Cumin hanging from the air long after its meal is washed up. Catching the bus. Drinking fresh coffee so fast your chest stays warm—all of these, inarguable pleasures.
This flat has plain white walls. Decorating them is a breach of the lease. I’ve pulled the Blu Tack off but it’s left a dark residue in spots. Water trails down to the floor, and the marks won’t go.
The only window faces north-west, and on afternoons like this my brother’s home glows. Wind slips in over the cactuses and ferns. Feeling spun out feeling empty—feeling nothing at all—I’ll come here and watch the sun and shadows move over the street. Mark cooks. It isn’t always good.
Here’s something good: postcards from the art gallery. Our niece’s laugh, the navy tie on the collar of her school dress, and the honking call of ibises in the laneway off my street. Enough nail polish remover to loosen the adhesive on a 3M hook. Enough nail polish remover that it’s hard to breathe around it; the plastic hook comes away from the wall clean and easy.
I take down the photo my brother took in a Yuen Long street. Gaps of cerulean dusk between the buildings. Mark’s the funny one but he can’t take good photos either. Take that, I guess.
Having to neither run nor wait for the train. Wrinkles on books’ spines. Books packed neatly into a small box, and the box isn’t too heavy. He never talks about what he’s read, but the wrinkles are there anyway.
Words joining, unjoining to make new meanings. I heard this word, pneumothorax. I sit on the floor, I avoid the cold water pooling at the edges of the room. I’m rolling the word over in my mind, taking it apart into those which I understand, neutral words which have conspired in secret to create something ugly. Thorax, pneumo, the lung coming open, unasked, and his chest filling up with air,
No, crockery against cutlery when the waitress clears the next table. Hearing the Talking Heads on the radio. The Mountain Goats, the band. Drumming hard on a steering wheel in time with the good part of the song. Rain so heavy you have to turn the music all the way up. The flat when it’s completely silent.
Mountain goats, the animal.
My brother has this way of listening. He’s smarter than me, and anyone I know. He knows when I’m leaving something out.
And the smell of cumin—so much cumin your mouth turns numb and you’re saying, “Mark, could we have some fucking lamb with our cumin?” But Mark’s crazy for cumin. His friend introduced him to it when they were at uni. The food is already out, into my car, but the flat still smells of cumin.
Caroline Rannard is a writer and radio producer. Her work appeared in the 2020: Empty Sky Anthology from the University of Technology, Sydney, and in 2020 she won the Iceland Writers Retreat Writing Competition for her piece “Postmarked Reykjavík.”
image: Alan Tenhoeve