The Lighthouse and the Mechanic8 October 2019
In the beginning there is always sitting all over each other in a dark apartment, low-light, mid-level, no friends, new city, what the fuck are we doing? Pores clogged with grass, air clogged up thicker. Even after we cut off each other’s hair and smashed up all our children: Kim Bong-Un, Angelina Bowlie, Mr Bubbles. The two of us still pretending to be butterflies, holed up in our terraced cocoon for weeks watching the fists of clouds paint the sky winter white. Like eggshells closing over, we say, like predator’s teeth, like sudden glaciation of water, like a white flag unfurling over everything.
That kind of stillness will make you weak in the worst ways. She says, “I think I would be happier elsewhere,” and you just go on building houses in the air of the doorway. I mean, isn’t love mostly hope? Mostly forgiveness? The light in the picture frame, pulling the universe back into balance just when you give up; take the city train to Frankston to watch the potential of your body moving through the turnstile, the evidence of your two feet sounding off the pavement. Get home and the room is all red sirens, the same desperate look you know: lips like candy-apple, my golden girl, green-thumbed Greek goddess, olive lacquer, arms wrapped around my skull. “I’m so whipped,” she laughs, “don’t you know I’d follow you anywhere.”
Now that it’s colder Mum calls me more often, when she knows my girlfriend is at work, when she can have my “full attention”. She is grafting trees in our garden in Sydney, beneath the grapefruits that I used to line to the gums with sugar. The trick, she says, is to get the young ones and wound them quickly, then bundle their vulnerabilities together with tape to protect them from the elements. You won’t know if it’s worked until later but if the plants are fundamentally similar, mum reckons, it’s a pretty safe bet that the tissues will inosculate.
I understand because in truth, if the hurt is bad enough, it’s easier to share it between two bodies. Rotational form, wax and wane, spend the night cross-eyed between her hand on my chest and the wound under the sheets. I haven’t really slept. Not for months. Cried my guts up the other week until she promised to see a psych. Feel ugly, feel manipulative, swear I can hear the invisible flies feeding on the sheets.
When you love someone enough they can leave you in India covering their suitcases with hotel towels and making blanket forts to hide the sound of ticking, and when they dance back to your door in the morning you kiss them between the eyes. Eyelashes all gone, intestines swollen, heart beat revving like a tractor motor ready to smack into walls. Sometimes I’m the lighthouse, and she’s the mechanic. She says: “I can’t stop thinking about how, when you put two rats in a cage and shock them enough, they start screaming if you try to tear them apart.”
Grafting works, Mum tells me this morning, because one plant grows on the root system of the other. You’ll see it when the warmer weather comes round. The top plant will start flowering and, pretty soon, we’ll all forget what the rootstock was before.