Is it just another moment, sitting here in a hospital room? I feel like it should feel more heightened or something. We’re not dead but… we got close to something. Steve (Ursula’s boyfriend, I’m trying to use his actual name now, he’s a person) got badly hurt, maimed or whatever, and I didn’t and I don’t know why. Every thought and feeling seems subtly out of sync.
Ishka looks invincible by his bedside. I imagine in that moment that they will be together forever but they won’t and who cares. Maybe it’s more that I want her in my life forever… or someone as strong as her… or I want to be as strong as her.
A few years later, I’ll be working a corporate video editing job and I’ll come across footage of the attack. There must have been cameras in those dome things but why? Was it all a game to them? Is there a them? I don’t know the answer but the incident makes me feel so repulsed I walk out of the building and never take a job like that again.
At the time I think and feel about the ramifications even less. We all pretty much manage to avoid talking about it. It’s like it’s too big to even give a fuck about. This vast bummer is all around us but strangely easy to ignore.
I do feel different though. Sitting in the sun with Ishka, we’re like two nerves, pulsing from trauma but swimming with relief. For my part at least there is less of a barrier than ever. That old blockage in my heart that would once have made me flinch from her long touch seems to be gone. So I guess some good came out of it, right? The universe maintains balance… in this case by mutilating an awesome guy so I can be more chill. Fuck you, you fucking piece of shit!
On the walk home another farcically gorgeous sunset passes unremarked upon, although it glows off our skin. The words we do exchange I forget almost immediately although I’m sure they’re important.
At the end of the that week it’s the end of the school year and there’s a masqued ball to celebrate. The theme is “pagan passions”. Ishka doesn’t want to go at first because of everything that has happened and because Steve is still in hospital but he says she should and I can’t hide how much I want to. So we hastily put together some super-rad costumes and prepare ourselves for more confusing feelings.
As we approach the party I can already see some friendly faces. Something jumps into my throat and I feel the old push and pull, my thoughts running the familiar circuits: attraction/repulsion, understanding/confusion… and the mechanism under all of it, splendid, horrifying, beyond sense or reason but totally me and all of us.
In a moment we are walking through the doors and for years after I flashback to this moment and think: “oh fuck, I wish we never had to walk out.”
Michael Hawkins is a Melbourne-dwelling comic book and visual artist of Tasmanian and U.S. derivation. He believes in mystery.