Lila had eaten a pasty in the car on the way home and now flicked a crumb that was caught in her hair. She was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. She was pretending to stare at the couch furnished with its brightly coloured cushions purchased from an American Etsy retailer somewhere in Michigan State. They had arrived the day before and, after she had unwrapped them, she had clutched their colour as a tiny statement of her.

On her couch sat a man who she didn’t really know. He was a technical expert of technical things in her highly technical company and he was speaking to a camera. His hair was silvered and his eyes were warm. The important thing was that he spoke with an even tone and looked appealing on camera. The host was interviewing him. She wore a cape, slim-line brown leather boots and was at least seven foot tall.

They were in her house because they had requested a typical, domestic setting somewhere in Adelaide. But this wasn’t typical at all. Or maybe it was because things happen in suburbia.

Their house was brand new and very white – all surfaces and clean lines. However, the space, the air and the light made Lila feel little. It didn’t help that every time they argued bits of furniture disappeared. The latest was the Ikea sideboard that had been removed along with its jumble of usual things – a vase of sweet peas brought to her by her elderly neighbor, piles of bills and letters, a dog leash and dog-poo bags, an oil burner that flicked bronze residue on the white, chipped surface. In its place, against the wall, only a small ball of brown Labrador fluff remained. She kicked it with her toe hoping no one would see.

The whiteness was perfect for the shoot. Through the camera lens the pool glistened.

Someone remarked on how clean the place was. She wished she could explain that a lack of spotlessness got her into trouble even when she arrived home after a ten-hour day having been to the supermarket to get the dinner that she had to cook while he went for a beer with his mates.

The first shot was over. Lila blinked when the host skipped to her sink and turned the tap on.

She knew that within an hour the unsaturated air would beckon and the droplets would shrivel, as molecules transformed into vapour to be swallowed by the atmosphere, leaving their evidence as tiny, circular boundaries on the polished steel. She knew she would need to scrub them hard later before he got home.

The camera liked the shot and as the host left for the garden she carefully placed the washcloth back into its position on the left-hand side of the sink, neatly folded into a rectangle.

While they organised the next scene Lila forgot who she was for a moment and joked about the weekend Crows game. She talked about building the place and how it had been a dream come true for them both – apart from the pool that was a pain the arse to maintain. She mentioned they were hoping for a family to fill it one day.

She wondered if this forgetting was because she was already paper-thin and was occasionally prone to leaving herself lying in places. She was always tired.

The camera crew packed up the equipment. The technical expert shook her hand. The host flicked her hair like a horses tail and strode towards the front door. Lila carried bags and equipment and suddenly there was no one left. Even the dog had his eyes shut.

In the white silence she tried to find a pen but all the surfaces were gone. There were no draws full of things. No places where she would dump her stuff after a busy day, no hallstand, no coffee table, no bookshelves, no stockpile of the scraps from lives. The house was empty like their outlines.

Retreating to the mess of the garage she rummaged through a dusty, plastic container that had languished in her own shed for years. A box that held bits of her, waiting for its own place. Underneath a pile of things that included the registration tag of the dog she had loved as a child, a picture of her smoking a cigarette in the Uni Bar circa 1998, an African bead necklace, the stub of a ticket to see Sonic Youth, broken earrings, a farewell card from the hotel where she used to clean used condoms out of spa baths, she found a biro.

She scribbled on the torn back of an envelope. She left it for him on the kitchen sink, perfectly perpendicular to the washcloth, and closed the door behind her.

Read more about Adelaide Stories here.

One thought on “Adelaide Stories #14. Surface

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