Not hungry

I’ve sat in a hot bath in a dark room and cried until my tears were the only water that warmed me. I’ve carefully tucked photos inside envelopes, inside the pages of books, and then deep inside drawers I don’t open. I’ve sat at my desk from dark morning til dark night to avoid those hours at home, alone. I’ve pleaded and bargained with gods I don’t believe in, guilty and still greedy for their salvation. I’ve sung our songs til I lose my voice. I’ve bought two wedding dresses in hope; I’ve put two wedding dresses away. I’ve tried to stop telling stories with you at their centre and quickly ran out of things to say. I’ve driven past the park you proposed in, seen its colours change with the seasons of many years. I’ve marked anniversaries that don’t mean anything anymore. I’ve woken in the dark with a start. I’ve spent long nights awake. I’ve kept photos of you on my phone, too scared to delete all. I’ve questioned what I did wrong. I’ve slipped into one of your shirts. I’ve waited for you to change your mind. I’ve wondered if I’m losing mine. I’ve sent you messages I regret. I’ve felt the ribs surface beneath my skin. I’ve watched the silver spread through my hair. I’ve seen my reflection in a mirror and wondered who I am. I’ve endured dreams that you have a child who’s not mine. I’ve loved you fiercely since we first stood at your mother’s grave; I’ve whispered to her, asked her to help me. I’ve lied to my friends and to myself. I’ve felt self-indulgent. I’ve felt helplessly sad. I’ve tried to forget you. I’ve imagined every way you might come back to me. I’ve had no appetite since you left.


I walk home from work on a chill midwinter night, music tucked inside my ears, wind whipping my hair and skinning my lips; a night when the sky is so dark and so deep you feel the earth will defy gravity to rid you from its surface, to fling you out into the depths. It’s dizzying and exhilarating. Nowhere in the world do I feel lonelier than in my hometown; an environment so familiar I can reproduce every detail behind closed eyes, where I feel any absence with the startling burn of a fresh wound. Where days, weeks and months become so routine that one wrong step, one new route, or one missing link attracts the gaze of a curious spotlight amid the ordinary gloom.

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‘Would you date a guy with a really camp voice?’ I ask as we pass a tall, smartly dressed young man speaking to his friends with certain flair. ‘Ummmmm, would I date myself, you mean?’ he answers with a sly sideways glance, ‘why yes, yes I would.’ I try to protest that he doesn’t sound that effeminate but I’m cut off. ‘Sometimes on the phone people think I’m a woman, you know. Like, they’ll ask my name and when I tell them they say, “oh, that’s an interesting name for a woman”’. I howl with laughter on the fourth floor of Westfield, tripping over my penny loafers with glee.

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For a while in my mid-teens I was very afraid and spent a lot of time inside, alone. That should be the dictionary definition of agoraphobia, not ‘an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas, sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks.’ But there you go. Inevitably I’m asked ‘What were you so afraid of?’ but I didn’t know how to answer then and I don’t know how to answer now, half my life later. The only way I can articulate it is actually hopelessly inarticulate: I was afraid of everything that could happen. So I stayed inside where I felt safe.

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We grew up together. We hid under the kitchen table and ate slice after slice of buttered bread together. We collected tadpoles from the pond and watched them grow into frogs together. We drew endless sketches of dream wedding dresses with Disney Princess puffy sleeves and full skirts together. We swung round and round on the Hills Hoist together. We got in trouble for swinging on the Hills Hoist together. We played Peaches in Super Mario 2 together. We mastered Sonic the Hedgehog together. We turned seven years old together. We went to primary school together and sometimes ate lunch together. We hung out after school together and on the weekends we lived together. We turned our noses up at the tentacles lurking in exotic seafood soup together and gorged on Tiny Teddies together. We went to slumber parties together. We played characters from Beverly Hills 90210 in annual home movies together. We took fistfuls of after dinner mints from the Black Stump restaurant together. We played wonky piano duets together. We turned ten together. We went out in matching outfits together. We learned all the words to The Little Mermaid soundtrack and belted them out together. We fasted the 40 Hour Famine then refueled with her mum’s sublime Filipino cooking together. We wandered through the crowds at our parents’ parties together. We dreamed of being Belle and Ariel and Princess Jasmine together. We became obsessed with Michael Jackson together. We went to high school together. We took a photography class and spooled film in a dark room together. We turned 21 together. We worked together and when we hated our jobs we rallied together. We held each other close at her father’s wake and we cried together.

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