forty-two (between you)

by nike, December 23, 2014
X-Ray image of Picasso's The Old Guitarist (detail) showing a woman who has been painted over.

X-Ray image of Picasso’s The Old Guitarist (detail) showing the face of a woman who has been painted over.

This piece is the second guest contribution from Maria Arena: you may have already read and delighted in her earlier piece Terminus Pty Ltd.

Maria’s most recent book is a young adult horror novel, Sisterhood. You can find out more about Maria and her work by visiting her online.

The dressing gown catches your eye first: greying-pink, brushing ankles, open in front but tied with a belt, the knot loose. Slippers pad on the black road, moving through the spangles of sunlight forcing their way through the treetops. Prancing ahead, the reincarnation of Cleopatra, a small brown thing with teeth and a proud, curling tail.

You swerve to avoid the interruption, but the dressing gown has other ideas. She veers and holds up a hand. ‘Sorry to stop you but—’

The stub of a cigarette pokes between her fingers. Her dog sniffs at the sweat on your calf and you quell the urge to lash out. Beside the road is a car, forest green, beaten as an old boxer, packed to the roof with a life.

Her life.

She sees you looking. ‘How old are you, love?’ she asks, clearing her throat. Phlegm cracks like chipboard. There’s moisture under her eyes and the fragrance of cheap wine wafts around her.

Moments pass before you remember.

‘I’m fifty-three,’ she says in reply. ‘You don’t wanna be in my situation at fifty-three.’

You gaze past her, to the blind bend in the road ahead.

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