Posted on March 12, 2014
A different beginning
This is the start of a novel revision, from around 2009…
12 O’clock or thereabouts
The sun’s at the top of the world and I’m in the cold-sweat of the cave’s depths again. It’s cool here, and I don’t fear it now, like a cloak of invisibility that only I can see. It hovers over me, its Virgin blue folds billowing and I raise my damp face towards it, eyes rolling back and I welcome it this time, the blood.
My father says that when I was born I came tumbling down the manhole in their bedroom, tumbled so fast that he barely had enough time to put down his cigarette to catch me. He says I was born with my eyes shut tight like I wasn’t ready to look at the world yet, and my arms were folded across skin too purple to be alive. He blew tobacco-infused air into my lungs while the doctor attended to my lonely mother, covering her modesty with the blood-tarnished sheets and she couldn’t look at me at first, not for a long time. I barely made it, my father said, as though predicting the story of my life.
But I don’t remember that. The first thing I remember is this little kid with tomato stained cheeks as big as the moon, creased chubby arms sticking out of a grey St Michael’s pinafore and a mass of long combed-out curls. I had a fight on my first day of school. So that’s when I was really born, hiding under the alter, kicking Johnny and screaming at him to give me a proper kiss like they did in the movies.
And I remembered the way we played our records on the portable player, gently lowering the stylus for fear of scratching the vinyl and we would sing those songs that meant the world, we’d whisper them so hoarsely so that mum couldn’t hear us hiding down in the bunker with the kittens and the pork gelatine that reeked of fennel seeds. We would hide behind the record sleeves, pages of Smash Hits made sticky with Vegemite or we would pore over the tarot cards or stupid magazines that we stole. And my memory has skipped a beat over time, only a little one, but it has faded nonetheless. Almost enough to forget about the bluepurplegreenblack bruises that were permanently tattooed on my arms, my legs, my back. I carried that photo of Adam Ant in my purse as though it was some sort of talisman that would help change it, one song at a time.
I had a wicked imagination so when I couldn’t be bothered coating myself in baby oil and staring into the green water of the local pool, I would head down to the channel, back when it was overflowing and I would hold my breath under water for the longest time and try to remember what it felt like before I was born.