With no son to fill every nook and cranny of my time, I was confronted by my life when I closed the door behind me in the flat.
It loomed in the structure of the large wooden desk I’d told my husband would be the desk I “write my first novel on”. Breathing a solid, grounded aura, the tree felled in man’s pursuit to contain its beauty in our homes, stood facing me when I walked into the lounge. My words littered its surface in scraps and “novels” started, thoughts inspired and captured but never carried through. Snatches of The Novel of life through my eyes, that dad had laughed at me for conceiving at 16, lay splayed across the desktop, barren.
I touched dust on the desk’s surface, opened my orange folder, ‘CONVULSIONS of THOUGHT’:
you loved me
because I hated you.
you hated me
because I loved you.
- and I turned away.
Daniel’s toys were a mess so I put my bag and keys down, and attended to his play corner. As always, the impulse to set his toys up in animated poses took me to lay them out in ways which I intended to lead into inspired play. I sat each of his stuffed toys in a large circle, and in the centre of the circle I placed the little xylophone. I then got my Barbie and sat her at the xylophone, propping a drum stick under her shoulder so she sort of held it along her arm. I stood fluffy white Teddy on the peripheral, leaning him against weird soft toy I didn’t know the genus of, and turned Barbie’s smiling face to look toward him. Teddy didn’t have much expression on his face, and to me his beady eyes were just a bit cool, so I cheered him up by placing one of Daniel’s little cotton caps on his head. It lent Teddy at least a nuance of cute.
I leaned two books against each other so they created a shelter, and placed a tea-towel over it so it looked like a tent. All this while my thoughts were on Daniel, and my plans to leave our flat for another, hopefully in the same area. When we moved from 445 Stirling Highway to 452 Stirling Highway, me pushing my bed on wheels down the main street and Des from theatre days and a few others helping with the boxes, I had no wish to go through the labour and expense of moving again so soon. However, since the hauntings – even though they had ceased, what if they started again; drained me again, weakened me, sucking my energy out in the middle of the night, leaving me a shell too afraid to sleep, to rest, to allow my spirit to fly home amongst the stars? Just the fact whatever it was had been, was enough to unsettle me. I was glad it was gone, but I didn’t want to hang around where it had been, in case it revisited. I always was a one to leave ‘good gone bad’ first.
It seems, though doesn’t it,
only a matter of time
before good fruit,
After tidying Daniel’s play corner, I had nothing left in me. I took off my boots and jeans, unsnipped my bra and slipped it out the arm holes of my t-shirt, lit a candle under some essential oils, and turned off the light. I dropped my body back onto the bed, catching a rift on the stream of dreams, and was carried along on a gentle current to unconsciousness.
The shrill tone of the phone ringing shook me awake. I opened my eyes to realize a new day had broken, again. We never know upon how many more days, will our eyes open.
I stumbled to the phone on my writing desk, and offered a groggy hello to the receiver.
“Is that Noeleen?”
“Yes, it is.”
We respond so instantly to such a question. I used to answer the phone, “Hello, this is Noeleen”, but during the two years post marriage that Stuart the P.I. was my lover, he encouraged me to change that habit. “You don’t know how easy it is to identify people – you just did the text book easy”, he once said to me. I was mystified at this other level of life – just the concept someone could be telephoning my number simply to confirm that it was indeed myself who lived at that address. Stuart had me rethink my apparently guileless ways, but the only advices I retained as habits was to hold my car key sticking out from my second and third fingers in a fist, ready to poke an attacker’s eye out, and answering the phone without identifying myself.
“It’s Barbara”, the woman said.
“Oh Barbara! Hi!”
I rubbed my eyes and alerted my mind. It was the woman who had auditioned and accepted me late last year, to be an actor for recruits at the Police Academy. I knew work was due to commence around about now, but it was a bit past the expected date and I thought, defeatedly, they’d gone with someone else. It was a dream to act for money – act and write!
“Are you still available for the assignment with the first load of recruits?”
“Oh yes! Yes! I mean… um, how many days, when?”
“The first week is three days work, where the recruits get used to dealing with – being assertive with strangers, members of the public. They usually go with this skit where you’re waiting at a bus stop and another actor comes along, they ask if you’ve got a cigarette, you say no, they get aggressive, you’re frightened bla bla. A patrol car sees the action, stops, gets out. The other actor is told not to run, but to say they weren’t doing anything wrong. The recruits have to decide if there is enough in what you both say to lay charges, or just warn the other guy and have him move off.”
“Wow, that’s – that’s just – I love it!”
“Good yeah, okay. So the week after that is four days work. Can you do it?”
I was petrified. Could I do it? Of course I could do it, but Daniel – what would I do with Daniel? So far, he had only had ‘a day’ in child care here and there. Could he do three days – four? Is it too soon for me to go back to work casually? What do other mothers do? I know no other mothers… NO, what do mothers without backup support do? Do the majority stay home on a pension and go just a little bit crazy as all of your energy drains away, or step out independently, and come home with a pay packet?
My nonresponse brought Barbara to nudge, “We need to know, love. We’ve gotta get going.”
“When do you need me to start? I mean, not tomorrow or anything, heh?”
“No, Wednesday in two weeks. It’s a contract. You need to commit.”
“I can”, I said, with a gulp. It was best not to cut the opportunity off, but to string it along while I worked things out. I would lose my reputation for reliability if I couldn’t work things out and had to cancel suddenly, but I was willing to take that risk. They’d never call me again… but that’s fine, I would take the risk. I would just take this opportunity – if I can – and see what happens.
“Great”, Barbara said, and then told me what was expected of me – including learning people’s profiles, so I could be that person and answer questions police recruits asked.
Oh, to be creative – and paid for it. To be an earning mother, supporting my little family. I had no ambitions but creative, and as I lived my life, my creative desires were relegated to mere hobbies. With no ambition to race back to working full time as a court reporter or anything else that involved closed walls and air conditioning, it seemed perfect to take bit jobs as they came up. But for cleaning Tom’s yoga room, Daniel and me remained one step above the gutter, swallowing pride in receipt of the government’s fantasy of how many dollars a week supports a mother and child.
I was astonished this great opportunity to act for money regularly – assignments would be spaced throughout the year; that it should come now. Why does life do that? When I was single and on an agent’s books for TV commercials and being background to main actors in feature films, I only got the small jobs they obviously deemed me capable of. I guess they believed in me only as much as I believed in myself, for I had never been one of those loud actors devouring space as I waded through a room, talking loudly so that other creatives turned their heads (hoping directors happened to be present) and desk girls looked up. I was more one to ring or drop in, ask how opportunities were and hear “Busy, busy, busy!”
“Well, voice-over’s my main love!” I’d smile as if I loved them absolutely. They’d call me.
Ah, of course. They never placed me for voiceover.
The voiceover work I did get, I sourced myself – just like this little beauty – I had sourced this one by myself, from the grapevine.
I was DELIGHTED but not, all in one.
The problem with being a woman standing alone in a flat
in a life throughout which you have deflected closeness with people – before and after marriage -
and so having no-one close, a confidant,
and having spent the last three years convincing your sisters and father over east that you’re happy on the opposite side of the country -
not just because of the stunning beaches but, you know, “I’m only a suburb away from Mum’s grave”,
besides which you have
talked in sisterly intimacy with a
one of them –
one’s psychiatric problems do not lend themselves to spillage of your own problems;
another is opposite to you in every facet from the literal extremes of arriving at a night club and screaming into the crowd, “LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!”, giggling hysterically with your buddies – to sipping tea while listening to classical music;
and the other starves of information about the family she has seceded from, pummeling you (when she’s talking to you) in demand to know juiciness of details of kin, so that it becomes natural to completely hide the reality of your life from her;
when you need to make decisions about the welfare of your first child, your only child,
it distresses in the clarity
that you stand alone.
It’s then you talk to the walls, the cat, and pace about inside your flat.
I paced up and down after the phone call. I felt fresh, wonderfully slept, felt like I wanted to run into the sunshine and let it drench me. Life was good! Life could be good! Imagine Daniel’s mum being a regular actor for the Police Academy – that being my job: casual assignments as required. I liked it!
But should I do it? Would Daniel be best at day care – or, what if, would maybe Chris take him? Could that be the start of something good – a strengthening of bond and relationship between them?
I made a cup of coffee. I opened my front door to let in the warmth of the day, through the flywire. I washed the dishes, walked about thinking madly – how, how – and cleaning up absentmindedly.
Daniel likes the child care centre – he has instant play mates, whereas we don’t know anyone with babies. It’s good for him, and he knows it’s a day of fun and variety when I drop him off. And Mum comes back happier! But the cost – it would take an enormous bite from my earnings. At the same time as earning a day’s pay, I’d pay a day to child care.
Or then, just imagine if Chris took Daniel three days one week and four the next. He’s so proud taking him around here and there, isn’t he? What if Daniel began to learn Chinese by association? That would be fantastic!
It’s just a two week assignment. I don’t have to say yes to more assignments – even one would be a great experience. I wonder if I could swear at the police – ha, imagine screaming like a wild child, “Leave me the fuck alone!” (and getting away with it). Is that an offence, would the recruit decide? I’ve heard that spitting at police is assault. Is spitting at a person assault? What if I spat on an actor – would the police recruits arrest me?
It was all so weird and wonderful, exciting, new, and such a challenge having no script to follow but just a theme to follow. It was – my gosh, I had to work it out, just had to work it out.
Copyright, Noeleen&Daniel 50/50