‘Is that all you’re having?’ Phillip has looked over her meal and seen that she is starving. It is the peak of a Melbourne summer outside and Merry feels fat and tired and large enough as it is. He frowns and pushes the breadbasket towards her. ‘You don’t have to worry about your weight, you wouldn’t suit being skinny. Have some bread.’
‘I’ve always been fat.’
Suddenly she doesn’t care about anything except what this conversation could be. No one since her father has ever brought up her weight. She has never talked to anyone about it either but now she feels she might be able to tell Phillip something, something that could perhaps explain.
He doesn’t reply with anything, doesn’t deny her statement. Merry feels a little light-headed, though she has hardly touched her Amaretto Sour. She fishes around in the glass with her fingers and pulls out the cherry, dangling it above and then down into her mouth.
‘Don’t do that. Women shouldn’t eat with their fingers.’
She wipes hand on the paper napkin beside her plate, mouth slightly watering from the effort not to lick.
After Phillip has gone back for more veal schnitzel and duck gravy and they are lily-lipped and cloud-eyed, he asks her if she will take him home.
‘I live with this old woman who hates it if I have guests. I think she’s in love with me.’
He smiles a little and adjusts his sagging shirt collar. Merry feels that the woman is most certainly in love with him; she understands through the liquor that the woman flirts with Phillip in her tattered kimono over eggs and beans for breakfast and that she has a cat who curls often on Phillip’s knee.
‘What’s her name?’ she asks.
‘June. Why?’ His voice has coloured slightly—it is a storm in the distance, in the heavy clouds.
‘Oh, I just wondered. June is a nice name.’
He frowns, forcefully, as if it will help him to tolerate her stupidity.
‘She’s just my housemate. She’s old and sagging and pays most of the rent.’
There is a familiarity to Phillip’s forehead that she did not see before. It’s in his crooked eyebrows, the slight pouches of muscle above each one that move when he talks like they are his voice. It must be the reason why she feels a pulsing in her groin at every word he speaks—because she knows him.
They have dessert, coffee, more sours, more smooth froth on lagers like chocolate milkshakes. It is Phillip that decides when they need to leave, and he doesn’t come back to her nervous, cluttered flat after all. He starts to eat at her neck and then her chin in the taxi on the way there and tells the driver to stop so that he can fuck her up against an alleyway brick wall that is sprayed in red and green and blue: coloured words she can’t read but that she thinks just might mean everything.
Just as he pushes himself in she sees who his forehead is. Now it’s her father with his hand up under her dress, pulling at her nipple too hard. She closes her eyes and tries to remember the sound of Philip’s voice. She hears sirens and feels strangled breath heat the skin that covers her neck tendons.
“When I saw this art piece by Fannie Gadouas, I immediately felt protective towards the woman with the blood and strawberries in her lap, with all her vulnerability so blatantly displayed.
The character of Merry in my story ‘Sizzler’ is a vulnerable character because of her background, and the way her femininity and innocence was abused by those closest to her. Despite this trauma and vulnerability, Merry keeps living and trying to find something better for herself. The strawberries replacing most of the blood in Fannie Gadouas’ piece inspired the resilience inherent in the character of Merry, and reminded me of the resilience I have witnessed in so many (less fictional!) women I know and love.”
colour by Fannie Gadouas
“I am an interdisciplinary artist working with photography, fiber arts and performance. My work explores issues pertaining to femininity, identity and experience. By re-appropriating various traditional imagery, techniques and rituals, I question and challenge the way gendered identity is constructed, inherited and perceived in western society. Textiles is, and has traditionally been associated with the feminine realm. Critically engaging with techniques such as weaving, knitting and embroidery allows me to subvert and question my own role as both woman and artist. In this sense, my practice as a whole becomes a performance in which the process holds more relevance than the resulting objects. Informed and greatly influenced by feminist theory, the work I produce is a critical response to the social structure of western society.”
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