The sound of second-hand skateboards rolling one by one, grins and grazes from the latest tricks, storytelling stunts and scars on legs, silence shrouding scars elsewhere, bikes and balls where lawns might seed, siblings roller-skating close by, like flies waiting to be swatted, watching those watching others, mums silent at kitchen tables, nicotine stained fingers on Crown Lynn mugs. No sugar – white.
Brand new carpet, ‘No food in the bedroom!’ Brand new lounge suite, ‘Don’t sit on it!’ Brand new curtains – lined. ‘Not like them over there,’ Mum would say, as if lined curtains were somehow important. She’d say that about all sorts of weird stuff but you knew better than to ask why. Our dog ate from a bowl, ‘Not like them over there’. We had new woollen blankets, ‘Not like them over there’. I spent a lot of time in and out of over theres and I didn’t see much difference, although one family had a Dad instead.
Every house had three bedrooms and a choice of three wallpapers or four paint colours. It felt kinda strange seeing your bedroom wallpaper in somebody’s lounge. Even our trees looked the same. One day I got home and there were silver birch trees in our front garden. Mum was a gardener, ‘Not like them over there’. She said a big truck had come along the street when us kids were at school and all the mum’s and the Dad could choose three trees off the back of it. I thought, ‘What if you were out and missed thetruck?’ which was dumb really. In our neighbourhood there was no need to check if someone was home unless it was Tuesday.
After school I’d often find Mum leaning low over the kitchen bench, head raised just enough to peer through the net curtains saying something like, ‘She’s so nosey’. Food or no food I’d race out the back door, past the laundry into giant mounds of dirt where a park should be. My older brothers and I weren’t allowed to go back to the dirt piles after tea, ‘Not like them over there’, but we could hang out at the front fence until it got dark, unless it was bath night. When it was my turn I’d float in silence, and gaze up at the Avon soap on a rope my grandmother had bought for my birthday. A pink rose, it just hung unused on the shower head, looking beautiful. Sometimes, when I was alone I’d reach up and gently lift it down, so I could stroke its smooth surface and smell the rose scent.
Louise works as a counsellor in private practice and enjoys writing about things people avoid talking about. Having previously published a children’s book, she attended the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2020 and subsequently has had work published in various journals. In her spare time, Louise is content hanging out with her daughter and dogs in Heathcote, and mountain biking in the Port Hills.