“You think of everything my dear,” Frances said, an I noticed red abrasions on the skin at the base of her fingernails, “but you do not think of me”. The room was getting dark, I was tired an nervy, she was getting anaemia; bad diet, working too hard, not enough sleep, you know, burning the canle, drinking stuff, no time to sleep it off. So, “Parsely” I said, an said it again, “Parsely is the one thing, the best thing, remedy, whatever for anaemia”, but I knew the problem was bigger than that. I was lucky, of course, I wasn’t working, I had a little money to live off, I wasn’t saving anything but I had food an sleep so I was on a pretty good wicket. With her it was more complex, she was no lawyer but she was working hard in a Government job authorising pension cheques, worker’s compensation, hanging on the phone all day, you know, punching a keyboard, drinking a lot of coffee trying to make it all stick together. I was uneasy, hesitant, whether to mention her job, bring it up in conversation, cos with Frances half the time it was: “how is it we always talk about you, aren’t you interested in what I do, what’s the matter, is it too mundane for you to make the effort?” an the other half the time it was: “listen, I don’t want to talk about it, I have it all day up to here” an she jabs a finger to her neck “an I just want to forget, I really just want to forget it right now”.
So the room is getting darker, it’s very still, there’s a little light creeping in from somewhere which has made a sort of fringe a halo on the yellow hair around her face. But she looks tired. “I know about parsely, I know all about that, you don’t need to tell me, I eat it already – I put it in my food” (what food I thought, you don’t eat, just scraps, picking at scraps, not eating a who;e range of different types of food in a proper way) “I mash the damn stuff up and put it in drinks, mix it up, drink it, tastes lousy. I really don’t think parsely is such a miracle, you know, I’m still sick, I still feel weak”. She wanted the money, this was the problem, she wanted the money to travel so she worked herself harder than necessary, did overtime, complained, then worked harder. I would come to her place at six or seven, It;s getting dark by then – she’s still not home, it’s getting dark inside her house, her doors an windows are all shut up, so I sit on the front verandah, which is just planks of wood all falling apart wait for her to come home. On that verandah are the remains, streamers, decorations, the remains of parties that have come and gone, and no-one bothered, well Frances never bothered, to clean up properly after them. So consequently you’ve got fragments of yellow an red an green streamersclinging to the wall an posts with dusty pieces of sellotape. Even balloons, broken balloons, purple an orange, the fragments of these are hanging everywhere on dirty little bits of string. Of course when the sea breeze comes in they all flutter. An if the sea breeze is strong then all the junk mail that is spilling out of her broken mailbox, that is lying all strewn around her front yard (it’s almost too small to be called that) well all this stuff starts to blow around and her window frame starts banging away, banging away. Which is all spooky if I’m sitting there, it’s getting dark, she’s late, an I seem to have been here for damn hours. Sometimes, by the time I hear the bus, see her get out of the 703 at the end of the street underneath the flame trees, I’m just about ready to give up, go, shoot through. Hell, one time I had finally decided to call it quits an leave when, yes, the 703 rumbled to a halt in front of me. An out pours Frances. At this time of evening she’s worked herself into a state, cos all through the afternoon, what with the paperwork, coffee, piles of pension cheques, the arseholes she works with, an god knows what, especially the two bus rides home from the city, her whole body is trembling, shot through with tension like a steel trap, it builds an builds, until when the 703 turns the corneran completes its’ final leg, well she’s virtually exploding into teardrops. Sometimes she does – I’ve seen it.
She doesn’t want to be touched now, not by my fingers, if I touch her now she hisses an hardens her muscles an seems to arch her back like a cornered cat. She goes steely, her frame contracts. Later, maybe later in the evening, I’ll touch her, kiss her and she’ll warm to me, I’ll be able to reassure an comfort her about whatever, tell her it’s going to be OK, that’s after a few drinks of course, quite a few. But for now she just eyes me coldly sitting on her front verandah for the 10,000th time, says nothing, scowls, hauls the keys out of her bag, unlocks the screen door, clumping up the darkened hallway, she’s flattened out against the wall so as to be as far away from me as possible, shrinking from me like I stink. Of course this hurts, I’m no different from anyone, it aches, makes even me angry but what can I do? Wait. As the evening moves along everything loosens up. Red wine from a flagon, a little at first, she pours herself smoothly two, three, I watch, read a magazine, Frances lights cigarettes, she pours me a drink, maybe red wine; maybe stands at the sink with her back to me, cuts up a lemon, gets out the ice, she makes us something with vodka in it. The room fills up with her smoke. Then, if she’ll eat it, even a bit of it, I’ll make her some food. Even if she just picks like a damn bird, I’ll make up something, nothing fancy; boiled rice, a tin of tuna, a tin of sweetcorn. She usually likes at least a small serveing of that. Then I feel like I’m doing something good at last. But it’s difficult. Every evening the air in the room starts off cold, hard. I’m not too good at breaking it up, warming it, relaxing her. She’s still not saying much about the day that’s just passed, only: “you broke my cup, my old one, the red one from my aunt. So, are you going to fix it?” I say: “It’s no use, I don’t think I can mend that, the pieces are too small. You see here” I point,”the rim is all in little chips, I can’t put all those tiny fragments back together on the rim with glue”. “Oh, swell, really wonder-ful”. Sarcasm does not become her. I pour more red wine from the flagon, Frances mutters the word “useless” very very quietly, almost so I can’t hear, but I know she really wants me to hear.