A warm, yellow evening, the kind that draws in the stickiness like insects. Each sluggish second creeping like the shadows spilling from the veranda. The sun, no more than a smudge of margarine smeared across the horizon, congealed clouds a dull marigold. The feeling of floating. The only thing cool, the glass in my hand. Laid on a sun lounger, it seems a long way away. The warmth of my fingers frosts the glass like icing, and the sun on my skin is hot and irritable. I bring the drink to my lips and I'm an oasis of cool. Then it laps away from me, slowly, fading from my fingers, my hands, from my throat, till I'm lying in the hot spotlight again.
Earlier today I went down into town to listen to the voices. I do that sometimes, when I'm awake enough to know I'm putting one foot in front of the other. I laid in the park watching the grass wave like snakes and I listened to the voices. But not the words, never the words… just the rhythmic, sometimes frantic beat of those who still have the will to communicate. But today, just as it's been lately, the voices became a deathly drone went on and on and on without any rhyme or reason without meaning and I just couldn't couldn't couldn't sit there any longer.
All these people, talking, talking, talking, but never ever saying anything. Why bother? Right now I want nothing more than another piece of cool numbness, but the shrill shriek of my sister, Mags, is still keening on, and I start to wonder when she arrived.
It's easy to ignore her, till she turns on me, What do you think Dinah?
Of course I tell her, Well Mags I really don't know…
-You weren't even listening, were you?
Her voice hitches, and for a moment, I can only concentrate on that one note; a chorus of magpies chiming Wereyouwereyou. Then I remember I should probably answer.
-Nope, I say.
-Dinah! She says my name like a sigh, and I tune out the rest. Instead, I look at her now, really look at her, notice how her upper lip is all red and puffy like she's been biting it again. When my sister worries about something, she looks like a trout.
She's in mid-flow about god-knows-what when I interrupt her; Spit it out, I tell her.
-You came here to say something, so say it.
Awkward. Uncomfortable. And so damned polite.
-How was your day? she asks, another way to skirt around words and never go anywhere.
-Shit, I tell her. –Now go on—
Hesitation. Pivoting. She should ask me why my day was bad, but really, she just wants to talk about hers—
-Why? What happ—
-For God's sake Mags; you don't care about my day and I don't care about yours. Now get on with it or get out. Your voice is spoiling my liquor.
Mags is crying. I look over into the honey sunset.
-I bet, she gasps, if I got run over by a train tomorrow, you wouldn't even feel sad, would you?
The sun is too bright. My eyes feel hot and dry; I shut them, squeeze them closed, watching a dozen incandescent circles skip across my eyelids.
-Of course I would, I say, easing down onto the balls of my feet, drifting towards the liquor cabinet. –At least, I hope I would.
I'm not sure it's possible for me to feel anything anymore. I pour myself a glass of brandy, but before I can lift it to my parched lips it's snatched from my hands.
-It's because of this, isn't it? This damned drink! Mags screeches.
It's almost funny how emotional she gets; shaking hands, flushed cheeks; almost funny, except I don't find anything funny anymore.
-You know, you ought to work for Alcoholics Anonymous, then you could annoy people professionally, I tell her, and I take my drink back. I head towards the veranda, but Mags blocks my way.
-No. We're going to talk, she says.
-Talking doesn't solve anything.
-Because it's you who refuses to talk. You didn't start drinking till Lisa died!
The name is like a puncture in my lungs. I can barely breathe. -What did you say? I gasp. The blissful numbness is gone; my chest burns.
-I said we're going to have a talk about Lisa, she says. She stands firmly in the doorway.
I advance on her. –You shut up about Lisa, I say. –There's nothing left to say about Lisa.
-And why? Why can't we talk about her? You think like she's your property, like no one can mention her without permission because you—
-Shut up shut up shut up!
Mags laughs. It's a hysterical laugh; she laughs like she's never seen anything so funny.
-That's right! Get angry, shout at me! Just do anything other than act like a zombie. Rage at me!
I try to get a handle on myself, but my chest hurts so much. If she would just, just stop talking—
Her voice is earnest now; Dinah… there was nothing wrong with it. I respected it! Really, I did. You've nothing to be ashamed about. If you would just talk about your feelings for once—
-There are no feelings! Nothing to talk about, nothing to discuss. We were friends; only friends.
-But Dinah, that's not true! If you'd just be honest—
I can't stand it anymore. I have to stop her talking. If I can stop her talking, I can ignore the words. I don't have to listen to them. They don't have to mean anything. And I can pretend—pretend—
I grab hold of a bottle from the cabinet, and raise it above my head.