Suzie, One Summer


It’s New Year’s Day, and Suzie and me
we’re on my patio, drinking beer.
Her silver bracelets jangle to her sobs.
I met him (sob)
at the South Bank Sacred Music Festival.
The concrete seats were cold
and this man, Paul
offered me his jumper.
When I returned it, he invited me for coffee
but I said no, I had a deadline
my Tree and Stone Series.
At Artizan, remember?

I tap the tiny silver tree on my cleavage.
I’ve never yet missed
a ‘Suzie’s Silver’ opening night.

I didn’t mention the boyfriend, she admits
I never ever mentioned him to Paul.

The one who goes away ‘on business’ to Manila? I ask
waggling my fingers, quote unquote.

She pitches a steely gaze my way and swigs
Yes, him.

I bring out two more, extra cold.

Paul the Jumper Man was blond and suntanned
a yachtie.
He admired these. She jangles her bracelets proudly.
An engineer. Ridiculously impressed by ‘Creativity’
said his mother owns two Kandinskys
maybe art appreciation runs in the family?
I will buy your work, he vowed.

The French accent she’s bunging on cracks me up
she says ‘Paul’ like ‘Pol’.
A man who appreciates art and buys it?
Paul’s not Australian then? I snicker.

I told you – from Paris.

Sounds too good to be –

True? she finishes.

Before Paul flew out – oh, did you know
that yachties from Europe use pick-up ships?
They see their boats winched aboard giant vessels
then fly home.
Paul called me from the airport to say
he’d found Artizan and bought three necklaces
one each for his mother and two adult daughters.
Water and Wind series.

I twirl my fingers with the rings I’d bought at that opening.
Water and Wind – well that makes sense, Suz
for a yachtie.

Paul skyped last month –
your work is delicate yet profound
political yet discreet
and your high school French est magnifique.
Come to Paris for Christmas. All expenses –

I swallow hard.
Nothing. Remotely. Similar.
Has. Ever …

But. Her voice catches.
I decided to stay true.

True to who? Not Manila Man?
The one who calls you Bitch?

Bitch is hip-hop talk, nothing more, she bridles.
Sighs. Unsuitable Boy, I know.
It’s the novelty, post-divorce
of sex up against a wall
the bedroom fun.

Not him! The one who boasts that
the bargirls beg for babies
and one-way tickets here?
She blushes. Contritely I prompt
You were saying? About Pol from Paris?

Paul skyped again. It is cold ici but I feel fire.

Fire? Like flames? He means – desire?
and you didn’t drop everything?

Well somebody’s gotta be loyal
like that old song: my babe, true little baby
my babe, true little baby.
She stops. I was sure
The Boyfriend would want to spend Christmas with me.

I look as neutral as I can.

You think I should’ve said
Whaddayareckon Boyfriend –
while you crawl the bars in Manila
Suzette allez a Paris?

I pop my eyes at her
meaning, what do you reckon?
She drains her beer and rolls the amber glass
across her puffy eyelids to soothe them.
Thanks again for last night. For –
and she adopts our trademark irony –
‘being there’ at midnight when I called.

We sit out the heat, the stinking muggy heat.

I was so brave on Christmas Day.
Hemmed hems, read and reread books.
Couldn’t work – I tell you
the Tree and Stone series could be my last.
I deleted the emails that arrived ping!
with those sad stories of
reliable persons who want to launder money
through your bank account.
The New Year fireworks tore me open.
I knew it here
and she nestles a fist into her solar plexus
Mister Hip-Hop will always choose giggling Filipinas
over a loyal silversmith with an eco-message.
So I texted him goodbye. And called you.

Anything back?

She checks her phone. Nup.

We’re onto G&Ts now –
the lime bites the ice cubes numb
Suzie sobs some more.

In the dead quiet of New Year’s Day in Brisbane
she upbraids herself
Loyal moron!
this is going down
as the one and only summer
you might’ve got to

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