32.

The other day we were sitting at the table and because it was my birthday someone mentioned getting older and I said I liked 32. That I could have stayed 32 forever. And you said, “But that was before me!”

But it wasn’t.

I reconnected with you halfway through 32, we saw in 33 as a couple. Whenever I think of 32 I think of you. I think of the way you blew into my life, unexpected – and I bloomed. You took years off my face because love is a kind of elixir for life. I shone. Sparkled. And people noticed because all my friends would comment on the way I had come out of myself. You could send me a simple text that said, “Hey kitten” (something I thought I would have hated had anyone else said it, you were an exercise in exceptions) and my day was made. I became fascinated by photographs of us together because it felt like I had never seen my real face before. I barely recognised me.

None of this is to say it was simple or easy, because it wasn’t. At first there was so much vulnerability in loving someone. And I fell in love with you so quickly and so hard. I didn’t really mean to but once I started I realised I wasn’t going to miss this for the world. Eyes open. That’s how I fell in love with you. Your attention to detail felt indulgent. Of course I made a study of you too. Hours spent tracing the lines beside your eyes that fanned out like gentle sun rays. I loved them because they spoke of how much joy you could find in life that you smiled so much. I loved them because I felt unbelievably blessed to be lying there beside the man who was once the boy who I had spilled dreams to, almost two decades before. Oh yes, I felt vulnerable in the beginning. When I realised I was falling in love with you I cried to you on the phone. I cried to my daughter in the kitchen. But then I threw all my chips in because I had a sense that this could be the greatest adventure I was ever going to go on and I didn’t want to miss it.

It wasn’t always easy. But your conviction never wavered, your love was a constant. It wasn’t always easy because life isn’t always easy but loving you was the easiest thing in the world.

Why 32? Because 32 was the year I went on the bravest, most important journey of my life. 32 was when I stopped being who I thought everyone wanted me to be and decided to find out who I WAS. 32 was when you slipped your hand into mine and said, “Let’s do this.” 32 was when I stopped letting life happen to me and I chose you with a deliberateness that was breathtaking. I remember lying there and I thought, “Just look at him, one look and you will know.” And I raised my eyes to yours and you held my gaze, a question answered.

Yes.

32.

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Survival and Ghosts.

When I was little I was really scared of ghosts. Not like a white sheeted floating figure but actual spirits. I’m a pretty reasonable person and I like to think I’m fairly grounded in reality and yet I don’t know everything and there are millions of things in the world I don’t understand so while there may be (and probably is) a reasonable explanation for this when I was little I was plagued by this apparition of an old man walking past my bedroom.

To set the scene we were living in this old house that was owned by The Blue Nurses who were left it in a will by the old guy that lived there before us. We had just moved back to QLD after living down in NSW in a caravan by the beach where we ate so much fresh fish that I seem to have developed a permanent aversion to it (but that is beside the point) and taken up residence in this giant old house. I assume at one point it was all joined together but it was like a duplex by the time we got there. Two large bedrooms either side, bathrooms and kitchens and living areas and on our side a wide enclosed verandah. No toilet. The toilet was downstairs and I was terrified of it. My parents are like the King and Queen of ‘making do’. Most women would be driven crazy by having to cart a 5 year old outside and downstairs in the dark to the toilet but my mum just stoically bore this burden. This wasn’t the only flaw in the old house. The bedrooms which came off of the enclosed verandah had large glass doors – beautiful – but impractical to shut every night so we left them open. And the enclosed verandah had windows but no glass. Just fly screens. And some didn’t have fly screens because they had long been torn off. One night I woke up basically exsanguinated by mosquitos. My dad also liked to pot plants (once in the living room which did drive my mother to distraction although we can laugh about it now) and at that stage he was in a cactus phase and he kept them all over and he was also fond of rocks and he carted ones he particularly liked home and put them on the verandah. My mother worried the verandah would collapse under the weight but she just puts up with these little eccentricities. I should mention that I actually really love rocks also so this isn’t weird to me. I just managed to have both my dad’s love of hoarding with my mother’s love of purging items so I collect them and then throw them all away in a fit of decluttering. Anyway. Back to the house.

The other side was linked to ours through various doorways that were closed off with furniture. In my room it was kind of barricaded by my large wooden toy box, which I was grateful for because the other side was completely full of stuff that had belonged to the old man and his wife before she passed. It had their pots and pans, clothing, her make up, furniture etc. I assume the Nurses went through it and cleared out anything of major value but the fact there was still rouge that had once coloured this dead woman’s cheeks kind of freaked me out a little.

Most of the time when I was small my mother would read me Enid Blyton books and draw on my back until I drifted off. But sometimes I would be lying there awake and I would see this old man walk past my door. It freaked me out so badly because I kind of knew he shouldn’t be there and that he wasn’t actually THERE. I lived in fear he would one day not just walk past but turn his head and look at me and if that happened I would just die of fear but I couldn’t stop watching for him in case he DID look at me. I kind of brushed this off as an overactive imagination on my part. Nothing is there, nothing is there, lalalalala, go to sleep…

Anyway, I had this cat Tinkerbell and one day she got hit by a car and died. After that I kept seeing Tinkerbell. Lying in a patch of sun on the verandah, walking through the house casual as you please like she wasn’t dead and buried under a tree in the backyard. Finally, I come to my mother and tell her I’m seeing Tinkerbell. And mum doesn’t appear shocked by this at all and says, “That’s okay. Sometimes they just stick around for a little while after they die.” (Years later she would tell me she wasn’t shocked because she herself had also been seeing Tinkerbell). THIS COMPLETELY FREAKED ME OUT. Because my line of thinking was that if I was seeing Tinkerbell because, no big deal sometimes they just stick around awhile, then maybe I WAS seeing Old Man because HE was sticking around. And I didn’t not want Old Man to be sticking around. I wanted him to not be walking past my room, thank you very much.

We moved into my parents first bought house when I was seven which effectively put an end to the Old Man walking past my room but I was still completely freaked out about going to sleep. I would lie awake for ages. I would pile dozens of teddies around my body in bed in order to confuse any potential ghosts about where I was, perhaps they would just miss me if I was camouflaged by teddies. Almost every night I was anxious about ghosts. Avoiding ghosts was my primary goal in life. And then one day I got sick. Probably with just a flu or something but I was completely miserable and far too sick to care about anything except sleeping and trying to keep down fluids and not boiling my brain with fever. And I stopped caring about the ghosts. I was so sick I was just like the seven year old version of, “I’m too sick to deal with your shit.” When I got better I began to worry about ghosts again. But I found that interesting. That when you were very sick, you didn’t really care about anything except being sick.

Now days when I am having a rough patch with myself mentally it’s difficult for me to care about anything but how sick I am. It’s consuming. It pushes everything else out. I don’t do my hair. I don’t care I’m wearing jeans four sizes too big. I don’t care that I’m 34 and don’t know what I want to do with my life. Every single fibre in my body is dedicated to one purpose – survival. Last week though I found myself obsessing over my face. I get hormonal cystic acne on my chin when I’m about to ovulate because my body is under the impression the best way to catch a mate to fertilise it’s impending egg is to be sure he sees me by planting a beacon on my face. It’s frustrating to the extreme but my body is very firm on this being the correct plan of action so I suffer through. And last week I was like “THIS IS BULLSHIT! No one should have to simultaneously deal with acne AND the emergence of smile lines.” And I was googling how to clear the cystic acne and really miserable and then I remembered that a month ago I wouldn’t have given a shit about my face. Because I was too busy just surviving a month ago. The fact I was caring about something so trivial was a sign of WELLNESS. Cystic acne was basically my ‘ghost’. You only have time to obsess over the little stuff when you aren’t busy doing battle with the big stuff. I was still morose over my face but I was happy I could be morose. That there was enough of me left over to give to something petty. To care enough to be vain.

I looked into the mirror. And I smiled.

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Three Stories.

Sometimes I take out little random memories like jewels from a treasure chest and examine them in the light. Ahh, here is the time I was about 5 and got shy and accidentally hugged the Tupperware lady instead of my Mum. And here is the Christmas Day I got given not one but two kittens. Recently I found three stories that seemed completely unconnected at first and when I went to write them down I realised that my life actually has this theme to it. I’ll put them below. Three Stories.

~1~

One time when I was about 15 I was in my kitchen partaking in one of the great Australian traditions of eating Milo directly out of the tin. I had just put the world’s biggest tablespoon of Milo into my mouth and was busy trying to breath carefully through my nose lest I succumb to Milo Lung which is the greatest tragedy to befall all Australians partaking in the great tradition of Milo eating when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Wait, let me explain. * Milo Lung is where you accidentally inhale the granulated Milo into your lung while eating it from the tin and immediately begin to cough, spraying Milo all over everything within a 2 metre radius and try not to die while asphyxiating on chocolaty goodness. It’s a dangerous sport but a rite of passage. * Anyway, there was a knock at the door. I stop mid chew to see if mum or my brother would answer the door but they’ve all gone somewhere and I can’t not answer the door. I know it’s for me anyway because it’s that time of day when someone would knock at my door. I peek around the corner and it’s my partner who is basically getting a glimpse of his future twenty years down the track when he will catch me in all manner of compromising food situations where I’m stuffing my face just as he walks in. But back then I’m not really ready for him to see me with Milo all stuck between my teeth because we don’t have that sort of relationship yet. So as I dash by him I am holding up one finger in the universal “just a second” gesture and I have to dash to the bathroom and brush my teeth about five times because Milo is the most tenacious bastard you have ever met. It took about 17 years for me to come clean about that moment. Finally, I’m sitting there with him and I say, “I don’t know if you remember this but this one time you came to the door just as I’d started eating Milo and I was horrified and had to rush to the bathroom to brush my teeth and when I came back you asked what I’d been doing and I lied and made something up.” He has one of the most fickle memories – he can recall every song lyric he has ever heard but can’t remember this one time when we were about 14 and went into the city and he pinched a monorail from the Expo 88 exhibit at the art gallery. I’m like, “How can you NOT remember that? It was a MONORAIL!” But he forgets things. Meanwhile through some miracle of mind he manages to recall one arbitrary day nearly twenty years ago when I ran past him with my cheeks puffed like a squirrel full of Milo. “Oh yeah, I get it though. Milo can be such a bastard to get out of your teeth.” Seriously? 17 years I held on to the shame of a covert Milo eating mission and he just accepts it as normal.

~2~

My first break up was a truly horrendous affair and occurred when I was 10. I’m about to revive good old Peter Brown for this story because he was my first boyfriend or what passed for a boyfriend in fourth grade – which basically meant we played together at lunch time. We had a whirlwind love affair that lasted approximately one month. That was because his usual friend who he played with had up and gone to America for a month to visit some NASA camp leaving Peter to his own devices. Peter attached himself to me and my best friend and we had a grand time that month, catching ladybugs…actually I can’t remember what else we did except catch lady bugs but I assume we did something. He sang me Beach Boys songs. I gave him a matchbox car which was actually one of my very best matchbox cars so this was A BIG DEAL. Anyway, fast forward a month and his regular gal comes back from America and he just DITCHES me. I was so mad, you guys. I GAVE him my CAR. Right so I write him this note and I’m like, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore because you are mean.” And I give it to Peter. And he is like, what the hell is this? And I’m like, what’s it look like, asshole? And he is like, I’m taking this to the teacher. And I was like, oh shit. (I’m paraphrasing, neither of us swore). And he goes and stands in line behind a bunch of kids getting their work checked and I’m FREAKING OUT. I’m sure I’m going to be in so much trouble for writing this mean note. I end up cutting in line and telling the teacher I’m sick and need to go home and off I go. Every day for about a week I freak out after lunch that Peter is going to tell the teacher about this note and I have to go home because I can’t deal with the anxiety of this hanging over my head. Finally mum gets the shits with having to pick me up early and takes me to the doctors to see if there is actually anything wrong with me. The doctor says my lymph glands are up a bit and I probably feel poorly and I think it must be a miracle and I’ve made myself sick but feel completely well somehow. Mum now believes me but I know the jig is up and I’m just going to have to face whatever music is coming. The next day I go up to Peter and I’m like, “Look, are you going to tell the teacher or not?” And he looks at me bewildered and goes, “Tell the teacher what?” And I’m exasperated and say, “About the note!” And he goes, “Oh that!” And waves his hand, “I threw it out. I don’t care.” And I walked away completely amazed I’d made such a big deal about nothing. The next day I open my tidy tray and my matchbox car is sitting inside.

~3~

When I was 18 I had two daughters. My youngest was a couple of months old and despite not managing breastfeeding with my first daughter (lots of issues with prematurity and my own inexperience) I was totally smashing breastfeeding this time around. Still, it was all new to me and I didn’t really have a good grasp on how my boobs really worked at that stage and I was still pretty shocked at the amount of force a let down would have. For the uninitiated when you breastfeed at some point during the feed you ‘let down’ which is where the milk starts just flowing of its own accord. I didn’t realise this occurred before I had kids. Like, I’d read about it but reading and seeing are different things. The milk comes out in multiple sprays and just SHOOTS out. Like a water pistol under extreme pressure. I can’t really describe it. Sometimes the milk runs out so fast the babies can’t swallow quick enough and they’ll pop off because they’re only small but that know this is crazy. By this stage though my baby had gotten bigger and learned to cope with the flow but I’d discovered that babies are also really distracted and if something is interesting they’ll just come off and have a look around the room with absolutely no regard for the fact your boob is now exposed to the world. So here I am. Sitting on the couch in my living room and my then partner has invited his work mate around for a visit and this is the first time I’ve met him. The work mate whom I shall call Paul is sitting at right angles to me on a separate couch and he seems nice enough. Paul is impeccably dressed and very gay and hasn’t had a lot of experience with babies or boobs but he politely ignores the baby I’ve just put to my breast which is nice for me because I was still kind of getting the hang of this myself. My then partner and his work mate are chatting away and I continue to nurse and just as I let down and the milk turns into a fire hose they start laughing at something and the baby pops off to check out the situation in case it’s something she might be interested in. My boob is now free and seriously shoots milk across the room on a trajectory that’s going to land it straight towards poor suspecting Paul’s arm. I clamp a baby wrap down on my boob to stop the flow but it’s too late and some has definitely landed – if not on him – near him. I’m mortified. I’ve just met this man and I’m squirting milk at him. I’m not sure what is the socially acceptable thing to do in this situation. Firstly, I’m not sure he has seen, he is giving me no outward signs of having seen. But if he is just being polite and HAS seen and I say nothing he is going to think I just go around shooting milk at everyone. So I should definitely apologise. On the other hand, if he hasn’t seen and I apologise I’m drawing attention to a fact that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. I really only have a second to decide so I go with an apology. “Umm, I’m really sorry about that…the milk, I mean. And how it kind of….shot…at you. I didn’t mean it.”
Paul is perplexed and has no idea what I’m talking about. So now I’m forced to explain about the lactation process and how it’s unpredictable and babies are inquisitive. Paul is now thrilled with this knowledge, “You mean it just SHOOTS out?! That’s amazing! That’s hilarious! I’d be squirting people for fun. Don’t even worry about it.” While Paul didn’t have much experience with babies or boobs he knew exactly the right thing to say.

Three stories. And you know what I learned? Most of the time nothing is as bad as you think it is.

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No ‘if only’.

Years ago I was both simultaneously very open and very closed. Actually that’s been almost a constant in my life. I’m a walking contradiction. I always liked that quote by Walt Whitman in Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

I was open because when I was a photographer I sold myself. I sold my work also, my skills and my style. But I also sold who I was as an artist. Frequently by the time a client came to me and booked in they knew my kids names, what pets I had, they had often read my old blog, they had a sense of who I was as a person. I believe it was why so many clients tried to add me on Facebook after a shoot. And most of the time I accepted that request. I was happy to have them connect with me. I was open about my life’s little bits a pieces. Funny things the kids had said or done. My fondness for Creamies – a biscuit I discovered (to my great dismay) had more calories in four of them then a large cheeseburger meal.That I slept in sweatpants in winter because while I desperately wanted to be one of those women who could do the school drop off in PJs I also feared my car would break down and I would be greeting the tow truck driver wearing pug pyjamas.

At the same time I was very closed off. I didn’t often discuss my ‘feelings’. In fact I viewed feelings as a great weakness. Love was reserved for teenagers too young to know better and one’s children. I was very uncomfortable with affection. I would hug babies and toddlers and my family on special occasions. It was widely known amongst my friends that I was not a hugger. Some would even give me warning before they hugged me, “I’m going to hug you now, okay? I know you won’t like it but I’m going to do it anyway.” And they would put their arms around me and I would stand there stiff backed and perhaps grudgingly pat them on the shoulders. Hold my partner’s hand in public? Forget it. In fact he was similar so it would have been an uncomfortable experience for both of us. I didn’t say I loved people. I could say I loved cake or dogs or the smell of lavender. But I could not tell my cousin I loved her.

Open and closed off.

Now I’m basically the opposite. I’m very careful with what information I release and to whom. My circle of people is tight. My Facebook locked down. I shut down every business because I couldn’t run them effectively or in the same way and hide. I use to put up a snap of me with the goat chewing my hair and me with the worst forehead wrinkles as I screwed my face up and not care. Now, I will rarely show my face straight on if indeed I photograph myself at all. But I am more open. I hug people. I tell people I love them. I share more intimacies. I will kiss my partner openly in public.

When my partner and I started dating I knew if this ever was going to work I had to break down those walls. The first time he kissed me in the city, in public, I was so stunned. I don’t think I even had time to feel awkward about onlookers because I was so taken with him. And afterwards I thought, isn’t there enough hate and negativity in this world? Wouldn’t this whole place be better if more people were kissing and in love and just generally being good to each other instead of giving each other bitchy looks at worst and ignoring each other at best? Wouldn’t it be nicer if I could just hug my friend? Why do I reserve my affection but happily share my experience with a shitty driver on the highway? And the thing with him was – I didn’t want to hold any part of me back from him. I wanted to lay my life at his feet and see if he would claim it. I wanted to pour myself into his hands and see if he loved what he saw just as much as I loved what I saw when I looked at him. I wanted to be as real and honest with him as I could be.

And it was fucking terrifying, if I’m honest.

How vulnerable it was to unreservedly love another person. The capacity to be hurt was so great. But if it worked… And I kind of realised that was what I had been worried about for years. I held people at arms length because I didn’t want that weakness and vulnerability. I didn’t want to be hurt.

What sort of life was that? Letting no one in because I was scared of what? Being alone? I was already alone. Because I never let anyone in. Love required vulnerability. And I wanted this so much. I had to let go. Throw caution to the wind. Tell someone I loved them with no idea whether he loved me back or if it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t work. But at least I would never live with a ‘what if’. At least I wouldn’t be lying there in ten years time wondering if I might have had a chance at something incredible and soul changing if only…if only.

You would think it would take time to dismantle walls but they came down at once. I slid into a new me as though I’d never been any different. It deepened my relationships with everyone who mattered. My children. My family. My friends. My kid’s friends. Have I been hurt? Oh, yes. Oh my, yes. Without the walls everything just ran in. I felt like I was being bathed in emotions. You know I never use to cry? I actually couldn’t. I would sometimes think a good cry might be just the thing and nothing at all could induce one. Now barely a day goes by I don’t cry over something. I cry because of sad things and happy things and people being good and people being hurtful. There is this one film clip of when this guy got his leg caught between the train platform and the train in Perth and all the commuters worked together pushing the train to the side so he could free his leg and – oh my god – I cry like a baby every time I see it. The vulnerability of being open – it can sting.

There is another part of that Song of Myself by Walt Whitman that I like where he says, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Connection is a gift you buy. The price is vulnerability. And its value is immeasurable.

No ‘if only’.

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Girl in a Yellow Dress.

For years I had sat contentedly in the country thinking about nothing at all and absolutely everything.

When I say nothing at all I mean I never desired to leave. I assumed I would never travel further than a 300km radius from that location. I didn’t long for that. Not really. The thing was I moved like a unit of seven, myself and the six children. I didn’t want to be apart from them and anything I did I wished they came with me. When the house burnt down in 2010 we got a very large sum of money. Over twice what we owed in the mortgage because when I insured it the house was so old that the person on the other end insisted the cost of replacing the house would be a large amount and I grudgingly agreed to pay the extra. We paid the mortgage out and then funnelled the rest into our new mortgage and I suggested then perhaps we take the children to Europe. It was a ludicrous plan because who in their right mind would take six children to Europe? My then husband said he didn’t want to, but to tell him how much I needed and I was welcome to take the kids on my own. Which seemed even more ludicrous because who would take six children to a foreign country on their own? In hindsight I probably should have paid a friend or family member to come along and called his bluff but I was half relieved. Because I had no desire to leave. I just felt I should.

And when I say absolutely everything I mean I would become curious about something and go on this wild bender of research. One day I’m crocheting and the next I am buying a spinning wheel. Then it’s not good enough to buy ready to spin fibre – I need to learn to process the fleece myself. I research natural dyes and mordants and dye my handspun yarn with elderflowers I harvested from my yard. Then I research elderflowers and harvest them for herbal use. Then I research more herbs. Then I research silkworms. Then I’m buying Mulberry trees and before you know it I’m learning how to build a strawbale house with an honesty window and churning my own butter and learning about crop rotations. There was no end to my curiosity about how I could do things myself.

Truthfully, I hate buying things. I want to make everything with my own hands. I was browsing rugs today on anthropologie and kept thinking, “I could probably just hook one.” I’m infuriating. It’s why I struggle with furniture. I hate mass produced and I hate modern and I want everything to be old and sturdy and quirky or handmade. I have no idea what I will do when my couches die because the thought of heading in to Harvey Norman and buying a sofa makes my soul die a little.

Anyway, for years I just contentedly sat around pleased to be in the country and an aspiring self sufficiency buff. And I couldn’t sit STILL. I was bubbling with energy, I couldn’t just read a book. I read a book while I knitted, pausing between knit and purl to turn the page. I spun yarn while I watched TV. I edited images while I sat through a movie. Even when I was sitting I was in motion. Do you know, I once fell asleep while knitting and when I woke from my doze I was still working my stitches as though nothing ever happened.

When I became single I became restless. I wanted the anonymity of the city. I wanted to walk through the bustle of the crowds and be dwarfed by buildings. I wanted botanical gardens, a splash of green between the River and the streets. I wanted art galleries. I booked a hotel room and when I went to pack I was worried I would be bored. I packed about three books, some knitting and my spindle and probably a good 100gms of fibre. Something that might have taken me a week on a spindle to turn into yarn. It was yellow. I remember that. A bright sunny colour that reminded me of the song by E, ‘Yellow Dress’….a mellow bluesy tune where you can hear all the scrappings of his chair and adjustments before he starts to sing in his low soothing voice. (I’ll link it at the bottom of the post in case you want to hear the music that was my life at that point).

I packed all this for two nights. Of course it was a bit of a rendezvous also because I was going there for a date as well. And what happened was we went upstairs to his hotel room (because we had separate hotel rooms and indeed even separate hotels) and he lay beside me on this wide couch and I was still. Hours. Time just unwound before me and through the window I watched the shadows shorten and lengthen again. I listened to the people chattering in a low hum stories below us, cars driving. The whole world continued to race past and I lay still, my head on his chest, his hands in my hair. I spent long stretches of time committing different elements of his face into my mind, etching them there in case he might disappear like smoke. I made a study of him. But I was still. I was calm. I was at peace.

It was only then when I stopped that I realised I had been using all those ‘things’ to fill the gaps in myself of what wasn’t there. As though if I kept moving I wouldn’t notice. When I stopped filling up my life with motion I could allow the stillness of love.

That was what he gave to me. Stillness. He rounded my jagged edges, soothed the tears in me…….It took me a year and a half to finish spinning that yellow yarn.

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Yellow Dress is track number 4.

City.

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Image by Hyggelig Photography – Melbourne

We were outside Starbucks in the city, people walking around us with the sunlight filtering between the buildings. The rush of the city was a shock to the system after so long. Did I really walk here? Nearby is an escalator I kissed a boy on once – a lifetime ago. Would my 15 year old energy still be floating around in the ether there somewhere?

I was nervous to see him, the last time had been in the forest alone and quiet. A private place to unlock the mysteries of his lips. Darkness creeping into the clearing as I slid my hands under his shirt. His lips softer than I expected. He had grazed his mouth slowly along my neck, his eyes closed as though he were drinking me in. His hands cradling my face as he turned it upwards…

But here in the daylight it would be different. He walked up to us and sat down, he didn’t touch me but he proximity had all my nerve endings electrified. The girls left and he asked if I would like to take a walk. When we stood up he took my hand as though he had been taking it for years. Naturally. We stopped at traffic lights and waited with a herd of people for the ‘walk’ symbol to flash green. He came around in front of me, slid his hand up my cheek until his fingers were tangled in my hair, leaned forward and out his lips to mine.

I felt hyper aware of everything. The cars in the street, the people surrounding us, the smell of him, the warmth of the sun, the feel of his lips, his tongue gliding over my lip and my sharp intake of breath…

The daylight was different, but still magical.

Spark.

Your fingers pull at the threads of my soul.  They coax words from me like coddling flames from dusty coals.  I thought I was ashes and dust. A memory of a fire long burnt out.  But the words pour from my veins.  I write on slips of paper, in coffee stained notebooks.  I write on the wind and sky.  I write.  A flame flickers to life.  The words weaving the tapestry of our love.  The fire dances.  And I write.  And I write.

The Constant.

I met him the first time through my bedroom window. It was an ordinary weekend when I was thirteen and he was one of three boys who came knocking on my window in the dark to talk to me and my best friend who was staying the night. I don’t recall why they didn’t use the front door or what we talked about or even if I truly saw his face, shadowed as it would have been by the plants outside my window. The first time I met him, the earth didn’t stop spinning and there was no indication something amazing had just happened.

After that day he would often stop by, usually using the front door after that and we would take a walk, joke or lie on my driveway and discuss the stars. He took me into an abandoned building, he drove me too fast in an unregistered car, he sneaked with me into the park near the dam after it was locked up. He never touched me until I asked him to. And that was a surprise because during my teenage years boys would try their luck wherever they could. Announcing their lust with pointed looks, whistles, touches, attempts to kiss you. But he never did that at all. One summer it was so hot I stripped off to bra and underwear and waded into the cool water but he sat on the edge and never ventured in.

I remember the day he told me he was leaving. And there was no warning at all. Why? I asked him. I tried to convince him to stay. I asked why he hadn’t told me sooner. I think when I eventually realised he was truly going I hugged him, and that was the first time we touched. I can’t imagine what he thought when he returned. I guess it was not what he expected. Maybe he thought he would come to the door and I would still be waiting. Maybe he thought he could tap on my window but it was my brother’s room now and I was suburbs away living in the garage of my boyfriend’s house, 8 months pregnant. It is really lonely when you are sixteen and pregnant. No one really talks about that. They tell you about motherhood and labour and birth but no one talks about the months before when your body stretches and scars and how you can’t find anything to say to your friends anymore. That they stop calling. That you don’t really care when they do because you no longer have patience for their teenage romances when you’re becoming the doorway to life. I was surprised when he visited me there. I am actually still shocked at his bravery because it is quite remarkable for a teenage boy to show up at the home of another boy and ask to speak to his pregnant girlfriend. He didn’t know that at the time I wasn’t actually anyone’s girlfriend because my baby’s father had told me he wasn’t ready but I had no where else to go so I had stayed. He didn’t know that for me the days had been spent crying because I had been told all the ways I was ugly now that I was carrying a child. He didn’t know that that day, when he sat on my couch was the first time I had been truly happy in months. He didn’t know, because I didn’t tell him. And after I had the baby and moved back home he would come to see me all the time and his visits were the bright spot in my days.

When he began dating someone I panicked because I realised I didn’t want him to be with anyone else. I wanted him to be with me. And it terrified me deep inside because he was my best friend and what if I was all those things I had been told? And I guess, on some level, I didn’t think I was good enough for him. What if one morning he woke up and saw me for what I really was and he just stopped coming at all? We dated anyway. And I’m going to be honest here, it was basically a disaster. Because I didn’t know how to be this boy’s girlfriend. He knew too many things about me, like that I was scared to be doubled on a bike and I hated toads and I didn’t hold my liquor real well. He had seen me half naked when we were friends so what mysteries could I possibly serve up to him? I had told him everything and prior to that in all my relationships or flirtings with boys I had maintained a clear boundary. I wasn’t the real me with them. And I couldn’t figure out how to be the girlfriend to this boy who had already seen the real me. One day we had a silly argument and he left. I wanted to run after him. But I didn’t because I was stubborn, because I was scared, because I didn’t want to give him anymore of me than he already had because it felt like he had too much of me already. I didn’t understand why he could push me out of my comfort zone when no one else could. It unnerved me. By the time he came back, my baby’s father was at the house. And he left again.

Throughout the years that followed I would marry, have children, buy a house, move to the country. And at times he would drift across my thoughts like dandelion fluff on the breeze. I guess I never really thought I would see him again. He would always show up when I belonged to someone else. He was always too easy to give me up. To think I was happier without him.

When he asked me to meet him I begged off. I made excuses because I was scared that I would see him and he would unbox all my feelings in one swift move. I was scared I would see him and he would make me happy. I was scared I would offer myself and he would disappear like smoke again. And our messages over the years, either brief or long winded and months between would always seem to dance around a point.

When I finally did agree to meet him I knew that the moment I did I would set into motion something I couldn’t take back. I knew that before I went there.

I went anyway.

We met for the second time in a hoop pine forest. It was autumn, the afternoon light was dappled through the trees, I waited for him in a blue dress with a circle skirt I had sewn myself. While I waited I turned circles like a girl, watching my skirt fly up around me. When he arrived, I stood. I didn’t know where to put my hands, I didn’t know what to say. When he hugged me hello I fit into his arms like the missing piece of a puzzle. And a little while later I would think to myself, just look at him, look into his eyes and you will know. And I did. And that time the earth stopped moving and my soul fused with his and what I saw there, in his eyes was that he loved me. I had a moment to be shocked, I thought, “Oh. After all this time? Still?” Time did not stand still but moved in all directions at once, stars were born and cities burnt to the ground in the time that look took. Everything became clean and clear and I saw that every road had always pointed to him. All my heartaches, tears, triumphs, every broken dream, every breath I had taken had been for this one moment. Somewhere inside me a voice said, “So, this is it. This is what you were waiting for.” The ink was dry.

We threw caution to the wind. We cast our fortunes in together. I knew this would work because it was always supposed to. Our love was divinely ordered. It was written in the stars.

And how silly I had been all those years ago to believe I couldn’t be in love with my best friend, I always was. Love is when he is the bright spots in your day, it is when he sees the real you, it is when his company warms your soul and comforts you. Every day with him is a gift. Love is when he will always come for you. He is my constant. I have always been his.

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