Saturday, December 31, 2016

Chicks with Dicks

This year for the Bunny could be summarised as a battle between masculine and feminine. It began with recovering from an operation in which my right ovary was removed. Feminine. Girl-bunny in my sticky bed brought cups of tea by Mr Rabbit, encouraged by Ris to keep on with the Tramadol, lose myself in those long trips of motionless ecstasy as long as it took. Girl-bunny passing out at the medical centre at having the navel stitches removed - oh, woe! - girly-girl balking at the surgeon's warning a few weeks later - Careful, you can easily get pregnant after an operation like this. Pregnant? thinks the girl who can't fathom that this body, with its right-side black gap, its claggy nothingness, could even think of housing a human life, especially after that whiff of sex - a thought, a dream - that may or may not have transpired. 

It must have, and who would have thought you could conceive from a whiff but sure enough, there was the vertigo and there it was, the Bunny nearly fell on the floor in another room of the medical centre when the young female doctor presented the straw.


No.


This wasn't happening. 
It was the opposite of the Kiki feeling, a darkness in the blinding sun. EBR wanted her balls back - Oh please, can we just have a moment to catch our breath? 


I wonder if my whole life in some way I've been fleeing femininity - the responsibility that comes with womanhood, what I saw in mum, all she had to take on, the weight of it all...


A reprieve, the baby didn't grow. The Bunny felt evil for being glad.


She put her nice tidy balls on and went back to Paris. To her spiritual home, her brain-home, her man-cave. She put on neat blacks, straightened her hair and went off to meetings with luxury clients, toting all kinds of smart things through her neat red lips. She moved around the streets with purpose - her old life as present inside her as if she'd never left, never bought a house in an Australian seaside village and baked ANZAC cookies (with aplomb, she must admit, and recently, variety). Here she was, at home in her sharp city world - a planet away from the grass, the tea, the kindergarten, the deck, the beach. 


She saw the dress in a second-hand shop. It was Sunday, and she and LL were in the Marais, having breakfasted at Fragments and taught Cyrille what a wedgie was. She'd seen the dress last year, when it was new, in its real shop. She had quickly moved past it then - who would ever wear a dress like that in Paris? The dress was long and beige with deep pink flowers printed on it, interspersed with panels of lace. The dress had tassels. The dress was made for bare feet on long grass, on beaches, not on the Boulevard Beaumarchais and most certainly not at a meeting with Chanel. But it was 20 bucks, so she bought it with a thumbs up from LL, and left it sitting in a bag on the couch in the tiny 1-bedroom Air BnB as she showered off yet another good power day. 
She was Patrick Bateman in her suit, sharp as a pin - she had finally worked her way to a position in Paris where she could afford to eat where she wanted, buy what she wanted, rent a lovely little apartment like this all for herself, with its view over one of her favourite streets, its memories of her student days in the canal bars, Kiki on her trottinette, a thousand ghosts of so many hers. But though she felt empowered - nuts so strong they could split the seam - the loneliness was always there to greet her when she stepped through the door. Oh, woe! For as much as she wanted to ram the city, here she was, a girl alone with a lamp.


The water cascaded down her hair and back (it was one of those weird corner spas with no curtain so it was better to sit to prevent the floor getting flooded). She was drying herself when she saw the tassel hanging out of the bag on the couch. She pulled out the dress. It was a hippie dress, nothing she had ever owned before. It fell down over her naked body, drifting around her ankles, caressing her collarbone. A long, whisp of soft cotton. Absolute Girl. She turned up the heat and made herself some avocado toast. Tonight she didn't straighten her hair, it dried as it did in unruly waves. She downloaded La Grande Bellezza because Ris said so, and fell asleep in front of it, in the dress.


The next morning she straightened the hair, pulled on the black and spent the required half hour doing the natural makeup and power-lips. Chic. She lit a cigarette as she exited the porte cochère (she only smoked in Paris now, it tastes good there). The day was bright and the coffee strong and in the meetings she noticed her disgusting female self starting to leak out a tiny bit. She quickly reined it in. Tightened her jock strap - fast. Don't let them see. A lunch meeting. The female dripped out again, gushing this time, oh the shame. A thai formule, a group of women from a makeup brand she wrote ads for. There were six of them and they were all young and sweet and interested and she really, really liked them. Out it came, the realness - oh man - the embarrassment as they kissed goodbye. She had shared too much - or was it just her - they didn't need to know that she was a mother, and 40 and living by the beach and missing Paris and that she had been writing a novel for 10 goddamned years. She lit two cigarettes as she hustled away down the canal. Her balls had shrunken into two pea-sized labia. She met with LL to drink cocktails and find that perfect blend of feminine/masculine at the bar, the spritzes, smokes, the long in-depth conversations. On the walk back through République people were camping out and playing music, the Nuit Debout movement still going, the striving for change. Emotion/strength. Power/passion. Vulnerability/striving. She wriggled out of the black dress, sat in the shower, got out, the dress came on to her again. She watched the scene in La Grande Bellezza with the woman in the bed again. She does die. The scene evoked a vast discomfort that she took with her into her dreams.


She left Paris a day early. Kiki made a sign WELCOME HOME MUMMY. Her arms were soft like dumplings. The Bunny was a mother, and a woman and she didn't have nuts and she returned to her home and was content in her own sheets and forgot her man-self for a bit before returning to her home office to resume it again, à distance, the connection with Paris and her work so strong it made no difference she was in a beach side village a drill-hole all the way through the earth from. She was busy - so busy, she must not let herself or her family down. She worked and worked. Her day began with the emails at 7 as she leapt out of bed to assure Paris she was still there, still their man, and ended with iPhone checks through the night, quick messages to say the edits were being done, the translations were fine, explain the significance of a word and why we just don't say it like that.


She was stiff as a board. The days went by.


The dress didn't come out until September, in the first moments of Spring. And with it came the moment, ball-deep in a powerpoint presentation on toothbrushes, that her fingers lifted themselves from the keyboard and placed themselves in her lap. She tried to put them back on but they refused. The fingers said No.


Cutting off from Paris, from work, was something she had always terrified of. A relinquishing of control - of the image of who she wanted to be. 


It all went black, for a week, as she felt around herself for the walls that had fallen away.


Then a new light started to creep in. Flowing, colourful, floral, interspersed with lace.



Nyssa Sharp 'Girl with the Yellow Skirt'

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Bunny, New World

Yesterday I was trying on a pair of mirrored sunglasses in the shape of lovehearts when the states started turning red. Real-red. They were pink if undecided, then red if decided. There were only a few dark blues. I had stopped at the second-hand store on my way out to the countryside to pick up Kiki's first pet, a white baby bunny rabbit she'd already named Fluffball. And the states just went deeper and redder the harder I fossicked amongst the dust. Somewhere amongst a picnic setting and a pile of old rugs I alerted Mr Rabbit in a text message: They're going red! He was outside building a hutch.

Don't worry. It'll just be the expected states.

But there are so many of them! And they're going all the way up through the middle and even out to the sides! There are hardly any blues!

It'll be fine. Don't worry.

The takeaway coffee and prepared Spotify 'Get Feisty' playlist didn't ease the tension as my car sped out and out, past trucks with trays of pigs in them, and trailers tugging neatly bunched piles of logs. At each hour I flicked from whomever's lyrics I was screaming out to the hourly news.

3pm. Donald Trump is edging ahead...

4pm. Donald Trump looks set to defeat...

The white bunny was the cutest thing I had ever seen. She curled into a ball in my arms. The owner, gumboots high 
in hay and dung, didn't know or care was happening, and didn't appreciate my tranquility-shattering 'TRUMP!' as I sprang from the car to greet her. She nudged the bunny's instructions and bag of feed into my arms and turned back to her hutches.

Speeding back, Fluffball appreciated what was going on. I made sure not to turn the music up too loud, or to scream. My phone ran out of batteries, no more Feisty. We concentrated on the road, biting our nails.

5pm. Donald Trump closes in...

Fluffball seemed still and I worried she was dead. At a traffic light I reached around to peer into the cat cage. She was in a tight ball in the corner, trembling, with shallow breaths.

It's ok Fluffball. We're nearly there.

And then, at 6pm as we turned into our street:

6pm. Donald Trump has declared victory.

As promised, I honked on arrival. A little girl, heart full of nothing but pure hope and joy came running out. Inside she had covered the floors in soft rugs and toys, to make Fluffball feel safe.

Trump! I said to Mr Rabbit, trying not to shatter the fragile moment of Fluffball's first hops.

No.

Yes! He's president.

No way. He wiped the sweat from his brow. He had been ignoring it. Seeing it as impossible. Enjoying, instead, the sunlight of the day, the manual joy of preparing a new home.

Fluffball bounced around, getting to know her environment. Kiki bounced around after her, eyes streaming with joy.




Thursday, June 9, 2016

Call me Jet

My name is actually Jayne, well no, it's Jane but I decided at age 8 it would be Jayne, when I saw it written on a hairbrush in cursive writing: Lady Jayne. It seemed far more elegant. I decided then and there to be Jayne and made everyone, including my parents, call me such. On the pendant mum gave me after she died she wrote Dear Jayne, love forever, Mum, which might have been the first time she agreed to add the Y. It has created all sorts of nuisance and I never had it officially changed so I'm constantly getting calls from all official people saying What the-. Names are dumb. In my Golden Books you can see my name written as Jane, Janine, Jeannie, Elizabeth and Sarah. Why do we have to keep just one? What if we change our mind? I want to be lots of people. Also I had a dumb surname - Tuttle - that forced you to articulate the 'T' sound with confidence in Grade 4 lest your name be written down as 'Tuddle'. I dreamed of marrying a solid name like Smith or Davis, and then four months before I did, I watched Brazil. Tuttle forever. 

My friend Jane employed me once to answer phones for her burgeoning marketing business. It was confusing to be another Jane, so I decided this was the perfect time to try on the name I'd wanted since drama school: Jet. It's actually my initials. 

'Hello, JM Marketing, Jet speaking.'

When you take a name it isn't in you. You have to wear it, breathe it, let it meld into your being, preferably from birth. What astounded me, was nobody seemed to hear Jet.

'What?' They'd say. 'Who?'

'Oh,' I'd sigh, 'It's just Jayne, because we're two Janes I've taken the name Jet.'

And then they'd just call me Jayne.

I wanted to be Jet so bad I'd have given anything - it was a sharp, slick, confident name. Of course it slid off me like a dinner roll.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tinyland

Before Kiki came to live with us, she lived in Tinyland, with her tiny mum and dad. In Tinyland, bonbons are good for you, and vegetables give you a sore tum. In Tinyland, being naughty is good.

In Tinyland, Kiki had three sisters, Strongy, Aren't I? and Teeny. They all had separate bedrooms, but sometimes they would swap, and occasionally they would all sleep together in one of the rooms.

'Did two of you ever gang up on the other one?' I ask.

'No,' she says.

In Tinyland they lived in the one house forever and ever and never moved. Kiki misses her tiny mum and dad, and talks about them every day. Their names are Matt and Coraline. She can still visit them, but I can't. I'm too big. If I came I would squash them and all of Tinyland. They have a sign that says No Big People. I would go to prison if I came. Kiki can go, because when she wants to visit, they just magic her tiny. She has this right, as she was borned in Tinyland.

'I wish I could visit Tinyland too,' I say.

She shrugs. 'Yeah. But you can't.'

The other day we were having a secret girls snack in her little tent and she told me how she came to live in my body. She was in Tinyland, with her tiny mum and dad, and one day the clouds all went away and a whole lot of holes opened up in the sky. She had to climb up a tree to the holes, and choose one of them to go inside.

'How did you choose?' I asked.

'I sniffed,' she said. 'I went up to all the holes and I sniffed and this one didn't smell good and this one didn't smell good... and then this one smelled like you! It smelled good. So I climbed up into the hole in the sky. And then I was in you.'

Saturday, January 2, 2016

This Year

Kiki was eating breakfast last December when she said for the second time,

'When we go Australia this year for Christmas I don't want to come back to Paris, I want us to stay there.'

This was December 2014. We were in the throes of trying to find a new place to live, as we had to move out of our apartment on the rue des Petites Ecuries on December 12. We had already accepted a 1-bedroom place on the rue de Marseille - a place many friends had rented over the 11 years since I'd first arrived in Paris from a nice wealthy lady who didn't mind if you were a foreigner and didn't have a steady job. That was rare and we seized upon it as we had neither the funds nor papers to go through the normal channels. The apartment only had one bedroom but it had a double séjour which we could split into a bedroom and a living area, as so many friends had done when they were students. The makeshift bedroom would face the street, which could be loud at nights and through the summer as it intersected with the Canal St Martin, and the kitchen and bathroom were crap, but our favourite boulangerie 'Du Pain et des Idées' was only four doors down, so that made it all perfect.

'Why do you want to stay in Australia?' I asked. 

Kiki had only spent two Christmases there and ten months of her first year - what did she know about living there? 

'Because the sun. And we can live next door to Grandad.'

The idea felt far-fetched but after Kiki was in bed we found ourselves on the couch in that familiar discussion configuration that often led to change. 

'Maybe we should,' I said, but I didn't believe it. I was testing the feelings of the words in my own body. They didn't sit at all.

'Maybe,' said Mr Rabbit. They sounded hollow. 

Our stuff arrived on a container ship in Australia in June, six months after we'd hurriedly crammed them into the huffy Indian drivers' van, which was overstuffed because we'd thought we only needed 2 metres cubed. After waving goodbye in the mirror in our entranceway in the tiny hours of December 12, we had arrived back in Australia with no clue of where we would live or what we would do. It had been almost twelve years since I had officially lived there, 8 for Mr Rabbit, Kiki's almost entire four years. We printed a photo of the three of us waving in that mirror in Paris in our coats and woolly hats and stuck it on the noticeboard of the local supermarket in Point Lonsdale, my dad's home town, with the words written on it in fat texta:

FAMILY SEEKS HOME FOR WINTER MONTHS

Someone responded and after couch surfing the summer we moved into a small holiday house near the golf course and went about setting up a studio for Mr Rabbit in a bungalow plastered with surf posters and a desk for me in the living room amongst the board games. Kiki got a little room with bunks and a shell picture with the name CHLOE on its door. 

We could keep the place until December 10, when the family would return for the summer. We would use the time to look around the peninsula for our own home to rent or maybe even buy, or consider returning to Melbourne, or set up in Sydney... find a home. A 'base' as I'd always gone on and on about. 

Kiki was over the moon. She played with her cousins, spent time with her Grandad. We put her in the little kindergarten we'd ogled from our computers in Paris, the one with the willows and gums looking over the little sea inlet. I wrote, Mr Rabbit did music. My Paris copywriting clients remained faithful despite the distance and it felt like perhaps we could continue living as we were over there, just with the beach and a freer kid. 

A wedding invitation arrived one day from some dear friends in Berlin. The wedding would take place in October in Alassio, on the northern coast of Italy. We put it on the fridge with a magnet of Kiki on a swing. It was a wedding we both wanted to deeply attend, though we both knew it was unlikely. 

Then in March a writer friend called to invite us to Spain for seven weeks in July and August. It felt way too soon to be returning to Europe and there were many discussions in the couch configuration featuring questions such as 'But isn't this year about settling down a bit? Do we really want to go back there now? Could we be putting our money to more pragmatic uses, namely, a house deposit?'

We experimented with different ideas: 
- Going just to Spain then returning, which seemed foolish as it was an opportunity for me to visit my clients in Paris, and our friends 
- Going to Paris for a few weeks, then Spain. 
- Paris then Spain then back to Paris until the following February, so moving out of this house in Australia (and going to the wedding in October). 
- Going to Spain, Paris, the wedding, then home (which would give us about six weeks to find a new home before we got kicked out). 
- Not going to any of it at all, and being safe. 

But in the end, how could you say no to seven weeks in Spain with your best friends? And what was life? And what would our next move be anyway? So far we hadn't been particularly inspired by any houses we saw, and weren't sure about living on the peninsula. Perhaps this could be time to reflect on what our next move would be, to spend time with creative friends, revisit our old life in Paris, see where it all pointed us. 

So we arranged to spend three weeks in Paris before travelling to Cadaquès to meet our friend and his wife and child, to then return to Australia in late August. No wedding. That would give us three and half months to find a home before we had to move out in December. We rented a lovely apartment off the Canal St Martin with pink flowers in the windows and after receiving a kind and unexpected invitation from the directrice of Kiki's old school, sent her back there for the final ten days of term. Her little camarades and their parents received us with an overwhelming amount of warmth. 'My little boy talks constantly of Kiki and the photos of her at the beach! Oooh we've missed you! Are you moving back here now then, for good?'

'For evil,' we'd reply. The joke fell flat as always in French, and besides by now it had well and truly worn itself out. 

'Shall I enrol Kiki in school for next year then?' asked the kindly directrice in the doorway one morning. 

'Yes,' I found myself saying. 

Work had been very very good since we'd been back, and I'd been offered the chance of a contract for a high fashion client in September-October. The only catch: I'd have to be sur place for the six weeks, to attend a regular weekly meeting with the client. 

'That shouldn't be a problem,' I heard my voice telling my client.

What were we doing? We had walked straight back into our old life. All the friends, the community we'd built over so many years had simply re-opened to us. It felt good. I wore heels again, drank cocktails with my best friends, ate dinners with Mr Rabbit, had long lunches with friends so close they were family, savoured all the things we loved. Kiki's babysitters, three beautiful brothers who had looked after her since the age of 1, swept back in and took her in their high, high arms. We were home. What were we doing?

The sun got hotter and we went to Spain. A week in Cadaquès swimming and eating and one day taking a boat out to a lagoon and seeing a live octopus cling and shoot itself around the rocks. Six weeks in Saint Marti des Empuriès, writing and eating and riding bikes and swimming and discussing and laughing and eating fresh apples off trees. We had to decide whether we'd return to Paris for the six weeks, or go back to Australia as planned. 

The couch configuration.

The train shot us back to Paris too quickly. And there we were, back in the 10th, a friend-of-a-friend's place on the rue d'Hauteville, a bedroom for us, a walk-in-robe for Kiki. A new pair of shoes for her first day of school, a maitre this year instead of a maitresse, her closest little friends of the quartier this time in her class. A post in my old shared office in the rue Thorel became available the day Kiki began school and I sat back in it with my magazine-editor friend and a designer and a writer and brought in my takeaway coffees and went to work, collecting an exhausted Kiki at 4:30, pain-au-chocs and Oranginas in cafés, work meetings, restless sleep. Life resumed utterly as before - even better because now we could identify its dynamism and excitement, the taste of cheeses and wine, the luxury of date nights on bikes to beautiful places down boulevards and across rivers. But again, we were stressed, my knuckles curled back up, the headaches returned, the dark circles reappeared under Kiki's eyes. Dragging her from sleep in the mornings, dressing her floppy body in bed, force-feeding her breakfast down before dragging her 'I don't want to go to schooool' face down the rue d'Hauteville, along Petites-Ecuries and down Martel, the frown of the guardienne telling her to descend from her scooter. The maitre's welcoming face. The guilt as I marched out of school straight to the office. 

Six weeks. The fashion job didn't eventuate, but a few other good contracts did. The decision to return was validated. And we were more confused than ever. 

Our ticket back to Australia was booked for October 15. A trip down south to see friends in a town called Sauve, then to Alassio to the wedding, then back to Paris. A few days before our trip down south was to happen we hit the wall. 

'If we're going to go back to Australia, I just want to go now,' I said. I felt a new kind of exhaustion. Emotional fatigue. Tired of moving. Tired of travel. Tired of the suitcase. Tired of Kiki in a closet. There were no flights until the 15th. So we boarded the train and went to Sauve for two exquisite cobblestone nights and then on to Alassio, heaven on earth. A town and an event so full of beauty and calm, we were reinvigorated.

It made me wonder. 

Should we just stay here? Mr Rabbit could go back and pack up the holiday house - it would be easy, a few suitcases worth. We hadn't even unpacked the shipment from Paris, it was all in a storage unit. Send it straight back! Expensive way to figure stuff out. But still...

'I don't want to leave,' I said, wobbly in the heels. 'This is all we know. We have a home here. We should just stay. I can't move any more.'

In Australia we would have 6 weeks to find ourselves a new living situation before we were kicked out of our house. It was too much. At least in the apartment in Paris we could stay. Everything was set up. We had school, friends, community, work. In Australia we hadn't built anything yet. We had nowhere to go. I just couldn't see the picture.

'No,' said Mr Rabbit. 'We can have a better life there, I just know it. Trust me. It's going to be good.'

The blackest of black surrounded me in those dying hours in Paris, and for the first ten days of our return to Australia. All felt wrong. We didn't fit anywhere.

We looked for houses, at rentals, at sales, in towns and villages, cities. How would we get a rental when our income was sporadic and coming from overseas? Let alone a mortgage? 

It was all too foreboding. And way too quiet. My mind was beating too fast. 

And then, suddenly, it happened. The picture. 

We had given up on Point Lonsdale as a place to live as it was too expensive but one day we were driving home from a day looking at houses we didn't like when we passed a For Sale sign we hadn't seen before, on the main street. The house was hidden behind a row of trees.  

'What's that joint?'

It had just come on the market. We could afford it!

We bidded hard, and won. We had no finance and a lot of doubt, but Mr Rabbit knuckled down and got it for us.

On December 10, we moved in.

We bought our very first Christmas tree.

We put an angel on top.

Kiki's room had her own name on it.

And now all I can think is thank God we flew by the seat of our pants.