My Yesterday’s Bookmarks

Excerpt from My Yesterday’s Bookmarks by Tom St. John, Student Anthology Power 2018.

Hush, hush. Linda and Duncan are telling us the story of how they met! Children relegated to the end table, quivering at shin level, edging closer to hear what Mum and Dad were like before they met each other – an unimaginable thought! One of the more earnest children made a mental note to ask the meaning of the word ‘endearing’. If someone used the word to describe her parents’ story it must be a very nice word.

They had married during her Bowie phase, spending a metropolitan honeymoon jiving to metronomic steel drums, surrounded by bombastic rainbow grinners. She liked the look of his sharp jaw and shadowed eyes under the flashing polychromatic lasers. It was all very ‘endearing’.

She didn’t have much time to listen to new music while she was raising children. He was busy grasping at quick outside the bounds of the house – chasing youth more than any particular girl or high. He was in an Aerosmith phase when they finally divorced, and though it likely had more to do with his habitual deception, her beautiful tendency to inadvertently make his defects glaringly obvious and his unceasing torrent of bilious put-downs, their daughter Pip liked to think it was his abysmal taste in music that finally got to her.

Pip was in a throwback Rolling Stones phase when her mum finally slipped from life, falling quietly and insignificantly in the night like a tumbling rock from the face of a tall mountain. To Pip, the Stones helped form a new attitude towards life in the wake of the upheaval. She discovered how to take back control, how to keep the boundaries of her universe within the small skeletal walls of her head, to see and not to fear, to glide and not to sprint, and not to crucify herself for the humdrum transgressions no mortal human can avoid. So it hurt all the more after as, once more, her life’s plans were disturbed when Doctor Edgeheart confirmed with a smile that disobeyed his eyes that:

‘Congratulations, you are pregnant after all.’

Congratulations would be offered to her again and again to the select few in whom she confided in; lasting to the day of her mother’s funeral when apparently, not even the grief of the event could take away from the native joy of pregnancy.

The world would soon disregard the death of her mother. Funerals, as a general rule, do not dwell on the life of the deceased. Instead, the focus pivots to spiritually consecrating the wounds of the aggrieved whilst the imposing burdens on our tomorrows remain. Pip bristled as Father Saunders heartily seized his opportunity to proselytise the mid-sized crowd sweating and weeping in equal measure. He leapt into their mouths with lurid proclamations and a hard-earned Australian accent of ‘ecosystems of sinful bee-have-YA’, and how God ‘leb-uh-RAYTES the f-ay-thful’. The thought struck unbidden, only during this torrent of ecclesiastic hectoring, of the myriad ways to kill oneself in a Church.

She slanted her eyelids, and for the first time in many years refused to deploy her anti-anxiety weaponry. As a child (and well into her teenage years), when Pip felt the familiar elevator-plunge of her gut and the phantom fingers of anxiety closing around her throat, she would race to man her cerebral battle stations. She imagined her worries as Star Wars style invading spaceships – Aerosmith dad, tearful mum, the steam-pressed lectures of her embittered mathematics professor, the quicksand backslide into old relationships, the time she – and with mechanised precision she would shoot them down with her ‘In-Built Defence System’. 

Yet as she grew older, the ships seemed more plentiful in their waves, organising crazy searing jolts of worry at times they knew were most inopportune. What was worse for Pip was what happened over time to the anti-anxiety weaponry she had so carefully crafted as a fractured little girl. The guns began to rust at their swivels, the scopes began to fog and crack and lose their pinpoint accuracy; renegade lasers splaying in futile wayward directions, the vivid colours dwindling in their vibrancy to a uniform military green she began to resent so greatly she monastically avoided clothing of that shade. She was only now realising, as she stared at the little crumpled photo of her mother she held in her hands, that her mother’s eyes were that same shade of green. 

It never occurred to her to pray. She thought at some point during the service her Christian DNA would kick into gear, but it appeared her days and weeks in the tumbling Curl saltwater had bleached divinity from the carpet of her cranium. All the while she spoke at the funeral, she felt exempt from her body. The only feeling she had in her entire skeleton was an aberrant buzzing behind each of her eyebrows. She did not cry. Her eulogy was discussed by most at the service in a strange tone of voice … hushed whisper? Is that what we would call it? That tone of voice where one speeds up some words and lingers on others, where one leans in too close and winces as if staring directly into the midday sun?

‘Yuhs, yuhs a nice speech I thought, a little distant, you know that was a shame but what can you expect? She must be distraught!’

‘Yuhs, yuhs of course, poor girl, a little distant I thought too, not many personal stories but poor Pip she’s only in her twenties it’s all so very hard!’

‘Yes, yuhs, oh very hard, mmhmmm …’