The Apple Rose

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When I left for the USA at the start of October, the thought of letting someone in made my body curl inward. The suggestion of sleeping next to someone made me want to cry. Going to work had been such a struggle. Speaking to people, sexualising myself, being sexualised, disrespected, adored – all of it was too much. Breaking my own heart and deciding on having my womb raked when I wanted to keep the autumn leaves was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

The guy who was 50% responsible  claimed absolutely no responsibility, he did not help me when I asked, he expected thanks for telling me I was doing the wrong thing by considering the alternative which he did not welcome. This cavernous human being was so incredibly awful that I had to send that little spirit on rather than let it enter this world with him as a father. This misguided, egotistical narcissist was so lacking in sensitivity as to flippantly tell one of my dearest and most intuitive friends about how the other girl he got pregnant two weeks after me was so cool about it, she just dealt with it like you’re meant to, without making a fuss, without being difficult, without being a bitch and making him feel bad. This moron was so self involved that he would say this to a woman in her second trimester of pregnancy while she stood with her face perfectly composed, hands lightly shielding her belly from anything he had to send forth to the baby girl growing in there. She called me when she arrived home, shaking with rage and disbelief. I was at work, about to go on stage. I was trembling. I was still pregnant. My legs felt like they’d disappeared, as though my torso was hovering above 6 inch heels, each guiding the other out into bright lights and an onslaught of loud.

My friend had withstood the pathetic tirade of this squirming lumbricus as only a queen can, “I will not be conquered by a fuckwit Billie. I just won’t, and nor will you.” This woman knew the extent of he and I. She was our number one supporter in the beginning but swooshed her skirts in his blind little face at the end. Dismissed by royalty. He’ll be flailing, nothing more than brainless matter at her feet til kingdom come, taking any breath shared in the same room to mean she doesn’t see him for who he is, as if the sharing of oxygen alone will absolve him of himself. What a douchebag. What a dickhead. I could not curse a child with him for life, when in 8 weeks I went from one of the happiest versions of myself to the most broken B side mix tape of the shittiest band ever known to man. Imagine how fucked up you’d be, if you had to have him as a dad? Imagine the cycle of pain and suffering as this child, my child and his, spun its way through relationships with family members, partners, its own children? I could have no part in this. Cycles have to be broken.

By the time I left Australia I’d emerged from the worst. I still didn’t smile from my heart, but I wasn’t overtly grieving or consumed by anger either. I went straight from La Guardia to Brooklyn and a guy I’d never met in real life before. He took me out of NY and away to East Hampton the evening I arrived. It was so calm and pretty out there. He was fun and silly like the old me. He reminded me of all my favorite parts of the girl who had been buried in snow for months. There was a rose bramble growing in a car park over some whitewashed  fencing. The roses smelt like rose, lemon and apple. Felt like all the answers were sitting in that moment when I had my face in those petals and let my heart fall in. Sharing those seconds, elongated with magic, a stranger standing right beside me, face mushed next to my face, arm resting against my arm. I was suddenly clear. My thoughts felt like my own again and I laughed when I realised that somehow, I felt beyond safe with this man. That moment felt like home. He had absolutely no idea. I hadn’t breathed a word of anything to him. It wasn’t an outpouring of secrets and acceptance of my darkness that brought me close to him.  I don’t know why. I felt like myself. I exhaled. Finally. All my shit, started to melt off me. I could feel myself as broken but getting ready to stir and shift the pieces. Later that day I wrote. I hadn’t written anything much for months. I hadn’t had the reserves of strength it takes to put all this down and still be able to press on with my day having played the painful history over in my head. The reality of it sitting in solid, ordered characters confronting my face with lines and lines of pain in words on paper.  That afternoon I lay on my stomach in the lounge room and I wrote. I wrote with my hair draped over covert tears as they made their escape down my face before I myself absconded from the room and passed out for hours. Exhausted. My Home Fire cooked our first supper like a boss named Jesus and I woke up to a table laden with food and butter and warmth.

I forgot about it until a couple of weeks later when I’d moved on to North Carolina. When I dug it up again I found my little love prayer for the future. Loneliness is inherent in most people i know, or maybe it’s just me. But we are creatures to love and be loved. That’s just how it is.

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I want to breathe unhindered.

To feel the cold wind,

the golden syrupy sunshine,

to smell the apple rose right down to where my heart lies beating,

whispering in rhythms.

Tell my all of the magic that emanates from simple things.

I want to give my love to someone and know it will be treasured,

to show myself.

Give my heart and have it held in open palms,

a baby bird to be cared for.

Share my joy with me.

Feel the same light glide inward across fingertips that keep me safe from any darkness they made themselves.

 

Cradle my head.

Uncrush my heart.

Dint by dint.

Scratch by scratch.

Smooth the scars from my skin.

Kiss my lips with dew drops.

Press flowers into my hair.

Love me.

Without fear.

Let my face always look upwards to yours and trust my neck wont break.

My head won’t roll.

My heart won’t bleed in rivers from me,

cascading down my legs,

pooling at my toes.

 

Vibrate. With me.

Let each cell jump with joy and noticing.

Have each moment this smile lingers,

bask in the assuredness of its immortality.

Answer me in songs,

speaking five tongues.

Dance with me in rhythms nobody else cares to know.

Leave the giant blooms of the oriental lily.

Wade through heavy curtains of its smell they made.

Leave its stems in the crystal vase to stew in money.

Walk a little farther.

Come, bury yourself in me.

I am the apple rose.

IMG_1034Final two photos taken by Misha Jenkins on Instagram @miloscameros.

Saigon Sorrows

I wrote this in Febuary 2013.  It’s taken almost 2 years for me to hit the button that will force me to take just one more tiny step in processing the suffering that has coloured my blood since I was a very little girl. Dedicating it to my dad, from his youngest. I truly hope he never ever reads it.


For my entire adolescent and adult life I’ve felt sad and disappointed by my dad’s performance as my father. I felt as though he failed my sister and I. Often it was us who played parents to him as we traversed our way through his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. His inability to happily exist within society and our family hurt me. Our adoration and love as children was never enough to make him happy. As a child of the 80’s, raised on Disney, and a teen of the 90’s and avid watcher of old romantic films, this was devastating. My sister idolized him well beyond the point where she realized he was not the man she thought he was. She moved to Sydney to live with him and my step-mum when she was 14. It didn’t work out. She was living in a half way house run by a kick ass nun (thanks for caring for my sister Sister) from her school by the age of 16.

Dad left Australia in 1997. He wanted to give back something to the region he felt he had helped to destroy. Vietnam was too much for him so he has lived in either Cambodia or Laos ever since. I was 17 when he left the country and I felt abandoned. Didn’t he know he was going to miss everything? Didn’t he care? He came to see me perform in a school production of West Side Story just days before he left. I was embarrassed for him to see that side of me. It seemed too personal for him to get a glimpse of me doing something I loved when he was about to up and leave us. It made me want to cry to think of him standing there and being proud of me. Having that moment where he saw his little girl through the eyes of hundreds of other people, but got to feel special, to enjoy the feeling of his heart swelling, because he was my dad. He didn’t deserve it. I wanted to cry at my own bitterness. I wanted to flip the bird and tell him to get fucked. I wanted to scream because I didn’t really want to tell him to get fucked. I really longed for him to show us that he was our dad who loved us more than anything, and to stay in the country to be close to us.

When I was 21, I moved to Sydney for uni. He had given a list of orders written with military precision to my mother and my ex-stepmum to sort through his things from his storage unit. My sister and I were to distribute everything amongst us women and set some things aside that dad particularly wanted. Some of these were obscure….antique silver mandarins, antique daggers, my grandfather’s war medals. We didn’t know where they were and couldn’t find them. He came home to Australia and accused my mother and stepmum of conspiring to steal his belongings. I told him he was being ridiculous. That mum had never asked him for, nor had he given her anything. He lost his shit in the middle of Oxford Street at lunch hour. Shouting that I was a nasty little bitch and that we were all against him. I turned around and walked away. A few days later he called mum to tell her that she had done a bad job in raising us, that my sister and I were not good people. Deceitful and selfish, horrible little women, a far cry from Louisa May Alcott’s cherubs. These incidents, his absence of 15 years and his tendency to flip out when he returns home have all contributed to the demise of our relationship. From that day on Oxford Street, I was no longer daddy’s little girl. He doesn’t even know the half of it.

As I type – tappy tap tap – I am in Ho Chi Minh city. The streets are overflowing with civilians buzzing with festivity for Tet, the New Year celebrations. Years ago my dad told me he had returned to Vietnam in the hope of tracking down some of the Vietnamese people who had befriended him during his time here in the American/Vietnam War. He came from a fucked up 1950’s nuclear Australian family. Standard. My grandmother was a tortured soul who needed attention more than anything else. She would walk my dad and uncle to the country bus stop and in floods of tears she would tell them that when they returned from school, she might be gone. Forever. What a gal. My grandfather had been in the navy in WWII and was a violent drunk. He busted my grandmother having an affair and thought my father was the child of another man. He picked on my dad. Dad had brown hair, sad brown eyes, and big ears. He didn’t like sports like his younger brother, he liked books and languages like some fucking faggot. My grandfather had an ill temper and once flew into a rage and knocked my 12 year old dad out cold. It wasn’t until I was born, with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like Poppa, that he believed my father was his son by blood.

I have always known that my dad treasured the bonds he made in Vietnam. The Vietnamese taught him their language and they got along great. I have the photos of his time in the War. Serious children with rifles almost as tall as they are. Him smoking ciggies and playing cards with other soldiers. I’ve always known he was damaged goods. At times as unpalatable as the 14 year old cans of tinned tomatoes we found in mum’s cupboard last Christmas.

Just before he left Australia he wrote me a letter telling me that he had had a Vietnamese lover. Dad had held him in his arms as he died. I can’t remember exactly what happened. I only ever read the letter once and then buried it in a box with all my other letters from over the years. The shock of finding out my father had had a male lover was overwhelming. The pain of knowing what he had suffered and lost was even greater. I chose not to acknowledge it. We have never spoken about the letter he wrote me and sometimes I wonder if I imagined the whole thing.

A few years ago dad told me that he came back to Vietnam in the hope of finding some of the locals who had befriended him. He went to the War Museum and there he saw the names and faces of every single person he was looking for. They had all been murdered in various horrifying ways over the course of the War. Men, women and children. Today I visited this museum and I was quickly reduced to tears. The pressure from the heat and my heart left me struggling to breathe as I floated my way up stairs and around rooms walking through the terrors that woke my dad every night that I remember with him. I looked at photographs and read captions. I saw faces contorted by suffering and also hope. With each name and face I couldn’t help wondering who my dad had been looking for? Which faces did he find on those walls? I imagined his heart racing as he wandered the exhibits, breaking over and over again with every familiar face he saw. I finally understand the weight of my father’s sorrow. And it is as heavy as fuck. I finally understand that tenor in his voice when it used to fall really low, low, low. Down to a whisper. The film of water over his eyes that was sometimes inexplicable. The heaviness of his spirit.

I’m glad I finally faced my own fears and came to Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to come, but never have. I’ve kept it at a distance, knowing that it would be a very personal experience. I have found and placed another piece in the puzzle that is my father. Dad gave me all his old albums from the storage unit and they are filled with photographs that he took of my sister and I as children. You can feel his love shining at us through the lense. He was not perfect. He often was not there, even when he was in front of us. He didn’t cope with us growing up and holding him accountable for his failings. But he loves us and deserves forgiveness and a real chance to bear witness to our lives and to be a proud father. Cause actually, my sister and I turned out alright and I know that might make him happy to know.

Except for the whole job thing. I don’t want him to see his little girl through the eyes of the thousands of other men who have gazed upon me. A lot of them have known me better than he ever will. I’ve spoken to some of them about the things that matter most to me, that make me laugh or break my heart. He’ll always be my dad. I will always love and respect him. I accept him as he is. But he will never know me as I am.

Dad pic