Waiting for a cab
to travel for hours
just to see your face
a smile melted
sunny side up
on a plate
through a window
eyes will meet
but they will be hollow
as I watch you laughing
sipping your coffee
made just how you like it
by some other girl.
I wake up and my mouth is dry. My pillow cradles my heavy head and I can smell that my hair is dirty. Like, really dirty. I try to sink deeper into the little body groove in my mattress. I can’t squeeze my body down any further and my throat starts really killing me. Somehow I lift my blanket and dislodge myself from my quicksand bed. I stumble into the bathroom in the pajamas I wore yesterday and the previous three days before that. My throat feels like it’s on fire. I drink two glasses of water and it tastes so rusty I can barely swallow it.
Somebody calls my phone and I answer it, ignoring the face on the screen. I can hear noises but I don’t know who it is because they sound like they are in a bubble and I feel like I’m in a bubble. I stare out to the trees beyond my window and as they sway in the wind I sway too. My vision blurs and a spiraling begins in my head. It starts like a pinprick in the middle of my brain and like a black hole grows larger sucking everything in. My knees buckle a little so I open my eyes again.
There is a bird on a branch staring at me and I want it to go away. Then I remember I’m on the phone and the words sound like chirping and for a moment I think the bird is talking to me. There is a long silence and I realise I have been nodding in reply to the sounds I refuse to comprehend. I don’t really feel like talking anyway so I hang up and when it immediately rings again I turn my phone off.
Back in the bathroom I mechanically brush my teeth wondering what the point is since I’m not going to smile today anyway. Not today or any other day for that matter. I collapse in a sullen heap and sit cross-legged on the cold bathroom tiles, an indignant protest to no one. My ass goes numb and I just start to enjoy the painful pins and needles in my feet and legs when someone taps lightly on the bathroom door. I hear my Dad’s voice say my name a few times before telling me I have 20 minutes. I don’t respond or even look at the door and when I know he is gone I drag myself over to the toilet and throw up.
Rinsing out my mouth at the sink I catch my reflection. I barely even recognize myself. The dark bags, pale lips and hollow eyes all belong to a stranger. I’m a mess and I shouldn’t look like a mess. Not today. I quickly shower. I even wash my hair. I blow it dry very carefully. It takes me ages to do my makeup because I want it to be perfect but its not and I almost cry but then my mascara would run so I break my eye pencil in half instead.
I stand in front of my closet for a long time. Door wide open I contemplate crawling inside but I know there is no Narnia in there or anywhere. Nothing in my wardrobe looks like it belongs to me and I wonder how someone else’s clothes got in there. I choose the darkest pieces of material I can find. My skirt feels strange and too short and it clings to me like a foreign object. In the mirror I look small and faded like a shadow. I can’t focus my eyes on my face.
I hear my Dad’s footsteps coming up the stairs and he knocks on my door. I open my mouth but it is full of cobwebs and dead moths. He is standing in the doorway angry because I’m taking too long. Finding my voice I scream at him because I can’t find my hair clips. He screams back at me then immediately apologises with tears in his eyes. I apologise too and silently wish that Mum was still here but she isn’t and that is just tough shit. My Dad leaves and I hurry to get ready as fast as I can but the burning in my throat is back. I ignore it and go downstairs.
My Dad is waiting on the footpath and I approach him with my head down. I’m wearing Mum’s coat and when he notices I don’t want to see his face. My eyes follow the asphalt all the way to his shoes and I have never seen them so shiny. For a second I remember that not too long ago my life was shiny too but not anymore. The big black hire car pulls around for us and my Dad reaches for my hand. I let him take it for once because the spiraling has started again and he squeezes it all the way to the cemetery.
Tender is a short film written and directed by Australian filmmaker Jessica Redenbach. I had the good fortune to catch it one night on SBS Shorts on Screen. It is the story of Max and Cate. They meet, forget to exchange names, they fuck. After what could easily be dismissed as a one night stand they meet again. They chat. Max is an artist. Cate is funny and charming. They fuck. There is no restraint. It’s just sex and Cate appears to be in control. Then something changes. Cate’s bravado begins to waiver. Somewhere in amongst the casual sex, fun conversations and laughter a need for intimacy invades Cate. She begins to appear clingy. Her repeated phone calls a little desperate. Her daily life seems like a robotic forced distraction from her thoughts of Max. As Cate falls in love, Max remains distant until the final moments of the film when things become too familiar. The fantasy is replaced with harsh reality and Cate is left despondent.
This is such a subtle, delicate film. I was blown away by the performances and progression of the story. I had never seen Angus Sampson in a dramatic role before but he is perfectly cast as Max, a fairly uncomplicated, happy go lucky guy. Katie-Jean Harding brings something very special to the seemingly carefree Cate. Her descent into disconsolateness could easily be dismissed as the actions of a wild and naive woman but instead her forlornness cuts through you like a knife. Her eyes, once so alive and playful, are now sad and clouded with an unsatisfied longing. You want her to receive the love she desires. You want Cate to succeed in her quest. This is what makes this film so brilliant, so tangible. You are drawn into the world of these characters and left wondering about their fate long after the credits.
[image courtesy of Darley Street Disco]