Once under the Southern Cross

southerncross.jpg

I sure did all the dumb things for Colette. From this distance it seems such a beautiful name for first love but I didn’t love her then for posterity. Thirteen was I and sitting on a summers evening verandah seeing her image ranged across the Southern Cross and recalling every soft word, the faint English lilt of it, the pale fingers around a pencil. Colette.  Whose fingers were never to touch mine or voice to say my name.  Me; too desperate in my dumbness and struggling to find the secret of the older boys, their easy leering smiles and knowing winks.  Me; too young for this secret but old enough to know that I did not know.  Sometimes when Colette looked at me I felt she was willing me to grow up, to grow me into this knowledge that I could not learn. But how did she know it, I wondered, she who was no older than me.  How many nights looking at that bruised sky and searching for the secret that would not come? Too many. So I learned to make people laugh instead and I grew it into a little web and a little shell too. And sometimes I would see her smile, from a distance, but definitely smiling at the jokes that grew for her at night from my helpless heart.  Colette smiled. Did I grow slightly older at those moments or did she grow slightly younger? It doesn’t matter; you can’t make people laugh forever.  She found an older boy and then her family left town. The last time I saw her she was 17.  She gave me this quizzical look as if to say, “So you’ve finally grown up.” But I hadn’t grown up; I’d just grown taller.  In my confusion I dug into my pocket for a joke and I poured it from my mouth into her open ears, so gently like a gift. I like to think she is out there somewhere in the big world and that she keeps it still.

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4 Comments

Filed under australia, Love, memory, youth

4 responses to “Once under the Southern Cross

  1. gentiana

    Oh, wow. Who wouldn’t fall for Colette?

  2. In my confusion I dug into my pocket for a joke and I poured it from my mouth into her open ears, so gently like a gift

    Beautiful. This whole piece shimmers, really well done.

  3. Nikki

    “In my confusion I dug into my pocket for a joke and I poured it from my mouth into her open ears…”

    This is beautiful. I like to see words placed so astonishingly, yet so naturally. It is wonderful to describe something with this unusual grace and be able to look at those words and appreciate them and love them. Words are incredible. I love them more and more each day. I suppose all writers should cherish words; we cannot paint without them.

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