Homesick (Cassandra Atherton)
Every second Saturday you go home. You still call it home. Like a homing pigeon. Even though your home is now with me. Your instinct is always to head for home. In the fight or flight of the moment, you take off. Home. But not to me. I can’t be homely, not even for you. And I’m not sure I want to be your safe house. I’d settle for being your shelter. But sometimes I think our house is only made from sticks. And sticks and stones break my bones when the big bad wolf blows down our house. Leaving me with nothing but a handful of dust. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Every Ash Wednesday the priest would mark me with charcoal. A smudged cross on my forehead. I am a marked woman. I bear my cross. It is heavier than the albatross around my neck. Who knows if I can rise like a phoenix this time? Your mother cooks you an Oedipal roast and tucks you in. And you sleep soundly. In that childhood bed. Without me. The doona cover hasn’t changed since you were a boy. Beige. Fawn. She still fawns over her dear son. While I try and be your Bambi. But it will never work because I can only offer you stir-fried vegetables or molé chicken. Never venison, even if you are game. But somehow it’s homemade biscuits and gravy that you crave. Home cooked meals. On mismatched plates. You once told me that I was the apple pie of your eye. Pie in the sky. I drive you home every second Saturday and you tend to your garden. Your secret garden. Full of briar roses and day-lilies. A thorny issue, when the day-lilies die after one day in bloom. I am a thorn bird. I impale myself on your thorn. I sing as I slowly die. Alone in our apartment. The only thing you can grow here is bamboo, basil and cat grass. You keep it on the balcony. But I can’t use the basil on my margarita pizzas or spear it on a toothpick of tomato and bocconcini. It’s not mine to take. Consume. So instead I watch it thrive and wish that you would bring me roses instead. So that I could prick my finger and be your sleeping beauty. Spinning your wheel of fortune. The treadmill in our apartment’s gymnasium is no match for the dirt tracks in Riddell. Or the white faded stick you walk to every second Saturday. Countrified. Country matters. I am Ophelia in an undiscovered country. I could be your America. If you knew who John Donne was, but you don’t. So you call me from the telephone seat in your hall until you are too cold to talk. The incubator that is our studio apartment is no competition for the menthol cold at your house. You tell me the cold is invigorating. But I like to be warm. I want an open fire. I want a hearth. Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. I click my heels together three times but I am still here.