Kelly Palmer (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
To the new kid in drama,
You were the Filipino with the Fall Out Boy patch on your bag. I was the pimply girl sitting on the teacher’s left. When you laughed with an American accent I thought you might watch as much TV as I do. Around the circle we introduced ourselves with the creaks of our plastic chairs. The way you leant back with your arms folded made me think, this kid isn’t going to last long, but then you said that you wanted to learn something. You scratched your head and breadcrumbs fell out of your hair. I followed them and found a bird’s nest between your ears.
Beside the campfire, you were the one cutting carrots as if you were the iron chef because I had been taking too long. My shoulder dangerously nudged yours as I fiddled with the carrot pieces, even though I hated vegetables. Our faces were so close that we choked on the same Milo dust. You might not remember, but that night we found out that our P.E. teacher was a former opera singer and that his voice could roll basketballs into line. The fire swooned under his pulsing neck. You scribbled down dots and lines over your forearm and called it a song. You said that you’d never let something that beautiful get away from you.
The morning before our auditions, you were the one who boarded the wrong bus with me, and we missed the next connection. Our noses touched the glass as we tried to match the splintered roads to ones we’d seen before. The bottlebrushes became green feather dusters and mailboxes appeared. I imagined that we were at the centre of a web we didn’t know existed, where people didn’t need to park their cars on the street, but if they did, they wouldn’t have to worry about losing their hubcaps. Before the bus made it into the concrete clearing, you hit the STOP button.
We stood to the side of a leather belt of highway that ran further away from our homes in both directions. My phone was recording as you asked why I couldn’t manage a simple fucking bus schedule, and you paced through the gutter with eagle claws at the end of your arms. Laughter etched away at the sunburn under my sweat. You kissed the back of my hand and said, ‘I hate you.’ I said, ‘I hate you too.’ You kept your nine bus tickets in a box with Dave Grohl’s pick and the only ‘A’ you ever earned at school. My tickets turned to pocket lint in the washing machine.
You were the one whose nails left tracks in my thighs. The sun darted through blinds in the window and held us in a gaol-cell shadow. You melted into my Spiderman sheets and talked about how we should jetski across the ocean to LA, just because Google told us to. When I showed you the black and white photo of a ghost who wasn’t yet born, you said that it wasn’t a problem: that fixing that kind of thing was safe these days.
To the guy who owes me 2,000 bucks,
You were the one who drove your taxi into my neighbour’s washing line and fucked the suspension. I paid to fix both. You asked why you should bother coming over anymore if she’s not going to come out of her room to talk to you anyway, and I had to remind you that she’s your daughter. You didn’t believe that I had nothing to do with her shyness. I keep her away from you—apparently—keep her in her room and in photos. After I wrote the cheque anyway, you handed me fifty bucks like it was a favour. Then you left without your present.
As I sat with my dog in a pile of dirty tissues and watched him eat my grief your voice seeped out of the radio and it sang my name. Beautiful. I read about atoms—about how we’re all made of discrete particles—and I wondered if there ever was a continuum that connected me to you. With my head leaning against the coffee table, I dug for answers and found grains of sand instead of water.
But maybe we could get a cup of coffee some time and talk about our favourite colours and make jokes about how we remind each other of sitcom characters. Do you still watch the reruns after midnight? Maybe we could watch them together again and try to touch each other’s hands how people our age do. We’ll get to know each other through the smell of our sweat. Maybe we could lie as still as death. Call if you have a minute. Or email. Or call. I’m tired of us missing each other.
Describe the loneliest sound in the world and I’ll know that you’re really you.
Kelly Palmer is currently developing a novella as part of her Honours thesis at QUT. Her exegesis, Being Mother and Father, explores pressures of gender performance on single parents in low-socio economic Queensland. Kelly has written for REX, SNReview, Our Logan, QUTE-mag, and The Point Magazine. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the QUT Creative Writing Prize and longlisted for The State Library of Queensland’s Young Writer Award. Even at 21-years-old, the first drafts of her stories start on her palms.