‘A toute a l’heure’ or ‘To see you later at an unspecified time’.
‘Memories are stories you write for yourself, to explain who you are, and how you got there, and to blame it on somebody else.’
Kate Miller Heidke
At the end, I come back to write the beginning.
I found myself in a small cream house surrounded by a yard with mango, passionfruit and avocado trees, shared only with a ginger kitten. I placed an ad to let the spare room, and now Rel sat before me. We traded numbers and I told him I’d call him to confirm, before realising that how I felt wouldn’t change before then. He moved in that Thursday afternoon.
Newly single, I fill my life with activities. We’re both going to Sydney, me for an NLP mind control’ course and him for I don’t know what- he pulls my gigantic suitcase filled with clothes, books and food up and over the hill. The train comes and we run, him dragging the suitcase, up the stairs to catch the train to the sound of my hysterical laughter. On the train he pulls faces at sleeping old ladies, writing to me that they are eyeballing me… ‘I think she likes you’ he scribbles in my notepad, where he is teaching me French.
He doubles me on his bike down the road to the supermarket, calling loudly across the fruit section that we need to get lots of large condoms. On the way home, we stop to pinch a blue helium balloon from a car lot. Rel ties it around my kitten’s neck and Murph nearly hangs himself running under the fence. Rel carries the kitten around the house in a plastic bag to my horror claiming ‘he likes it’- I laugh when months later Rel brings home groceries and Murphy gets in the bags.
I have a study with a balcony where I keep my books and guitar. Rel is respectful of my space, always hovering around the entrance to my bedroom. As I sit and stretch in my study, I invite him in. We stretch together and he wraps his legs around me, rubbing my shoulders. I love his warmth and yet am wary of getting to close; I move away. He tells me ‘beautiful your inside, outside is as well’. I spend time worrying about what is appropriate.
On Tuesday evenings Ariel began French lessons for his friend Kay. I join in, with a promise of one day teaching him a skill of my own; he was hopeful for guitar, but I didn’t really have the skills. Kay bakes cookies; I eat them all dipped in super sweet black tea. He calls me his best student, ‘Mon petit Ange’, even though I never do the homework. We sit on the beanbags (which Murph keeps peeing on as I toilet train him), waiting patiently while Ariel explains pronunciation and French grammar. His accent makes his name sound to me like he is saying ‘Aliel’ and I adopt this; it maddens him.
With the kitten we dance in the living room, jumping off the couches with streamers trailing behind us. We lay on a mattress in front of the telly and watch ‘Stardust’, getting misty eyed. He insists I share his Nutella on bread, forever ignorant to my dairy allergy. (Under his influence, I occasionally eat it from the jar). When I run out, I eat his bread and sometimes his bananas, telling him and apologising- he replied he understands how I am with avocados and bananas.
Sometimes I come home and he has washed up, it makes me smile. I look forward to him being home and am disappointed when he isn’t.
On April 21st Ariel gives me his will details. He tells me about the furniture and electrical goods, the books clothes and fun stuff- with his parents address on his drivers licence. He gives me their phone number. Mortality knocks on the door, I write in my diary.
We’ve quickly formed a tradition of long meandering midnight conversations. He lay upside down in the lounge room talking passionately about water management and nuclear energy. He asks me what I would do with ten thousand dollars and teases me until I blush when I respond I would use it towards a deposit on an investment house- he said that isn’t possible. Embarrassed, I tell him I believe it is. I surprise him by telling him that I am saving the money from his rent. We debate the nature of experience until the sun is rising.
As it gets colder, we share endless hot teas. He wants to quit smoking, promising to take me for my first skydive if I help him. He does well for a while; when he starts up again (May 18th) I tease him briefly then let it be. He plays new footage on my TV of his jumps over Wollongong, writing them in his logbook to become a tandem master. It makes my heart flutter, the view falling at dusk through a sea of endless clouds to a sunset beach with city lights. He talks stats and back-up parachutes to me until I start to believe that it’s safe and even normal. My dad is planning a wind-tunnel; I tell them both to call each other.
While I am at dancing, Murph gets attacked by a dog and ‘shits all through the house’. Rel cleans up the house so I can’t even tell. By 2am the kitten is in pain, I am in tears and go to wake up Ariel. He mumbles and snores at me in a friendly but clearly asleep way… he would sleep through anything. (A bit of morphine and Murph is right as rain).
I receive notice it’s time for the house to be demolished. We house hunt, him nonchalant and open to the possibility of living in a unit temporarily, me insistent Murph must have a yard. I lose sleep, scouring the papers, uni ads and online, arranging appointments, with him listening to my occasional rambles. We go to look at a dingy house with a messy backyard and he ducks into the florist and buys me white flowers. On a Tuesday, we inspect a townhouse in north Wollongong, one of three in a row, set back from a busy road behind a row of bushes, with a gardener and a huge tree. The rooms are large, with a green bathroom and long sunroom. We also inspect a place near the hospital on a busy road with less space/no backyard, sharing a sunset in silence after we submit the application. On the 23rd may, a week later, we sign a lease for Church St with Karen, sealing it with a group hug. The cat must have a yard.
At our housewarming, we divide and entertain, coming together with easy affection. Someone points out we bicker like a married couple; I like it. As he introduces me, we seem to have known each other for longer. A friend tries to encourage me to get in with him, and I tell her he is like my brother, and that I could never be with someone who wears sneakers like that.
By June 1st, within a week at our new place, Rel has started up a romance with Blondie next door. He is besotted and they smoke together. He continues to make two teas, only by June 4th the other one is delivered to her. My feelings are hurt and I niggle at him that he has never put the rubbish out or vacuumed the floor. Now he patiently listens and promises he will put out the rubbish. He tells me that living with me is like being 14 again and having a midget control his life. (When I meet his mum in Israel I laugh- she really is a midget). I tell him to get new pillows because old ones aren’t good for your lungs; he tells me I’ll make a good mother. My heart expands a little.
At night when I go to hang out my washing, the big tree blows and he walks with me in the dark, Murph trailing behind. When the other cats meet Smurf, I make the mistake of picking him up in the yard, screaming and coming inside in stunned tears that my baby kitten has just made me bleed. Ariel tells me of course, you don’t pick them up when they are scared.
Ariel plays cupid, setting me up with his friend. It’s disastrous.
In April we played airplanes, and he taught me to flip. The first time we tried, he dropped me straight on my head. I lay stunned flat on my back and he fetched frozen peas, patting my head and apologising. When he leaves for Europe for a 6-week visit to family, he jumps on my bed. I give him a card and a travel pendant. When its time for goodbyes, I unexpectedly burst into distressed tears that he wouldn’t return safe- he hugs me, leaves, and then ducks back inside to flip me upside down. I write to him in broken French, that it’s cold, I love Kate miller, and Murphy pissed on the beanbags again.
While he is away I dream of Ariel dying, of hugging him and crying.
July 16th he is home and I am jumping on his bed in excitement. He returns with a gift of the ‘best hairspray on the PLANET’. The bathroom sink is covered with my hair products and hair straighteners- he tells me I am just like his sister and his mother, there is something wrong with me and that I am a ‘hair molester’. He tells me I must be experiencing a second childhood. I keep cutting my short hair and he teases me that we will not marry unless I grow my hair long. He tells me that I look prettier with long hair, and that I shouldn’t wear makeup. He makes me feel beautiful when I feel like a dag. (The French man in him criticises the way Aussie men don’t know how to treat women). I eat sugar all winter long and make him laugh by pulling my pregnant belly- he pretends he can feel it kick. I am working on a uni presentation and he texts me ‘Sunshine, Good luck! Enjoy Fatty.’ When I am frustrated and growling about life, he grabs me by the shoulders shaking me and saying ‘Get it out Susan!!!’
His romance didn’t work out and he is sad. He is still hoping beyond hope it will work out. I tell him it isn’t making him happy- I hate to see him sad. I bring home a blue Sodalite pendulum and sit in my study playing with it. Aliel comes in and I offer it to him. He is sarcastic with it but knows exactly what it is. He asks it if first me, then himself, will have children. It says yes to both. He asks me to ask it if he will marry, it says no. He asks it if I will marry; It says yes. He shrugs his shoulders, disappointed but acting like it is nothing. He wants to find true love; he is looking for the one.
I come home drunk from town and he is sleeping on the couch. I silently sit down the curve of his body and he hugs me. Until the sun rises we sit in silence. With him tracing lines along my stomach and back and me leaning into him. Warmth. Eventually I go to bed; the next day he stands in my study shifting his weight from side to side telling me he hopes he didn’t overstep a boundary. I shrug, tell him it’s okay and now we will go back to normal.
Spring progresses and our lives move together and apart. He has invited me many places. We never ended up going to the Easter show. I had introduced him through a work friend to the Jewish community and he invites me to Passover and the film festival. We talk about having dinner with a friend and he asks me to the movies; He invites me along occasionally but I usually stay home rugged up sleeping.
I discover Jason Mraz, designer of chocolmole avocado desserts. I play ‘I’m yours’ on repeat. Loudly. For weeks. One day on the front step he says to me with a smile, I used to really like this song.
In winter he hibernates sleeping on the couch wrapped in my red and orange chequered blanket and leaving the heater on. I roll my eyes at his endless movies, he invites me to share them and I do with the good ones, sometimes. We watch Pursuit of Happiness and snuggle. He leaves the DVD’s looping all night long until I come out and turn them off. I make date avocado desserts, delivering them to him and he tells me I am just like his mother- always trying to feed him. He learns to cook a dish and cooks it proudly over and over- I offer to teach him other dishes, like how to make a roux sauce from scratch, but he is satisfied with slight variations on his dish. He cooks at odd times, and my favourite is 3am cook-ups when I come and sit on a stool while he cooks, picking at his food and chatting.
In the afternoons I wake out of bed when I hear him, emerging with messy bed hair and a mushed face into bright sunshine to sit by him on the front step, bleary-eyed and yawning while he smokes a cigarette. In the evenings I come home and he has showered; I love the smell of him. I go out; he texts me that he loves the smell I left behind.
He reads backward upside down books in French and Hebrew. I wish I could read them too; in frustration I get out English version of ‘Second Sex’ from the uni library while he is reading it, but never end up finishing it. Maybe it was better in Hebrew.
In October he injures himself and can’t walk or work, getting drunk on Ouzo from the freezer and stoned to deal with the pain. I don’t like it. He gets a new laptop and spends most of his time online; we don’t play anymore. I miss him. We make a pact to spend more time together.
When a guy friend of mine starts visiting more regularly Ariel gets excited, nudging me and winking. I tell him it isn’t like that; my friend is too tall to be my boyfriend. He admonishes me, telling me that if you love someone, you love them, and it doesn’t matter how tall they are. I tell the guy I like him and when we consummate our relationship, Ariel comes into the room grinning and high fives us both. When I speak with him about love, he tilts his head and says to me ‘Why’ in a lilting voice, he purses his lips and says gentle ‘noooo…’ shaking his finger at my over-thinking and attempts to control.
When we debate about life he tells me that I am young and I need to travel, to go and see the world and then come back and talk with him. He thinks I am naive. Our conversations meandered and now we have reached the point, the centre of the issue. Nov 18th, we find ourselves in the kitchen in a very heated conversation about God. My boyfriend and best friend stand witness as we debate, him by the fridge shifting his weight from foot to foot and me becoming emotional and red in the chest. I tell him there is a god; he tells me there isn’t. It’s a fantasy to make us feel better. I tell him there are no accidences and coincidences, that we are all connected. He tells me that if someone gets hit by a truck and dies then that it is just that- an accident with no rhyme or reason. I tell him that person chose it, on some level there is a plan and we are active participants. I want him to read Conversations with God. He thinks I am crazy. He is headed out and running late. At a nearby field with Dom I sprint laps back and forth until I am exhausted, and then lay on the ground and cry. Dom tells me to stop running from it. My Rel is hurting, and I feel like if I could get him to see things my way, he wouldn’t hurt anymore. I don’t want him to be in pain. Dom says to me, we argue out of love, each believing if we could show the other our way they would be happier.
Ariel finally arranges his chaotic room, tidying the treasures he has adopted off the side of the road. The house is mainly filled with my things, he is a traveller with books and clothes and little else. With my new camera I film him, laughing at him dancing to Madonna.
He comes home late from work to my birthday party just as we are packing up. He wants to celebrate; I am serious that we have a huge weekend planned and need rest. We sleep as he parties on. In the morning of my 21st birthday we wake early and go to the drop zone. On the plane up I am giggling hysterically, Ariel shows me the sights briefly then falls asleep. He had wanted me to wait until he was a tandem master, but life does not wait and today I jump strapped to his boss, whom he doesn’t much like. Falling through the air he holds my hands, we breaststroke together in free fall. On the ground he comes to wish me a happy birthday, I am giddy and run around the oval. He gifts me a video of the jump ‘Ariel’s point of view’. Dad is in a hurry to leave to drive north, we leave before I can thank Ariel properly.
I apply for international exchange with the uni, lamenting to Rel that I will go to Canada, because I can’t go to France without proper French. He tells me, well go somewhere else in Europe! I lay awake excited at such an obvious idea. I book my ticket to London on Murph’s first birthday. With a serious face Ariel asks me if he can have and care for Murph while I’m gone; he promises my little man be fatter when I return. He tells me to forget about home but to remember home, that it will always be here for me.
His friend will move in while I am gone. As a throwaway comment I tell Dom I don’t think I will be returning here. I start to pack up my things, discussing with Ariel where in the house they will be stored. I want to leave them in my room- his friends want to live in my room. Heated discussion. Ariel offers to store everything in his space. The day before I leave, Dom reminds me I said I wouldn’t be returning here- I stay up all night getting my stuff ready to be sent to my parents. I leave the furniture and a cupboard full of my precious things. I tell Ariel without further ado that I am not sure if or when I will come back. He is a little taken aback. Friends arrive in tears for goodbyes; I lose it when I have to say goodbye to Murph. Ariel stays in the wings. My dad, step mum and grandmother pack my things into a trailer while Kym packs my suitcase. (God bless that suitcase pack). I had thought for a minute Ariel wouldn’t be here for goodbyes- at the last minute he is there and gives me a gift. A Dream book, with a square blue incense burner.
He writes to me;
Dream Recollection: Living with Ange! 23/01/2009
It was like in the movies. I moved into Auburn Street with Angela Susan Flack and I was sure we gonna get married.. then one day we got evicted and find a house to raise ourselves and Murphy. Then some changes take place and we become friends and then roommates. The wedding never took place but some days it was almost like we did. Ups and Downs, debates and arguments but the love and good energies were always there. Then I realised that ange found a new passion called Czech Republic, and even a boyfriend. So I woke up and discovered it was life, bad and good, sad and happy. So I reckon I have a friend for life called Angela Susan Flack.
Insights, solutions and what my dream is telling me: it told me that I have a friend that I can talk or argue about everything and nothing! It tells me that she is growing up and doing a wonderful step toward Europe and the world. Its beautiful how life changes and its allways for the good!!! even the hard bits makes us better.
What I will learn from my dream: I hope Ange will have a great time and find what she wants and need. I will see her again just to see how she changed. Good luck Ange, may your wishes take place in life as in dreams. Ariel SicSic.
We hug. One of our long, comfortable hugs, with his hand on my hair. My family and friends are around and worrying I will miss the plane. He hovers in the wings. I want to talk more with him, but he gets on his bike, waves and rides off to work.
It is the last time I will see him.