Chris’ brother James was apparently a fighter. He was, Chris said, always getting into kung fu trouble despite we were living in Australia, in this century. He had neither a regular job nor a regular relationship. In fact, nothing was regular in James’ life but Australian government benefits.
Sometimes James accompanied Chris when he visited Daniel, and I began to wonder what story was the in-roads to these men. I had wanted to know Chris and his life when I was with him, but he would not tell me anything about his self. He only gave vague responses to my inquiries personal, while I lay naked at his side.
Similarly I had wanted to know Stuart, my lover of two years post-marriage. But he also would tell me nothing of his self. He spoke in the alternative, such as that he had been with strippers.
“They’re not the lack of brains you might think they are.”
“But it is pretty dumb to think your sex is all you have to give – to not reach deeper into yourself than plain old tits-and-arse shaking. I mean, men steal sex from women all the way through their lives if they can. There’s no way I’m going to sell it. My sex is a sharing of myself to one or two especial as an occasion may be, never hordes of nameless desperados.”
Stuart’s contempt at me considering my sex special, he hardly attempted to hide.
“They empower themselves by selling it – instead of having men steal it.”
“It is an illusion of empowerment to prostrate yourself before the deemed master, him tossing coins at you as you ‘choose’ to do that, surrendering to his estimation of you – stripping from clothed to vulnerable, shaking your sex in his face, allowing him to inhale the perfume of your bouquet -”
And that would be it.
I would lie in the wake of Stuart’s sex, idly fingering my pearl necklace and staring up at the ceiling.
I had wanted to know James of the casino too – my first grip of man beyond marriage. But James would not speak of his soul, stating, “I don’t want to love no-one and I don’t want no-one to love me.” By this drawing of a line in the sand, we only engaged in sex. He answered my query what his Indian tattoos meant to him, and I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee because of him, but what hinting of heart was not scored into his skin, I may not know.
And Chris: a mystery too. What was this new world I had stepped into, leaving my nine year relationship behind? Was it normal to not share your heart, to only open your legs, to only ejaculate upon another’s interest of you?
My ex husband David did not know me intimately – typically, as had been my learned way, only physically.
I hid so much: my bulimia, constant will to die, lack of self esteem so excessive that I hid in the cupboard some days when I heard him arrive with company. David knew so little of me, whom he had declared love on.
But I did not expect to encounter the same guardedness from men when I left the marriage. Out of the marriage, I was willing to brave my self in the world. I indulged passionately in my discoveries of flesh and spirit beyond the institution from which I had fled. I reeled. It truly stunned me to find myself a naked numph in a forest of men emotionally protective.
What had happened since I was 16, before I met David at 17, when boys, if you found the right one – from an abused household like you were, tuned into the music you were; when they were capable of being honest about their feelings through their eyes, touch of you, their time with you?
~ / ~
“He been good, Aunty Karen say he been good all day.“
It was an absolute delight to receive Daniel back into my arms after being free and acting all afternoon. I had missed him, but I had loved my work.
My guilt at enjoying my work was a vulnerability, I knew. Chris intoned in many ways and regularly, how fortunate I was that he was helping me. As I was indebted to him for his stepping up as Daniel’s other parent, as appeared a choice for men, I had to ensure not to rock the boat by suggesting our son needed money for food or clothes or, say, ask for a packet of nappies next visit; nothing like that.
Our court hearing for child support was approaching but neither of us said a word about it. Chris’ crazy “NO!” continued to resound, from the day I had rung and asked him, “Now the DNA tests prove you are Daniel’s father, will you please sign acknowledgement that you are, and avoid us going to court?”
James watched as I cushioned Daniel into my bosom. I smelled Daniel’s hair, so curiously beautiful to smell, and looked over his head at James.
James continued to stare as Daniel groped about looking for my nipple, tiny hands feeling the flesh of my breast. He had that stare of someone without the social consciousness to know when to look away. Either that, or he just did not want to look away.
“Do you mean he was with Aunty Karen all day, Chris? From when I dropped Daniel to you at 11 am?” I lifted Daniel above my shoulders, smiled into him, distracted him.
“Yeah, I have very very important feng shui appointment. Very important customer. But I pay Karen: no problem to you.”
It wasn’t quite working as we had discussed. It seemed that Chris had important feng shui appointments every day he had Daniel, so that Daniel was left with either his girlfriend Tracey or with his sister Karen. I still did not know much of his girlfriend, only the fact she had been a battered wife who escaped her abuser when he first ever caused their son to bleed. I didn’t want to judge Tracey for this, but I did want to know about who she was, that Chris was leaving our son with.
Should I accept Chris’ judgment of with whom he left our son? Should I trust Chris? Should I just learn to trust in general, for this I clearly lacked?
I wanted to say something about what rumbled inside, to Chris, though conscious I would be at risk of losing my job if Chris lost his temper over it. I had to apply some intelligence to my phraseology. I had to placate male, be gentle, ask without a tone accusing lack of Daniel as priority, why he chose to do feng shui in times when he had Daniel, for after all he was freelance.
“You left Daniel with Aunty Karen on Monday too,” I said.
“Yeah?” Chris said, and James continued to stare..
I often had a feeling that Chris and my interactions were an enormous source of entertainment to James. He never said much, only looked much.
“Just… I think it would be good for your business image if you were unavailable at times. They don’t need to know you are a father being with your child – they can imagine you’re busy with other appointments, other clients. Let them think you’re in demand. That would be great for your business!”
Chris was sullen one unreadable moment.
“I not even on the Birth Certificate.”
This was sudden.
In typical roundabout style, Chris was actually inviting discussion.
“How can I be the father, I not even on the Birth Certificate?”
“Chris, you are Daniel’s father and you know you are Daniel’s father. But you abandoned Daniel verbally within minutes of him being born. Do you remember my phone call to you, to tell you you have a son?”
“Yeah yeah, I busy then. You embarrass me you ring up you say it’s a boy. I have people there, I can’t talk.“
Daniel had stopped playing with my bosom and settled with simply being in my embrace. James continued to watch the Australian domestic drama unfold before his eyes..
It was possible Chris had been busy that night I gave birth, and so unavailable to talk, and that’s why he brushed me off by saying it was written in my stars that Daniel was born to me and good luck to me (‘bye ‘bye). Maybe I had been unfair to Chris.
But how could he not have time to talk when I am ringing to announce that he is father to a boy? No, maybe I had been unfair to Chris.
“Oh. Well. I told you that influenced my decision to not name you on the birth certificate. I didn’t think you were worthy to be named, to be Daniel’s father. But anyway – you told me to tell the government that you are a student who went back to China. Aren’t you happy to not be on the birth certificate?”
Chris now thought about it. It was his cue. Would he be original of delivery or would James play prompt in the wings?
“I not pay nothing, I not on the Birth Certificate.”
“I don’t know if They ever change birth certificate details, but I can try for you if you want me to. I can write to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and tell them the results of the DNA test and tell them I know the name of the father. Would you like that?”
“Yeah I like that.”
“Would you then sign a consent that you are Daniel’s father, and be responsible to Daniel’s prosperity in a financial sense?”
“You don’t need all that official,” Chris said, reverting to day one. I had naively accepted his word in the beginning. I had believed that a father could not possibly prefer to go to the casino, entertain various women through the Personals as Tracey said he did, buy himself a new desk and obviously live just fine, when his newborn son had so many needs – was just starting out in life, was born to him, had so many needs.
I sighed. “It doesn’t matter,” I said. “We won’t talk about it again. If you insist, we’ll go to court.“
James looked at his brother.
Chris, irritatedly, turned to leave.
James followed him.
“Yeah, the Godfather told me he read your palm, he told me I know you then I go to court.“
This was the first reveal to me of anything that had transpired that visit by the Godfather, when they spoke Chinese together, put up Chinese placards about Daniel and my home, Chris gave me $100 and said he would give what he could when he could, and they left.
“You’ve never told me anything that the Godfather read in my palm,“ I said. “Tell me more!“
“HE TOLD ME I KNOW YOU, I GO TO COURT!“ he barked, and Daniel stiffened in my hold.
Chris and James left dramatically, banging the door behind them.
I did not understand. In this very moment, with this apparent awareness Chris had of the potential for court issues, he could avoid going to court by facing the challenge of moral responsibility which was presenting in his life.
I question the value of feng shui, when you are not guided by it but rather, learn how to blame another by what it purports to reveal.
I closed our front door gently. Daniel’s enormous brown eyes looked to me for reassurance that things would be okay.
I could not provide that reassurance, but I could act. I had grit my teeth as a little girl and bore it, many many times: unfavourable moments: attack by other humans: challenges – like when Mr Mason of 956 R’Road wouldn’t return my bond to me when I left renting his bungalow, at 17, where he had spied on David and me having sex – his gaze a cold shower, penetrating through the slits in the Venetian blinds.
“I’ve got Mr Mason keeping an eye on you.”
“What, dad?” Chill.
This was just another it.
I would do whatever was necessary to assert the rights of my beloved son in this day time and century. I would enable for my son financial support by his father. I would not be like the “other mother” – the mother of Chris’ daughter.
But who really, I wondered as I set Daniel down to play and seated myself alongside – who really is the ‘pretty dumb’ female: the naked strippers or the naked gullible me?