when Benny was 1 and I was 7, I took him down to the park near our place on the lane named after Shakespeare
he’d been at the pool with Mum all morning, tucked behind the blue walls on Alexandra Parade, and his tuft of soft hair was still wet
he nestled into my arm as we walked along the cooking bitumen, and when I crooked my arm to let him in, he cooed like a bird would, if a bird was Benny
at the park I climbed us up the ladder of the slide and put his bum on the cool grey top of it
he giggled as I backed down the rungs one by one and as I walked away from him and the slide and the sand and the dog poo, I felt my heart get bigger slowly like a blowing up balloon
my heart kept getting bigger and bigger as I walked down the street towards the milk bar, and as I was paying for my lemonade icy-pole it burst
Benny was wailing when I got back
I told him I’d just gone to get us an icy pole and he didn’t have to be sad
he was choking on his tears but then the tears slowed to hiccups and then the hiccups slowed to snot and I told him he’d crawled into my heart like a funny little bug, and it was just as well you can’t spray bug-spray near your heart
“This painting is beautiful, and reminded me of familial love.
It reminded about how it for me was when my brother was a baby, and how older siblings often experience a cacophony of emotions when they are confronted with siblings, emotions that are strong and fierce and both negative and positive.”
When I was younger, my father was always telling me to try. Part of me wonders if I was born a quitter, for him having to say it as much as he did. And I regret that it was the last word he ever spoke to me, reaching through the helplessly jarred door, pleading me to find a way to the upper deck, to a lifeboat; not to give up. To get into the water and swim, survive, try. I let go of his hand when the sea was at his chin, and, my eyes bleary with tears, I climbed, up to the black sea, which was churning and roiling and flashing with blinding strobes of light. The lifeboat was tangled in rigging that had snapped and couldn’t be lowered. So people were leaping into the ocean. I had put on my swimsuit at the first alarm, so only had to remove an oversized shirt before grabbing the cold rails and hoisting myself over the side. The jolting shock of the water. The dark silence beneath the surface. Clawing through the swirling brine to punch above. Gasping at the air being sifted through the sheets of rain. And already, just seeing the black hills of water around me, as I climbed and descended the impossible swells simply by treading water, I wanted to give up. Yet I swore to him I wouldn’t. So I tried, to swim, crawling forward, taking in salty water twice, coughing, crying. I found the best I could do was to keep my head above, swimming on my back, from nowhere to nowhere. Just keeping afloat. My muscles red with panic. Windmilling my arms, kicking as if trying to shake off some wild animal clutching at my feet. Swimming for my life, for my father, who was still sinking to the bottom of his saltwater grave. Trying. For both of us. Trying.
word by Mark Lavorato
colour by Jeannie Phan