They are naked, shimmering wet, clothes disbanded at will in the unsullied water. Their nipples crackle in the sun. Shoulders gleam like red beacons. On backs and bottoms, they skate down sloping rocks, skin protected by green algae gloss. They skim across the pools with an easy rhythm, like pebbles tossed by a talented arm.
They are called the Glorious Fairies.The Fairies of Glorious. They materialise from between the branches, greenery knitted into hair, clumped in places, dirt finely upon their cheeks like dustings of powder. By now they know their way and bear no scratches or clumsy cuts. They can smell the proximity of a trunk, its bark moist and peeling, and sense protruding roots ready to trip up their hurried feet. They scale rocks and sideways terrain like it is horizontal ground.
They move nimbly, as fairies should.
But they are not fairies at all, just plain folk travelled up from the Brisbane Valley, dwarfed suddenly by the soaring gums, emboldened by the quiet and the clear, crisp air.
I’ve seen some strap it to their backs, others lift it above their heads as they walk. I carry mine under my left arm. It slides in neatly there and I can make full use of my right hand, while still gripping the chair firmly with the left, ready to plant it down and push out the seat at any moment. I am beginning my second lap of the park when I spy across the oval a man, middle-aged with bare chest and rounded stomach, lower steadily into a squat. I release the chair and sit. I am as nimble as those who have been practising for years, though I only obtained my first flip-fold in the last few months. The man is jutting out his bottom, less rounded than his stomach, and hovering his arms out in front of him for balance. I am in a prime position. I raise my binoculars, which are hanging around my neck. I focus on the face. He has only a thin lashing of hair across his head and no scar on his left cheekbone. I lower the binoculars. He is not who I am looking for.
She stretches out on the grass and squints into the sun, detects in the glowing white the wears and times of the past week. Sheets and flattened pillow cases waft above her head like sails on a gently swaying ocean. She rides the quiet waves, lulls herself into a rhythm of slow and easy breaths. This is where her dreams take flight from the night and present themselves squarely before the sun, requesting a new day. Crumpled and tossed too many times left, turned too many times right, now they are fresh and new and – really, could it be? – possible again. Crisp and lavender-smelling possible. She allows another minute, for herself really, and stands to remove the sheets while they are warm but still soft, before they are made harsh in the midday sun. She unclasps each peg carefully and lifts it wide from the wire so as not to upset a single one of the 500 threads.
I must be beautiful up here. I have scourged my way through a day, so abominable, leaving me breathless, to get here. I have hoisted my skirt in the most provincial manner, raised one leg like an errant dog on the footpath and heaved – yes, audibly – my belly and thighs – now scraped and stinging – to get here. But still, I must be beautiful. I brace myself against the trunk, so thick I need not worry about my balance. Up here I am a nymph. I lift my eyes to the sky – the patches that shimmer through the leaves, some so lit with sun they are glowing, almost translucent. Afternoon light, rich and mellow, melts into my skin. I am butterscotch sap. I trace the bark as I move my arms up and down as if with wings, not looking with my eyes but searching what is both earthly and divine. I feel as solid as a tree, this tree, and I could press my back just a little harder and if you came looking for me I would be obscured entirely, camouflaged. I would be foliage and roots, dirt under my nails. I do not know how to get down, but I suspect now it is too late anyway. If I jump, the ground will erupt. I will have to stay here, where I am beautiful, forever.
I lean into the railing and shut my eyes for a moment. It is so hot and bodies are so close. In the middle of summer, even at night, even in air conditioning, we are warm and filthysticky. We should be dancing – the starpeople (they call themselves) are dancing, even with guitar in hand, vibrating tambourine a shimmering extension of the arm – but we stand stock still, perhaps because we are near faint, but more because we are mesmerised by the pulsing, neon, positively garish and wonderful vision on stage. We want to scream fabulous! fabulous! as though we’ve never had a use for the word until now. Balloons, large and spherical, descend suddenly from the ceiling. Strips and bits of coloured foil erupt over our heads, the shrapnel of a war fought between brilliance and panache. In all the zeal I am suddenly not so hot, just excited and now dancing. Dancing for the next ridiculous twenty minutes as the starpeople morph from costume to costume, exchanging fluoro feather boas for leis, swapping alfoil headdresses for pipecleaner antennas or rainbow propeller caps. And then a change of tone. A solo man in a plain t-shirt sits in front of his piano, is lit only by a funnel of soft blue light. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid. His voice cracks. It is the perfect fracture, an opening. The tears come. The goosebumps. Intensely, I am alive.
It was a little overcast, a little windy, and we figured, well she did – I didn’t wanna go at first – that the crowd wouldn’t be so big. She convinced me though, pinched my ear and whispered about open lines and endless bouts on the whoop-de-doos. Turns out she was right. We mighta had VIP tickets. I mighta been Johnny Depp, and my girl, she mighta been Marilyn Monroe. Except we did see Monroe there, for real, all in her white dress with the flappin skirt, the one that blows like it ain’t got nothin to hide. It was breezy, like I said. And in the afternoon, the sun came out real bright and beamin, and it was like we’d won the lottery and started a whole nother life, one where I mighta been a cowboy or a cop with a car to rocket through the air, and even when bad things happen, like this log that fell in our path and damn near cut our boat in half, it all works out in the end. There’s applause and giant cups of fizz, giant straws that wind their way to your mouth and fill it with sweetness. It was a real good day, a real good time just like in the movies.
Find out more about this Hello Sunday ramble.
We watched on the television as though it were happening thousands of kilometres from us, perhaps overseas somewhere and not a ten-minute drive down the road. The winding body of water was rushing forth, swelling, bloating like a belly, so wide that its arms were forced to the sides, out over the banks where it emptied its mammoth handfuls of slosh and mud into the city and the streets of so many humble homes. We clamoured around the computer screen as images flooded the net, scenes that we could not touch or taste or smell, but knew were so very close. We were in shock. How could our usually-placid, if not a little boring, brown river perform with such vehemence? Days later when the voices on the radio gave us the all clear we marched out early to join those who had in fact touched and tasted and smelled those scenes we had witnessed. There was nothing we could do to understand, but we smiled benignly and they greeted us tiredly but warmly, their spirit more impressive than the surging river. We held hands then, all of us in a crooked line, and stepped towards the wreckages, ready to cart it away.