I remember fear first
opening the letterbox and finding a huge spider inside.
later it ran up my arm and sat on my head in the backseat. I screamed. My father laughed and shooed it out of the car. I wouldn’t sit in the backseat for weeks. I hate spiders.
strange symbols on the bedroom walls and a man’s voice droning low in a language I couldn’t understand. Then a different bed, cool dry sheets, a bubbling kettle making steam to soothe my cough.
sharing chocolates with the boy behind me in the plane, he passed them through the gap between the seats. Orange-filled chocolate squares. We ate the whole box. Later he vomited. The smell forever linked with orange-cream chocolate.
the attic room in my grandma’s house with a pretty eiderdown, impression of silk and golden dragons, a magic plant on the windowsill whose leaves folded up as I stroked them.
a huge park, an empty nutshell, a squirrel’s neat paws on my white ankle sock.
fingers sinking into warm red squishy paint lined up in white buckets in the sun patch on the classroom floor.
icy sweet silky milk from crates, the concrete bunker shaded under trees, keeping it cold until playtime.
Lauren and Bob standing over me in class, arguing about what girls have down there. I lifted my skirt up, pulled my knickers out, show-and-tell. I showed. Lauren told. Mrs Dodds made me sit in the corridor. “If someone told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”
breathing deep enough for two as Mr Kelloway carried me on his shoulders into the pool where the water was over his head. I really believed that vital air could pass from my skin to his.
my brother and his best friend Greg, they were ten years older than me.
They told me cows were horses, and horses were cows.
They told me fleas lived in my hair and used my nose as a ski ramp.
They smeared Vegemite on my face and pinned me down while the dog licked it off.
They held me upside-down by the ankles and tickled until I wet myself.
They pegged my dolly to the washing line and shot her full of holes.
They made sparrows disappear from the garage roof (little puffs of feathers drifting on the wind).
They showed me a dead rat floating in an ice-cream container of its own blood.
They put me to bed after telling me monsters lived in the wardrobe but only came out if the doors were open; they left the doors open.
They closed the bedroom door slowly – “goodnight Kay, sleep tight” – while one crawled under my bed, then shook the frame and made ghost noises; the other investigated and said no-one was there.
They showed me how to climb the big tree.
They took me with them sliding on sheets of cardboard down the faces of the sand hills.
They taught me to punch like a boy.
cycling home with plants to make a terrarium for my mum in hospital. Flash of white car, black tyre. Lying on the road looking up at the silhouette of trees against the sky. Trying to sit up. Passing out from the pain.
reading my brother’s hidden pornography. Such riveting cartoons! Playing boyfriend and girlfriend with other girls, kissing squeezing humping throbbing. Boys weren’t as interesting back then.
I remember a feeling too big to name
my mother wracked with waves of pain, tears wetting my hand as she pressed it to her face, kissing my fingers when the worst had passed, whispering “thank you, thank you”. Don’t look at her grey short chemo hair, don’t look at her wasted body, don’t hate her.
Feel nothing, feel nothing, feel nothing.