Illuminated

I am in Sydney. I place some change, fifty- twenty- ten-cent pieces, in the requisite Tower of Hanoi form, in the drawer of the hotel bedside table.

I am a child sitting on the floor in my parents’ bedroom by myself and by Dad’s bedside drawers. I open his top drawer… his wallet is front left, behind that his stacked and ironed handkerchiefs, to the right of his wallet his very heavy, gold metal face-and-band Citizen watch. Two pairs of tubed socks are at the back. In the front right corner is a dodecagon stack of fifty-cent pieces. This memory repeats, different houses, different childhoods, his drawer always the same, no matter how many RAAF moves misplace other familiarities.

“I heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord,

But you don’t really care for music,

do ya?”

I am home, his home, from his funeral. I am thirty-two. It is a Catholic Church service in Stockton, where they live, where Mum was born, a small steel and coal workers town five minutes and a million miles across the rivermouth from Newcastle city. We bury him in the cemetery near the giant, ship-high, arched, concrete bridge that replaced the old town punt and which seems to glance askance from its landing at the Stockton turn-off, rushing past the exit with a bare side-eye. Dad is interred in the sand behind the dunes, a simple white cross, sand heaved over into temporary barrow long before stone formalities. I am sitting on the floor in his bedroom and I open the drawer to the familiar tableau, and I am comforted.

Everything is in its place.

I am in my hotel room in Sydney. I am forty-six. My book is inside the drawer next to my Tower of Hanoi. I am two days after my neuropsychological assessment. In John Elder Robison’s book “Look Me in The Eye” there is the following recalled memory:

“John Elder, we’re going to move back to Pennsylvania,” my father announced one day when he came home from school. I was more interested in the pile of silver dollars I had just discovered in his drawer.”

When I read this the empathetic vibrations rang through my body as I laughed like a loon. I am assessed as “autistic with high functioning”, formerly known as Asperger Syndrome. A pulse of light illuminates my now and runs both forward and back along my timeline’s finity.

I am sitting at a garden table in Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, at the entrance to the fernery. I am forty-six…

seventeen…

twenty-two…

fourteen…

thirty-five…

thirty…

…I am forty-six. The trees are human. I am under the geometric shade of a tree fern. There is a wasp on my leg, confused by my presence – I shouldn’t be here. It is quiet and noisy, wind and children’s voices. It is quiet and I can hear me. All is green, real. I am forty-six. If I was eleven and was made real again I would not be here. I do not know how this makes me feel, if you could swap a lifetime of might-have-beens for a life of now. Regret draws far too long a bow for that which it would sacrifice. I am real now. I am forty-six.

“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

It is morning. I fly. I am home. I am with my loved ones, dog and a man. I will prevail.

I am forty-six. I am forty-six. I am…

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