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Walking next to a hole in the world

Sarah Widdup was a Write-ability Fellow in 2014. She was host and guest speaker at the Write-ability Salon (Nothing About Us, Without Us) at The Wheeler Centre in December 2015.

He was just going down the shops, for smokes or milk or something. Probably smokes, even though he was a baby in the scheme of things.

The day was bright and annoyingly warm, and he walked next to the hole like it wasn’t even there. Imagine having cause for metaphysical wonder hovering right by your shoulder all day and all night, and just not seeing the wonder in it anymore. Time will do that. It was a hole, but in the shape of a ‘someone’, a silhouette that had either been vacated, or was waiting to be filled.

Sometimes the suspense of which one it could be got to him, but usually he just wished it would go away. At night, the hole swept the bedsheets into a knot and sucked at the pillows. He never seemed to get much sleep. He got up in the morning and made his coffee on the opposite side to the hole, lest it should become a little whirlpool of face-splashes and stained shirts. As he passed through the streets, each tree bent to the vortex, each letterbox gave up its correspondence. They all leapt briefly toward the bruise-purple cyclone of stars that swirled next to him, springing back as he moved on to the next garden on the path. Flowerbeds shuddered, cats scarpered, small children were lost and butterflies flew backwards into the hole.

It was a normal day, even with all the loss. It was a normal day. “Oh for fuck’s sake.” He was used to it, but it was more annoying than usual that day he thought.

He’d never been able to jump into that mottled outline himself, never been able to direct it, and sometimes that was the most annoying thing of all. He kept walking though, because there was coffee to make and there were cigarettes to smoke. The shop was a normal shop, y’know, just like the one you go to, but probably much more nondescript and changeable, depending on the customer. When he walked in, it was full of milk and smokes, and he was glad. Purchases made, and made wordlessly, he exited the shop, the hole setting the tentacles of the plastic door screen to flapping, and started for home.

He was almost at his garden gate when he saw her. She walked with the same stoop, the same curled edges that he had when he tried to hide. Also, she walked next to a hole in the world too, but a hole that almost delighted in its solidity. Nothing was sucked into this hole, things just came out.

The things assaulted the girl, bashed her around the head, changing the hue and cut of her clothes, the colour of her hair, with each step she took. They altered her, made her voice change, her words change. She batted at them like a fly swat, but they infiltrated nonetheless. He could hear her talking before she’d even got close to him, and as each thing hit her, her voice changed. As she got closer again, he noticed she wasn’t talking; she was singing, the changes in key and tempo a conversation of sorts, wait, no, it was an argument. The wires from her brain to her mouth were open further than she could ever close, and she was wide-eyed with the fear that someone might hear her. The words didn’t match the fear – they were empty and the more she tried to fill them, the emptier they became. There was something odd about her head too, he noticed. It was slightly bigger than it should be, sort of cartoonish, but not so much that you could make it out if you weren’t staring and staring. The skin of her forehead seemed to shift too, like light over a bubble, barely perceptible but changing nonetheless. It was a head that had too many things in it by half, and it couldn’t seem to decide which things were right or good or helpful. That’s what he thought anyway; it could have been anything making her look so, well, mercurial.

All that observing happened within the space of a few steps, and then they faced each other, each one examining the rend in space that the other was traveling with. This kind of thing didn’t happen very often.

They stared and stared at each other, once the holes had been given a good look, and then something rather odd happened. The silhouette hole, the one that looked like people, and could have been one once or wasn’t yet, it stepped into the other hole, the one full of things. And then both holes were gone. Nothing happened really, except for a sudden freedom and breaking of bonds. She and he, they sort of did a little dance. Together.

They danced together for a while, ignoring the bits they found annoying about each other, suddenly very obvious now the holes were gone. There was a funny connection that meant they couldn’t see the bad bits, and the dance, while slow, was true and meant something. Neither had been connected before, neither had been able to choose, and they were hesitant, dizzy, bubbling in the heart. It was a miracle, but they started to get used to it almost immediately.

It was when they’d almost become comfortable that the person-shaped hole returned, stepping back out from the hole of expelled things as it reappeared too, and new bonds were broken to reconnect old ones. As the girl’s returned, it snapped to her side so forcefully that she couldn’t stay in place. She was flung back to where she’d started, all progress lost. Back to days best forgotten, back to the start of the road.

The ‘he’, well he went home and made a coffee and smoked a cigarette.

This was what love felt like then.

About Sarah Widdup

Sarah Widdup was a Write-ability Fellow in 2014. She was host and guest speaker at the Write-ability Salon (Nothing About Us, Without Us) at The Wheeler Centre in December 2015.

This commission is supported by the City of Melbourne 2015 Arts Grants Program.

Write-ability is a partnership between Writers Victoria and Arts Access Victoria.

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