I'm reading
Shining
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Shining
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Shining
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
10 December 2018

Shining

“A little piece of love-for-a-stranger ricochets between us, a transfiguration of two wounded ones.”

Written by Julie Perrin

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Photo by Henrique Félix on Unsplash

The lift judders to a halt. I am standing in front of the open door, but I don’t move until someone behind me says, “This is the Ground Floor.” There’s an edge in the speaking that makes me realise I am holding others waiting. I step out of the lift into the foyer and stand to one side while people stream past me. The foyer is like a tunnel funnelling us to the street. It takes me a minute to get my bearings, still dazed by the osteopath’s treatment of the seized-up muscles in my back. I don’t feel so steady on my feet. I’m snagged in a web of deadlines I can no longer meet. How will I manage the house move I have to make? How can I do the sorting if I can’t move the boxes?

From threshold of the foyer I gaze at the streetscape beyond the glass doors. This is Collins Street, Melbourne, I tell myself. This is where you are now. Winter sunshine glimmers in the rain-washed sheen of the pavement. I step outside blinking up at the trunks and bare winter branches of the plane trees, the snaggle of tramlines overhead. Immediately I stop. It’s too bright and too loud and too busy.

A tram grinds to a halt with the screech of metal on metal, dinging the warning bell. Pedestrians crossing against the lights scatter and veer through the crowds on the pavements. The tram doors hiss open and passengers pour out, unsnagging their bags and umbrellas and pocketing their Myki cards in swift practiced motions. There is a swish of car tyres on wet bitumen, the rev of engines, the beeps and toots of impatience. Clouds block the sunshine, giving a grey cast that weighs down the air.

Timidly I set off again, nudging myself along the shopfront edge of Collins Street. I am staring at the ground because of the too-much of everywhere else. A pair of crutches touch down and between them I see a foot move towards me with trembling slowness. It is parcelled up, wrapped in crepe bandages that are held by an elastic net. The net gives the foot the appearance of a rolled roast—disquietingly meat-like. Very slowly the foot slides forward past the crutches. Its tiny glide is tentative. I flinch at the hidden rawness of this parcelled meat-foot. Beside and behind the slow motion of the foot, leather boots and stilettos hit the ground in stomps and staccatos.

Suddenly we are an island, the owner of the foot and I, both now stopped at the side of the footpath. I speak without waiting to look up. There is no filter. I say exactly what I am thinking,“You look as if you are in pain.” The last two words—“in pain”—are said with weight, my voice leaning into them. The pain of the foot has dug into me like crutches dig into armpits. Flinching at my own frankness, I look up. What have I just said, and who have I said it to?

All of her attention is bent towards her damaged foot. As she lifts her head the curtain of dark hair falls back to the sides of her face. I take in her soft dark brown skin and her eyes meet mine. She shakes her head slightly and her hair moves with its own gentle forcefield of energy. She is looking at me appraisingly, as if she can’t quite believe what I’ve just said. And then a smile flickers at the corners of her mouth. “Thank you,” she says, “I’ve just come from seeing a psychologist because I don’t know how I’m going to manage.”

Suddenly the sun is shining again, glinting in the space where we have stopped. I am dazzled by her loveliness as much as I have been horrified by her foot. I am no longer imagining the terrible injury beneath the bandage, I am gazing at the shining of her face. From wounded to transfigured in the flash of a smile. Her teeth gleam. Then she blinks and glances down at her foot again before asking, “What about you, how has your day been?”

My back twinges and I ache at the necessity of moving my 93 year-old mother; the weight of needing to do this against her will, the remaining work to clear her home, the impossibility of doing this without lifting boxes. I shrug. “Tricky,” I say, with one of those rueful you-know-how-it-is smiles that is usually exchanged with close friends.

A little piece of love-for-a-stranger ricochets between us, a transfiguration of two wounded ones. Yes, I am in pain. Yes, it helps to say so. Thank you for noticing. We nod and then move on.

 

This article is part of our healing campaign at Dumbo Feather. For more stories, inspiration and ideas, purchase Issue 57—”Healing Ourselves” or subscribe.

Julie Perrin

Julie Perrin is an oral storyteller, writer and arts educator. She directs Tellingwords. Her stories have been published in The Age, The Big Issue, Eureka Street, and in Australian short story collections. Julie also writes for organisations, largely in the not-for-profit sector. She has taught at the University of Melbourne and RMIT and in numerous adult learning contexts.

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