I guess this falls into the category of Tales from Before the Crypt. But it is something else altogether. There is a part of the story where I am working as a nurse. Awkward is my favourite type of humour. I hope you enjoy.
- The Egg Party
by The Egg Party
Before starting, I must say that I am well aware that there is no excuse for my behaviour.
I have no computer. No furniture. No real entertainment of any sort. I returned from an overseas trip spanning eighteen months and I am still disorganised. I am working off debt. Enjoyment takes a back seat to my creditors who can take my knees or my bike. I need both.
I had been living between three locations in the prior months before moving in with H. When settled in the place, we lived in an apathetic symbiosis. Having just the two of us, boy and girl, made for tense bickering.
Really though who fucking mops once a week. Am I right?
It did not work in the long run. We were a couple who argued but had no make up sex to rely on. No sex of any kind for that matter. Just drafts upon drafts of rotas.
Today after H went to work I go into her her room and use her double sized desktop Mac. With this luxurious screen I stared at high definition bodies and whittle away my boredom. I had to do something with my temporary lack of imagination; I would channel this energy into my desperate erection. I reach the point where I have to clean up my mess. I use a trusty sock to contain the disaster.
Later I arrived home after my shift at the Rochester Castle to an apartment filled with strange emotion. I had worked with my background spider sense tingling. Had I left the iron on inside the oven? H is sitting in the lounge. It is darker than usual and the scene is an obvious attempt at creating bleak foreshadowing. She is on the couch and she has a sock in her hand. The sock. The implications of her sitting, waiting, with that damp sock comes as a shock.
'Is this yours?'
I heft my bag on the table and know that no excuse is required. There are no avenues of escape.
'Yes. Shit. Yes'
'Well fuck dude. That's disgusting. I know you don't have a computer but Jesus Christ'.
'You should probably put the sock down. It still looks damp'.
The shock then hits her and she flings the sock at my chest. I catch it and I have my sock back.
As her face twists into various states of revulsion and rage, she explains the principle of the Personal Space Bubble. I have my eyes downcast. If I were older I could have been bolder. But shame and guilt are such strange bedfellows and it takes time learning how to tell them both to get fucked. I start falling into a spiral of shame and my body reacts. My gut clenches. My bowels rumble. A nervous tremor starts in my hands. I stand, stammering, as my mind slips it's shy turtle head back into the recesses of memory. Memory of awkward. I decide to treat the crisis like a mosquito bite, itch till it disappears. No. Strike that. I'll treat it like a wound. A sure fire way to reduce the pain is to distract yourself with different pain.
My face looks back at me from a mirror in the cabin. I am fourteen and on our yearly school camp. I lean closer to look at my eyebrows. What is left of them. Above the thin line of my eyebrows are buds of hair regrowth. My brows are growing up in slow surprise.
John Howard is the current Prime Minister. As a child of a left leaning family there was little love for this little man. Mum still dreams of Paul Keating and his dry wit. I remember meeting John at the Botanical Gardens. We were on a picnic with family friends. Erasmus, a ratbag son of the friends, saw him through a fence and he shouted John down till he came to the fence and shook his hand. Kowtowing to this scabby scamp solidified my hate for the most senior minister.
I went home that day and locked myself in the bathroom. This would be my form of silent protest. I did not want my eyebrows to resemble John Howard's hairy caterpillars. I shaved my brows thin and serious.
Now, two weeks later and I have forgotten about the planned school camp. I have made a huge mistake. I walk out of the bathroom the camp after realising I am looking like a bit of a maniac. I pull down the cap on my head. My first girlfriend who I was dating at the time is Yagmur. She is a Turkish girl my friends generously called Hairy Mario on account of her hairy arms. She is standing out front of my cabin and she sees me studying the floor as I shuffle by.
She stops me and after brief awkward conversation she gestures at my face with one of her hairy clubs.
'What is going on with your eyebrows?'
'I think they are growing. I am becoming a man'. I retreat to the bathroom again to consider my budding manhood. I repeat to my depressed reflection my wish for a razor.
Hmm. Too distant a memory. I don't feel this wound any more. I need something more relevant, more applicable to my current situation. What is my most awkward moment? I know the winner. Saved for good reason. I slip back into my tepid mental bath.
I age seven years. I am studying nursing and I am doing unpaid placement at the Box Hill Hospital.
It is the afternoon of my first day. I saw a doctor poke an anaesthetising syringe into various places of a badly gangrenous leg in the morning. I fainted onto the patient. Straight into the gangrenous leg to be specific. After I left the emergency department due to the fainting protocol and I went back to my ward. Upon entering the same room as the collapse-ee, the old suffering Italian man would hold out his arms in support in case I had another bout of syncope. Ugh god.
I am eating my lunch in the food court of the shopping centre. I don't need the extra ribbing from my peers in the break room. The decorum was unusual; all mirrors and grubby looking tiles. Caesar stone I think. It gave the appearance of an art deco cinema that has been turned inside out and has had its skin peeled off. I bought a bright orange lump of Chinese food and sat somewhere with haste.
I had a phone call to make and a meal to finish before I had to get back to the hospital. The message preceding the call was simple. It was from my friend Amelia,
TEXT ME. I WILL CALL YOU BACK. I AM OVERSEAS SO IT WILL COST YOU A BUNDLE. IT IS ABOUT ZOYA XOX.
Zoya was my ex and I thought she was out of my life. I needed to know what this nonsense was about,
ON BREAK. GIVE ME A CALL WHEN YOU CAN IN THE NEXT HOUR.
As I wait for her to call I get to reminiscing. We started seeing each other during my first attempt at failing university education. I knew her from high school. She used to bully me around the time I was thirteen. Followed me home and such. Used words to weaken me. Similar to a young boy expressing his love for a girl by throwing a rock at her head.
Got to talking and it turned out we had loads to discuss. We shared ideas and so forth. She was past the rock throwing phase which was nice. I was seeing a girl at the time. Chloe. Chloe was working in child care and her profession tended to flavour the rest of her personality. She was lovely and soft. Real caring and put up with my bullshit. I was not immediately attracted to Zoya but it was a long game she was playing.
Zoya and Chloe met at a sports game I was involved with. They both came to watch. A few days after I spoke with Zoya and she recounted her conversations with Chloe. One line, perhaps intentionally, stood out. Zoya told me one of Chloe's ideas about our relationship.
'I really like him. I do. I just wonder when he wants to have kids'.
Jesus I was a baby myself. I was eighteen. So I broke it off. I never confirmed her statement, I trusted Zoya's word. She might never have said it and it was fabricated by Zoya to sway me towards the other women. I am a gullible man. Whatever the case I left Chloe and eventually started dating Zoya. We were together for around three years. For better or for much much worse. My phone started to ring with the theme music from Law and Order. Another clue relating to the current crisis.
'Hey, how's Box Hill treating you?'
'Same, same, different. How are you?'
'Reclining on a beach. Guess where I am'.
'Well that wasn't a guess. Who told you?'
'The grapevine. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Who cares. Give me details lady'.
'Oh yeah well it is strange'.
Amelia was in Hawaii for Zoya's wedding. I love to hear that an old flame's getting married. You know, they settle down, somewhere far far away from me. Her fiance was an American so they found a middle location for the wedding between two families in Hawaii.
'Well she isn't here. I am just sipping cocktails on the beach sans wedding'
'What? So Zoya isn't married? Or getting married?'
'No it's a bit of a scandal'. She paused but I had nothing to interject. I needed to know as soon as possible. 'She was abandoned at the airport. Her fiance got a call from his family in the States when they were at the airport, just before their departure. The family said that Zoya was crazy and if he married her then he would be expelled from the family. Completely disowned. No calls, no communication, no inheritance. Tough spot to be put in. So he flipped out and left the airport to think over his life choices. He gets onto a plane to Boston, him being a born in Massachusetts. Zoya was alone at the airport and I guess she decided she wouldn't go alone. So most of the friends and family are here but the couple is absent.
During our three year relationship Zoya developed an anxiety disorder which was eventually updated as schizophrenia. Her mental illness was finally diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. At this stage she took our savings from the joint bank account and fled to Europe. I hadn't seen her in years but I had heard she was stable. Apparently the fiance's family though not.
'Holy shit. I cannot fucking believe that. That is crazy. I feel terrible for Zoya, no one deserves that. Terrible fucking timing on the families behalf. Maybe tell the guy this a week or two before the wedding as opposed to the day of the flight'. I was getting loud and animated as is my way. I felt the eyes of others in the food court being drawn to me making a mild scene. I was repeating my surprise in different ways over and over again on the phone. It was largely nonsense.
'Yeah well I don't really know what to do with myself now'.
'Whaddaya mean? You're in Hawaii for Christ's sake. Go drink a cocktail on a surfboard in a volcano or something. Anyway this call is as expensive as dicks for you. I am going back to work so you enjoy the beach. But seriously, I cannot fucking believe that'.
'Mmm Hmm. Speak soon dude. Aloha'
I sat muttering for a few moments before glancing at my watch and getting up to leave. As I stand, I turn and lock eyes with the diner sitting behind me. It is Zoya's old man. In front of him with her back to me is Zoya. His head slowly shakes at me left and right as I back away. His tired eyes were sliding down his face in successive bags. They both heard all my exclamations about her current crisis. Fight or flight response. Her father did not blink. Neither did I. I ran. I hot-footed my way out of there and headed back to the hospital. For the rest of the day I did a terrible job of pretending to work.
Yes. That is fresher. The feelings of the present and the past and my future potential combine and radiate through my being. Awkward is familiar to me.
I look around, coming out of my shell, and realise I am alone in the living room. Angry music pours out from the room of H. I look at the sock in my hand and I break into the grin of a man who understands and accepts his character faults.