This was my first published work of fiction, written just before I graduated from uni. I wrote it in about an hour and entered it in the Women’s Words Competition run by the university union. Needless to say, it didn’t win.
Yesterday, my lover left
in a fit of calm before a tableau of too many words left said—best in the shadowy space of unexplored truths—a trousseau of deceit and subterfuge and niggling little things that all of a sudden translate into failure. And little else left silent and secret and precious. We competed for honesty and thus the soul lay hurting. Love of love could not abate the brutal tide of misery from mind and self and pride whilst the sounds of people are punctuated by the ravaging of hearts and the savaging of spirits.
I travel listlessly from room to room in the aftermath of our passion (our Passion Play) in a torturous, tragic punishment that yet offered no respite from the whirlpool in my head and in my breast. In your wake, strewn clothing whips my eyes and stings them. A toothbrush, a cap, an unwashed shirt, your hair stuck between the bristles of my brush, three volumes of obscure poetry by obscure poets because, you said, to discover one single, beautiful poem in these pages would be worth more than a collection of Keats or Chaucer or Hughes or all of them combined. All of these mock me and scream of your absence and my foolishness.
In my haste to conquer you
as you have conquered me
I forgot to love you
and you left.
It takes an entire day to pack all the boxes—these boxes of you—containing everything of yours that were never mine nor now will be, containing dreams of children who would play but did not yet know how to live nor love without freedom. One box remains unsealed because, try as I might, I could not bear to part with those books of awful poetry: symbols of a love half-loved, pages uncreased, hearts unrevealed. So I take one and read it from cover to cover regretting what we had never done and now never would, looking for beauty perhaps hidden in these concatenations of mediocre expressions, for music amid song and dance amid movement. And so I read all three volumes alone, pausing only for a sigh or a thought.
I find the pages right at the end—the very last page among countless others—and I read it again and again though there are no words nor even a hint of one and this I read. And it moves me to tears, droplets trickling down, the page bearing witness to my tragedy. And I read and know that this is what I seek, neither solace nor suffering but a promise of possibilities and moments yet to be had.
On this page I forge my having been
and burn my verse.
I shall close this book and into the last box it will stay, and when you come for these remnants of your past—our past—it shall be yours, my gift to you, forever last, forever concealed, forever left unsaid.
The cleansing of wounds must be brutal and quick
and so shall this be
quick and brutal.
One box, two boxes, three
into storage and out of sight
but ever haunting still.
I have fumigated my life but I cannot fumigate my heart.
This piece was in Tangent 2000: An anthology of women’s creative work, published in 2000 by the University of Sydney Union.