Sport 20: Autumn 1998
Kate Camp — To tell myself seven stories about me and you
He is in the desert, rolling up the sleeves of rough-fabric shirt to spin the propeller of a plane that is covered in dust. She is there, disguised as a camel or nurse, creeping up to write ‘clean me’ on the powdered wing. Somewhere, brass ornaments are being purchased, detailed trays for bearing tiny glasses of coffee, and hash boxes with ill-fitting lids.
In the unremarkable town people gather at a Post Office. She is placing letters on her tongue like stamps and feeling them dissolve. They leave a taste in her mouth and when she sees him next she spits the letters back. An ‘e’ and two capital ‘R’s stick at the corner of her lip. He laughs as he picks up the stamps, the letters, the broken words gummed to the floor. He moulds them into a tidy blob, the kind you find under school desks and chairs. She forgets to notice what he does with it.
There is something she is very sorry about. Around and around she goes, reading the names of roses. He is not a gardener and so has no reason to be there, among the ovals of cut branches. But he likes to see the mechanism. Pruning. I've travelled the world and I've never tasted a better prune the man says on the advertisement, but deep inside she knows he is lying. Amberlight. Katherine Mansfield. Benson & Hedges. Peace.
He follows her to the Chinese supermarket. As she chooses her fireworks he sneaks behind her, slipping crackers into her coat pocket. Friendship. Bridal Veil. Known Mountains Of The World. She is too clever for him through, too clever for them both. She leaves her coat in the aisle, and carries the fireworks in the front of her jersey, which she holds out like a pelican. A shop assistant slips when a dozen Emerald Fires spill near the checkout.
When he goes on his trip, he doesn't take any bags. All his worldly belongings he ties about his body with string so he resembles nothing so much as an enormous puppet show. Some people think to throw him coins as he stops to catch his breath in the airport, but can't find a hand or a hat out anywhere. She sees him of course, from behind a glass of Fanta, she can see him amongst all that stuff and he looks nice orange. She sucks up the picture of him with a straw.
In back country he is sitting on a half a petrol drum. She is pointing at a waratah singing when the stakes are high it doesn't pay to sit on the fence to the tune of the Sesame Street song, which she knows he particularly dislikes. Never mind, she is gone off now, and he is looking, looking, trying to make stuff out. He does a few neat tricks with his hands and a blade of grass. Later, when light has gone down, he can make out the stars clear as day but it's little consolation and no meat and veg.
Passing him on the street, she fails to recognise herself and someone else says hello to him instead. Cool Hand Luke went to jail for cutting the heads off parking meters, she remembers. Taking the shortest route between two points she feels like an idiot now, for all the foolish things she plans to do in the future. Thumbed books offer their approving faces and she rushes in to Poetry and inhales some little-read pages of Donne, which smell particularly good. Lovely stiff pages like starched dust.