The holiday in Melbourne was a merge of moments wonderful, and not. The light of Daniel brought peace to every room we entered, and no matter how I was feeling inside, his energy was like milk and honey which soothed all in company. The pained differences between our clan so variously affected by Fate which threw us together these decades in space, went largely unspoken.
Wendy and me got on okay, but that is only as far as we ever got – okay. Having lived together at Aunt Bette’s my age 8 to 10, after the orphanage, and then together lived at dad’s, this did nothing to engender a sisterly closeness, the type where you swap clothes (for where I wore bustiers, she wore baggy t-shirts) and music (I David Bowie and Billy Idol; she the wailing of Israelis, brought home from her time in a kibbutz there – and other obscure musicalities). Where I paid for hairdressers, Wendy cut her hair with scissors in the bathroom; where I said ‘orgasm! vagina!’, a passage unexpressed contorted her face and I could never guess what it might speak; where I rose at 6 am, Wendy would at 11; where I threw out an empty jar of honey, she rushed to the bin to retrieve it and ‘save’ the remaining half teaspoon of honey which would dribble from the upturned jar over the next long hour.
It was simply black and white – not wrong and right – and I figured it was just “how it is”. Yet, I was curious how two siblings of the same parentage could be so opposite. I wondered what a second child from my womb may have been like. I had sometimes attempted to talk ‘real issues’ with Wendy, but it just would not flow for she seemed to not share more than she did; whereas I was impassioned, sometimes to a degree of imbalance, by what I thought and felt – outspoken where I thought I may be heard, that is, but otherwise a clam of turbulence.
Wendy’s love for her one and only nephew was abundant and generous. She took us to interesting places in Melbourne – simple parks that became open air art galleries with steel and plastic sculptures dotted around the grounds. For the very first time since I fled dad’s household at 17, then fled the State of Victoria at 19, given passage by my new husband whose family lived in Queensland, I began to see Melbourne in a different light. I had been determined to stay in Perth, Western Australia ‘forever’, for its farthest possible location from my father in the east, but for the first time through our excursions with Wendy, I began to see some light and beauty in Melbourne – which I had never seen before. My view of Melbourne up to this point was as a black hole which had swallowed my childhood, and innocence.
“Look, a guy pushing a pram!” I exclaimed to Wendy, amazed, as we trundled along St Kilda Road in a tram. I had not seen any men carrying babies in Perth, or pushing prams, or engaging with children. All I could see wherever I looked was women abandoned with babes in arms, for oh so inconvenient it is to make way for another life within your own – and offending further; that life be your own blood.
“Yes?” said Wendy, puzzled. I realized how silly that must have sounded, and looked quickly around the tram carriage to see if anyone else had heard me.
“Just,” I said as Daniel stood on the seat between us, fascinated by the kaleidoscope of life in blossom animating the street-scape passing by, and by.
“Just, I don’t see men caring for children in Perth. I haven’t seen any men helping – anywhere, you know. It’s good to see.” And it was true. My vision of man as father had been so afflicted by, firstly, Stuart’s response when I told him I was pregnant 50/50 chance it was his – “Get rid of it: if you don’t, that means you’re assuming the responsibility. Hey, look, I told you you were just a fuck…” and afflicted by Chris’ treatment of Daniel upon visits, and seeming disregard for his girlfriend’s son Phong, that I had not seen with my own eyes anywhere I looked in Perth, a man honouring his family.
The tram continued its path alongside the Botanical Gardens, stopping every second breath for passengers. Daniel watched with a face full of fascination as people hopped on in all their uniqueness, looked around, and positioned themselves. Compared to the city folk of Perth, Melbourne was a multicultural hotch potch. Daniel had not seen such individuality in Perth, let alone talent of the buskers who amused the city, and humour. He was enthralled by our every moment of our every day.
If Perth were a bouquet of flowers, it would be sunflowers almost all, with a smattering of blue iris or hydrangeas in amongst them – sun, brilliance, stunning in its beauty; and ocean deep and vast, fresh, eternal.
Yet Melbourne was a bouquet of variance and vibrancy, which re-shooted in all directions, from leafy and opulent inner suburbs to ghetto crevices trickling out from the city. Little did I know that in years hence, Daniel, creative and athletic with aspirations uncapped, would ask me to move to Melbourne – but which move would be blocked by Chris and by my pained emotional associations within, at the very contemplation of it; beg me to move to Melbourne – but which move would be blocked by Chris; plead with me to move to Melbourne – which would suddenly become possible, through careful and surreptitious planning by me.
“Well,” said Wendy, as the man pushing the pram (no woman in sight) became a distant speck of the street-scape passing before us, “Perhaps they are there, everywhere – men who help, men who stand by their families. But you just can’t see them yet.”
I thought about that. And wondered if it was possible.
Copyright Noeleen&Daniel 50/50