‘Greenwood’- By Paul J. Laverty

She parked in the driveway. She didn’t open the car door, just sat there. The house looked different. Bright red gutters replaced the old, peeling green ones. There was a new beige garage door. Yet the garden, the street and the suburb surrounding it was much the same.

She tried to think of the last time she’d been here. Boxing Day. Four years ago. After that Danny didn’t want to. Especially when his real habit crept in.

She remembered their last year of high school. She used to spend most nights here. In his room, drinking homebrew, smoking cones, watching Wes Craven movies, listening to Queens of the Stone Age. Making love. That was fifteen years ago, but it felt like a lifetime.

Mummy, when are we going in?” her six-year-old, Hunter, asked from the backseat.

Mikhaila lit a cigarette. She immediately regretted it as Val would smell it on her and add that to her shit list. She was already wearing a black sleeveless top that couldn’t hide the love heart tattoo which Val had never disguised her disdain for. The one her son had designed.

In a minute, hon.”

She reclined the seat slightly and took a drag. She might as well finish it now it was lit.

Back in high school she was seen as a good influence. Their Daniel had never got anything but D-grades. All he wanted to do was skate. And then she came along. Pianist. President of the student council. Plans to study medicine. Singer in an up-and-coming local band. Danny’s marks moved up to a C. His parents liked her. For a little while, she felt, anyway.

Mummy, I’m thirsty,” her four-year-old, Courtney, whined.

Her band got signed. Got on the U.S. festival circuit. She didn’t want him to come. It was work, after all. But he did. And with a lot of time and a little money on his hands, the soft drugs became hard.

Then quick as it began the band ended. Artistic differences, youthful arrogance. Their visas expired. She and Danny returned home. Settled down. Somehow their relationship rolled on. They had one kid, then another.

She wanted to get married, she wanted to take his name. She knew this would make them happy. She saw how they treated Lauren, Danny’s older brother’s wife, once they’d married. She couldn’t even have kids. But Lauren was a respectable primary school teacher, not a former frontwoman of a failed synth-pop band who flashed her legs (and occasionally her tits).

Danny always had an excuse ready and loaded about not conforming. She even got the blame for not baptising the kids Catholic even though Danny said he’d take care of it. She wasn’t even Catholic but she wanted to. She knew how it would make his parents happy and her life easier.

I’m hungry,” said Hunter.

I’m bored,” said Courtney.

They moved down south. She got a job in a clothes shop. His tattoo venture didn’t get off the ground, and he couldn’t cope with the normality of just existing. Of being a partner. A husband. A son. His addiction took hold and knowing he was failing at all that mattered he chose to take his own life on the one night she’d come back up to the city to have dinner with her remaining friends.

Mummy, can you hear us?”

Last month in the Family Court it all came out. Val claimed it was Mikhaila who had turned her son onto the pipe. That she was unstable, she was an unfit mother. Val even alluded to how it was Mikhaila’s fault that her son had ended it all with a leather belt tied around his neck.

Val didn’t mention how Mikhaila had never touched serious drugs. How Danny had lost them the home she paid for, her car, her job. And left her a bereaved single mother at age 31.

The judge gave the grandparents one weekend of visiting rights a month.

The front door opened. Mikhaila stiffened, quickly put out her cigarette and opened the window. But it wasn’t Val. She saw the dark greying features. The strong jaw. The dignified gait. It was Brian, Danny’s dad. Almost exactly how Danny would have looked if he made it to 60.

Hello, love.”

Grandad!” the children squealed racing out the car to throw themselves at him.

Hello, Brian.”

She’d always liked Danny’s dad. He wasn’t a strong man, but he was a nice, quiet man who, in his own way, and faced with great adversity, had tried to stick up for her. Mikhaila saw the curtains twitch and spotted Val’s stern features gazing through the glass. Her eyes bore right through Mikhaila and then softened when they settled on her grandchildren.

You doing okay?” Brian asked.

We’re getting there.”

He reached into the back and lifted Hunter and Courtney’s backpacks. “We’ll drop them back Sunday night.”

Thanks.”

I know it’s hard, but it’s important we do this. For the children.”

The kids waved and disappeared through the door. Mikhaila reversed down the driveway. Drove down the quiet street, parallel to the street she grew up on, and made it out of the suburb. The narrow-minded suburb where nothing ever happened, which she’d tried her whole life to escape, but never could.

It wasn’t until she hit the freeway that she realised she had nowhere to go.

 


Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Words by Paul J. Laverty

Paul J. Laverty is a Scottish-Australian writer. Emerging from University of Melbourne with a Graduate of Diploma of Arts, he was shortlisted for Overland’s 2018 ‘Fair Australia Prize’, and his work has been featured in publications such as Underground Writers and Better Read Than Dead.

 

In Conversation with Lucy Moffatt

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of sitting down for an interview with Lucy Moffatt, author of Some Days. Over a cup of coffee, she delved into the process, emotion and the power of female friendship in her memoir. Written as a last conversation with her best friend, Chelsea, who she lost to cancer in 2016, Moffatt explores their friendship, immortalising Chelsea and finding a way to heal from such a devastating loss.

You describe your memoir as “one last long, winding chat with the memory of your best friend.” What was the catalyst for writing it this way?

I initially wrote my first manuscript in the traditional memoir style and it was okay, and I think I could have made something pretty good out of it. I can’t really remember how the idea came to me and at one stage I thought ‘what if I change this?’. Instead of talking about Chelsea, I addressed her directly. About the same time, I felt that I’d like to include her writing in the story. Once I started rewriting it that way, it was like the heart of the story suddenly came to life. I’d been struggling a lot with feeling like ‘oh this is so self-indulgent,’ writing a memoir. Like who cares?

Reframing it as a last conversation with her really brought out what I wanted the book to be. That’s what our friendship was. Especially those last few years when she was really sick, it was just sitting in her bed, with the T.V. on in the background and just chatting all day. It felt really good once I started to evoke that.

Two big concepts that came up in Some Days were regret and vulnerability. Could you talk about that a little bit?

For me vulnerability came first. There was this really clear idea that I could go one of two ways. I could try to run away from the things I was feeling and try to conceal it. Or I could take a deep breath and turn around and face it. And the way I thought I could do that was to try and be vulnerable and be publicly vulnerable. To ask for help and to talk about how I was feeling and more and more I started to feel like that could be the source of my strength. I could make something beautiful out of what I’ve been through.

The regret thing took a lot longer. It took a long time for me to feel like it was okay to say I made a mistake and I regret that. It’s so taboo and even now people are like: ‘oh no, no don’t say that you did what you had to do’, but the outcome was really awful. That was my call, and I made the wrong call and I have to own up to that. That was a chapter I wrote quite late, I don’t think it was until the third draft that I even wrote about regret because it was such a massive hard thing to tackle.

It’s the first time in my life that I could say I was in the wrong, but also be kind to myself about that not haranguing myself about it, not punishing myself for it.

You say in the epilogue that you put “our” story down, and you did this through Chelsea’s blog posts. How important was it for you, to have Chelsea’s own voice in your book?

As soon as I had the idea, [her words] were the thing that made it all hang in the balance. If I couldn’t include Chelsea’s words, then there was no point in writing the memoir.

She was a good writer, it wasn’t that she wanted to be a writer. I like her voice and I know she would have loved to be in print that way. Part of it was being a loyal friend. I also knew it gave an edge and a strength to the book.

You also touch on some very personal yet common issues such as mental health, the struggle to fit in, and sexuality. How important was it for you to record these difficulties you had growing up?

Initially, when I started writing it, I wasn’t going to write about anything separate from Chelsea. As I was writing I was realising how these other things fed into the grief I was feeling and into my friendship with Chelsea. One of the reasons our trust and our love and our friendship ran so deep was because being with her was like being apart from some of the things I faced growing up. We just accepted one another.

This experience of losing my friend is fairly specific, some people experience this loss, but these other things are quite universal. Lots of people don’t fit in. Lots of people struggle with who they are. Lots of people have difficulty accepting themselves. And if I’m writing about something so vulnerable, that I want to share, why not be vulnerable and use my voice?

You talk about positive female friendship and that it wasn’t until you got into your twenties that you were able to understand and grasp that. How important do you think it is to have these representations of positive female friendship?

Art can represent life as it is and represent life in a way that it can be. I’m speaking for myself here, but I have a tendency to emulate what I saw on screen, or what I read in books. If I was watching Gossip Girl my friendships were very different to what they were supposed to be. I love that quote: you can’t be what you can’t see. I really believe in role models and I really believe in representations of all kinds. Particularly with positive female friendships.

What was the personal transformation you feel you underwent while writing this book?

I think, what really shone out for me once I got towards finishing the book, was that I always wanted to be a writer, and I’d had some quite good ideas over the years but never followed through on them. I thought that was some kind of personal failing on my part like ‘oh you can’t focus’ or ‘you don’t have what it takes’. I think all it was, was that I had all growing up to do. I needed to work out what I have to say and how I want to say it. And to reach a point of self-acceptance where I can comfortably believe that what I have to say is valid and valuable. I think that was the biggest thing, learning how to put [my doubts] to the side and believe in what I’m doing.

Because it’s a memoir, I got to know myself a lot better. There were lots of things I wasn’t going to write about until I realised they’re all interconnected and that was really freeing. All of these things impact me and have impacted me. They are just a part of my journey and that’s important.

Do you have any events coming up that people reading should, know about?

I’m getting to do a podcast, called Just Make the Thing. We’ll be talking books, but really the podcast is about creativity and doing the work. We’re going to talk about how creativity can be a way to cope with grief.

If you could say anything to someone who was about to pick up your book what would you like the say to them?

Firstly, most of the feedback has been to keep tissues handy, because it’s sad. But I don’t just think it’s sad but kind of funny and some parts are neutral.

My big message is really to allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be connected to people. Those two things are wells of strength that are far too often overlooked. That we’re stronger together than alone. Don’t be afraid of those big, scary feelings because they’re a part of it, they’re a part of all of us. It can be a source of strength if you allow it to be.

I want to say to anyone who is terminally ill, or who loves someone who is sick or who has just lost a loved one, or to those people who are struggling with mental health or self-acceptance, that whatever you are feeling is okay! Even the big, terrible emotions are fine and normal, and they do pass. And you are loved! There are so many people who want only to see you happy and at peace. Again, vulnerability and connection give us power and strength.


Words by Georgina Banfield

Some Days

Some Days
Lucy Moffatt


 

Some Days is the debut memoir of Lucy Moffatt, which focuses on the friendship between her and Chelsea. It is a part coming-of-age story, an attempt to come to terms with grief, third wave feminist manifesto, and an exploration of the human heart. This book was a comfort to read, to have experiences which were so close to my own on the page: the struggle to fit in, grappling with mental health, and the assurance that being fifteen was a bad time for everyone.

Moffat’s “one last long, winding chat with the memory of her best friend,” Chelsea, entreats us to the private memories, personal feelings and her process of piecing herself back together after the devastating loss of her best friend. Entwining Chelsea’s blog posts throughout the memoir transforms it from being purely Lucy’s story into both Chelsea and Lucy’s story, spanning from their first meeting as five-year-olds to their last conversation.

Gut-wrenching and uplifting at the same time Some Days reminds the reader that tragedy can strike at any moment. While there may never be that picture-perfect sense of closure we long for, Moffatt is a shining example that the human heart is stronger than we think.

The book was sometimes a struggle to read due to the depth of emotion, as with non-ficiton there is no ability to remind myself that this didn’t actually happen, that no one is feeling this amount of anger, depression and sadness. However, Some Days is an important read. It is not just a book about death but about growing up and finding your identity amidst a world which portrays female friendship as either gossiping over cocktails or fighting for male attention, rather than the complex relationships that they are. Moffatt makes it clear that she seeks to break those stereotypes and highlight the positive impacts of female friendship through her memoir.

While I occasionally struggled to get a clear picture of Chelsea in my head, I saw the strength of their friendship, through the beautifully written recollections of memories. Reading it, I knew that I had access to the most vulnerable side of the author and an intimate view into her heart at a time of extreme grief.

This memoir speaks to the universal experiences of love, loss, and growing up. It is a must read for everyone, written by a local author who truly encapsulates what the Adelaide arts have to offer.

 

4.5 Stars


Words by Georgina Banfield

‘Botanical’- By Sarah Ingham

 

There she was, her beautiful, beaming face complete with deep smile lines and ‘happy wrinkles’ as it always had been. The large photograph, while in colour and in focus, didn’t even come close to giving her justice. Where was her loud, echoing laugh and warm, squeezing hugs? Where were her comforting words that always seemed to fix the world, no matter how crazy it got? Where was her permanently lingering smell of cooking and home? Alas, all her quirks and comforts were to never be seen again, because she was buried in the family plot at 2pm.

Grief overwhelmed me absolutely. The world was covered in a grey haze that I couldn’t break through. However hard I tried, I couldn’t utter more than a few words without the energy of speaking being too much for my heart to handle.

I opened the squeaky wooden door into the big house. The silence opened into oblivion, twisting and turning into darkness beyond. I could hear the dust settling all over the house. Emptiness filled me like concrete. I morphed into a solid state, sinking slowly onto the well-worn sofa. Even the sofa didn’t feel good enough for my raging emotional state, it was too soft. I needed something that would make my back hurt.

I don’t know how long I sat for, on that sofa. Seconds surely. Hours maybe? I got up, feeling dehydrated. At least I could feel something physically, that was a plus, right? I found myself in the kitchen, getting a glass of water. It was probably the first thing I’d had in days.

Filling the glass up, because I felt like I should probably drink something lest I starve, I headed back to the couch. This time, when I sat down in the place where my butt had left its indentation years ago, I noticed the few changes she’d made since I had last been here. A new TV, a few new ornaments and some new picture frames. A picture of me I had sent to her from my last trip to the beach. Something I’d thought so trivial, yet she had treasured it to the point of framing it and placing in a prominent position upon the mantle.

I looked around and saw her prized Peace Lily plant resting in the corner of the room. Observing the brown and drooping leaves, I moved my gaze to the other plants. All almost brown and distressed, they looked like they were sleeping. Her stupid plant collection had been the one true love she had, besides the love she had for everyone she met daily. Just looking at the sad things made me think about how unfair life was. These plants, with expected life spans of a few years, had outlived the greatest woman who had ever lived. These plants even got to see her right before she died. Bloody things. Stupid plants. I placed my foot on the small stand holding one up and pushed. The glorious sound of breaking terracotta made me smile with absurd glee. Dirt sprayed the floorboards and the stem of the tree-like plant snapped.

That was more like it.

*

Waking in the small hours of the morning, I realised had passed out on the couch. I peeled myself off of the cotton blend cover. The still-full glass of water sat on the table, both taunting me and reminding me that I had I was still neglecting myself. I knew I wasn’t going to drink it though. I just didn’t care enough about me, and my insides still boiled with anger. It was probably going to sit there and laugh, so it went into the nearest pot plant.

Clearing out her stuff was the hardest part. Hours upon hours of seeing photos and knick-knacks that must have been so very sentimental. Entering her bedroom and inhaling her scent, my heart started beating like a hummingbird. It was just as she had left it, like most things that the dead leave behind. Bed unmade, underwear and socks that had nestled in crevices and been stuffed hastily into drawers. The curtains were wide open, and I could see more plants still scattered on the windowsill. The stupid things were just growing and growing, unaware that the world was now hollow. Their carer and provider was gone. They didn’t need to grow anymore. Their purpose was done. Kneeling on the lint-ridden carpet, I became a vessel for the thousands of memories poured over me like rain. My mouth opened and a raspy sound escaped me. She was gone. She was in the ground, entombed in a wooden box. In the next few weeks she would be lying there, just waiting for the worms and beetles to bury through the wood and into her body. This was not fair. How could such a beacon of light just be snuffed with the flick of a wrist? Her place was here. I needed her more than the burrowing bugs. My wet face leaked onto my shirt and the surrounding furnishings. The tears had burst through my emotional dam, flowing from somewhere deep within. She wasn’t here, so I settled for curling up on the ground that she had walked on.

Although most of my anger had left, sadness had taken up residence in its place. I wandered from room to room like an unsettled ghost. Physical pain broke through my haze and I yelled expletives as I jumped backwards. A shard from the broken pot had embedded itself in the soft arch of my foot. Removing it slowly, my eyes were drawn to the tree that once dwelt inside. The plant still lay, snapped and broken, on the cold floor. A wave of sympathy washed over me. The plant didn’t do anything, and I had taken delight in its death. I knelt and gathered up the grubby remains.

In her messy shed, I placed the plant in another terracotta pot and filled it with soil. The top of the plant was already brown, so I snipped it off with secateurs. As the small nub of the remaining tree sat there, I smiled. For the first time in weeks, I smiled. I had caused this plant to die, but I had also revived it.

*

After taking care of my cut and sweeping up the dirt, I brewed some tea. Nestled on the couch, I sat next to the newly rescued tree and noticed something. The plant that I had carelessly tossed my water into was reaching high towards the ceiling. The leaves that had looked so pathetic and lifeless yesterday were a brilliant emerald green, and a few of the white tear-drop buds had opened. I stared. Were these things so easily satiated that a few millimetres of water was all that they needed?

I found a small watering can and did my rounds of the house. Within the next few hours, the majority of the little things were looking a touch happier. Within weeks, they were back to their usual selves. Within months, they were thriving.

The caring of the innumerable plants kept me busy. The places that mum had them worked out well. The watering and moving kept my mind in the present, whilst also reminding me of the past.

The memories of my mother and her passion for plants came streaming back. Her careful hands caressing the green growth and tending to them daily. Her obsessive movements and belief that her plants were sensitive to our moods. The music she would leave on when no-one was in the house just so they wouldn’t be bored. As my knowledge and love for these strange sprouts grew, so did my sense of awe for my mother’s green thumb.

These things that she had loved, I would take care of them for her. I had never understood before, but the care of such a small thing was so rewarding. The fresh air in the house, the excitement when hours of hard work paid off with a tiny bloom or new leaf. They taught me to check in with myself, make sure that I was watered, happy and getting enough sun. The healing process was long and tedious, nevertheless, I finally flourished in the world without my guiding light. The world would never be the same, but at least I wasn’t completely alone in this new stream of life.

The legacy lived on through the maintenance and love that I would pour into these sprouts. They would become my beloved prodigy, just as they were hers.


Words by Sarah Ingham

Art by Tom Murton

sarahI’m Sarah Ingham, and I’m completing my first year of a Bachelor of Professional Writing and Communication. I have folders of unfinished writing, and I am so glad that I can put my ramblings to use! Being a part of Tulpa Magazine has made me feel like I can release my full artistic voice, and I love it dearly. I hope that I can continue to write my way into a writer, editor or publisher position after finishing my degree. Until then, I hope that you enjoy my imaginings.

 

Tom Murton is an illustrator and graphic designer, with an Honours degree in the Creative Arts from Flinders University. His work includes illustration for the comic series Hail, the short comic Stranger,professional graphic design work, as well as a library of personal sketches and illustrations.

The Archive of Educated Hearts

The Archive of Educated Hearts is an exquisitely touching piece of work. This theatre and installation act is tucked away in one of the snug and charming spaces at the Holden Street Theatres. In this half an hour production, Casey Jay Andrews, both writer and performer, shares the true stories of four women and their battles with breast cancer; these women are all influential figures in Andrews’ life.

The intimacy, created by both the physical space and the way the stories are told, was overwhelming. The small audience of only six were seated in a crescent shape around Andrews, allowing her to offer every person eye contact and directed expression, having a remarkable effect on our emotional investment. The performance space was filled with homely treasures – pictures, trinkets, old toys, books – the floor covered with beautifully detailed rugs, and the seats were old sofa chairs that many of us associate with our grandparents’ houses. It felt like a feminine space. It was the perfect place to discuss the long lasting and wide spreading effects of cancer.

Andrews brought together a range of artefacts to tell these stories, with voice recordings from the real-life characters and pictures making for an intensely authentic experience. As the audio played, Andrews sat at a small table laying out pictures under a camera that projected her content onto a screen in front of us.

Between the personal stories and reflections, the audience learnt about the Educated Heart, a concept from Gelett Burgess’ book Have You an Educated Heart? Complimenting her personal stories with the ideals of an Educated Heart – kindness, instincts and relations to others – was a remarkable paring by Andrews, as it added a further layer of sentimentality, allowing us to understand the way we receive and process life’s challenges. Andrews herself opens up to us about her own heart, and inarticulate one.

Andrews’ writing is rich in imagery and delicate in tone, with her use of language allowing audiences to feel a deep connection to her and the experiences at the heart of this piece. In her delivery, Andrews presents a version of herself that reflects genuine kindness and vulnerability, yet great composure and comfort; in summary, her character and narrative voice is a flawless fit for this production.

The Archive of Educated Hearts brings us back to the humble art of storytelling, and the power of shared connection and human experiences, particularly those generated in times of grief. Expect the odd tear, a struck nerve or a lump in your throat. In this homely space listening to Andrews’ gentle recount, you will feel as if you have found the company of an old friend, someone you can sit with for hours and discuss life with a cup of tea in hand.

5 stars


Words by Michelle Wakim

The Archive of Educated Hearts is showing at Holden Street Theatres until the 16th.

‘The Silent Door’- By Dan Cardoza

After grandmother passed away, grandfather, a very stern and dignified gentleman, would routinely join us for our late afternoon supper. Mother would make sure he was not disappointed. The last meal I recall was a braised rabbit, fresh from the butcher shop, complete with a special wine sauce, fennel seed, and a sprig of rosemary, followed by a memorable dessert.

Rarely was there an occasion that demanded the use of the massive brass lion’s head door knocker ––a piece of classic Art Deco elegance. Most guests at our home simply knocked in a staccato, contemporary fashion, more suited for twenty-first-century knuckles. Grandfather, who would not have it any other way, cherished any event that he thought demanded a grand entrance. His hallmark knock became almost legendary.

Every Sunday around 1:00 P.M., we would fox our ears in anticipation of his two heavy-handed thwacks. His knocks upon the lacquered chestnut entrance door resonated in the woody bellow and melody of a stately gavel, complete with a formal Sound Block. We fancied our home in Lombard, a Chicago suburban castle.

We loved his company, his long visits. He was a fascinating man. He would hide envelopes in the family room, while mother and I did dishes in the cramped kitchen. Behind mother’s needlepoint pillows, under the large armed comfy sofa, behind the ornate Vienna Stuchy clock set atop the chunky redwood mantle, just about anywhere, and everywhere. Of course, mother and I never acknowledged that we were aware of his secret gifts until granddad left following super. As soon as the front door closed behind him, I would search for the envelopes as if they were painted spring surprises. The gifts of kindness frequently included fifty dollars, one hundred, it varied. Mother would religiously call him once he returned home to thank him for his graciousness, with her best surprised-daughter voice, and sincere appreciation. The following Sunday would always relent to another troupe encore. But this time, there would be no following, Sunday.

Three, maybe four years after grandmother passed, we noticed that the deep knocker tone faltered. We imagined the sound more abrupt, maybe a little harsh. Mother and I found humor in the transformation, saying grandfather was just impatient to enjoy his pre-dinner coffee and cognac.

Following super, grandfather would begin to shoot questions toward mother, an easy target. This evening would be no different.

The questions I found hurtful, even the ones that seemed to miss the mark. Have you heard from Jim? Maybe there is a reason he left? Why don’t you move closer to the city for improved work opportunities? Mother never answered quickly, sometimes not at all.

During the times of our frequent visits, grandfather invariably picked up dessert, which he would serve himself, usually after finishing his after-dinner coffee concoction. Dessert would be the evening’s crowning event. The last one would be no different. Grandfather’s choices varied. On any occasion, he might present a freshly made key-lime pie, with a hint of bitterness. Once he even brought blood orange grapefruit serving it with a ghost of sugar, never sweet enough for our taste. Following the last shared meal, grandfather brought a sour cream peach pie. He was the only one to savor an extra slice.

It’s been some time since grandfather passed. Mother misses him sometimes.

I will never forget one late winter evening. In the grip an infamous Chicago snowstorm, mother asked if I would do her a favour. Put on my warm parka, go outside and rap the lion’s head knocker, two times in succession, and if I would please do this intermittently for a short while. I never thought to question her.

I enjoyed the snow, under any circumstance, but after a while, my arm grew tired. It was then that I slowly opened the door, and peeked through the glowing crack. Mother’s face was shining brightly in a wash of yellow light thrown by the tall family room lamp. She was fast asleep in her favorite corduroy high back chair, wearing a shallow smile.


Words by Dan Cardoza

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

The World Was Whole

The World Was Whole
Fiona Wright

I found out about this book during the hazy final days of editing my thesis, a body of work all about Fiona Wright’s first essay collection Small Acts of Disappearance (2015). My first thought was, ‘Oh no, now I have to go back and mention a book I haven’t read so my research is up to date’. It wasn’t until this year that I felt ready to tackle another essay collection, especially one by an author I’d studied so intensively for a year. Boy am I glad I did. Nonfiction lovers: this is a must-read.

In many ways The World Was Whole acts as a sort of sequel to Small Acts, though the two can still be enjoyed on their own.  At the centre of both books is Wright’s personal experiences living with anorexia nervosa and anxiety. In The World Was Whole, Wright uses her personal experiences to explore the modern world’s relationship with the home. She doesn’t look at the home as just the physical buildings we live in, or the spaces we interact with, but also the bodies we inhabit and how they can represent both sanctuary and uncertainty.

Throughout the essays in The World Was Whole, Wright examines her own life, which is built heavily upon repetition and routine, both of which are upset constantly by the circumstances of her health and finances. Like many millennials, particularly those with unstable financial situations, Wright rents. This means she is almost always on the move from house to house, from space to space. Forever trying to settle in and make these spaces her own, only to be flung elsewhere by circumstances beyond her control. She gets to the heart of the constant anxiety and uncertainty of renting when she writes: ‘I want to be able to get attached to a place, without knowing that my presence there is always subject to someone else’s needs or whims’.

Another strong aspect of Wright’s writing is her exploration of her own experiences of chronic illness. Within literature there is a tendency towards stereotyping the sick, particularly the mentally ill and female, as helpless victims or self-obsessed attention-seekers. Wright brings a strong current of humanity to her writing, showing what her lived experience of anorexia nervosa is like. She isn’t afraid to critique the limitations of Australia’s healthcare system, which often causes a great deal of grief and frustration for people struggling with chronic conditions. Importantly, Wright describes her illness in terms of the constant shift back and forth between getting better and getting worse, and the anxiety and fear that comes with this flux. ‘On the first day in the hospital,’ Wright writes, ‘I curl on my bed and cry for a full hour after every meal, and I keep thinking, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I don’t think I can do this. I panic at the piece of meat that’s on my plate for dinner, I gulp for breath, great ragged gasps that hurt my sternum and then I sob outside the dining room because I hadn’t realised, somehow, that I’d gotten quite this sick. I’m so afraid of what I’ve done and of who I have become.’

There is a rawness, a brutal honesty, to how Wright writes about her illness that is so important. It’s the kind of writing that gets under your skin, touches something familiar within you and forces you to experience, even for just a moment, what it is like to live with such an illness. The rawness isn’t always shown through pain. There’s also joy. Wright shows the complexity of her life in all its facets, both difficult and special.

Wright’s essays are a delight to read. Often painful, always beautiful, they represent the growing skill and relevance of Australian essayists today. Personal essays like these allow for engaging discussions of issues that affect contemporary society: from poverty to racism and the need for change on a government level. Wright is only one of many Australian essayists using the essay to spark conversation and give readers a new way of looking at these issues by engaging them through the personal, as well as the purely factual. To avid essay readers and newcomers alike, this is a book worth putting on your list this year.


Words and photography by Lisandra Linde

One Morning on a Melbourne Rooftop

When Simon vomited the grief of his father’s death into a plastic bag on the rooftop of a Melbourne hostel, I couldn’t help but consider what a poignant narrative climax it would make. I was standing in fog freckled with security-light orange, hiccupping Smirnoff bile when he moved to the low wall by the edge. Ben ran after him; we were terrified he’d fall or throw himself over. He was trembling and wet-dog snivelling, but he hadn’t been stuck in his end-of-the-world grief all night. Not like he was then.

It was 2008 and we were twenty. Far too young, really, for that kind of grief. The weekend escape had been concocted just days before, the kind of flyaway ‘why not’ you can get away with between university semesters when there’s nothing but long nights in friends’ backyards to fill the space of days. We’d started late in the afternoon with a bottle of vodka and pink and orange slushies from the 7Eleven. We played brain freeze and a game of Presidents and Assholes with Mexican girls who were in town to see the Pope for World Youth Day. It hadn’t been a remarkable evening except that he’d been smiling through most of it. Sitting in the hostel corridor floor, his knees didn’t seem to jut so much from his too-big pants and he had that goofy look like he used to have, back when we’d welt our fingertips from too much Guitar Hero and fall asleep at 4am amongst soda cans and melted M&Ms. So instead of worrying about him, as I had for days, weeks, months, really, I’d been mentally composing a gothic piece set in the Old Gaol just over the road. Flood lights cast shadows on brick beyond the windows and I watched for spectral faces behind the bars — I’d had strange shivers in a cell the day before, one renowned for its paranormal visitations, and there was a story in it, I knew.

When we said goodnight to the Mexicans, I should have expected the hug that began with a moon-smile and ended in his fingers clenching tight to my back, that silent quiver in his bones. That he’d slip through my arms to a bundle on the floor. And that my own heart would break, again, because I couldn’t heal his.

We came up to the roof and he pushed his fingers firmly against me: ‘Fuck off.’

But Ben and I crept up anyway, pressed our ears against the door. We listened to the thud of fold-up chairs, benches scattering against the concrete. The gravelled roar of his yell. That’s when we rushed. We found him standing still, his beanpole silhouette striking against the broad grey of the gaol.

‘I’m gonna be sick.’

Ben ran with a plastic bag pulled from his pockets. The heave of vomit was spectacular. That’s when he stumbled to the low wall by the edge. When I thought he might jump.

The ghosts next door disappeared.

He looked up at us and a shift came over him. Something in his eyes. He peered over the edge, looking down at the wet street: a cat curling around a lamppost, the short white apartment building opposite. He rocked back on his heels and grinned. Then he threw it. The wobbling bag, strangely graceful in its own way, sailed across the street and landed on slanted tiles above a porthole window. The liquid threatened the plastic, then after a tense moment, rested.

A strange stillness passed.

‘Fucking hell,’ said Ben. ‘That was beautiful.’

Simon gripped us, tipped his head back and, throaty with catharsis, he laughed.

It was difficult not to see the narrative potential.

 


Art by Rhianna Carr
Words by Lauren Butterworth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALauren Butterworth is a writer, academic and editor with creative work published in a variety of outlets including MeanjinVerity LaWet InkMidnight Echo and more. She is co-director of The Hearth, a readings event that aims to platform exciting local voices in a space that nurtures creativity, conversation and ideas. She is also a host and producer of the podcast Deviant Women which tells the stories of women who dare to break the rules and subvert the system. During the day, she teaches at Flinders University and is editor at MidnightSun Publishing.

You can find Lauren at laurenbutterworth.com and deviantwomenpodcast.com

‘Wild Welsh Woman’- By David Faber

 

A daughter

of far off

primeval,

proletarian

Pontypridd,

unaware of

Mark Twain’s

dictum that

age doesn’t matter

if you don’t mind,

she hated with a

passion like

Dylan Thomas

the idea of aging

with gentle grace;

it went against

the grain of

one who had

seized the day

of youth with

romantic zest

in Swinging London.

She felt depressed

by a volume of

poems on aging,

its joys and ills

distressed her.

But she kept

her figure `til

the day she fell.

Lulled by the

sweet, sedate

rhythms of a

passionate

friendship four

decades long,

I only found out,

after her funeral,

as you do,

just how very

much I had

loved

her.


Words by David Faber

Photo by Henry Paul on Unsplash

‘The Photographer’- By Callum J. Jones

Part One: The Death of Harmony

The funeral of well-known Australian photographer Harmony Carter was held on a cold day in the middle of July, in a little funeral home in the outer suburbs of Adelaide. About fifty people were in attendance, mostly close friends and family. More people would’ve come, but Harmony’s drug habit drove them too far away to care.

Julian Reese was one of the people who did come. He and Harmony were lifelong best friends. Her death struck him a hard, devastating blow.

On the day Harmony died, Julian had been couped up in his office at the law firm at which he worked, going over documents in preparation for an upcoming court case. He then got a call on his personal mobile from Harmony’s brother, Brennon.

“Julian,” Brennen said, his voice breaking. “Harmony’s dead. From a heroin overdose.”

Julian’s heart started beating wildly, and his lungs, it seemed, began refusing oxygen. Harmony, one of the most well-known landscape photographers in Australia, was dead. He managed to pass his condolences to Brennon and the rest of the Carter family. But as soon as the call ended, Julian let out a cry of anguish. He leaned back in his chair, peeled off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes, as though trying to stop tears escaping.

He and Harmony met each other on the first day of high school, when the teacher assigned class seats. They bonded straight away. They shared common interests in books, movies, art – the list goes on! They told each other everything.

Well, almost everything.

There was something Julian never told Harmony, and it was that he loved her.

He planned to tell her, but before he had enough confidence to do so, she came out to her close friends and family as gay.

Telling her he loved her was pointless, and he eventually moved on. He went on to have a string of partners before marrying, but his wife divorced him because he was a workaholic. But he and Harmony remained close.

*

The funeral was one of the saddest Julian had ever been to. He wasn’t sure if that was because he’d lost a close friend, or because the service and burial was gloomy.

Maybe it was a combination of both.

All he knew was that he felt immense grief. He knew Harmony’s family, as well as her partner, Keira (who also attended the funeral), felt the same way.

He got home late after the funeral, still feeling numb. He wanted – needed – a distraction, so he took out his phone and checked his emails.

He refreshed the inbox, and a new email popped up.


From: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

To: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

Date: 30th June, 2018

Subject: An Interview?

Hi Julian,

I’m sorry to hear about Harmony.

I’m just wondering if you’d be comfortable with me interviewing you for an article about Harmony. I understand if you don’t want to do it. Just let me know.

All the best,

Amy


Amy was an old friend he’d met at university. She was studying journalism while he was studying law. They met each other through the university magazine, to which they both contributed articles. She was now a journalist with The Advertiser.

He honestly didn’t know if he could manage being interviewed about Harmony. He could start sobbing mid-sentence, become lost for words and fall silent for minutes, he just didn’t know. And he didn’t want to embarrass himself.

But he’d probably get closure from doing it. To avoid embarrassing himself, he could spend some time preparing for it, like he usually did for court.

He typed and sent a response to Amy’s email.


From: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

To: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

Date: 30th June, 2018

Subject: Re: An Interview?

Hi Amy,

Nice to hear from you! Hope all’s well.

Yes, you can interview me. Just let me know where and when.

Cheers,

Julian.


From: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

To: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

Date: 30th June, 2018

Subject: Re: An Interview?

Thanks so much!

How about noon tomorrow at the Exiles Club?


Part Two: The Interview

As planned, Julian and Amy met the next day at the Exiles Club, one of Julian’s favourite coffee shops. Located in a building that was constructed in the 1930s, the coffee shop was elegantly furnished with an abundance of varnished wooden surfaces and furniture. It had French doors at its entrance, which today had been opened up all the way to let in fresh air. The staff always made great coffee, and you could get excellent homemade sandwiches and cheesecake. Newspapers were always on wooden racks, ready to be picked up and read.

Julian and Amy reminisced about their time at university as they ordered their coffees. But the interview began as soon as they sat down at a table for two, located in front of a window that looked out onto the street.

Amy held up her iPhone and asked, “Is it okay if I record the interview?”

“Go ahead,” Julian replied.

“Thanks.”

Amy opened up the voice recorder app, pressed record, and placed the phone on the table between them.

She then took a piece of folded paper out of her jacket pocket. As she unfolded it, Julian caught a glimpse of handwritten questions on it.

“Okay, so,” Amy began, glancing at the first question on the piece of paper. “How would you describe Harmony as a person?”

Julian looked down for a moment as he thought about his answer.

“I’d describe her as outgoing and observant. She was the sort of person to think two steps ahead. She didn’t like to take risks unless she saw a likeable outcome.”

“What were her strengths?”

“She always stood her ground, and was confident to voice her own opinions. She never followed the crowd in regards to interests, hobbies, and opinions.”

“What do you think her weaknesses were?”

“She was always over-thinking situations. She was also too honest for her own good.”

“What made her happy?”

“Seeing her friends and family. Spending time with her loved ones on a personal and intrinsic level always made her happy.”

As he said this, memories flashed across his mind of Harmony, happily talking and laughing with him and her other friends at high school.

But she told me once that it was really hard for her to feel happiness when the people you care for most in life are unhappy or miserable. She also loved summer nights, chocolate, coffee, and the beach. Also leopard-print clothing.”

She always wore leopard-print clothing. She also owned leopard-print blankets and pillows. Leopards were her favourite animal. Not only did she like their coat patterns, she was deeply interested in their evolution and behaviour, and was also had an extreme dislike for people who hunted them illegally. She once travelled to Africa and went on a safari venture to shoot photos of leopards in their natural habitat. She had a handful of her photos printed and hung them in frames around her house.

“What pissed her off the most?

“Dishonesty, and people who take advantage of others in order to make themselves feel superior or to assert superiority. She believed everyone is equal and has the right to be heard, seen, and to simply be the fullest and most natural form of themselves. She also didn’t like it when people feel pressured to conform to something they are not because others have deemed them as different, unusual, or not preferred.”

Another memory flashed across Julian’s mind, one he remembers fondly. A couple of years ago, Harmony called him up and asked him to come over to her place and help her sort through her clothes. She wanted to donate some to Vinnies. She hated the fact that people were living in poverty.

Amy glanced at her next question and took a deep breath. The next question, Julian thought, was going to be more heavy and serious. He’d better be careful in his answer.

“There’s been rumours about Harmony’s sexuality during her entire career,” Amy said. “Did she ever talk to you about her sexuality? Are you able to confirm it?”

It’s true that rumours existed about Harmony’s sexuality. She never spoke about it publicly. The reason for this interesting choice was that she regarded her sexual orientation an aspect of her private life. Having said this, she’d been seen more than once at high-end restaurants with another woman (Keira). This obviously led to speculation that she was a lesbian. Only her friends and family knew this was true. Harmony asked those who knew, including Julian, to stay silent about it. They all obliged, and Julian was not about to break his silence now.

“No, she never spoke about it to me.”

“Surely she did. You were her best friend.”

“Doesn’t mean she told me everything.”

Well, she did.

Amy got the impression Julian wasn’t going to budge, so she moved onto the next question.

“Harmony died of a heroin overdose,” she said. “Did she have a drug problem?”

She did, ever since she left college. She’d struggled with depression and anxiety all her life, and she suffered a mental breakdown after she left college. She dealt with this breakdown by snorting and then injecting heroin. She continued doing so for the rest of her life until, one day, she overdosed. She’d also smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day and drank a lot of alcohol. Whenever she temporarily ran out of alcohol, she drank copious amounts of coffee. She obviously didn’t take good care of her health. Those close to her, Julian included, tried persuading her to go sober; they once even held an intervention for her. But she never listened, and continued living her unhealthy lifestyle. Julian hated it, and Keira and her family did too, but there was only so much they could do.

But there was no way in hell Julian was going to say all this. Harmony’s drug and alcohol problem was another thing she didn’t want strangers knowing about.

“She didn’t have a problem with drugs as far as I know,” he lied.

“Okay,” Amy replied, giving a nod. “How would you describe her career?”

“She was one of the most talented photographers I knew,” Julian replied. “Her photos were majestic. No other Australian photographer has come close to matching her talent, in my opinion. I think she’s the finest photographer Australia’s ever produced.”

Her photos were, indeed, majestic. She’d capture so much emotion and meaning in scenes that would appear ordinary to other people. One of her landscape shots depicted an old, abandoned wooden shed sitting in the middle of a flat field of grass, with mountainous hills beyond it. The shed and the field sat next to a road in rural Tasmania, and people would’ve driven past without even glancing at them. But the photo made you aware of the fact that nature ultimately prevails over manmade structures, because the shed (the centrepiece of the shot) was falling apart due to wind, rain, heat, and coldness. It still haunted Julian to this day.

“Well, I think I understand Harmony a bit better now,” Amy said. “Thanks for answering my questions so candidly.

“Not a problem.”

Amy picked up her phone and ended the recording.

*

Julian got home later feeling exhausted. It had taken a lot of energy to not get emotional while talking about Harmony with Amy.

He walked into his office, turned on his computer, and checked his emails. There was a new one from Amy.


From: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

To: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

Date: 6th July, 2018

Subject: Thank You

Hi Julian,

Thanks for letting me interview you today. I’m going to write the tribute tonight. It’s scheduled to be published in tomorrow’s edition of The Advertiser.

Cheers,

Amy.


Julian didn’t reply; he didn’t have the energy.

He shut the computer down and walked out of the office to watch TV. He fell onto the couch after turning on the TV and thought about whether he’d read Amy’s article about Harmony tomorrow. Wasn’t sure he could bring himself to read it. He hadn’t read any of Harmony’s obituaries; he’d avoided the death notices section of the classifieds since her death.

He decided he’d wait till the morning, to see how he felt.

Part Three: A Tribute to Harmony

The next day’s edition of The Advertiser landed on his doorstep in the morning, rolled up in plastic.

Julian brought it inside, unwrapped it, and laid it in front of him on his dining table to read while he drank his morning coffee.

He wasn’t sure why, but he was feeling much more positive today and he felt he’d be comfortable reading Amy’s tribute to Harmony. If he started reading it, he thought, and found it too much, he’d just stop reading.

He flicked through the paper until he got to the tribute.

Harmony Carter: Australia’s Finest Photographer

Amy Smith

Renowned Australian landscape photographer Harmony Carter died of a drug overdose last week, aged 40.

Having grown up in the suburbs of Adelaide, Harmony achieved national fame when she won numerous national photography awards for her first exhibition, titled “The Circle of Life”.

She went on to win more awards and prizes for her landscape photographs, which are widely regarded as the best in Australia.

She had a great commitment to her work. She frequently worked 18- to 20-hour days without any breaks, and did not seem to have any leisure activities.

Though hundreds of thousands of Australians have seen at least one of her photographs, Harmony herself is hardly known at all. She stood against all aspects of celebrity. She made her biographer leave out all personal details. Even her close friends and family refuse to reveal personal details.

Her best friend, local barrister Julian Reese, is one of them. He refused to comment on Harmony’s sexuality, her rumoured drug addiction, or any other aspect of her personal life.

But he did talk extensively to me about Harmony as a person.

He described her as outgoing and observant.

Something suddenly struck him: Harmony was observant, yet she never picked up that he had feelings for her. Even though he never had the confidence to tell her, he felt sure that his feelings must’ve shown through his actions and behaviour when he was around her. But she was completely oblivious; or maybe she twigged on to it but didn’t bring it up with him.

He looked up from the article for a moment, feeling as though he should’ve told her how he felt, just to save himself from silently pushing his feelings aside and forcing himself to move on.

But she was dead now. Unless time travel was invented before his own death (which he thought was unlikely), there was no way Julian could let her know that he once loved her.

After sighing heavily, he continued reading.

She was the sort of person to think two steps ahead. She didn’t like to take risks unless she saw a likeable outcome.”

He said she always stood her ground and was not afraid to voice her opinions.

She never followed the crowd in regards to interests, hobbies, and opinions,” he said.

She savoured the time she spent with her friends and family.

She also loved summer nights, chocolate, coffee, and the beach.”

She loved coffee a little too much, Julian thought.

According to Mr. Reese, a few of her weaknesses were over-thinking, and that she was always too honest for her own good.

She hated dishonesty, and people who take advantage of others in order to make themselves feel superior or to assert superiority,” Mr. Reese said.

Another thing struck Julian at this point. Harmony hated – hated – lying and dishonesty. Yet she lied about her sexuality and other aspects of her personal life when asked by journalists. He understood her reasoning to keep personal stuff private: he didn’t want other people to know the details of his divorce, so he never mentioned any it to anyone.

She believed everyone is equal and has the right to be heard, seen, and to simply be the fullest and most natural form of themselves.”

Mr. Reese added that Harmony also disliked it when people feel pressured to conform to something they are not because others have deemed them as different, unusual, or not preferred.

Another contradiction that Julian understood. Harmony consistently portrayed herself as a heterosexual woman who didn’t have any problems whatsoever. Though she never felt pressured to conform to this portrayal, she felt it was necessary to hide her true lifestyle to protect her privacy.

Mr. Reese believes Harmony is the finest photographer Australia’s ever produced.

Her photos were majestic,” he said.

No other Australian photographer has come close to matching her talent, in my opinion.”

Julian finished the article feeling satisfied. Amy had done a good job with the tribute. The piece provided Julian with a sense of closure.

But should he have told Amy the truth about Harmony? No, he decided. That would’ve been a betrayal to her, even though she wasn’t around anymore.

Harmony was gone. He couldn’t bring her back. He didn’t believe in the afterlife, so there was no point thinking he’d see her again.

He’d always remember her, but he must go forward into the future, not get bogged down in the past.


Words by Callum J. Jones

Image by Mia Domenico on Unsplash

IMG_0080Creative, honest, and reliable, Callum J. Jones loves writing fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch movies and TV shows, and go on walks.

You can follow him on Facebook (@callum.j.jones.writer) and Twitter