The park was quiet for a Friday morning. The sun warm, leaves golden and grass still slightly damp from an early autumn shower.
It felt like home away from home.
She sat on the park bench, frail and forlorn, crouching over and clutching her chest. Her strikingly transparent blue eyes welled with tears, her aged leathery skin covered in tattoos of names and dates; just like mine.
There was a new tattoo on her chest. Her husband had died two days before.
I sat beside her and handed her a cup of tea from my thermos and a slice of cinnamon teacake still warm from the oven. Her eyes warmed with gratitude as she looked up at me, “this was one of our favourites!”
We meet in the park each week to share tea, cake and stories of our tattoos. For each person or pet we have loved, we point to a tattoo. On our birthdays, we both get a new tattoo. I feel as though I have known her all my life, her memories now mine and mine are hers.
This morning I wait for her in the park but she hasn’t arrived. She had one tattoo left, the first tattoo she ever had. She seemed to find that one too hard to talk about.
I arrive home to find a letter from her. She tells me about the first tattoo. It was to remember a daughter she had given up for adoption.
The date is my birthday.
Category Archives: Annette Rohde
“Hey, why don’t you come around for dinner? You can see my dog’s behaviour for yourself.”
It was his blue eyes that had me on the first blink. You could drown in those eyes. With one look, nothing else existed.
“Okay, that sounds great!” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I can’t put myself through another failed relationship but I have totally fallen for his dog. “But I can’t see how this gorgeous dog of yours could behave anything like you say.”
Sitting in front of the fireplace, glass of red in hand, candles burning, I complimented him on a perfect dinner. “And there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with your dog at all, he’s an angel.”
“I think he has fallen for you so he’s on his best behaviour. The test will be when I get closer to you.”
I feel goosebumps as he moves closer. I can feel his breath on my neck, his dog at my feet.
As soon as he moves in to kiss me, the dog jumps up, licking our mouths like he’s trying to finish an ice block before it melts on a very hot day.
“Urgh, get off!” The look on his face goes from saying ‘I told you so’ to a look of confusion … I think I was looking at him as I said this.
The moon, set low in the night sky, reflects its light on the deceitfully smooth ocean. The waves, gently hitting the side of the boat, are my unwanted companions. My weary body lying on the hard deck faces the stars; a cool sea breeze fresh upon my face provides little relief. It’s so serenely surreal. I feel as though I am not going to last the night.
I need to stay awake and keep centred; it’s the only way to get through this.
My eyelids grow heavy as I become one with the rhythm of the sea. Thack. Thock. Thack, thack, thock. Thock. Thack, thack, thock. Thock, tha…
No, stay awake!
I search the stars for the Southern Cross, then comb the sky for other constellations. My head spins again as my eyelids grow heavier…
I focus on one star, hoping it will fall so I can make a wish that I will be back on land soon. Maybe. Just maybe …
Cold splashes jolt me awake. I dry retch and clutch my stomach. My head dizzy, it takes a moment to remember where I am.
I must keep still, become one with the boat’s motion, imagine I am floating and still and relaxed. Stay awake!
As the sun appears over the horizon, I look towards the cabin where dad is soundly sleeping and sigh with some sense of relief. Soon he will wake so we can sail back to land, the cure for my sickness.
He knew his was short but his passions were strong.
He tried to prepare those he loved subtly. He knew theirs would be longer so he aimed to make a big impact, to make his mark, to make a difference.
‘We should all strive to make an impact!’ he’d say as we prepared for the next show. ‘It shouldn’t make a difference if it’s a long or short one!’ he’d joke as we helped him into his costume. He didn’t like to discriminate.
I remember his large, warm, strong hands holding mine while he read my palm, his fingers softly caressing each line. ‘This line is quite long,’ he said, ‘you will have plenty of time to make your mark.’
His lifeline was too short.
Hundreds of people turned up to his funeral. They were from all walks of life, people who would never have connected with each other without the commonality of that one person. All telling a similar story of their experiences with him, how he had changed their lives in some way.
‘There was a plant obstructing his access to the wheelchair ramp, so I moved it,’ one person said. ‘He insisted on buying me coffee and gave me tickets to his next show. That’s when I decided to run for Council. We’ve met for coffee every week since.’
He knew. Life is too short to waste a second of it.
He asked if I wanted to try some but I wasn’t sure.
He said it would be okay, so I took a drag and it hurt my throat so much that I thought I was going to cough my lungs right out. So then he said I could try it without it making me cough.
He blew the smoke into my mouth.
I really liked him putting his lips on mine, you know, I sort of pretended that he was kissing me.
We chatted for a bit and I started to feel really good, you know, relaxed, so I asked for another one. This time when he blew it into my mouth we started really kissing.
We kissed for so long. I felt good. Then he started touching me. It felt nice.
He was hot and breathless. While he was kissing me he started to press against me. He said he would be gentle.
Afterwards he said how wonderful and how beautiful I was but we should keep it a secret because my friends might call me names. Then said we should get back to the party.
Later, when I was in bed and the last of the guests were leaving, I heard him say to dad, “You have a beautiful daughter. You’ll be fighting off the boys calling for her when she gets older”.