Girija Tropp ~ 3 Fictions

P1020811 (1)

HANGNAIL

My ex came for three weeks and his leav­ing is over­due so I am going to move but I plan to look out for him and may­be keep my name on this lease if our boys can­not find a ground floor with lots of light and walk­er acces­si­ble. His folks do hos­pi­tal vis­its, and call, and he is grate­ful for that but they do not have space for much else.

My ex can no longer eat gra­nola. His teeth have fal­l­en out. I am bemused by the dis­ap­pear­ance of our one-day lists. He had planned, in his old age, to go to India and have them pulled out. My father in law, a lib­er­al rab­bi, a Vietnam vet and a chemist, had done exact­ly that and claimed that the ear­ly inter­ven­tion made him hap­py and healthy. He was a cen­te­nar­i­an.

My ex vom­it­ed on the car­pet last week and I asked him to get onto coun­cil ser­vices since I know there is one avail­able. I do not wish to be a car­er even though my sis­ter believes it will be good for my finances; I already get a stu­dent allowance from cen­tre­link. When I fin­ish school I will be a pen­sion­er and will have to do repay­ments from my flour­ish­ing clin­i­cal prac­tice!

My ex tries to be charm­ing after he vom­its. I do not think yesterday’s brioche was the right thing. I believe in dis­ci­pline. I have had to. Like my sis­ter, he has had a charmed life until the can­cer. She was also gold­en human until her head on col­li­sion. But she rose from the ash­es and this I believe must be on our DNA.

The sun falls on my Acupuncture texts and makes my study joy­ous. I got this rental for the amount of sky it lets in through all the glass. I am not sure how things will go once I fin­ish since I am not keen on needles. At my last place­ment, I was with a man who used to be an orthopaedic sur­geon in China and my stom­ach churned when he stuck foot long needles into her groin. The client did not feel a thing, she said, but she cried a lot dur­ing the treat­ment and this, said the one-time sur­geon, was the trau­ma of her mar­riage com­ing out.

The phone is ring­ing and my ex says, The phone is ring­ing.

I know, I say, reluc­tant to break the flow of my study.

Its Soph, a class­mate. She is a con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist. I tell to relax since I am doing such a good job of it. We’ve got exams in two. As I talk to her I look at the kitchen around me. I used have flow from the liv­ing to din­ing with col­or and tex­ture and the plum-red expen­sive juicer my sis­ter gave me as cen­tre­piece of met­al on white–You must keep your nutri­tion up–but now pots and pans and oth­er every­day items pack onto every flat sur­face. Oh, those emp­ty pill pack­ets in my direct line of sight! I am hear­ing my ex snore. I used to be fond of that sofa he is sprawled upon but it no longer feels like mine. The high tech walk­er is parked next to feet that are lumi­nes­cent from oede­ma.

I have not been buy­ing flow­ers either, or steal­ing them from neigh­bours gar­dens, and that is good for my pock­et, though I have tak­en to hunt­ing the inner north east for treats; awe­some crois­sants at La Lune but I usu­al­ly get there there to a SOLD OUT BABES sign; pret­ty camisoles from Milly Sleeping, yoga week­ends in Anglesea.

I want to be like you, Soph says, I want to deal with life just like you… you are so good.

I am not sure I get that, I say.

So the rea­son I rang, she says, is that I do not under­stand why we would get more 2-butene than 1-butene.

I know which bit of our home­work she is refer­ring to. I tell her that it is because dehy­dra­tion of the alco­hol pref­er­ences sym­me­try just like in any attrac­tive rela­tion­ship. I meant it as a joke but it could be true.

On the oth­er side of the din­ing table are plas­tic bags of med­ica­tions. I am think­ing of find­ing a beau­ti­ful box to place them in and dur­ing the hol­i­days I will go to an op shop in St Kilda.

I lis­ten to Soph about stock­ings and hang­nails. She is Italian.

One thing I would nev­er have seen had I not had to endure this shift in per­spec­tive is that I mar­ried into a ven­er­a­ble East European Jewish fam­i­ly and that had I been able to tru­ly see that before I would have been a lot more gen­er­ous about my atti­tudes. My awak­en­ing plays my mem­o­ries over sets styled with heavy fur­ni­ture, solid drapes with a nod to the mod­ern, sober con­ver­sa­tions with a mim­ic­ry of lev­i­ty. Now that the veil of mar­ried life is gone all I see is a stranger on my peach col­ored sofa.

MY FATHER USED TO HIT ME IFGOT MULTIPLICATION TABLES WRONG BUT WAS OTHERWISEVERY KIND MAN

There is a lot not to like about mag­ic, and I go to my qigong class even though every mus­cle aches, and know­ing it will be good for me. The gale winds from the day before are trapped in my body. I wake after mid­night think­ing about the days before.

Knowing that I was on the hunt for new place, my ex’s broth­er in law dropped off a gad­get. It was to help me check the preva­lence of elec­tro­mag­net­ic radi­a­tion. He said, You are too kind to help him.

I won­dered if I was too kind and if that was a bad thing.

Our teacher has had a stroke that dis­fig­ured half his face but he is very strong from his inter­nal arts. One of the move­ments has a twist reach­ing high and turn­ing from the waist before drop­ping into a deep stretch. Since trou­ble came look­ing for me, I have felt the win­ter and I am prac­tic­ing with a woolen long sleeve top. Everyone else is in black cot­ton tees.

I feel a vol­canic heat ris­ing through my legs and think, There it is, there’s my qi, what a grat­i­fy­ing sur­prise.

After my exam tomor­row, there is only an online quizz to com­plete. I will have to learn up on acids and bases, about the blood, and nota­tions. I only realised the oth­er day that arousal comes out of the parasym­pa­thet­ic sys­tem. If only I had known I could have been a dif­fer­ent per­son.

The winds come up again. Emergency vehi­cles turn into my street and one parks out­side my house and red and green spray my room through the slats. I am so hun­gry since I had to rush all day, even though I sat for most of it. I refuse to get out of bed. I have this impres­sion of lik­ing tor­tillas and even though I enjoy them, I expect a dif­fer­ent taste. I keep falling into a light sleep, into mil­lions of dreams.

HERDS OF ELEPHANTS

A wed­ding pho­to of a friend is propped on a cute blue box that now stores keys that do not open any­thing. Our fam­i­lies used to swim in the ocean with dol­phins, in the days before this was pop­u­lar with hol­i­day mak­ers and on the wall are reminders, our babies in spe­cial­ly designed wet­suits, pro­fes­sion­al shots tak­en when we went on voy­ages with Greenpeace.

When my ex is more func­tion­al and able to leave pal­lia­tive care, and peo­ple come to help or inquire after him, the chap­lain from the City Mission, social work­ers, and then my boys bring­ing take out, close friends offer­ing what­ev­er, herds of ele­phants through my home, and when he lands in hos­pi­tal again for more radio­ther­a­py, and since it was the first week after my exams, I clean and tidy, even if I’m not a Princess of house­work, before sur­ren­der­ing to a col­laps­ing on the couch, to stare out the wide glass win­dow where my under­wear dries in a strong norther­ly wind like so much con­fet­ti.

I feel as I am recov­er­ing from a flu, and gath­er­ing resources. On Monday I went to the clin­ic of an acupunc­tur­ist who used to be an orthopaedic sur­geon, spe­cial­iz­ing in Chinese Medicine, an attend­ing physi­cian at many Olympic Games. His men­tor was a Taoist who had a pho­tograph tak­en with Hitler.

My local sis­ter texts to say that she has had a migraine dur­ing her vaca­tion. The one in the UK looks radi­ant ever since the two of them began speak­ing to each oth­er after a four-year hia­tus. It was a piece of cake, she says.

I hope you don’t ignore me now that you have her, I say.

As if we could!

Then she asks after my ex and I tell her that the mas­ter­ing of his song has been fin­ished and that he had done most of vocals, some­thing he had not expect­ed when rehears­ing with one of his stu­dents, and we have dis­cov­ered that he has an amaz­ing voice. One of his friends is build­ing a web­site for him and he joked that he will become famous after his death.

He does not look like you remem­ber, I say.

We are both silent after this.

Postal work­ers are on strike, she says final­ly. And I have not received any of my sup­ple­ments.

Our con­ver­sa­tion seems to be done so we hug and kiss over the ether.

~

Girija Tropp’s fic­tion has appeared in sev­er­al Best Australian Short Stories edi­tions. She has been pub­lished in The Boston Review, Agni, and var­i­ous oth­er jour­nals. She has also won or been short-list­ed for major awards. Most recent­ly, her flash fic­tion has appeared in New World Writing, and anthol­o­gised in Café Irreal and Smokelong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years. She lives in Australia.