Angela Alcock – Deakin University

The first time that I ever saw her it was not sight that drew me to her but sound.
The ribbons of a tune had woven their way into my mind as I sat upstairs in my mezzanine bedroom reading a book with a name that I can’t recall. I think it must have taken me some time to realise that the ribbon had woven its way into my mind, and into my body. So much so that it became the soundtrack of the chapter of the book that I was reading. The tune was so familiar to me and yet at that time I had never heard it before. And, it was in the pause, at the end of the chapter, when I stopped to reflect for a few moments on its events that I woke. I woke from the dream that had been my life up until that point. I woke from the cloudiness of world between dreaming and waking and I could feel my heartbeat in my blood. The tune pulsed. Softer and then louder. Again and again. My blood flowed to the rhythm of that pulsing. And in it, I found out what it felt like to truly breathe for the first time.

I had looked down to the ribbon that had attached itself to my core. It was red, red like blood, red like poppies, red like insides. It had flowed around me beckoning. Calling to me. Urging me to follow. And so that is what I did. I cradled the ribbon in my then boyish hand, which had not quite yet lost the softness of childhood, and followed it towards the stairs of my room. With each step that I took forward the parts of the ribbon which had resided in that space absorbed themselves into me. When I arrived at the top of the stairs I was overcome with a sense of urgency like none which I had ever felt before that moment. It felt as if I did not find the source of that sweet music that soon enough it would ebb into nothingness and again I would fall into the clouds of dreaming. Only this time with the knowledge of what it felt like to wake.
So I ran. I ran down the dusty staircase, through the empty kitchen and out of the laundry door to find myself standing on the deck. The splintered boards and protruding nail heads that were a stubbed toe waiting to happen did not bother me this time as they had every other. I stood among the imperfection lost in the music that thickened the air around me and everything was still. Nature was not turning in this moment and I couldn’t have moved even if I wanted to.

Her legs dangled off the edge of the deck of the house next door and came to rest firmly on a small wooden step. They steadied the polished red cello that sat between them, its one leg extended all the way to the overgrown grass below. Its neck was cradled over her shoulder and somewhat tangled in luminescent brown hair that cascaded down her back. Her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted as she breathed with the flow and ebb of the music. From her heart ribbons exploded like streamers floating and flittering like smoke. Twisting and curving their way across the yard, encircling everything, becoming a part of everything. She was the source. Her fingers fluttered on the strings like butterflies and I felt the threat of loss for the first time.

I watched her for many days, weeks, sitting on the edge of her deck. The weather in that first month, the first month of my life, was forgiving, sunny. Without fail she came to the deck each day to play, to create. She never read music, she just … played.

After a month of sunshine it was unavoidable that my luck ran out. It rained for a whole week and my heart felt like it was dying. My soul, like it was shrivelling and turning black.

By the time the sun came out again I had almost gone crazy listening to what were once the calming bullets of rain. I was sitting on my soaking, puddled deck well before 4pm, the time when she always came outside. The boards squeaked a protest under my weight. The rain could still be heard dripping from the leaves of mighty gumtree that sprawled in the corner of my yard. The tire swing that was once my greatest and most cherished companion twisted lonesomely from its frayed rope. The ground between the deck and the tree at first glance appeared to be a vibrant green grass however previous experience had taught me that it was in fact soft, squelchy mud covered in a thin spongy moss. The birds were delighting in the warm sunshine, the sounds of nature were swelling up to drown me and then almost instantly the sounds had evaporated and I had heard the first floating note of a song. It hung in the air long after it ended. Deep, resonate, it penetrated into my core. She began.  And when I breathed in those pure notes I felt like my bones were melting. I felt like a fisherman who had been lost at sea for a year smelling eucalyptus for the first time. I felt like my lungs didn’t breathe for just me anymore.

I had to be closer. I had to be able to see her more clearly. The ribbon pulled me towards the dilapidated side fence that adjoined out two properties. It knew all too well the feelings of my heart. The fence was made of a deteriorating pine. Once greyed from the sun it was now edging towards a mouldy brown. The panels ran horizontal to the sturdy posts and were clearly not as skilfully screwed on as the posts were dug in. Only every second panel was on my side of the fence the corresponding panels covered the gaps on the other side. A prosperous tree had staked its claim on the fence winding its fertile tentacles through the innards of the wood and out through to the other side. The tree bloomed tiny, light-purple flowers in March. Their attachments to the plant so miniscule they didn’t really look attached at all but appeared to just float in the air around the fence, dusting it in pale colour. It wasn’t March now. I preferred March. As I approached the fence I looked for vacant spaces of timber to place my hands and feet. I knew that I needed to make as little noise as possible. I put my hands just below the top of the fence —the ribbon was urging me forward—and then slowly stepped up with each of my feet. The fence stayed still. It didn’t make any noise. I stretched my head over the fence. And. She was just there. Just there. So close that if she had been wearing perfume I could have smelt her. Short pieces of hair moved like dust around her face. Her eyes, as always, were closed. She was so clam, so absorbed in what she was doing. She didn’t notice me.
I adjusted my foot on the fence and crikkkkkkk.
She twitched violently. The soft note she was playing morphing into something ugly, violent.

“Who’s there?” she asked.
Her voice was soft, caressing.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t answer because her face was turned towards me. She was looking at me. Looking through me. She had eyes of clouds, eyes of grey. She didn’t see me because I wasn’t really there. I didn’t really exist. She didn’t see me. She looked through me like I was a ghost. Living in a world that I was not supposed to be in. A world that was too perfect for me where I stood among the imperfection. Tainting a space that was not meant for me.

I am not real. I am not

I am empty. I flow across the bathroom floor.