This is a post that falls into the category of “Stories of Stuff”. Every week, I will be indulging myself in writing a post telling the story of an object, using that object as the inspiration. The series started here.
She collects the broken things in life.
Ceramic birds with chipped wings. Clothes with holes in them. People with broken hearts.
She walks the streets and pounds the footpaths. Garage sales, council clean ups, lost and found. Tip shops. Op shops. Friends who know her eccentricities and save their broken offerings for her less than perfect world. And she gathers them up and takes them home.
She opens her front door with a key that needs to be jiggled twice. She wipes her feet on a mat that is a-frayed.
The mat is afraid.
Hangs her bag on a hook that she found in the carpark of the local hardware store.
Removes the scarf she knitted from wool she saved from the op shop.
Lifts the door slightly as she closes it, to ensure a solid seal between her and the outside world.
She turns the heater on, kicking the bottom left corner of it as she pushes the books back under it. The books offer stability in a house that is rapidly falling apart.
The house is falling apart.
She bustles into her imperfect world and finds homes for the gatherings of the day.
He is transfixed by appearances. His stainless steel approach to home decor leaves no room for her brokenness. The matching cannisters, the purity of the rugs atop the solid hardwood floor. So she does what she has always done.
She does what she has always known.
She opens one cannister, marked FLOUR.
Nestles the measuring cup with no handle gently upon the snowy household staple, and replaces the lid.
Slides open the bottom drawer and lifting the hygienic lining he has installed, she slips pictures of happy families and perfect strangers.
The strangers are perfect.
And in this way, she unpacks her bags, and then goes to the couch and waits.
His key is in the door and it opens on his first attempt.
He has been at golf, networking and playing and always slicing that damn ball to the left. He’s learned how to compensate for his imperfections at the game and finally today he came second. Second. After years of playing. Second.
He knows he is not good enough but he knows how to play the game.
And finally, it seems that she has stopped collecting her random broken crap. No matter how good and how perfect his appearance is, she has to collect these things. Things that people throw away. It’s like she is taunting him, reminding him that she knows his truth. She knows his core and his uselessness and his imperfection. And he has fought it. He has studied and worked and worn the clothes and been the man he wanted to be. He has the look and the knowledge and the style and the skills.
But then, he also has her. Reminding him. He is broken. He is useless.
He sees her on the couch and sits beside her.
“I played really well today… I met a bloke from Sydney, he may turn out to be a great contact. How was your morning?”
“Fine. Make sure you clean your golf shoes.”
“I did it at the club. They’re in the boot. It’s all fine. There’s a dinner tonight. Would you like to come with me?”
She sighs. Leans back heavily in the couch and turns her head to meet his gaze.
“I do not want to come. You are not the man you tell them you are. You parade your lies and your deception in front of them all dressed up in Armani and grandeur and hope no one ever finds out. But they will. Because it is at your core. And when they find out they will know how broken you are. You’re back here in this house because Hazel didn’t want to live with you and your filth. And finally she found the strength to boot you back to your mummy. Never mind that now I have to deal with you. So no. I do not want to go with you tonight. But part of me… part of me would love to see what happens when they find out how broken you are.”
“But they know. They already know, mum. And the only person who has a problem with it… is you. They don’t think I’m broken. And mum, I don’t think I’m broken either. You’ll never know what it took to end it with Hazel. We were together for so long. And you were so proud of her, of us. But mum, things break and fall apart – usually because they are trying to do something that they weren’t designed to do in the first place.”
“I have the right to not live with you and your immorality! I can make sure that your filthy friends never share a bed with you but I can’t change you. I have the right to a son who is straight and normal and has children with his wife! Not this broken, useless crap you present to the world every day!”
“But Mum. You also have the right to love. You have the right to respect. You have the right to change your stubborn old mind. And anyway, we’re not talking about rights. We’re talking about being decent. We’re talking about humanity and difference and respecting fellow human beings and recognising that aside from who I love, I’m your son. And I love you, mum. And I’m sorry that you think I’m broken because I am gay. But I love you.”
“I cannot and will not co-exist with you in this house.”
“Then mum, I’ll leave. But I want you to know that I have never once disrespected your beliefs. You absolutely have a right to them. But I have a right to mine, also. And I believe that my love is as good as yours. Collecting all these broken bits of shit so that you can use them to remind me of what you think of me? Mum, that is fucking madness. Because I am not broken. You are.”
And she watches as he collects his things and stuffs them into suitcases and boxes. Friends parade in and out of the house, lifting and hoisting and loading into cars. The day cools as she sits, and when he closes the door behind him she turns up the heater, because it is important to keep warm.