I stand on the edge of Altona Pier – he pretends he’ll push me over the edge. I laugh and swear, I think, and I hear the click and flash above me that will hold onto this moment.
The image saturates, the edges blur, and I am no longer standing on the edge of the pier.
I dye my hair black – she helps me make it even. While painting my eyes black and blue, she talks of escaping. Her pupils are dilated with a wildness I’d never seen before as we duck out of the house. We’re pretending the world is a jungle while the click and flash above us holds us still. The image is out of focus, the edges fade, and the dye has long since washed out of my hair.
The art of only seeing in vignettes.
Caught in the act of neglecting to mention the feathering edges of that night: the way I threw up in the bathroom of the restaurant where we ate burgers, the way I still have the spoon from the jungle-themed frozen yoghurt place – forgetting the other people at the beach, tightening the vignette to hide from the shouting that occurred on the street corner right across the road. I sew different memories into the photos. I cover the edges in crochet and call them pretty.
The art of only remembering with love.
I am searching for a word that means ‘dread’ in the past tense. When my mother sends me photos from those days, I see a different reality to her wistful glances. I see a world where nostalgia does not quake me, where fond memories seem confusing amongst the sickness. I see hollowed cheeks and the bruise on my left arm. I see the skin fold around my forced smile. There is a new flash and click above me: it holds still at the moment I realised I was sick – and then at the moment I realised I had long since passed recovery.
The art of being made silent.
I stand next to my body on the edge of the pier. I watch as the body laughs and swears, wrestling with the boy trying to push her over the edge. I watch as she runs back onto the pier and grabs a hold of another laughing friend. I follow them, walking down to the steps, sitting, posing for a group photo. I take the photo. I try to remember past that moment.
I stand over the sink while my body washes out black ink from her hair. The friend with her holds it, not minding when strands fall out into her hands. I watch as this girl holds my falling-apart body, my mess. Later, in the bathroom, I stand over my body, pulling her hair back while she vomits. Strands continue to fall out. I will her to stop but she does not hear my voice or see my tears.
It is three years later. I no longer recognise my old body in the mirror.
The art of being aware.