Sunday, July 15, 2012
I used to live in a block of four flats in a wide, tree lined street just a stones throw from the park where I got married; not too far from the city, quiet enough to be called the suburbs, a network of speed humps and canals and art deco buildings bleached white with salt and sun. My neighbours were great. Over the fence there was a turtle and two round faced little kids with earnest eyes and creative parents. In the front flat, down the bottom, sharing a wall with us, were a couple about my age. They made music and art and a teeny little baby boy who would sit in the washing basket while his mum pegged impossibly small singlets on the communal line. Upstairs was a single guy who wore a lot of black and worked from home. Above us, another couple with a child. One night we heard banging and then the police came and one half of the couple was not seen again. Then there was us. My husband and I. Filling our home with furniture from our former share house, the whir of the juicer signaling morning, our little cat-child sleeping on the end of the bed. When my mother in law died, I spent a lot of time walking those tree lined streets. I'd walk past the park even though it hurt sometimes to be reminded of the other side of the coin; the joy of our wedding day, so bright and gorgeous made the darkness of our first wedding anniversary, the day she had died, so horribly devastating by comparison. I'd walk up and down the roads, around the block. Sometimes I'd collect Autumn leaves or notice FOR SALE signs attached to fences and imagine the lives of other people, creating dramas around the reasons they had to move, a marriage breakdown? Financial ruin? Moving to France? I guess it made me feel connected to imagine that it was not just my own life that was imploding. Often, upon my return from these walks, I would find an origami folded crane sitting on the letterbox or fence post or halfway up the driveway. The paper was embossed and colourful and expensive. The cranes were perfect, tiny, beautiful. I'd pick them up, secreting them into my pocket, then on to my shelf, on the coffee table or window sill. They seemed so precious, surely someone was missing them, was I really allowed to keep them for myself? I wondered where they were coming from. If it was a message, a sign that things were getting better. I'd always loved birds, we'd had tiny model finches clipped in to the flower arrangements on the day we got married. They were ominous. I had chosen to forget that I had hit and killed a magpie with my car on the day we got engaged. Those cranes were a silent, fragile reminder that the world was still wonderful. On the weekend that we went away to spread my mother in law's ashes in the Blue Mountains, we asked one of the neighbours to feed our cat. It was the single guy, the one who wore black and spoke to our kitty in a soft voice as he scratched her head. The weekend was fairly strange. I came down with a head cold that made the flights excruciating. We stood in a cemetery, silent except for the guttural sobbing of my sister in law. No one spoke but the voices in my head were so loud and my concept of time so warped that I wondered if I had spoken out loud and if so, when? And why didn't anyone respond? Why wouldn't he hug his sister? I could feel my shoulders burning in the midday sun and I truly wished to be anywhere, anyone, other than here with the broken fragments of my family. That's where we were at during that stage. Standing together by some gravestones, the most disconnected people you could imagine. When we got home, my head cold cleared up and one morning in the kitchen, while making juice, I found a crane in a tea cup. It was the same as the others; perfect, blue this time, fitting on the palm of my hand. Laughter caught in my chest. It was him! It was my neighbour all along, planting little birds about the place when no one was looking. He must have popped it in the tea cup when searching for a spoon for the cat food. They say that if you fold a thousand cranes, you get a wish. I had collected about 10 thousandths of a wish then. I later found out that our neighbour, the cat lover, the guy who wore a lot of black and kept mostly to himself, had had a girlfriend, maybe a wife, who had gotten very, very sick. One day, despite the cranes, despite it not being fair, despite Karma and will and the force of love, she had died. I wondered if he had planted the cranes because he recognised the grief in our eyes. If he saw something that was broken and thought we could do with a wish. I wondered if once she has died, the cranes reminded him of too many broken promises and he wanted to be rid of them. I think maybe though, he thought the cranes were like tears, that he had a limited number to shed and that once he had gotten rid of the last one, he could start moving on. That last crane, the blue one from the tea cup, came with me when my marriage broke up. It sat in my new bedroom, in my new flat, with my new housemate and my old, old story about the last day of February, when my mother in law had buried so much pain beneath those tiny pills, that it had killed her. On my final day of studying art therapy, I pasted that crane in between two pages of a book. When you opened it to that section, the wings would spread like it was balancing on the wind, mid flight. I wrote a story on the other pages, a story of the last two years and then the very next day, I met Welsh. He read what was written in that book, I told him about the cranes and before I knew it we had fallen in love. Him because I was a girl who wrote stories about folded birds in driveways and me because he had listened when I told them. And now it's a few miles from those tree lined streets, years away from those ashes in the blue mountains, mere footsteps from that crane, stuck in a book on my shelf upstairs and I am lucky enough to be siting here with my baby, my darling, my own tiny wish-come-true.