Thursday, 23 May 2013

Flying the nest

At different times every day - some days it’s before play lunch, sometimes it’s at the dinner table when mum’s making us sit straight and talk about our days, though dad’s never home in time - there’s something that I know is going to happen before it happens.

One afternoon Mr Bishop is explaining our writing exercise and I start before he’s finished speaking because I know that his twist is going to be, ‘And then… then you have to write the same story from the view of the other person.’ I already know that I’m going to write about going to the market to buy the packets of char sui rice for the family. I’m going to talk about how it makes me feel grown up, that I could cope on my own if I had to. And then I’m going to be the old Chinese man with the hairy chin mole who pats my blonde hair, like he still can’t believe it’s real, and gently pushes my shoulders so I sit on the little red stool and he arranges for a wedge of pineapple to be passed to me from the fruit lady at the next stall.

Unlike the rest of the class, who mostly fiddle with their pencils for a while before they start writing, it’s like I’ve already had hours to prepare.

One morning I mouth the words with Sarah, ‘My family is moving back to Australia. At the end of term.’ She’s focused on the ground and doesn’t see that I know a few seconds ahead of her giving me the bad news.

I never know when I’m going to know something before I should. I’ve stopped trying to tell anyone that it happens because they think I make stuff up.

I can fly.

I don’t do it every night but there’s enough times I’ve been up there to know how it feels.

Once when I tried to tell Sarah about it she cut me off to show me her new yy yonnex wooden racquet.

I swim laps in the pool every day, swim as far as my older brothers and their friends, and my mum and her friends always rub my towel on me when I get out and my hands are wrinkly and they pass me chicken satay and say I’m a big fish.

But I’m also a bird. I’m like one of those seaplanes, I can do air and water. I know I can’t do fire. But so far I’ve only been a night bird. Today my mum’s home early and I’m in the laundry room, holding the terrapins that are meant to stay in the plastic tank until the boys take them back to school. She says something to our amah and walks down the hallway towards our bedrooms. I imagine her checking my bedroom for me, maybe scowling a bit that I’m not at my desk doing my homework. Maybe she checks my brothers’ room in case I’m rifling through their Meccano again.

The Back Stairs are my only escape. I’ve only ever heard the gardener sweeping them and don’t know why we even have them if no one ever uses them. But I don’t want to get caught and I know that I can fly.

She comes back down the corridor, calling my name, and I dart up the stairs. I need to get high so that I can’t be seen out of the kitchen window. I go up to second floor.

Leaning over the wall that’s almost up to my shoulders I can see the green grass below, but I look further out to the forest where I often play cowboys and Indians.

I stand on the wall and then because I can fly, I know I can weave through the tops of the trees. I know how it will feel to tumble-turn in air, arms stretched sideways like Alan’s taught me to do at the end of laps, so I’m not scared when I climb up and wobble a little bit and I just lean forward so that I’m as horizontal as I can be before I step away from the height of the wall. I hear my mum call my name with a question mark because why on earth would I be up here and I see green and I haven’t been caught being naughty again and I can fly.

Written in response to Write Around Town exercise: 

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