Unmarry me, p.8

Unmarry Me, page 8

 

Unmarry Me
 


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  ‘Yeah, me too,’ I say. ‘Work, work, work, the gala is on track and we hope to make the big, huge, awesome announcement next month. Hey, did I tell you I got a campaign manager?’

  ‘You did? Great idea.’

  ‘You really mean it?’ The TV is on mute, a gunfight, people playing dead all over the place.

  ‘Sure, we’re not doing this for nothing. Tell me the plan.’

  I give him a run-down of the slow-burn thing. On the screen, the shooting has stopped and the bad guy has the good guy in his grip, a red-hot poker in his face; it’s another slow-burn thing.

  ‘You could do a flash mob.’

  I love flash mobs. I love that you’re shopping one minute and crying at the beauty of people the next. I saw one last year: at the end, the bloke asked the woman to marry him. I just hope she said yes because she really did want to marry him, and not because the crowd was crying.

  ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ I lean across and make a note.

  ‘You’re not a campaign manager. Why didn’t she think of that?’

  ‘I bet he will. I bet that’s the next suggestion.’

  ‘He? Who he?’ I swear I hear Mark sit up straighter. The pillows rustle, or the doona—not his pyjamas; he doesn’t wear them.

  ‘Todd, from BJ’s work.’

  ‘The surfer-looking guy?’ More rustling, yep, he’s sitting up.

  ‘I didn’t know you went to Diamond Lou’s,’ I say, not that it matters. He can go wherever he wants because his heart belongs to me.

  ‘With Ravi.’

  ‘Todd’s smart, Mark.’

  Could Mark rustle the bedclothes any louder? ‘You know he says “dude”. You know what that means, right? Camel penis. I looked it up.’

  ‘I don’t care if he says “dude”. And in Melbourne it means guy or bloke. Person.’

  ‘Ruby, you hate the word “dude”,’ Mark says.

  ‘Well, I’ll just have to get used to it.’

  ‘And Todd’s so good-looking.’

  ‘Ah, at last you’ve made your point. Yes, he’s good-looking, but who notices these things?’

  ‘BJ noticed and she’s gay. He’s second on her list for sperm after me. He’s so handsome lesbians want his spoof.’

  I can’t be bothered pointing out that just because she’s lesbian doesn’t mean BJ doesn’t know a beautiful-looking man when she works with one. ‘Oh, Boydy, you’re jealous, that’s so cute.’

  I’m glad he’s worried about me in the clutches of the gorgeous Todd. Todd is my Crazy Beautiful, and our marriage, though lived from different suburbs in different beds, is alive and well.

  ‘He’s obviously a player,’ Mark says. ‘Look how those girls line up. And that burn, it’s part of the attraction.’

  Did Todd pull someone out of a blazing building? I bet he did. Probably blindfolded with one arm strapped behind his back.

  ‘Mark, he’s an employee, I’m paying him. He’s got Facebook happening and he’s organising stickers and badges and T-shirts.’

  ‘How much is all that going to cost?’

  ‘Not as much as you’d think, actually. The moment you start buying things in bulk it gets cheaper. Like those giant boxes of toffee popcorn at Costco.’

  ‘Five thousand dollars? Ten thousand?’ In his dad’s bed, two suburbs away, he worries about how much I spend. I have the money. Some money.

  ‘Maybe less, maybe more. I’m thinking of a Pozible campaign to fund a hot-air balloon. Can you see it, Boydy? A beautiful yellow balloon floating across the city with a big pink love heart with unmarryme written on it. I can see it.’

  ‘Me too, and it is beautiful.’ He sounds tired, dreamy. He sighs. ‘I’m going to Canberra tomorrow.’

  ‘Say hello to the High Court for me.’ Bloody place.

  ‘Sure thing. When’s your doctor’s appointment?’

  I resist the urge to sit up straight. ‘Next week.’

  ‘Really?’

  ‘Yes. Wednesday. At eleven-twenty.’

  ‘Great. I’ll come with you.’

  ‘Great.’ I am the worst liar in the world.

  ‘I sure hope you can get that time,’ he says.

  ‘I will. I mean, I have. I’ll try.’

  Shit. I hunker down. His bathrobe sleeps on the end of the bed now. It’s started to smell more like me and less like him, so I’m weaning myself off it. Probably the same will happen to Tall Guy but I haven’t given up on Celeste’s giraffe yet. A cat could be the answer. I’ve never had a pet, and I don’t know if I’m up for the carry-on, but if I could get a cat that could turn off the TV once I’ve fallen asleep I’d get a cat tomorrow. Maybe Gumball could be trained.

  ‘I miss you, babe.’ His voice is smiling.

  ‘I miss you. What are we watching tonight?’

  ‘There’s an Arnie flick on at ten-thirty.’

  ‘The things I do for you.’

  15.

  There are two bikes against the wall at Diamond Lou’s, both with unmarryme stickers on them. I haven’t even got one on my bike yet. It’s weird to think of your idea being ridden around town.

  Inside the cafe I elbow myself into a corner of the big communal table and wait for Justine. I’ve brought my iPad so I can check out what it takes to get a Pozible campaign happening. I want that hot-air balloon. I’d pay for it myself, but if they don’t advertise their prices on their websites, and if I’ve got to go further than clicking a few buttons, then I probably can’t afford it.

  Justine is standing over me, arms folded. Apparently she doesn’t like a 7.30 a.m. summons. Too bad, when you’re a freedom fighter you sometimes have to annoy people.

  ‘Am I meant to sit on the floor?’

  ‘Scoot up,’ I say to the woman next to me. She gives me a funny look over the top of her reading glasses. ‘What? You’re almost done.’ I point to her empty plate and her almost-empty latte glass. She moves. Breathtaking rudeness doesn’t get you friends but it does get you space.

  ‘Here you go.’ I pat the bench and Justine sits down.

  ‘What drags me from the arms of my loved one this morning?’

  ‘At least you’ve got yours. I woke up with the TV on and the phone in bed with me. I’m thinking Mark and I should go speed-dating so we can have five minutes in public with each other.’

  ‘Eh?’ That’s woken her up.

  The cafe is noisy. I love polished concrete as much as the next person, but it’s almost impossible to talk over. Carpet on the walls and roof would make a huge difference.

  ‘Speed-dating. We’d get to talk to each other and look single at the same time. Plus, I just know it’d be funny.’

  Or maybe Diamond Lou could make carpet jackets for the customers to wear. And have carpet tablecloths.

  ‘Speed-dating is an outlandish and nonsensical idea,’ Jus says. ‘If you do it, I want a full report. Now, tell me why I’m here.’

  Just then Todd comes over to take our orders.

  ‘Hi Todd, this is Justine. Todd’s my new campaign manager, Jus.’

  ‘Hi Justine,’ Todd says, and I wonder if he gets better looking in his sleep. ‘I’ve seen you in here. Double-shot regular latte, not too hot, please?’

  She blushes. ‘Yes, that’s me. So you’re going to attempt to tell Ruby what to do. Good luck with that.’

  ‘Oh, she’s okay.’ He grins at Justine, who grins back.

  As we watch him walk back to the coffee machine, I say, ‘Jus, do you think you could write a story about unmarryme?’

  ‘Sure, I can’t see why not. It would be a good followup to the Canberra story. We got a lot of feedback on that one, not all positive, but feedback’s feedback.’

  Justine wrote about all the same-sex couples who got married in Canberra last December, only to have their marriages immediately annulled by the High Court decision. Around us this morning, there are people reading the paper Justine writes for. What’s it like to sit next to someone reading your work in a cafe? It’s important to you
and it’s breakfast for them.

  ‘What do we do, Jus? An interview?’

  ‘It depends. We may want to interview someone from the other side as well.’

  ‘Couldn’t that be a piece for another day?’ I say as I make room on the table for our coffees and croissants.

  If you count the people in the cafe—and include Diamond Lou, and the never-here Fred, and Todd—based on the fact that about six in ten people are into marriage equality, unmarryme has friends.

  ‘Pass me your iPad. Check this out.’ Justine clicks on a link on her Facebook page. A discussion about refugees. Somebody says, Go back to your own country, and then it’s, You’re too ugly to be raped. She clicks on a piece about equal pay. Make me a sandwich. Suck my cock. I hope you get raped.

  ‘Bloody hell!’

  ‘You need to be prepared,’ Justine says. ‘Let’s just say anybody who puts their head above the parapet better be wearing a full-face helmet.’

  I bet if we sat under the table we could hear each other properly. ‘Jus, how do you do it?’ I have gone off my breakfast. I’ll make it up later with chocolate. ‘The further this campaign goes, the more of that crap it’s going to drag up.’

  ‘Try not to worry, Rube. Most of them are crazies with a computer and they send their rubbish from their bedrooms.’

  I’m unmarryme and I’m as everyday-normal as anyone sitting in this cafe. Some of the bedroom crazies would probably have their family downstairs while they’re on their computers telling people to get raped.

  ‘Sometimes I see the funny side,’ Jus says. ‘It’s so pathetic.’ She’s eaten her croissant with jam and now she’s onto mine. I hold my coffee in two hands in case she wants that, too. ‘And it rarely intrudes into my everyday life. Though, I did get some dog crap mailed to me once, because of a piece I wrote about the lighthouse at Point Lonsdale, of all things. I still have it.’

  ‘You have a souvenir dog shit?’

  ‘Sure, it’s on my desk. One of the subs had it mounted. It turns out you can polish a turd.’

  Todd comes back with a box. ‘Check it out, Ruby. The T-shirts.’

  ‘So quick!’

  He hands me a pair of scissors. ‘I’ll let you do the honours.’

  My hands are shaking but I open the box. I rip open a packet and hold up the first unmarryme T-shirt. Bright pink, a bright yellow circle, a pink love heart, and unmarryme in blue. I think I’m going to cry.

  ‘Gorgeous,’ Justine says. ‘Todd, they’re magic.’

  The pink is so pink, not my normal colour. And the blue is eye-splitting, I can’t wait to put my T-shirt on. I’m not going to wait. ‘Is there somewhere I could change?’

  ‘Sure,’ Todd rifles through the box, grabs a T-shirt. ‘Me too.’

  ‘You want one, Jus?’

  ‘Yes, but I’ll take it home with me,’ Justine says. ‘And you owe me a badge for dragging me out of bed this morning. Go, I’ll wait with the box.’

  ‘Back in a minute,’ I say.

  I don’t know if we’re giving the T-shirts away or selling them. I’ll leave that decision with my campaign manager who’s letting me into the cafe’s version of Mordor. It’s dark in the storeroom; it smells like plastic and coffee. In between the boxes, I ditch my singlet and slip on my new T-shirt. I turn in time to catch Todd mid-change. That burn scar is serious. It’s a slash of shiny pink-red from his neck, across his chest, down to his left nipple and down his arm.

  ‘Car accident,’ Todd says.

  God, I hope I never have a car accident. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to.’

  ‘It’s okay, it was years ago.’

  I’m not sure if the scar looks worse or better in the patchy light of the storeroom. ‘How old were you?’

  ‘Thirteen.’ He does a muscle-man pose. ‘How do I look?’

  ‘Great.’ I mean really. ‘You work a pink T-shirt, Todd. You should be the face of unmarryme.’

  ‘I can’t be, Ruby. I wasn’t smart enough to think of it, and I wouldn’t have been brave-slash-crazy enough to do it. Besides, you do okay.’

  ‘For someone crazy.’

  ‘For anyone. For all the girls who come in here wanting more than coffee. You have an edge.’

  ‘You haven’t seen my knife collection.’ I think he likes me.

  ‘You haven’t seen mine.’

  I like him, too. He’s young and spunky, and he could go in my knife collection. But my field-playing days are over since Mark slipped my wedding ring onto my finger. Yes, I cherish that empty space on my finger. ‘Let’s go show Justine.’

  ‘You show her, I’ll show the other dudes.’

  Todd picks up where he left off at the coffee machine. I sit back down next to Justine, who has her arm wrapped around the box. It’s how she sits with Stuart. Mine.

  ‘How come you didn’t get changed in the toilet?’

  ‘I didn’t think of it,’ I say.

  ‘You were gone a while.’

  ‘I was gone long enough to see the scar and get the story. Car accident when he was a kid. The scar is big, Jus. Did you grab a couple of T-shirts?’

  ‘Are you changing the subject?’

  ‘What subject?’

  ‘In the storeroom with Todd.’

  Now, I’m thankful for all the noise because nobody else can hear Justine being a dickhead. ‘Jus, I’m separated from Mark for a very important reason and I’m not about to get it off with Todd, no matter how gorgeous he is.’ I sit across the bench seat, a leg either side of it, so I’m facing into the cafe. Head up, chest out, I want people to see my new T-shirt.

  ‘Okay, okay. When do you want that piece written?’

  ‘Oh, I was hoping you’d started while I was in the storeroom.’

  ‘For God’s sake, Ruby, I have a life, you know.’

  ‘Relax, I was joking. Let’s get out of here.’

  ‘Actually, I was writing it in my head. I know how it begins, I know the angle, I think you’ll like it. I think my editor, Jane, will love it, too, which is more important. I’ll blind-copy you in the email I send her.’

  I’m so happy in my new T-shirt I don’t want to take it off. When I’m wearing my unmarryme T-shirt, I look like somebody who knows what to do. I want to be stopped and asked by strangers what I’m all about.

  At home, I’m still happy, and posing in the mirror in my unmarryme T-shirt for longer than is strictly necessary, when the phone rings.

  ‘Hello, this is Ruby.’

  ‘Homosexuality is a sin.’

  ‘Yeah, you said.’ I hang up.

  I must remember to tell Peta and BJ the news. I’ll tell Peta now.

  ‘Hi Pete, I’ve just had a very informative phone call.’

  ‘Ah-ha?’

  ‘Homosexuality is a sin.’

  ‘Yeah, that’s the best bit,’ she says.

  ‘I told the woman, I think it was a woman, you’ve got the wrong sister and gave her your number.’

  ‘You didn’t.’

  ‘Of course not. When am I seeing you again? I miss Celeste. And you, of course.’ Peta’s fragile and I like to look after her.

  ‘Come over tonight. We’re having meatballs and there’s plenty.’

  ‘Great. I’ll bring dessert and if we survive the meatballs we can have apple pie. Celeste will be up for a little while after dinner, won’t she?’

  ‘You can put her to bed if you like.’

  ‘Okay. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.’

  Ten minutes later, the phone rings again.

  ‘Hello, this is Ruby.’

  ‘Homosexuality is a sin.’

  ‘Yeah, I told her and she says she’s not going to stop.’ I hang up.

  The phone rings again. ‘Homosexuality is a sin.’

  I slam the receiver down. I circle today’s date on the calendar. I didn’t note when the first call came, but I’ll be paying attention from now on. These calls are taking the shine off my new T-shirt.

  16.

  Peta is usin
g her best silver and her best crockery; it used to be Mum’s and before that, her mum’s. It’s too best for meatballs, but I get it: using them makes her feel close to Mum. Peta got the kitchen stuff, and, believe me, she needs all the help she can get. I got the grandfather clock. Mum showed me how to keep the clock going, told me how her mum showed her. I love the smell when the door is open, metal and oil and wood, and I love that it needs winding every five days. I hold the weight in one hand and, with the other hand, pull it up with the chain, breathing in and thinking of Mum. What would Mum do if she had a prank caller?

  ‘What is the matter with you?’ BJ is nothing if not direct, even if she is wearing an unmarryme T-shirt. I’ve never seen BJ in pink before.

  I stop chewing my lip, ‘Some dickhead is prank-calling me.’

  ‘Scream in their ear like you’re being murdered.’

  ‘That’s what I’m afraid of.’

  Just once I’d like to run into a sensitive type who’d throw their arms around me, hold me tight, and tell me everything will be okay in the end. I know someone like that and I’m fake-but-real-separated from him.

  Celeste is the boss of this place. She gets food laid on, she gets a walk to the park every day and she gets as long as she wants on the swing, more, more, more. If you read her a story you better make it one you’re happy to read again, again, again.

  That’s okay, I love The Sailor Dog. And the pictures. ‘Look at that doggie, Celeste, isn’t he loving that grass? Imagine how soft that grass would be. We could lie in the grass like that.’

  ‘Ooby, I do at the park.’

  Ooby…it’s so cute and adorable even though I’m convinced she’s putting it on. ‘Do you, Celly?’

  ‘Es.’ She says yes without the Y. I like it, but Peta has banned me from doing it, too. ‘An I swing and swing.’ The missing D has nothing to do with me.

  Peta and BJ’s house is a Californian bungalow; it used to be Mum’s, and it is twice the size of my place. Three bedrooms, a lounge room, separate dining room, and a deck. And they still can’t move for all their stuff. Bookcases line the walls; there’s a pram in the hallway; the spare room has two desks and two bikes, and there are toys everywhere.

 
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