Picture A Little Golden Girl
J.S. Breukelaar (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Ok, so picture this: a little girl doing her chores and maybe there’s a blue laundry basket on her hip. OK, maybe she’s not so little, but pretty as heartbreak. Heavy-lashed brown eyes not as innocent as they could be. Let’s just say she’s been around some, but “anything before the age of fifteen doesn’t count,” she’s fond of saying, misquoting Truman Capote, who she idolises.
“Jamie,” I say. “Come here.”
Uncharacteristically she obeys, the edges of the laundry basket digging into her sharp adolescent hip. Ok, so what’s wrong with this picture?
“I’m leaving,” I say. “Please tell your mother.”
She nods sagely. Like she wants me to think she’s cool. Like she’s been around enough to be hip to me needing to make a quick exit from her life. This slight, bookish sixteen-year old. Her hair is neither tiger-striped like Holly Golightly’s, nor gamine. It is long and ash brown and layered with a heavy fringe exactly like all of her friends. Suddenly it hits me that Jamie must still be a virgin and the Golightly shtick was largely for my benefit. An act to win me over with her frayed and wary cool, a desperate bid to keep me at home. Clearly I’ve been wrong all these years about that lying degenerate Truman Capote: it is me she idolises. Too late now. I remember a song from my own bad-hair days: If you leave me can I come too…. I shake my head. Her eyes brim. I look away.
“But you and me,” she insists. “We’ll see each other. I’ll tell mum. You’ll call me, right?”
I nod. She nods back. It’s a nodding contest. The laundry basket is a tangle of bra straps and dishtowels. The undershirts I’ll leave behind. I’m gone. Amanda and I move in together and it’s hot. All night long. Jamie takes care of her mother like she promised and calls me every day. Amanda gets sick of that. The calls begin to put a strain on all the hotness. I tell Jamie that Amanda isn’t secure enough in our relationship to let me see my daughters alone. Yes, plural: not one but three. Three little golden girls. All on the phone. Needful and shrill.
“Just the movies,” Jamie says—always the most insistent, the most needful of my love. “That’s not alone.”
This is beginning to bug the hell out of me. All I want is hot-hot-hot with Amanda.
“You’ll come to dinner,” I say. “Soon, baby, soon.”
Dinners are cooked—paella—and ordered in—Lebanese. Amanda broils quail. The girls act up. Sullen and rude. Amanda storms off to the laundry room. We listen to her banging the washing machine lid. Dead baby birds uneaten on the plates. No heat tonight. Just cold shoulder again. OK, so in the end I have to blow them off. Just for now, you understand. But they don’t, not a bit. I feel misunderstood.
“We’re your daughters,” they say. “What’s wrong with this picture?”
My therapist is supportive.
“You need to commit,” my therapist says. “To the primacy of your new relationship.”
The girls call and I try and explain the primacy thing to them. I hear a certain viciousness creeping into my voice. Amanda gets on the extension and yells at them. The girls yell back. Using cutting-edge obscenities, my daughters tell Amanda where to stick her quails. I hang up on them. So in the end they get the message. They stop calling. Amanda and I turn back up the heat. She’s a high-breasted natural blond with no waist and a whispery voice. Her blowjobs are Oscar-worthy both for duration and flair. I’m right, I tell myself. I’m more than right. I must be a genius. I got out just in time. All that unfolded laundry—how close I came to being buried beneath it. I feel like a super-hero. Invincible. Like me, Amanda is a believer in the primacy of blowjobs. We’re talking about a meeting of minds here, people. Amanda’s hard blond mind sucking me out of my body. She wears lingerie. Gets pregnant. It’s a boy. We divorce.
The girls—all three of them—live their lives well enough. I hear that the middle one—my favourite—gets cancer and has to have a mastectomy. The youngest bounces in and out of therapy. Jamie does Ok. She gets a bar job. And another one. Waits on tables. Goes to parties. Clubs. A drawer of manuscript sheets going cold, I hear.
I have other women. I forgive myself; go to my conferences; take up the trumpet for a while. Now finally there is solitude. I think about what I would have done differently if I had my time over again. Throw Amanda away instead of the little girls—one-two-three? I see that blue laundry basket all the time now. I can’t get away from it: balanced on Jamie’s hopeful little hip. I angle my hands together in a frame around the image. Gone, baby. Gone.
I stand on the inside of the door to my apartment. Wondering what’s on the other side. Wondering about Amanda: the way she blew my mind. Over and over again.
J.S Breukelaar is a freelance writer based in Sydney. She is a regular contributor to Who Weekly, Showtime Australia, muscle.com.au and other online publications. She blogs on thelivingsuitcase.com.au. Her fiction can be found at Lies With Occasional Truth and The Pisgah Review, A Stones Throw Magazine (forthcoming) and others. She is completing her first novel, Blue Moves, which was short listed for the 2007 Varuna Award.