To the Women Who Love Me

“Oh Phills, you can’t say that…”
“What… they can’t not follow the trend?!” she says exasperated.
“I’m sorry, everyone is either mid-painting their gates or about to paint… but it looks terrible!
It doesn’t go with anything, not the house… people think it’s “elegant”!” she huffs.
“I call it grey’s disease.”
I love Phillipa.
I shaved her today, in the kitchen after breakfast.
She was wearing her red jumper, with a billion little cotton balls all over it.
So she whipped out her wool-shaver and before I knew it I was doing her back.
We laughed the whole time.
“I’ll be having a word with Sportscraft the next time I see them. Terrible quality,” she holds out her hand to show me a large clump of wool.

“This happens every time.”

I shake my head at her, wondering how many years of social-conditioning it took for me to find her complaining and pedantic nature so charming.
“Better yet..”  I said,
“Why don’t you just put it in an envelope and send it to them? Like a serial killer sending their victim’s ears?”
“Hmmmm…” – she stops shaving and looks up at me with a cheeky grin and painterly blue eyes. We laugh again.
She touches my cheek with her hand and we begin the day.
“Now you have to go and pack so we don’t miss your flight,” she tells me.
“I know.”
She calls to me again,
“Hol, that means you need to not start writing or exercising or reading your new book….”
My hands are already on my workout clothes… “Damn.”
Phil leans out the car window.
“There’s a horse with it’s head in a boat!”
We all look to the left and see it is in fact, just that.
“Probably wanted a drink,” her partner Len says.
They’re taking me to the airport, after another 5 day visit.
I have been visiting them since I was 11 and my mother left. Both of them now in their 80’s. I worry time is escaping us, so I make sure to savour every moment I can.
I can see the crinkle of her skin around her eyes and how the white of her hair catches the sun.  And Len- how he walks crooked, and winks a lot. Always dressed in farmer attire, complete with boots and a collared shirt.
“ Poor horse… ” said Phil,
“…. doesn’t have his own water troff.”
“I bet he does, he just likes that boat water more,” Len replies.
“Well, I can’t see one…”
Their bickering usually takes on this dance with Phil needing to be proved right and feel intelligent and Len being his easy-going, quick-to-laugh self which turns a little grumpy when Phil tries to dominate him in conversation.
Last night I enjoyed watching two shows at once; ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ and Phil and Len trying to watch ‘Australia’s Got Talent’.
The dialogue consisted of them saying a comment which the other one doesn’t hear, so they play ping-pong word games with each other beginning with,  “What?”
“Majee- the boy on the drums is from Majee.”
“Massai? No that’s not right Len. He’s too pale.”
“No, for God sakes. Ma-JEEEEE”
“Ohhhhh right.”
And before you know it, they’re on to the next game of “what did you say?” Playing walky-talkies without the equipment.
Today they coincidentally wear matching wine coloured jumpers and dark trousers, making them appear like twins.
If it wasn’t for her size, or lack thereof, together they could pass as a salt and salt set.
————————
The night after I turned 23,  Phil picked me up from the bus stop. I was fresh from two arguments. One with mum and one with dad.
Mum’s was more painful as it was the last nail in the coffin to our weekend of hell. Her words, not mine.
It was the first holiday we had spent together, just us, since I was 11. And it went terribly, horrifically wrong.
Pat texted me that night to ask if I was okay and I said yes.
It’s weird how best friends have that telepathy, to ask how you are. Like an inkling or an inbuilt instinct that makes caring about others easy. An instinct.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had it with 3 people my whole life.
When I arrived at Phil’s I went straight to bed.
The next day I woke up rather late. Later than my alarm usually goes off. And proceeded the rest of the day, to assume the foetal position in my pink dog Pyjamas.
I wasn’t trying to get attention or sympathy, I didn’t even cry once. I just felt numb. Upset in ways I couldn’t explain or feel.

Phil found me mid-day outside, curled up on the porch swing with my book, like I was 11-years-old again.

“Are you still self-quarentining?”
I nodded.
She smiles and then goes back inside.
For the rest of the day, I embody the routine of a cat and assume all these different spots where I curl up and proceed to shut down from the world.
I don’t know why but I feel like I need to just be without anyone seeing me.

I knew I was upset but this felt different, like I was many more levels down from sad. Like feeling sad would be atleast a destination. Not this weird feeling that was just there, inside of me.

Was it exhaustion? I then graduate to laying on the floor next to the heater with the dog and then back to bed.
The wallpaper feels like home much like all the stuff inside her house. Nothing has really changed since I first started coming here, not even the sugar containers.
I like that Phil doesn’t push and she isn’t saying how impolite I am being.
She has a cracking sense of humour;  like how she treasures her collection of cow paraphernalia and brings them all out to show me. (I make sure to top them up every Christmas.)
I go down the list countries I found them in and we laugh some more.
“Helga the milk jug cow is from Amsterdam.”
“Oh really,” she says,
“Yep.”
“And Anastasia is from Sweden,” I pick up her cow-shaped mug.
“I only wish she had a mini cow in the centre,” Phil tells me.
It all began when I stayed with her one of the first times and as a thank-you bought her a cow jug.
It’s nice to know that Phillipa still likes who I am today, as well as who I was at age 11.
My mind traces the words of all the hurtful things that my mum said out of anger.
All the things I told councillors in confidence and they dismissed, saying that I was crazy to think that. Mum brought all my fears to life in just one sitting.
But there were other loose threads I couldn’t quite tie up.
Why did she offer to drive me to the bus and then just sit in the car and watch me wait? Why didn’t she just leave?
It seemed like she loved me in a way I couldn’t understand.
Maybe, we just weren’t use to having a mother or a daughter, only from afar…
Maybe we liked the idea of the other, more than the actually person.
Maybe we were so use to being on our own, we feel we can’t be ourselves while the other is there.
So many thoughts and ideas swirled in my head.
And I didn’t know which were true or which were were just negative thoughts.
This weekend taught me a few things, the main being, I don’t really know her like I thought I did, and I don’t know if I want to.

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