Brick and Mortar

Words || Rosie McCrossin

So then, I suppose that’s not really how it began at all - with your face at the airport, walking around the corner, taking slightly too long to recognise me, your expression stained with confusion. But it really didn’t matter, did it? It wasn’t my city and it wasn’t yours. In the hotel, your bag was full of embarrassing colourful things. Things you would have bargained for from strange old women curved like gentle waves. You spread them on the floor and showed me each with a banal story, winding them through your fingers like awkward sorcery. I feel embarrassed in this hotel room full of plush and white and clean. From where you came, where things were dirty and rich and choking, and from where I have been where it is grey and rough-soft and quiet. You haven’t seen the house yet. You tell me the exchange changed you. I listen. I hum. I wait.

The next day we drive out and out and out in my tiny car. I push the air conditioning hard with my wrist but the air still feels too thick to inhale. You drum patterns on the dashboard and wince at each suburb sign we pass by. You feel like you shouldn’t have let me choose the house. Knew I would pick something peanut-butter bland like my childhood. And I did. Fat and brick and sturdy on a block of yellow-dead grass, ignoring the hot breeze from the inland plains. I want to tell you sometimes the kangaroos come in, they used to live here before the housing estate. And they look at me with their wide, grey eyes while I am washing up. And I can watch them for hours and hours through the cobweb-matted curtains. They are never the first look away.

Now, you are often in the living room playing video games. I am working at least. I should go for more grad jobs, you say. But I am sick of it, that stifling, ugly pressure. At Pollo Inferno I dip fatty baskets of offcuts which sizzle and burn my arms sticky red. The children who work with me have lizard eyes which are dull and melted like the bitumen. They ride scooters on the weekend in silent, silent streets, climbing the diagonal gutters under a burning sky. 

I walk home in an unwashed uniform which glues itself to my skin, to my inhuman body. I no longer recognise myself in mirrors. Missed calls from my parents stack like Jenga on my lock screen, ready to collapse at a moment’s notice. I make my way back along the wide streets, thick with nothingness. A million brick houses just like my own. Sometimes, there is a ridge and you can see for a few kilometres across the dead, zoned land. I am tired. I do not want to return home now. You will smell it on me, the banality. My God, I will say, falling to the couch, I have given up.