The trees here are white and skeletal – near Marysville where fire ripped through, years ago. Ghost trees.
We’re driving back from Paradise Music Festival, winding down the mountain in Jordan’s coupé with Ben in the back – it’s his turn to DJ. We round a bend and their bodies turn towards us together, raising their arms like crooked branches.
Pull onto the shoulder – a guy with no shoes on running to tell us we can’t get through. This is the only road home. I’m striding into them, out of the car before I can think – there’s a guy in a bucket hat, a guy in a Hawaiian shirt. Dreadlocks talking into his mobile, squinting. None of them are wearing shoes.
Blue motorbike perched neatly outside the white lines. White motorbike in the middle of the road, wheels spinning. A dent swiping along the flank of the bronze-brown car pulled up ahead.
There’s a man splayed on the bitumen like he’s trying to be consumed by it. Why did I walk toward, why did I think I could, how can I help? Dreadlocks a coiled statue, chanting, ‘Now. Now. Now.’
Crouching, I hear breath rip like a chainsaw, see blood bubble on his lips. I press my palm onto the neoprene back next to me, run circles between shoulder blades that run down into muscular arms, white glowing and freckled, cradling this helmet like they could unstitch the last few minutes from existence.
Salt rolls down his face onto the black plastic crown of the sighing helmet. We follow every breath like it’s sacred.
The guy with the dreads on the phone to the ambulance is squinting harder and I can’t tell if it’s the sun or what the operator is telling him. ‘Now. Now. Now’, in time with his breath.
Neoprene’s hands move like sparrows whose bones have gotten too big for their skin, ‘the blood’s – huh – ah, the blood’s getting in his eyes.’ We are vibrating in the wires of the mobile phone, dreadlocks our mouthpiece, our prayer.
The gum leaves are stirring, closing in on us from above. I am soaking up thick bright red, dabbing at streams on his forehead when these long lashes flutter. He starts groaning, moving his legs. The men rush in to hold him down – suddenly human again. ‘They said we gotta talk to him. Talk to him.’ I don’t even know his name.
I’m glad his legs are moving. Maybe that means no nerve damage. I’m glad he’s moaning, glad his clotted throat works, glad the helmet’s on his head, glad the visor seems to be the only smashed part of him. Everyone is yelling and holding him down and I am just stroking his face, trying to speak level. His screams rip through the cavity at the base of my lungs. The ambulance is somewhere and the white gums shudder. ‘Diego. His name’s Diego.’
We pile back into the car and drive home.
My earliest memory is an aunt of no relation teaching me the birds and the bees. I can recall that lesson with remarkable lucidity.
The way it feels, sitting in the library courtyard, and seeing a baby sparrow at your feet, scavenging the crumbs from your crusty roll.
He used to pick me up in his car, a beat up Honda Civic.
‘You talk funny.’
We’re on the hillside. It’s recess. We’re playing with little toy dinosaurs. I am the orange one, my favourite, and you’re the blue.
There used to be a takeaway pizza restaurant on Waverley Road, where the tram ended. You weren’t really supposed to eat there, but the owner had put a little vinyl table by the window and there were four chairs and a holder in the middle for the serviettes.
We decide to go looking for the troll while fuelling ourselves with petrol-station hotdogs and strong kaffi and, in our excitement, forget to fill the car.
At night, if you’re sleeping on the top floor, floor fourteen, you might hear someone walking on the roof, over its gravel sheet.
There were three eulogies at my father’s funeral . . .
The trees here are white and skeletal – near Marysville where fire ripped through . . .
We met in 2003 at the Wickham Hotel in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, while he was on holiday. Tall, handsome, studying English and Korean at university.
We were waiting at Salerno station for the train to Sicily when a woman on the opposite platform collapsed.
We watched television while he bled out on the bed beside me. ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ – that rhetorical question that so many people still seem to get wrong.
Elijah is taken on a Monday.
See his kidnappers on the freeway. Holden Kingswood, old and brown. Two men with ponytails and tense expressions. It’s half past three. The road is teeming with cars. The cars are absolutely gleaming.
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