stretching their vowel sounds, mimicking an Australian drawl.

“Well, cheers”

Lucy clicked her glass against Rachel’s and tried to smile as naturally as possible.

“Great to see you.”

“Yeah. Great.”

They sipped their drinks and stretched their smiles at each other until they could no longer hold them and Lucy looked back out at a sky that had darkened significantly.

“I knew Tassie would be cold but I didn’t really expect…” she indicated the squalling wind outside the window, the choppy bay, the first spots of rain on the wide expanse of glass.

“You should have brought an overcoat you know.”

“I don’t own one.”

“But you should have bought one. You’ll get sick.”

“I didn’t really think that…”

“You were always hopeless like that.”

“I’m just not used to - look, it’s still pretty warm up north at the moment.”

“Except this is Tasmania.”

“Yes. I suppose.”

They sipped their drinks in silence. Lucy glanced over at the plate with the oysters. She should just order some oysters. But that would be a waste. That last oyster stared up accusingly at her from the next table. She was almost close enough to reach out and pick it up off the plate. It bothered her that humans were so polite about these kinds of things. A bird would have pecked it up and moved on. Any other animal would have taken this opportunity. One lone oyster, some tobasco, some lemon juice.

Lucy sipped her martini and stared out the window in what she hoped would seem like a comfortable silence until her sister shifted and cleared her throat.
“You know, I got someone in last week to do the lawn. I usually do it myself but there are all these little flowerbeds now and it is difficult to navigate the ride-on?”

“Oh. Okay.” Lucy had never seen her sister’s lawn, never having been to her house. She didn’t know that the lawn would be big enough to need a ride-on mower and she didn’t particularly care.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The love comes at a cost. Sisters love under the gaze of others. We love because if we are kind to each other we are praised by the generation before us. How sweet to your sister you are, how kind. Untethered, it would be one beast against another, a battle for food, space, dominance and the love of our parents. This is what sisterhood teaches us. One of us wins and one of us looses. Wild dogs scuffling. Lions snarling over a kill.

She reaches into the crib and pinches the nose of the sleeping infant. The wild cry startles her and she steps away. She is in a fairy dress, all innocent glitter. she steps forward when the adults come to check. She strokes the babies forehead. Poor little. Poor little. I think she must be sick.

All we need in life is food and shelter and a sister to teach us how to play to win.

good girls

The good girl gets praise. The good girl gets smiles and winks and a treat occasionally like a favoured dog. There is no courage involved being good. No daring deeds, no ethical dilemmas. A good girl follows orders and does so quietly without much fuss. A good girl puts others needs ahead of her own, takes the smallest slice of cake, praises others habitually. A good girl does not need time to make decisions because the best course of action is clear to her from the start, laid out by the family. Yellow brick road of one good deed after another.

It is harder to be the bad girl. It is harder to think for yourself and question what you are told. It takes strength and vigilance and yes, it is exhausting to make every new action a moral decision. The bad girl expends energy on her silent rages. The bad girl grows dark circles under her eyes and deep indentations in her forehead. The bad girl must stand tall against the judgement of the world. The bad girl must have self confidence and commitment.

You are only the bad girl in relation to me. All my struggles towards goodness mark you. I am to blame. Still I make myself more and more good. So good that I can no longer carry the weight of my good deeds. The cracks are showing. I draw the weapon in my brain. I see it's metalic cylinders. I see the bullet that will slip so speedily through one barell or another. I put the imaginary thing to my own forehead. Would a good girl do this? Or would this good girl find some random stranger, let the wound spring of her saintliness snap whilst aimed at someone else. Would the good girl jump into the river where her sin will be washed clean by deep dark? How will this good girl relinquish her mantel. And when she is gone, will you, my sister, be free to take on some goodness of your own?


She learns how to speak Elvish. She has read me The Hobbit and we have moved on to the Lord of the rings. It is true there is a wonderful secret pleasure in knowing a language that only exists in books. A language shared between the two of us and barely anyone else in the world. I am slow to learn. My tongue is thick and I do not have the focus to understand the grammar. Our grandmother knows three languages to speak and several more to read or understand. When I tell this to Karen her mouth hardens to a pencil line of condescension. Even if our grandmother knows twenty languages she is not invited to share in our Elvish. This is something for my sister and I alone.

She grows impatient with me. We come back to the lesson each day after school but instead of learning more words I seem to forget a new one every day. The lessons are for her and I am there to watch her learning. I know this, and so I nod when she tells me I am slow. She sets up a Special School in the corner of the yard and instead of Elvish my task now is to tie and re-tie my shoe while I listen to her recite poetry in a language that I have not yet mastered. I am obedient. Still there is a vague unsettled feeling itching under my skin. I know how to tie my shoes and yet I fumble it, miss one eyelet or another leave the laces too loose and let them fall apart under her inspection. She punishes me, and her punishments make her bad and in comparison I am good.
There are numerous examples of good girls patiently waiting for their rewards. I think of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Various assorted princesses each one suffering under pressure from evil step mothers, horrible husbands, ugly sisters. The harsher the punishment, the more virtuous I become. At school I am the most obedient of students. I know the answers to questions, I am always first to put up my hand to help the teacher. My sister takes her rage and channels it into evil deeds. She sits in the schoolyard with the malcontents. She is sent to the office once or twice a week. She is surly at dinner, and, afterward when we settle to work on the models together, she sits with her back to us, preferring the company of a book to our stories on reel to reel. We have chosen our sides. She is the bad child. I am the good. We stick to our separate territories and we excel in our polarised roles. Still each afternoon we play the game. I fail the small domestic task that she has set for me. She dishes out new punishments, holding a stone outstretched on the palm of my hand till my arm starts to burn and my muscles cramp, writing out lines in a notebook, I must do better next time, I must do better next time.

We have an alliance. Like all good prisoners and their captives there is a certain care between us. I give myself up to her slow kind of torture and she allows herself to become beastly in her treatment of me. For a while we are close. An equilibrium.

When the family ask her about school she just shrugs. Volunteering nothing. When I am alone with our mother in the kitchen, she puts her arm on the top of my head and draws me closer to her.

“Is Karen okay?”

“I think so.”

“She talks to you about things?”

“Not really.”

“But nothing is wrong? At school? Or anything?”

“No. Everything is good.”

I am blessed with secret knowledge, the hidden moods of my sister are mine to keep to myself or to divulge.

Friday, July 16, 2010

committment to sister

Now is the time for me to commit to this. I remember the sluggish pace of the last book, all good intentions until I forced myself to creep forward publicly each day. Today is the day of my commitment. Sister stuff one day at a time. A slow creep over into real work, headway. Maybe it will get this book written as the last one was written, suddenly, by accident. One tiny sister step forward and revelations revealing themselves at 2am.

This tiny committed step brings you and eye ever closer, my manuscript, my sister, the mirror to myself.