petite mort In this issueLa Premiére No.1 2003
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I

   Ronald Henderson and I made love, if you could call it that, in a bedroom of a house where a small party that had been taking place earlier in the evening and had recently come to an end. Certainly it was no abrupt ending but rather a prolonged one. Sometime after midnight the first of the cars had driven off into the damp night sweeping the snails on the windscreen aside while reversing out of the makeshift parking places on the grass. Those on foot had stumbled their way to the footpath choosing their destinations with a disorientated decision to continue down towards the bay up the hill and down again to the next. Inside those with no set destinations, or intentions for that matter, shook beer cans hoping for the slosh of liquid within.

   I had arrived far too late, but rather filled up with gin, to take part in the “party” aspect of evening. Yet not late enough for the opportunity to take Ronald’s hand and follow the carpeted s stairs to a room with a big double bed. It was probably not a double but more likely a queen. Having only experienced the limited dimensions of a single bed or the vast unknown expanse of my parent’s bed I wasn't’t certain of the exact titles of those that fell in-between. The bed in my parent’s room seemed so vast reaching almost wall to wall of their already large “master” bedroom. After school I would spend hours rolling around on it propping my feet on a nearby wall or sloped over the headboard while using the telephone extension in their room. Apart from theirs I really didn’t have much experience with beds made for sharing. The room that Ronald had somehow secured for the purpose of our much anticipated yet unspoken lovemaking plans could have been someone’s parent’s room but I was fairly sure it was more likely someone’s absent brother’s room.

   The house was kept dark mostly because the party was over. Darkness serves as some sort of simple Morse code for these suburban parties. Finding an unlit house when you turn up the driveway of your destination means the parties over. There’s no point in even knocking on a sliding door leading to the garden littered with cigarette butts and beer bottles by then. Its better to just head back down the driveway to the empty streets. The house was so dark, by the time I had arrived, that as we made our way to the bedroom we were occasionally startled by the movements of a body repositioning itself on a couch or armchair a few feet away. We stumbled into various kids trying to sleep on makeshift beds on the floor. The beds were not really beds of any sort but rather spots on the carpet where simply a rolled up sweatshirt became a pillow and the clothing you had on was sufficient coverage in terms of blankets. There was even someone who appeared to have dragged a tablecloth from the table he lying under and employed it as a sheet which he had neatly tucked himself into. Others had positioned themselves in hallways, unable in their near paralytic states of drunkenness, to make it to a more suitable room or surface. They were kids. Kids who after an evening of playing the adults could no longer keep up the facade and just needed to sleep. They even sounded like kids. As we passed through the living room and hallways where they writhed in their alcohol and fatigue induced slumber they would let out exhausted sighs or squeak awake for a second. Then huddling back into fetal position clutching an invisible teddy bear. It was like passing through a nursery of teenagers.

We left the bathroom in the same darkness we had entered it only the monotonous drone of the ceiling fan following us back to the bedroom."

   The near dark room we arrived at was only lit by a dim lamp whose slightly dusty shade blocked out so much light that it only illuminated barely enough of the room to create a circle of light onto the bedside table and bed. It was an elaborate lamp with faded mustard fabric gathered over the shade and glass cut into teardrop shapes along the base like a chandelier. It didn't’t seem to belong in the room. It looked like a lamp borrowed or discarded from the living room and never returned or disposed of. It was the only ornate object in the room of simple furniture and bare surfaces. Despite the lack of light I could still make out a big dark brown duvet covering the bed. The pillowcases were also in a brown which matched the duvet. The bed looked like a freshly tilled vegetable garden. It was a big bed of smooth dirt. Someone had carefully smoothed out every wrinkle. Just like a shovel patting down the dirt the bed appeared to have been prepared with a certain calculated care. At first we just sat on the brown duvet sending out ripples in the surface as our bodies hit. Boys like brown. There’s something very masculine about the color without being a dead giveaway. If baby boys could talk they would probably ask to be dressed in brown instead of blue.

   Ronald and I splashed around in the shower in the en suite bathroom knocking over the caddy of cheap 2 in 1 shampoos and deodorant soaps. We soaked the bath mat with our dripping bodies. We had eventually dropped down onto the same mat mid drying off desperate for any moderately soft horizontal surface. We left the bathroom in the same darkness we had entered it only the monotonous drone of the ceiling fan following us back to the bedroom. I soon lost my virginity amongst the folds of the dirt brown duvet. We were both skinny, completely naked and scrubbed clean from the shower. I kept thinking about how we would look like two children fucking if anyone were to find us. We sort of were in some ways. We slept together shivering in the damp, dark bed. Our wet uncombed hair dried sticking to our faces and necks by morning.

   The next day I went to try outs for the surf club. While we waited in the clubhouse my best friend questioned me about how I felt now. It was then I realized that I didn't’t feel anything. I didn’t feel changed in any special way as I had assumed you would. I didn’t feel more mature less like a girl. In fact I felt younger now sitting in a row with the other chattering girls. We were all wearing our red one-piece swimsuits and our hair tucked into swimming caps while we swung and flailed our arms and legs around both nervous and excited. Waiting to enter the sea while our names were called out in ten-minute intervals. For someone my age I could quite easily have felt dirty or guilty but I didn’t. I felt a huge hollow space where that new emotion was meant to have taken its place. It wasn’t the kind of vacancy you have because you’re heartless and don’t give a damn about what you experience. It was a hollow cave like space one could search top to bottom and still find nothing. It was just a space. Blank and waiting to be filled not accepting any old emotion wanting to find it’s home. I liked Ronald Henderson just as much as I’d liked him before, which was a lot.
©2003 Ama Saru & petiteMort.org

II

   Vincent’s parents would always go away to the beach for the weekend. From December to February they shunned the city despite their good fortune to have the relief of sea breeze from the harbor their house overlooked. Despite the escape of the swimming pool on the deck and the perpetual coolness of the rock garden at the side of their house. We were supposed to be supervised by the live in housekeeper and Vincent’s former nanny, Beth. She was very old and a little deaf. Her eyes were also starting to fail her and she was known to act a little erratic at times. When your young its called moody when your old its erratic. As she was officially off duty on the weekends, most of the time she stayed in her room watching television. Sometimes we saw her tidying up after herself in the kitchen. Pushing crumbs slowly across the counter top from the sponge into her cupped hand at the edge. She made the endless rounds of tea and toast that she always ate in the kitchen. She would turn on the television in the kitchen so she didn’t miss anything that she’d been watching in her room. Vincent said she had never eaten any meals with them in the dining room despite his parent’s protests against her staying in the kitchen to eat. I thought Vincent’s family were generous to have kept her on the payroll as well as in their home for so many years. Vincent told me that Beth served as a sort of beacon in his parent’s lives. She didn’t really clean the house anymore someone else came in to do that. There hadn’t been any new babies for her to look after since Vincent. Mainly she stayed around the kitchen. The more time I was there I started to think that she might have been somewhat afraid of the rest of the house. Every few days she’d go out to the grocery store to buy some beans or other small supplies for the soup. Once a week she’d drag out a huge pot and spend almost the whole day on a little stepladder over the stovetop stirring. It was all for a complicated bean soup that she’d been making for years. Vincent’s father never ceased to compliment her on so she just kept making it year after year.

“Although we had met each other when riotously drunk we had stopped all that almost immediately. There was no redemption factor in our change in behavior. It was more of a desirable necessity to always be in a completely realistic and coherent state around each other.”

   I would stay all weekend with Vincent. Straight from school on Friday until late Sunday night when Vincent’s father would drive me home in the Mercedes. He would always ask me which car I wanted to drive home in and I always picked the Mercedes. It made him laugh every time I pointed to it in the huge four car garage. Yet every week he’d still ask me the same question. I can’t remember how honest I was to my parent’s about the supervision at Vincent’s house. They weren’t very strict and didn’t need to be anyway. They probably would have let me stay had I told them what the set up was two teenagers in a parentally deserted house with a somewhat hard of hearing, television addict with poor sight was looking after us.

   At night we would go to see a film as late as possible. Although we had met each other when riotously drunk we had stopped all that almost immediately. There was no redemption factor in our change in behavior. It was more of a desirable necessity to always be in a completely realistic and coherent state around each other. After the film we would walk home even though it was at least an hour walk and much of it uphill to his house on the side of the cliff. Although we never discussed it we always chose theaters that were a fair distance away. We liked to make ourselves very tired. When we got back to his house we would take turns having a shower. While one was in the stall the other would sit on the toilet seat and watch the outline of the other’s body through the frosted glass. We would talk to the outline or flip through magazines while the pages started to turn at the edges and ripple from the steam. We liked to talk a lot. We were like really old friends who seem to never run out of things to say yet don’t really have anything new to say to each other. One night we talked for two hours about Johnny Depp and Wynona Ryder’s engagement after I had read aloud to Vincent a particularly poignant article on it from the toilet seat. In our clean jeans and t-shirts we would sit in the living room, sunken away from the kitchen by two graceful movie star steps, and watch the last of the evenings television. It was usually something naf like the end of some dated American movie but we would find something to the point out or some scenario to fixate on. We would both have towels wrapped around turban style on our heads and we liked to sit cross leg on the couch. We would talk with silly accents during the ads that we thought sounded Indian. We called each other Mr. and Mrs. Patel of Bombay. Sometimes Beth would come out of her room followed by a ray of TV light. Her body was so frail and dehydrated looking with a mass of curly white hair on top that we used to say it was like an aged E.T. emerging from the light. She would make us cinnamon and sugar on toast and milk tea. Unlike most older people her body did not now dictate the regressive resting hours of small children. Like a teenager she loved to stay up as late as she could and sleep in equally late.

   Vincent’s house was very beautiful and modern. The kind of modern then which is no longer modern now. I was sort of disgusted and in awe of the white carpet, modular furniture, conceptual sculpture, and European appliances. His house was always being shot for interior or lifestyle magazines. They even shot Beth’s room which was equally as minimal as the rest of the house. She had absolutely no interest in the usual decorating inclinations of a woman her age and there were no displays of items of sentimental value. She was the only non-Asian old lady I ever saw sleeping on a tatami bed. Vincent’s room was white from ceiling to floor which was hell to maintain for a seventeen year old. When the magazine editors would come over they would ask him to leave out his skateboard and some other emblem of youth while any other sign of human existence in the rest of the house was concealed.

   When we were so tired that our eyes were bloodshot and our Indian yogi posture finally slumped into the sofa we would head to that room. Perhaps more than anything the most important thing about Vincent and I was complete lack of awkwardness -predictable without the dullness of familiarity. Vincent would lie back on his bed and I would climb on top of him with the towel still wrapped around my hair. We would stay right on top of the sheets never getting inside. Sometimes staying uncovered until the morning chilled us. Soon after I had found my place on him the towel would fall forward onto his face followed by the long dark strands of my hair. X


 


Catherine Dueck is a very talented New Zealand born writer. Expect to see more contributions from Catherine in the coming issues of petitmort.


Ama Saru is a among other things a wonderful photographer and jewelry designer. Her work can be seen in story 3 and on her website Heraldine.com