There’s no one waiting.
“There’s nothing so broken I can’t fix it,” that’s what he had told her. Sara crumpled, and they wrapped themselves up in lamplight and each other. They didn’t surface for a week.
Christian’s boots flup, flup against the footpath, size-12 leather alligators chomping up cement. Nobody is waiting for him, but he steps with force and purpose. He peers over his belly and watches the footpath disappear beneath him, with the strange feeling of not walking at all, but the world being one big conveyor belt.
Beer and cat food, that’s all he needs.
His feet are large, his hands are large, his Greatful Dead t-shirt works hard to hold in his back fat. It’s warm, but he wears a tartan jacket and heavy Dickies workpants. Pushing himself down Glenferrie Road takes some effort. While there’s nobody here that interests him, there’s nobody at home either. Just empty beer bottles full of ash and an overflowing bowl of cat food on the back porch. Christian hasn’t seen the cat since Sara left.
She was tiny. So tiny that Christian could wrap one of his hands around both of hers. Her hands had a way of their own – at nights she would groan and her hands became wild, flying things protecting her from whatever unspeakable harm had crept into her head that night. When Christian asked her what she had dreamed about she never remembered.
Other nights her arm came over his shoulder and she pulled him closer; the way he imagined she’d have held boyfriends in public in the past.
There was the holding too tight, like she needed him. Like if Christian were to get up out of that bed and leave, it may just be the end for her.
Some nights when Sara was asleep on her back Christian would curl into and put his arm around her. Some nights she’d push it away, like swatting a fly.
His favorite nights were when her hands welcomed his, she wrapped around him too and she held his hand in a familiar way.
Her hands were strong but gentle. They just were, and when she touched Christian, he liked to pretend that was just what they were for.
His hands were for catching her as she splintered, and put her back together piece by piece. He had to, he’d promised.
When he was five, his hero was The Rainbow Fish. He liked how the fish gave all his scales away. That was what Christian felt like, giving the world all his best parts. He’d have amputated his limbs to give Sara the glue she needed to hold together.
One night the rain just wouldn’t stop. It poured down from the gutters and pulled sheets of itself over the windows, so that everything outside swam. It had done this every second night for about 3 weeks, and Christian told Sara, “Just stay,” and they retired to tangle in bed sheets and electric warmth.
For the first few nights they sat naked next to each other and stared. They fell into each other, question-mark curled into the night. Sara’s dream-sweat woke Christian up sticking to her, and he’d peel himself away before re-attaching at a different angle and holding her again, and whispering to her, “Nothing so broken…” while she slept.
After about a week Sara didn’t bounce around the house as much. She slept less. She sat naked but in a chair at the end of the bed, with the cat in her lap, watching Christian doze. Only when he woke up would she crawl back to bed.
“Sara, Sara, whatever made you wanna change your mind?” he sang to her, frowning and closing his eyes tight in his best Bob Dylan. She sighed a sigh from the bottoms of her feet, and pushed her face into Christian’s chest. She looked out at the world of rain, before turning to look him in the eyes.
“Let’s eat liquorice until our teeth are black,” she said.
He giggled and smelled her hair.
“Alright,” he said. “That’ll fix it.”
Christian piles five microwave meals into the freezer, and cracks bottles of Coopers from their packs, laying them side by side along the fridge shelves. On the top shelf is a jar of hollandaise, a loaf of bread, and the kettle.
He takes the kettle out and puts it back on its stand, wondering how long it had been in there.
He takes a Coopers and a box of dry cat food from on top of the fridge and walks through the house to the back step.
As he passes the bedroom he looks in for a minute. Sara’s shape it still in the sheets, pieces of her hair on the pillow. A crumpled tissue next to the bed, and her lipstick sits on the window seal. A half-empty bag of liquorice is on the chair at the end of the bed.
Christian sits on the step and shakes the box of cat food from side to side with one hand, holding his beer in the other. He stares at the fence and thinks about what he should do with the lipstick in the bedroom.
They never slept at the right hours. They rose at 8pm, cooking eggs and spinach and hollandaise on muffins for dinner, which was breakfast.
The Friday before Sara left, Christian was sitting in front of Letterman talking to Obama, but not really listening, when Sara walked in with a laksa bowl full to the brim with cereal.
Obama was flashing his best PR face at Letterman’s cameramen, Letterman’s bright green tie glared from the opening of his jacket, Christian’s toes were cold, and Sara shovelled cereal into her mouth.
“What’s the longest relationship you’ve been in?” he asked her.
She paused with the spoon half way to her mouth. She stared at the milk in the laksa bowl for a bit.
“We don’t talk about it,” she said.
And that’s how it was – the more questions he asked her, the more she shut up.
Christian can’t quite figure it out. For most couples it’s just dumb fights. But for Christian and Sara it was nothing. It was so much of nothing that one day she just wasn’t there. Now all that’s left is Sara’s lipstick and half a bag of liquorice.
He takes the last sip of beer, and regrets not rolling the bottle before opening it. Pieces of sediment stick to his teeth. He stands up and gives the cat food box another quick shake before turning to go back inside.
As he steps through the door Christian almost trips over the cat, who is trying to squeeze in before him. Something’s foot is kicking from the corner of the cat’s mouth.
Christian grabs the cat by the collar and gives it a quick welcome-back pat, then shakes it so hard that it drops the struggling thing. The cat looks at Christian before launching back through the yard and over the fence.
A tiny dusty bird lays covered in the cat’s saliva on the door mat. Christian pokes it, and its legs move. It’s alive.
Picking up the bird, Christian wipes the goo from its tiny body with his sleeve.
“Don’t worry, fella,” he says. “There’s nothing so broken I can’t fix it.”