I wanted something sweet so I thought I would buy a bunch of grapes and I walked home and I ate them on the way home and although eating grapes is about the most good for me thing I could ever do, I forgot to wash them and every time I ate a grape I felt bad for not having waited till they had been washed. And I remembered articles I hadn’t fully read but had almost fully read that said how pesticides were invented by the same people who invented Agent Orange. By the time I had made it home I only had half a bunch of grapes left but I washed them twice, I washed them so that they were sitting in a pool of water inside a bowl and I had grape and water soup and I lay back on my bed with one finger inside the soup but I didn’t burn my hand because the soup was cool.
The cool breeze came through the window and I felt sweat sitting in between my elbows making me feel as if I were still walking up the hill to get home and as if I would sweat forever until my room was an ocean and the grapes were in a soup and nothing could ever be dry again. Like if everything had a thin layer of water on it, applied with one of those brushes you use to put egg yolk on pastry. I think about the thin layer of egg that coats everything on my desk, the cups and the scissors and the paper and my elbow leaning onto it. Everything in my room is made from filo pastry, except me. My house is an oven and everything I own is a hot spinach pie. I have spinach pie chairs and a spinach pie bed with spinach pie cushions. I remember how once you threw out a drawing of a snail you had done, and on the back of it there was a shopping list for ingredients to make spinach pie. 400 g of feta, 12 sheets of filo pastry, 2 bunches of spinach, 1 bunch of dill, 1 bunch of mint, 2 cloves of garlic, butter and 2 eggs. I kept it and have always thought that if we never speak again at least I can make a pie. Maybe you can make a meal out of the remains of a friendship. It starts to rain outside, the way that it rains after it has been very hot. The rain comes in through the window and hits a couple of my books and plants and turns everything back into things and nothing is ever a pastry again. If you lightly poke the side of your eye you can see a black spot moving around. If you lightly poke a pastry you can see hot steam float into the air. If you look into the air you can see nothing. If you lightly poke someone who is sitting in front of you and ask them to move their head a bit you can make a new friend.
I walk past a building on my street each morning, which I have always liked. One day I walk past and there is scaffolding up around it. I lean on the fence looking closely at the insides of the house and the place where the roof has been lifted off the top. I wonder where old houses end up, if they turn into land fill and if somewhere there are many empty house parts lying in the middle of a field. I wonder if you could build a new house from all the old pieces of house that have been left behind, if houses can be like collages or lego towers, or if everything takes a lot more work than it seems. I lean against the fence and notice a sign that says asbestos removal taking place. I put my shirt over my mouth and try not to breathe, and try to un-breathe the breathing I have already done. I can smell the rosemary bush that my neighbours have planted and I know that there is so much inside of the air that we cannot see. Standing outside alone can feel claustrophobic.
My phone rang and it said mum but I wondered if maybe it was actually you calling and if you had changed your name in my phone to mum. The phone rang through and I didn't know if it was you or mum and I wondered if every call I had ever missed had actually been you calling with something very important to say to me. I told myself that I shouldn’t reach out to you because what you are going through is really hard. You probably need a lot of space, you probably need to lie down on a sports oval by yourself with sunglasses and headphones on for a whole afternoon, or even for a whole week or even for months and months.
If you lay down on a sports oval for months and months, I would take up running just so I could run around the oval and I wouldn’t talk to you or ask you how things are since it happened, but maybe I could just run around to make sure that you didn’t dig a hole in the earth to live inside or become too sunburnt to move.
You have olive skin and tan easily and I am freckly and red so I would have to be careful not to get sunburnt myself, and sometimes someone else’s thing turns into your thing without you realising.
We might have to stay like that for years with you lying in the dirt and me running in circles and sports teams negotiating their way between us and the space that holds all of the anger and warmth we feel towards each other. The sports teams would win and lose their games and you and I would always just be passing the ball playing snap rolling the dice scissors paper rock kicking and throwing and not winning or losing ever. My phone rang again and again it said MUM and I wondered if I got the letters m and u and m and I uncurled them into straight lines I could get it to say your name instead. Or better yet I could get the letters to say something really good and clever and appropriate and a bit cutting to get my point across. I could say something I really wanted to say and just call you and not the MUM that is you but the real you. I never call you because it is easier to pretend you are calling me and not answer than to actually call you and hear your voicemail. I poured a too tall glass of milo and sipped the crunchy chocolate bit off the top of it and called my mum back who said that she wished I would answer when she called and she wanted to know if I had read the magazine article she had sent me. It makes me sad that everyone wishes someone else would treat them better. Sometimes I daydream about pouring cold drinks down your neck.
I sit across the road and watch the roof being rebuilt on the house around the corner. It is slow to watch and I can hear the loud radio and chatter of the builders. The sign which said asbestos removal taking place has been taken down. I hold air inside my hand, and I look very closely and try to see what is inside of it. I try to find the thing that I would like to say to you. Every time we do talk I can never remember how I feel or what I think about you, and yet afterwards I am stuck feeling something that feels a bit annoying unfinished irritated itchy and red like something to apply lotion onto. I ask the air for a way forward, knowing that everything that is possible exists in the nothingness and clearness of the air. Air is dense with pollution with sun with asbestos with rain with humidity with words with friendships with the end of friendships with little things that fly around with sand in sand storms with hail with bees and flies with songs stuck in my head. I wonder how air can look the way it does and be the way it is. I went overseas for the first time and when I came home I realised how clear the sky is in Sydney and how different the water tastes. I tried to describe what the water tastes like and you said it tastes like metal and what I was noticing were the different elements inside the water. You said that once someone on the street had stopped you and tried to talk to you about the fluoride in water. I ask if fluoride in water is the same fluoride that is in toothpaste, and you say that it is and that fluoride free toothpaste tastes like coloured pencils. I agree and say that natural deodorant makes me sweat more. We wonder if anything works and if anything is really better for us than anything else.
I reach outside my window while it is still raining and I hold a cup to collect rain water. I get bored trying to fill the entire thing up so I fill it up about half way. I fill another glass up with tap water. I drink one and then the other and accept that two things that are different can also be the same. My phone rings and it says MUM but what it actually says is YOU and it is the real you not the fake you that is mum.
I hear a song on the train and it becomes stuck in my head. While we talk I keep accidentally singing it and you keep singing it back to me. I know that if you are singing that means that things are becoming easier. I sing out and the air catches some of my singing and scoops it up and squishes it into the phone so you are able to hear it. Soon the air is sending words towards you that have come from my mouth that have come from my brain, and then the air around you is sending words back to me. A phone call is a gust of wind and can knock over a cup and disrupt an entire feeling.
About the author
Lily Golightly is a writer and artist based in Sydney. She is also the co-founder of Circle Square Paper which is a friendship project between herself and Celeste Stein.
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