do you ever rub your eyes so hard, when youre totally exhausted, and everything goes dark and then you enter some other fucking galaxy of swirls and patterns
She saw him at the park once. He was the colour of dirt; with bird eyes and white, mapped palms. Her little forehead lined as she felt the bile force its way up until her saliva was acid. She counted her toes and bit the inside of her cheek, should she run? Are they fast runners? She figured this one must be if he kept himself out of jail. The dark man flashed a mouthful of pebbles and held out his hand- which would have swallowed hers.
‘Don’t touch me.’
Her hands were all knuckles and her baby eyes tore into his. He faltered and stepped away, a half mouthed sorry. He looked upset, a grin spread like fire between her dimples.
Suddenly she imagined force-feeding him barbed wire and then tearing it back out- the way a clown pulls coloured cloth from his sleeve. She imagined tying the left of his limbs to a heavy tree trunk and the right to a truck. Dragging and pulling until his joints sang high with dislocation and his arms snapped like twigs. The way she likes the crackle of dead leaves, she’d like the crackle of his bones shattering. They probably wouldn’t even feel it.
She’s at the dinner table with her honey fingers melting into each other, whispering grace in her thoughts. She is the little blonde girl with the curious eyes, always asking the questions without answers and soaking in every syllable. She’s praying for her myth of a Father, she’s wishing and aching he was more than just a name. More than just a four-lettered name she keeps hidden in the arching cave of her mouth, the recesses of her mind without so much as a face to match. Mick.
Her mother inhales cigarette smoke and exhales dirty words. Now she’s telling a story about her Auntie Lorna and a black man. She’s amplified every detail and she’s tattooing every word into Loretta, painting dark pictures in her head and showing them over and over until she’s branded with her mother’s stance. Loretta nods in turn;mother would never lie.
She goes to a catholic private school around the corner, past the mango trees and down the street. She rehearses her bible passages by heart and eats fruit roll ups by the handball courts. Some days she swaps her roll ups for Leah’s choc chip cookies; but today finds her on the coughing fringe of the oval, green vomiting over the bitumen and her red shoes breaking pattern . She’s digging her feet into the turf and her stomach is stitched with laughter. There’s a black boy no more than ten with grass kissing his back and soil beneath his fingernails. He is a heap of weakly flailing limbs on the ground and the rocks are starting to leave their prints on his skin. Purple souvenirs on chocolate arms and legs and beneath one marble eye. She knows the boys stoning him and she never liked them much before, but they’re best friends by August.
Sam says that a black boy stole his bike. She was visiting him one summer afternoon and they ate ice-cream by his pool and almost kissed before he told her. She asked him how he knew and he told her everyone knew. It’s just what they did- they stole stuff. She made note to watch her bag around the black boy at school. Then they had fish and chips for dinner and a seagull seized a chip from her palm and she guffawed so loudly they all vanished in a pale mass of feathers and sand-dust. She heard you could feed a seagull aspirin and it would explode- she wondered idly if the same would happen to black people. She felt sick thinking about a seagull blowing up, miniature organs about the place and red tipped feathers.
The bruised black boy sat two seats behind her one year. She’d hold her nose to stop the apocryphal smell as she tried instead to fill her lungs with the air that lingered under her shirt, at her chest. It was February and she was swathed in shades of pink and hand-drawn hearts. She was the pretty one with pouting candy lips and a willowy frame, receiving scrawled love notes and chocolate hearts. Her curlew, sugar, sugar-sweet voice rang in the black boy’s eardrums and like the rest, he found himself falling.
But she shred his love note to illegible pieces and let the wind steal them from her fingertips and take them to leaves and to ponds and to Miss Hannigans backyard. In that fistful moment of rejection she laughed, a flash of pebble teeth, and at the window his heart was torn too, and carried to places he didn’t exactly know. But it was far, and the contrast, her milk-honey skin to his bark-dirt skin, was now night and day.
She walked home with gap-toothed, wide-eyed Lucy. Oh, they were all giggles and they always were. ‘Wasn’t it just awfully disgusting- a black boy loving me.’ ‘Oh I hope it isn’t contagious!’ She left Loretta at the red gate with a bright promise of eight am.
Her Mother stood in the doorway with her features behind a curtain of smoke. Her face read oh god I need a drink, but instead she huffed, ‘I heard you crying last night.’
Loretta’s rubicund cheeks were hot with blood and she fidgeted.
‘I miss Dad.’
Her mothers face was hard and etched with lines,
‘You’ve never even seen him.’
‘But I want to.’
She felt the tears surge and she bit her cheek until the blood came.
‘You don’t know what you want. He’s a filthy pig.’ But she gave in.
Polaroids; Samantha took a Polaroid camera to school one day and Loretta decided she wanted to be a supermodel, her mother let three fall to Loretta’s covers and then she left. Left Loretta with the truth thirteen years late. For a moment she felt a sick, lost laugh shake her body- thinking her Mother was playing a cruel joke. And then it all made sense, in crippled ways.
The man in the photographs was the bird eyed, dirt man from the park. He was the man with the warmth and the pebble smile (their pebble smile) and then the hurt. She felt as though all her insides had been taken out and dumped somewhere far and she was an empty, delicate shell. Oh god this means- and it did mean, it really did. She was half monster, but she wasn’t, no, she wasn’t half monster she was all Loretta and she was all good. Then she remember the black boy, the boy with the white father, black mother and black skin. They were the same in too many ways, and so she sobbed and she cried damp patches onto her pillow for his hurt on the outside -fleshed grazes and coloured welts- and for his hurt inside. And she wished, she ached, she dreamed
she was born colour blind.