Where I Was, Not Where I Am

Elizabeth Allen <elizabethallen240@gmail.com> To: Amelia.Westlake@yahoo.com.au

Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 10:19PM

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So, by now you are probably wondering where I am.

I met a man at a wine bar in Newtown. I was drinking Shiraz and he came over to me and said, ‘Do you want to log off? Shut down? Unplug? Do you want to sleep with me in the desert tonight with a billion stars all around?’ And that was that. I had to go with him.

His voice sounded worn and chipped, you could hear the afternoon sun in it. It contained an era I was nostalgic for; I wanted to buy the clothing of the period and wear the makeup, learn the dance moves, find the appropriate headwear and shoes. It wasn’t going to be a half-hearted effort. Sometimes before you fall asleep you think of kissing someone and you are not sure if it is something you are imagining in the future or remembering from the past. It was like that, all past and future up in my present.

The man suggested we share ourselves slowly, unfold. That we go away together to a place where all the beginnings haven’t already been swallowed by endings. He didn’t really say all that of course. Just that line about the desert and did I want to sleep with him there. Like he could have meant just sleeping or he could have meant fucking. Either sounded promising.

At first it was an affectionate kind of game, we were like two decks of cards that had been shuffled together or several pieces of paper casually interleaved. In an undergraduate way I put Klimt posters on the walls of the caravan and thought of Rilke: how could his soul rest so lightly on mine? He was the basket I put all my eggs into and I heard his metaphors coming out of my mouth.

We never made it to the desert. The car ran out of fuel and we ran out of cash. I wish I could make decisions like a guillotine but instead it was a handmade tearing with no clear halves: torn limbs, ragged tendons hanging, nerve endings exposed. I had to scoop it all up and it kept spilling out of my arms. The blood created so much extra laundry, which is hard when you are on the move – laundromats are so scarce.

He disappeared as fast as he had arrived. Months later when I was working in a petrol station, carefully lining up packets of chips, a song came over the radio and I realised he had been quoting the Eagles. No wonder it was so familiar. I had to laugh. I thought maybe one day someone will write a song about the two of us. I mean, you never know really when you are following and when you are going first. And it made me sad that I couldn’t tell him that.

I’ll send you a message from True Love when I get there. I hear they have Wi-Fi.