words

love - story post

Meeting Chris was not a meet-cute or a sweet story. It started with a swipe of our fingers and "it's a match!" when people asked me for months after how we met I'd either laugh nervously or make up an exuberant story about we met saving an entire in orphanage from a fire and then our eyes met through the flames. Now I just say it simply. 

I wasn't on tinder for love. Or to date. Or for anything. My mum was very sick and my days were taken up by hospitals and cancer. I wanted something away from that life, I wanted to flirt with boys and be silly and for a moment not have this dark shadow hanging over me. 

Then there was Chris. 

Unlike most conversations I had experienced, there were no lines, no awkward pauses or days of not messaging one another. I was stuck to my phone like a giggly teenager, talking to this boy from Queensland, who had moved to Spain and then come to Melbourne for a fresh start. 

I remember first seeing him and noticing the fire behind his eyes, this life that came in waves and made you warm on the inside. He had tussled hair, dark eyes and freckles – and I remember noticing how animated his voice was as we drove to have breakfast together.

We spoke deeply about life. About most things many would shy away from on first meeting. Chris and I agree on everything and we talk and talk, I find myself smiling and laughing and the hospital beds for a moment melt away.

We first kiss on our second meeting. He had wanted to all night but feared scaring me away. When we finally do, we are at my car. Anticipation hangs in the air as we say our goodbyes, and then there he is, lips making me fall away from myself. I’m smiling when we pull away and it stays a tattoo on my face for hours.

‘I love you,’ first came from my mouth. He was lying in bed with messy hair and my heart was beating and I say it. He says he does too and I hide behind my hands and laugh.

Later, he asks if he can meet my mother, and I hesitate. She is only seeing immediate family and I think of her, bright cheeks and toned body now pale and skinny, her moments of consciousness becoming farther apart and I tell him the memories I want him to have are those I paint in stories, and not what she is now.

Not long after, she dies, and a part of me dies too. I spend my days just trying to figure out how to be human. How was it that I breathed, again? What is feeling? Am I even alive anymore?

The funeral is made of blurry faces and names. People give their condolences and I feel so numb I can't feel it when they hug me.

Chris comes to the funeral and watches me tremble through my speech. Her coffin is in the middle of the room – I can’t stop looking at it but all I want to do is run away from it, run until my lungs ache and I don’t see it etched behind my eyelids anymore.

When I am no longer around, Chris goes to the coffin and tells her he’ll take care of me.

A couple weeks later, I am sleeping on my uncle’s couch, my life is packed in boxes and I don't know where to go. I almost thank the shock for not letting me feel everything.

I start hunting for a place to stay, and Chris watches me struggle. He suggests we move in together and I look at him as if it is a joke but he is staring at me wide-eyed. He’s serious. I tell him he’s crazy.

But the idea of having this light in my life every day, of waking up to his warm body next to mine. I say okay. And we do. We move to a tiny unit with just us, and it feels like the simplest thing in the world.

Everything else is difficult – waking up is difficult, eating is difficult, breathing is difficult. I wake every morning drenched in sweat, I’m cleaning dishes and then I’m crying into them. The drama of my family is too much to handle and my anxiety rears its ugly head and makes my heart beat, my lungs constrict and my throat clog in both calm moments and crazy ones. I’m sitting and then I’m choking. I’m editing and then I’m curled in a ball on the bathroom floor.

 ‘Why are you with me,’ I ask. ‘How do you put up with this, I was expecting you to run away because of how hard it’s getting’

‘Well if this is as hard as it gets, then we don’t have a problem.’

I begin to take things a day at a time. I don’t think to the past, or the future, but I think of that moment and what I am doing, what I need to accomplish and how to go about it.

And slowly, slowly, I begin to feel normal again. Things are brighter and more colourful and the love I feel burns deep in my chest.

Chris comes home and tells stories on how he made someone laugh that day. He grabs me around the waist and dips me for a kiss. He makes me tea (half a sugar and a little bit of milk) as I stay up late editing. His puns are out of control, but sometimes so quick and clever that I admit that it was wonderful, which he sees as a personal achievement.

We marvel at the universe and our existence, that we are both alive now and the insane evolution of our species. We ask each other deep questions, and sometimes very silly ones (if you could have one mythical creature be real, what would it be?) And he makes me laugh so hard it turns silent.

These little things heal me, and our little home becomes a safe haven filled with us.

Our love changes. It is more contented now, I have memorised his freckles, his fears, his habits. He puts up with my morning grumpiness and I his moments of self doubt – neither of us are perfect, but we are perfectly imperfect together. 

a picture taken a couple months into our relationship 

Annika in Hamburg

I first met Annika when I collaborated with Julia Trotti in Sydney.

She is just the sweetest - Chris and I picked her up in our rental car, and we talked and laughed with each other on our drive to the lake.

Fast forward a year and Chris and I are sitting in a restaurant by a station in Hamburg and I see Chris' face light up. I turn around and there is Annika, her smile is massive and her cheeks flushed with excitement. We hug her hello, all so overwhelmed that we are meeting her in her home country. 

We talk about German words and Chris laughs and calls me 'Mein Frau' and Annika squeals and grabs my hand. There is a moment of confusion and then she tells me that Frau means wife. Woops. 

Annika takes us for a walk around the streets, and I photograph her along the way. To watch her model is amazing. She dances in front of the camera - spinning and twirling, changing expressions and looks in milliseconds. I feel like I can't press the shutter down quick enough - I had to tell her a couple of times to slow down. But that's not a bad problem to have. 

These are photos from our first day together. At the end I felt like the time had just slipped through my fingers - so we agree to meet up the next day in her home town. Photos for that day coming soon. :) 

life and death

Writings from the early morning of October 15th, my love sleeping beside me, breathing slowly – my puppy curled up behind my knees.

“So it has been two years, mama. Two years since I last saw you breathing, a little longer since we said our last 'I love you's' (not that I knew at the time.) 

I don’t know if today is worse, or leading up to it was. I was met with flashbacks that hit me hard in the middle of every day moments.


I see you wide-eyed and scared, the oncologist in front of us saying that there is nothing left to do. When I ask now long, my voice is far away. He asks you if you want to know, and you nod. Two weeks, maybe less. When he leaves I remember saying that I wasn’t ready to lose you yet. I had been filled with positivity up until then, and now I wasn’t – it left me dark and hollow.


I think of those last couple of days. Filled with gasping and silence that made my heart skip. Moving around your bed feverously, are you warm, are you cold? I move the blankets up, touch your hand – hot but not there. I think I want to give you a drink – your lips are chapped. I curl up onto the small bed like a child and wrap my arm around you.

 

I see sick bags and emergency rooms. Pumps pushing in poison and clumps of hair falling through my fingers. Appointments and statistics, MRIs and CT scans.


These aren’t you. Cancer wasn’t you.

 

You were life. You were cheeky smiles and laughter. Tea made. Deep conversations.

 

You were open and kind, and everyone around you could feel it. I’d often see friends and strangers confiding in you –asking for advice, no matter how personal. You would laugh with them and give pearls of wisdom they would clutch close to their chest. 


We were silly. Sometimes I would follow you around the house during a particularly bad procrastination period. So close you could feel me when you stopped – you would flail around and tell me to bugger off but it would be filled with laughter.


As a teen, I’d climb on your back whilst you were having conversations and not let go. You said I was a koala and tickle my sides.

You would see me standing at the window of your fitness class in front of forty people and pull faces. Sometimes I would join you and you would play songs I had given you, and introduce me to everyone “this is my daughter!” occasionally on microphone. Your pride made me blush and sometimes embarrassed me. It's funny how you miss those things with time. 

I’d take you out for coffee, and you would order a cappuccino with two sugars. I’d eat off your foam with a spoon and you would complain that was the best bit, but let me do it anyway.

On your last birthday, I told you I was taking some photographs of you. We went to the overgrown park at the end of the road. I remember you looked up nervously at the sky and it crackled with thunder. I said that you worried too much (you did.)


I remember thinking how pretty you were as you pulled faces and laughed with me.” 

Losing a parent made me realise something. I’m not unique, or even uncommon. I had countless people tell me their stories after my mums passing. People I had known but never spoken with, old friends, work colleagues and strangers.


A girl my age, Jennifer from Georgia in the US, lost her mother the same time as mine and we checked up on each other every couple of weeks. Brought together by tragedy. We had never spoken before but her words mimicked my own feelings and warmed me from the inside.

 

If anyone is going through what I’m going through – I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s hard. People will tell you it gets easier, and it’s true – but that doesn’t mean that it’s not ridiculously hard.

I’m two years on and I have days where she slips through my memory quietly, bringing happiness instead of sadness, and other days where my heart catches in my throat. 

In death, a hole is created inside you - and I feel as if this becomes a permanent part of who you are. 

And that's okay.


You have no control over when or how you remember them - or when you feel sad. But those moments will pass – like all moments.

Try to acknowledge your pain but not dwell. It’s very easy to fall into bad habits. I would sleep and sleep and feel as if my body couldn’t force itself to move.

I would cry into my dishes and make awkward jokes at my pain that I knew made people uncomfortable.

You deal with grief in your own way and it’s normal. You are normal – you are not insane, no matter how much you think you are.

I remember vividly standing in a store and looking at mints she used to buy and crying, staring at mints and feeling as if I was going crazy.  

I remember thinking about a stupid text I sent her that was mean and spending a long while wondering if that hurt her – my heart aching.

It will pass. Take every day as it comes.

As my mum would say when I struggled with a dark sadness before her death,

“get up, have a shower, get dressed.”

We spread her ashes that day. I watched the grey powder pour out and I thought of how everything she was, the smiles, the words, the laughter, were all dust and memory.

 

I miss you. 

Kristín Eva

On one of our last days in Iceland, I met up with Kristín Eva. We drove to a spot that I had seen when entering Reykjavik - it was positioned on the side of the highway - a lot like a simple park would be in Australia.

Only it was mountains, and ice and pine. It was one of those moments I breathed in deep just to appreciate where I was and what I was doing. It occurred to me that this was just home for Kristín - and I found the different lives we must lead really interesting.  

I showed her photos of spiders from home, like a huntsman we had on our wall not too long ago - she laughed "that's not normal!" 
In Iceland I barely saw a bug of any kind. I did not miss you, mosquitoes. 

At one point a bird flew over us. I had been hearing it all trip - to me it sounded like a hover craft a low woowoowoowoo sound. I asked Kristin what it was - I hadn't been around any Icelanders when I had heard it previously, and trying to replicate the sound to people had caused caused odd glances and responses like "I don't know what that is." 

"We call that Hrossagaukur - Horse Cuckoo" Kristín said, she laughed at my amazement.

The shoot was short but beautiful. I miss how pretty you are, Iceland!