We had the fight
moments after I slipped the robe off my shoulders into a pool around my feet. I had one foot on the shower base, one on the
plush rectangular mat.
At that moment, my
fiancé, Kristopher, knocked from the other side of the bathroom door, which I’d
already locked for privacy.
He had this
tendency often. The first word he would speak to me all day? As I stepped into
the shower. Was it okay if he went out with his friends instead of the dinner
reservation? As I stepped into the shower. His
solution to cancer? As I stepped into the shower.
Clenching my jaw, I
awaited the question.
Amelia?” he asked.
I sighed. “You
should have gotten it when I told you I needed to shower. Or while I collected
my creams and lotions and make-up. Or while I sniffed around for a clean towel
in your stash in the corner.”
The soap—as we both
knew—was irrelevant in this argument. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if we
stayed together out of laziness. And maybe we did. Because I hated many
characteristics about my fiancé. Especially his ignorance of this anniversary.
It was September twenty-ninth.
This year I called
my boss’s mobile at the crack of dawn to fake a sick day, playing up my groggy
tone as a terrible sore throat in addition to a nauseous tummy. She told me to
get well, and I swallowed the news with a lump in my throat, guilty for lying. I was an assistant for a
medium-sized advertising business and handled paperwork, invoicing and calls
all day long—it wasn’t like my absence would be of consequence to day-to-day
activities. I’d pick it up tomorrow.
Last year Kristopher
and I made dates apart with our respective best friends, and I’d spent it
eating all the ice cream along a strip of shops down the coast. I’d thrown up
once and then kept on going. Jaffa flavour, I remember.
I’d licked and
slurped the drips down the paper cup, and only thought twice of the
anniversary. Once on the drive down to the beach, and then once as I’d clutched
the sides of a rusty public bin and spewed my guts up to the backdrop of
disgusted gasps from passers-by.
I don’t know what
Kristopher did that day, but he came back when the night sky was a deep
sapphire blue, whisky on his breath as he climbed in bed behind me.
The year before I
took a day off from work and spent $600 buying cocktail dresses I would never
have occasion to wear. The next day I
donated them to charity.
Six years ago
today, I died. Hence, it was the one time
of the year we didn’t forget the date. Unlike some years when we had to shop
for Christmas gifts at two am on
I stared down the
white door of the bathroom, one foot tingling with the sharp cold of the shower
base, hand clutching the knob. I stepped back onto the tiles, accepting defeat.
“Come on, Amelia,”
he said in a low tone. “Just one Goddamn bottle of aftershave. That’s all I
“No. Just wait till
“Amelia,” I said.
“Amelia, please,” he said, voice breaking. “I
haven’t showered and I stink. I just need a few fucking sprays, and I’ll be out
of your way all day.”
I gritted my teeth
and hobbled from toe to toe, the cold seeping up my legs. If we kept going on
like this staying out of each other’s way was pointless. We knew how to nip at
each other’s sensitive spots in a way learned from several years of being
together. I saw the forthcoming crash, clenched my eyes shut against the pain.
My shoulders heaved, bracing for impact.
Was this what
happened to me just before my crash?
there a moment of wide-eyed fear as my corded, muscled arms grabbed the wheel
at the proper ten and two positions, and I flew through the air, reduced to a
thin, crushed and crumpled body at the bottom of the lake?
Hot tears grew
heavy behind my eyelids as something inside me snapped. I shut the gate to the
It was too late to
his fist on the door, the boom
echoing. I bent and hurried on my new
clothes folded on the counter.
“Come on. This is
beyond a joke. It will take you a few seconds to pass it.” The door rattled,
the handle jerking, but I’d locked the door already. “Amelia.”
I slipped my arms
into the cardigan and threw open the
door, despite the bags under my eyes and the chill settling over my chest
because of the unbuttoned front.
I said, “Have it
all,” pushing the aftershave bottle into his chest, then rushed past him.
And I didn’t look
I woke to star-
and heart-shaped glow-in-the-dark
stickers radiating in neon green from the
ceiling. A ceiling I’d never seen before in my life—typically, I wasn’t the
sort of man to befriend the fancy sticker type of person.
It was pre-dawn,
barely so, the sun a tiny orb just under the horizon through the crack in the curtains.
My world swayed as
I tilted my head. I held my ears in my palms, and my fingers weaved through the
messy state of my bed hair. Under the purple sheets, my stomach churned, and
farther down, morning glory unstuck from the
aforementioned undelightful purple
sheets. I crawled out of the bed.
What the fuck was this? I thought. And where the fuck was I?
flashes from the previous night. A club, a slime party, and breathy kisses with
the girl who lay splayed under these purple sheets beneath her stars and hearts
Viol … Vick … no, it was Vivienne. No, wait, Vivienna.
I smiled, proud of
my achievement. But that dropped into a wobbly set of lips. My stomach churned
again. I lurched into the attached bathroom and retched, wiping myself clean
though I was ninety-nine-point-nine per cent certain I fucked Vicky (or
Vivienna), I shivered at the thought of sharing her toothbrush, so I used the
handy finger-stick in lieu and then the mouthwash beside the basin.
refreshed, I let out a deep breath and looked around the bathroom, not much of
a better sight than the bedroom. The towels were white and pale purple, the
soap purple, and more stickers dotted along the corners of the mirror above the
I stared at my
My hair Mohawked, askew
to one side, a chunk plastered across my forehead in a teenage boy-crush style.
I fussed it around with my hands. It looked as if I just had sex, which was
better than it had moments prior.
I stepped back into
her bedroom, peering amongst the sheets and all her hair. I sighed upon seeing
her, confirming one thing. She had the youthful expression of someone I hoped
was legal. I was twenty-eight, she perhaps twenty or twenty-one. I hoped.
Since she was still
asleep, I returned to the bathroom and looked around for supplies to make
myself appear more human. But I caught my reflection in the mirror and stalled.
My tan skin and dark hair vividly contrasted against my steel-blue eyes. Most
noticeably, a bloodshot glare, lined with
purple bags, rolled lazily at the reflection.
I didn’t suspect my
pick-up techniques from last night would have worked if I’d looked like this.
Just twelve or so hours
ago, one look at Vivienna and she was
under my arm, my lips near her ear telling her things she wanted to hear.
wished I’d had the foresight to stop drinking and pick up her nuisances: the
squeals I thought made her sound cute, the frilly neckline of her dress more
girly than sweet, and the bright purple shoes. The poor woman had a young girl trapped inside her body.
I looked through
the doorway and whispered, “You’re a little crazy, Purple Vivienna.”
I never should
Stop, Harry. I told myself. Find some deodorant, get some clothes on, and get out of here.
So I did just that.
Then I walked out of her bedroom without a note or text. I didn’t have her
number, plus she didn’t care for me.
The others didn’t,
either. They thought they cared.
But they wanted the
thrill of a night with the Harry Jamieson.
night of passion and drinking
with the idea of love.
One of us had to
have our heads screwed on.
mine teetering on the right side of sanity, I dashed out and found my car
parked by the kerb outside her house, hoping she’d been sober enough by the end
of the night to drive it. I knew
with absolute certainty I wouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.
I didn’t drive
after drinking. Not anymore.
travelled home, which took an hour—a long way for pussy, even by my
standards—and did the whole routine: shower, force down some hangover-cure
food, spend the rest of the day watching TV like a zombie. Late afternoon, I got onto all my emails,
responding to meetings, questions and other ad hoc business, then prepared some
training sessions for my swimmers.
When I woke the
next morning, I stumbled drowsily onto my front lawn in just a pair of sleeping
pants and retrieved the delivered roll of newspaper. My neighbour, having
noticed my exit, darted her eyes away and scurried inside her house.
I never claimed to
be a sight for sore eyes in the morning. But what the hell was that about?
Five minutes later, as I tipped a steaming cup of coffee to my lips, I saw the headline and
cursed, spraying coffee all over my granite countertop.