I punch her in the face and start to remember things.
Like a kids cartoon, the sound rings out in the air.
Did you ever as a kid stick your hand in a bag of sand or grain, and feel it flow around your features? The grains wrapped around your fingers like a glove. You start to remember you have a body with cells, pores, skin and life; from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. I guess it’s kind of like that when I punch her in the head. We’re down on the ground in the grass. A crowd of people surround. They yell in guttural growls and scream with voices I don’t understand. The boys beat their chests and the girls look on, while they stand at the sidelines.
The air is dense with words and sounds swirling all around. They yell at me. But the crack of my knuckles against the bridge of Sarah’s nose is louder. It goes straight through the sound like a spear through water.
I’ve got four fingers pinched to a bunched fist knocking solid skull. When I jab forward, her head knocks back into the ground and the force ricochets up my arm. I start to feel my features. I start to feel my outline. I start to remember I’m a human being. I can see myself in the reflection of iPhones filming as I jab her jaw.
I wonder if cavemen knew what they were without a mirror. I wonder if touch was enough for them, down in the grass, hitting each other, understanding their bodies; their place. When you think about it that way each jab is like an evolutionary step forward.
Funny that; how it’s forwards and backwards at the same time.
With each hit to the head, I start to remember things. The points all connect like dots in a children’s book. The grains of sand, the notes, my father, the car crash, Sarah’s sunken in head right here. Let me explain though. After all, what’s a story without the lead up? Devolving with each primal blow, I traverse through time. Into the slipstream I go, back by years. I raise my fist.
Twenty minutes earlier.
I’m in the middle of a crowded dance floor. The crowd is blue, the lights shine down from a strung up gazebo. They’re those bulbs that they use in public toilets; the blue ones so that in the light junkies can’t find their veins. Strobe flashes assault my eyes, and, with the blaring auto tune of Nicki Minaj screaming through the night, it’s an overdose of falsified experience. The light shines over my body and it’s ghostly. I can’t feel myself after those drinks. I’m just one big florescent spirit walking through the crowd looking for him. The bulbs flash, and each frame that shows up under blue light is just a tangled mass of limbs. I should have worn a black dress, not white. There’s a spot of blood on my skirt line and I don’t remember how it got there.
Outside in the air things are clearer. I check my phone to see if he’s texted but there’s just a warbled black image of me staring back. Me: Georgie. Not Georgina, Georgie; because apparently I don’t fit the former. Year eleven girls can be such bitches sometimes. The best way to deal with it all is to just go with it. Ride the flow of it all and stay one with the moving mass of limbs. Not because it’s interesting, because it’s easier to live that way. This is Sarah’s party. These are Sarah’s friends. I don’t particularly enjoy my boyfriend’s company but at least he’s someone for solidarity amongst ass out denim, pulled fringes and sucked in stomachs.
Where are you?
I’m talking to myself again. That’s the second time tonight.
The party’s in a giant clearing in the back hectares of Sarah’s North Brisbane property, surrounded by woodlands. “Field party,” I think, is the collective term deemed acceptable by the year eleven girls for what kind of event this is. North siders typically have a bit more money with the property prices round this area, and it’s easy to see Sarah’s no exception to the rule. The field is huge, and the crowd is vast. I always think of North and South like opposites; Sky to ground, heaven and hell. Dust bin fires light up familiar faces from school. But, with the rising smoke, they all blend into one another.
I wasn’t invited to this party, nor were half the people here. This isn’t about that though. I’m here because it’s easier this way; keeping up appearances. Not because it’s interesting. I need to find my boyfriend soon. Walking through the field alone isn’t going to do me any favors when people look back on the night. They’ll talk between themselves through the week at school. They’ll say, “Remember how “Georgina-” wait sorry, “Georgie, walked around in that bloodstained white dress looking for someone, anyone, to talk to?” I’m here for appearances sake, so I might as well find him to complete the act, or, being here this whole night has been a waste of everyone’s time.
By a line of cars near the trees, kids chug rum. Back and forth they go; self-destruction a mark of their adult insignia. Each sip, another hardened experience. No more to be told they’re kids, they liken their night to a war hero’s tales, through the week explaining their Saturday experiences in rigorous detail for a crowd of willing ears. No more children, they skip for adulthood, evolving faster. They dull human sense with sips, puffs and pills.
Funny that; how it’s forwards and backwards at the same time.
I can see his car by the tree line and move towards the foliage. Some guy with a sweat stained Bintang singlet goes to stop me before I get to the car. But he falls over as he goes to grab me, reaching out with his hand. He doesn’t touch me. His posse laughs. That’s another ten minutes of story time on Monday. Wonderful.
The back windows of the Toyota are steamed up so I look through to see if there’s any sign of him, and it’s just two legs backing into a torso over and over. Just sweating, life-size Lego pieces that don’t fit, mashed together by a malcontent child; a single moving mass of drunken hopelessness.
It’s Sarah fucking him.
The trees blow overhead and I start to sober up as the wind flows around me. Elderberries fall from the foliage to the ground. I smack the passenger window with my fist and the glass spirals like a spider web. The two look up to me. She stumbles out from the passenger door, ‘Georgie, wait-‘
My name’s Georgina.
And here we are with me on top, bringing pain with a balled fist from the heavens above. The wind blows individual strands of my hair; the grass beneath my feet; the soil beneath her head. I spread her nose over her face like strawberry jam. The crowd runs in and the digital sphere forms around us.
This isn’t about him. To be honest I couldn’t give a fuck what he does. I’m with him to keep up appearances. Because it’s easy, not out of interest. But appearances don’t matter anymore, as Sarah can probably vouch for; Sarah, with her concaved mandibles, her in the black dress, me in the white. This is about something else, something bigger than the both of us.
I start to feel younger in time. The points all connect; the grains of sand, the notes, my father, the car crash, the punched skull. I raise my fist and connect to the past, through the dots of my human experience.
Two hours earlier.
I’m in someone’s car. Saccharine sweet strawberry Vodka in my mouth and I’m drunk. I think. My head is out the window, tongue lapping wind like a dog.
‘Sit still Georgie you drunk bitch or we’ll get pulled over.’
Someone’s car, someone’s voice.
September wind explodes on my face and I’m Medusa, hair moving every which way at once. There’s someone stoned in the back, some guy at the wheel and me, the passenger, on our way to get pre drinks for the party. The dashboard clock reads 8.00PM in digital numbers. I hope we get there soon because I remember boxing training in the morning with dad. He’s my coach now that he’s retired.
Voices and music echo through my head. Streetlights strobe by with the seconds. All that’s on my mind is a confluence of sounds and sights from the night; a big soupy mixture of memory that’s churning round and round in my gut, swirling to one black tar mixture. The past, present and future all bleed into one moment. The clock’s still at 8.00PM.
I feel sick.
The driver gives me a look when my hand goes over my mouth. With one hand on the wheel he looks at his phone. Bright blue casts over the roof from the fluro message screen. I can’t see the veins in my arm when I finally bring it down from my mouth. It’s staying inside me for now.
He gives me a look. I forget who this guy is. Is it someone from my class? Maybe. He says nothing but means something. I know he wants to say something. But I wouldn’t know what it is. He could mean anything with that look. With the blink of his eyes, the jut of his jaw, the way the exasperated sigh fell from his mouth. Back at school there’s these posters up on the walls of a fish in the water, morphing to a monkey, then to a man with a spear. I picture this guy as last on the chain, driving ahead, evolved to a point where talking’s not needed and telepathy’s not alien. He goes to say something but just opens and shuts his mouth like a fish.
I think about how far we’ve come as a civilization, with the skyscrapers above and the neon signs ahead. I think about the driver, whoever he is, and how he can’t say what he feels. How he’s drifting further and further away from life with each OS update he accepts. He looks at me, and it’s just a snapshot of one moment. We progress and devolve at the same rate, lengthening this one moment on into forever, advancing towards technology, perfection, higher powers; yet away from, love, life, touch, and the roots of our being.
The car revs harder and speeds up down the single lane street. I think I hear someone talking. Who was it that said something? I realize I’m talking to myself.
I pull out my iPhone and check Instagram.I scroll through singular frames down, down, down. A photo of eggs benedict, legs in a bathtub, candid selfie. Sarah’s pushup bra tit shot comes up. 100 likes in 20 minutes. I forget she’s just a high schooler like me with a body like that. She’s like a God in the digital world compared to me, the layman.
I look up from Instagram. We turn on the final street to the bottle shop, funneling down the two way road in the only direction we can. I wonder what it would be like to crash headfirst into a car on the other side; to feel something. To feel metal push me up to the ceiling, pressured pain touching me, reaching out like Adam’s finger in the Sistine Chapel.
I grab the wheel and pull it, out of interest, not because it’s easy. The car jerks to the right. ‘LEAVE IT YOU PSYCHO CUNT,’ he screams and pulls the car back to our side. The insult reminds me of something, but I don’t remember what. Something about the jagged word sticks.
Whiplash from the jerk sends me straight into the side door. My head bangs into the edge leaving a small cut. A slither of blood drips down onto my skirt line. The crack sends shivers through my body, from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes.
I’m back in the field, hitting her in the head, it dents in like the car would have if we crashed. The fist comes up again.
Two months earlier.
I’m at Home. The Panasonic is set to channel ten and we’re all crowded around on the leather couch watching; Me, Mum, Grandma, and Grandad. It starts and the volume goes up with the crowds as they roar. It sounds like medieval war cry. A strobe light flashes over the scene, illuminating thousands in the audience beating their chests for a start.
Dad walks down the aisles to the center ring, the middleweight champion ready to defend his belt. He readies for the match, shaking his shoulders out, cracking fingers, dancing on taut toe tendons.
Mum claps her hands nervously beside me.
His opponent is already waiting in the center of it all. The camera pans over the guy and he gives Dad a look as he climbs under the ropes, a sort of secret message he’s relaying through sight. The announcer primes the crowd and the fighters whisper into each other’s ears. This is the psyche out, the insidious remarks they throw at each other before the round. This is all about dominion and being the one on top. The psyche out is the beginning of it all, the fight before the fight. The gloves knock, and it begins.
Before long my mother’s in the kitchen crying and granddad has already tried to turn the TV off four times. But I want to see how it ends.
Dad drops to his knees and flash photography ringside pulses slower. A flurry of punches sends sprays of red blood down to the white ring. The camera cuts to the crowd. They yell and beat their chests from the sidelines. They look happy. The camera cuts back to the fighters. Dad cops another one in the mouth, and the crowd smiles. There’s something human about putting yourself in the body of sportsmen, pretending you’re there. It’s like reconciliation; you start to remember you have a body and all that it’s capable of.
Dad’s opponent brings up his fist for a haymaker. This is it. Dominion. The crowd throws the haymaker.
I put myself in the body of my father.
The camera pans close and he stares down the barrel of the lens. This one moment of performance crystalizes, disrupting the fluidity of time. His opponent stands above, framed in full by hundreds of cameras. And just before impact, I could have sworn my father smiled. The fist came forward. And flat knuckle force brought him back to life.
Two years earlier I’m in art class.
We’re studying Michelangelo; The Creation of Adam. Up on the PowerPoint projector a hand reaches out to God. It flickers a little with the screen. Sarah and her friends sit on the opposite side of the room passing notes, smiling amongst each other.
I raise my eyebrows to her and smile, hoping she’ll pick up on the cues. Hopefully my disingenuous interest is disguised. I don’t like her, but need to for an easy ride through school. She whispers something into the ear of the girl beside her and I know it’s not good. I’m psyched out before anything has even happened.
Then, once class is done, I’m packing up my books and there’s a folded note beside me. I pick it up and scrawled across blank white paper in glitter red is FAT CUNT. The KUH, in the back of my throat clicks. It’s so childish and grownup all at once. Outside there’s laughter. Sarah’s friends stand around her and she looks down to them. I leave through the door and it’s raining. My makeup washes down my face and drops from the clouds run down rivulets of my skin. My complexion changes.
I hit her one last time.
It doesn’t matter when it was.
I was a child in an empty gym with my father. He trained and I watched on from the sidelines. After a short spar he told me to get the bag. So I dragged it over the hardwood floors and handed it over; the bag of sand. He brought back the feeling to his numb knuckles. I tried it too. The sand wrapped around my fingers like a glove and I could feel my outline.
I’ve always felt I’ve lived a life in reverse, slowly walking away from my own humanity. As I grow older, I lose sight of myself through a screen.
She’s on the ground smiling. Just the two of us now.
I forgive Sarah, because I know she feels the same way. I know the crowd watching with their iPhones all feel the same way. But they’re dealing with it wrong. This isn’t about dominion, being the best, raising the likes with vines, snaps, posts, virility, having people know you, having people fear you. It’s not about skipping for adulthood, progressing faster and faster by the years to stand out amongst your peers.
This is about going backwards. Backwards to whom we once were; human beings outlined against universal void, points of life from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes. I remind Sarah she’s a human being, body and all. The crowd vicariously throws the punch and feels the weight of my fist. Her complexion spreads over her face like makeup in the rain. The digital sphere has disappeared. It’s just me, her and one timeline slowly ticking. The stars shine brightly, and the Sistine ceiling hangs above us. I reach out like god with a fist. Michelangelo would be proud. Red splashes the canvas and the gap between two bodies is bridged. The hands touch.
And at that moment, we grew old and young all at once but always back to the root of our being.