12.1.18 7.54am TSV airport
Standing at the front entrance waiting for Dad and Nanna so she can check in for our flight—it leaves at 8.45am—and we can get on the plane. Haven’t yet taken to biting my nails but there’s always a first.
Nanna here, apologetic. Dad here, apologetic, but also a little cheeky. “Your sister arrived just five mins after you left,” he says.
“Say goodbye to her for me. I’ll be back soon,” I say. Yes it’s a shame that I didn’t say goodbye this morning. Shame, shame.
8.09am At the counter
Check-in closes in five mins!!!! Nanna has luggage but mine is already on its way up to the plane. The airport staff, who has v nice eyebrows, turns to me and says, ‘Are you alright? I noticed you’re limping.’
I look at her for a second. I turn to Dad, who has paused, and Nanna, who has paused, and back to her. ‘Oh, it’s nothing. Don’t worry. I have cerebral palsy.’ Big, big smile, biggest smile I can give.
Dad says, loudly, amused, ‘Do people ask you that often?’
The airport lady says, ‘Do you need help on the plane?’
‘No.’ Get me out of here. ‘What do you mean?’
‘There’ll be four sets of stairs. Do you want someone to accompany you to the plane, across the Tarmac?”
I look around me at the faces, confused. They don’t normally ask me this. They don’t often like to talk about my awkward walk. ‘What do you think?’ I ask Dad.
He replies, ‘What’s easier for you, Nina?’
We are going to be escorted onto the plane via a more accessible pathway. Welcome to 2018!!!!!
Hug Dad, say goodbye. He looks a little forlorn.
Following a person in high-vis. It’s v noisy. And so hot. The propellers and engines block all noise w their noise.
When will this plane trip end? The lady a couple of seats over is playing a game on her phone w the noise at full volume. No thanks. Should I say something?
Turn to Nanna. ‘Do you like that noise?’
She pulls a face, says, ‘It’s dreadful.’
I have almost had it. Can’t take it anymore. Have accepted my life options: to be irritated now and forever/to be forbidden from auditory peace now and forever.
How long until this flight is over?
5.11pm Home, on the couch
Went to Indro to get groceries and started crying in front of the eager patrons awaiting their Boost Juice.
The Boost Juicer didn’t know what to do. ‘Nina?’ she called, holding my juice.
I’d searched in my bag for tissues, but, as usual, had none. Not wanting to seem uncouth, I wiped my face with my hands—secretly though—and thanked her. Think perhaps got some combo of mucus/tears on her hand as I reached for my drink. I whispered thank you again, & walked off.
Not a good look to be blubbing at my local. But also, think Boost Juicer was sympathetic to my misery. Feel bad about the mucus though.
Just watched 27 Dresses & did not cry. Is something wrong w me?
James Marsden very good looking.
Looked him up—very good, James Marsden. Most memorable film is X-Men. Sad for him that he is no longer starring in a winning franchise.
Housemates arrive home! Sounds as if they are drunk. There is a stranger w them. Fck me they are noisy. Do they not know I am in Land Of Tragedy and need as much sleep as possible? No? Just me then.
They have retired! With the stranger… friend? How will I get back to sleep.
Alarm goes off. Daylight! Surprisingly, am not annoyed to be awake. This is new.
Second alarm. Okay Nina. Embrace the day. Need to wash face. Need to brush teeth. Need to find outfit that says I am reliable please let me rent this house.
12.24pm Outside Ginga, The Valley
Forgot what it was like to inspect houses for rent. Feels strangely empowering. Housemates horridly hungover so we getting greasy lunch to cure the fear.
Sounds like it’s going to storm. Planning on going to dinner w June & thought of leaving house is making it hard to breathe. Stormclouds do not bode well. What if we get caught in hail? What if panic attacks me in the car on the way there? What if traffic is bad?
but… do need fun. This year has been hard enough w/out extraneous worries (abt traffic).
Thunder! & now it’s raining. That’s it. I can’t go anywhere. I’ll have to make small talk w ppl while ignoring the terror of loud banging from somewhere nearby. The echo. No thanks.
Go into lounge room & ask Dean (housemate) what his plans are for tomorrow, all wet and bubbly inside my head, & start crying. Cannot answer him when he says, ‘What is wrong’ Or ‘Are you okay?’ So he makes me come sit on the couch & then he hugs me for a long time. Grace (other housemate) in the next room—on a hot date w a stranger (new beau)—& she also comes in to hug me. New (hot) beau does not come into lounge room to hug but he is forgiven as he is a stranger to me. Suspect Grace told him abt Land Of Tragedy.
Abt to leave house. Still raining. Dean says he will be up when I get home which is kind but v unlikely.
6.07pm The End
Giving June a blow-by-blow of last few weeks so she has most up-to-date info re Tragedy. Tell her am scared of thunder now, as of this evening. That’s new. She gives me incense & book of stickers. She says she bought them after Tragedy #1 to assist in the healing. There is one of a smiling poo.
Dean has gone to bed. God it’s muggy. Grace still has her light on. As soon as I walked in the door Grace came out of her room. She has a movie ready to watch & has been waiting for me to come home so we can watch together.
lovely, jumbly, warm feelings in my heart.
15.1.18 7.06pm Shitty take-away place
Went to beach today. Swimming. Had a couple of revelations re swimming in pool vs swimming in ocean & my gd disability & the history of terror—but.
Waiting for C to show up any minute, so.
C is here. She gives me biggggg hug. Big hug that lasts for decades, better hug than normal, due to Land of Tragedy, I guess.
C, v good.
Home from dinner w C, undeniably wonderful person, whomst listens to my recap of tragedy and woe, whomst knows I need to sleep.
LFKALKFJDIOWEIN I am sunburnt. So sunburnt, Dean has taken time out of watching Australian Open—eyes on screen all the time—to cut me aloe vera.
Dean expert in sunburn as he has dermatitis and v much experience w skin.
Should not have brought diary to beach. Diary is full of sand! Full of it. How do I rectify this. Might be destined to carry sandy diary for rest of year. Well done, Nina.
Hey, if you’re looking for cheap thrills (aka unaffordable and frightening terrors) why not just spend a couple of hundred dollars on a bad psychologist?
Imagine being in incomparable tragedy—no, I won’t—and having to spill ur guts for an exorbitant fee to someone whose main response is, ‘But I don’t think you’ve heard about mindfulness. Or maybe you’re just not doing it right.’ This afternoon has been a bust.
I can’t believe I paid someone money so they could inform me that mindfulness is the key.
Phone call from Dad. He describes being so tired that he can’t keep up energy without eating constantly. I want to say to him, ‘Welcome to my life.’ But still, it’s interesting to hear him make a distinction between how he feels now & how he feels when not in Land Of Tragedy.
Dad getting mad at injustice of my wasted appt. yesterday.
Hope sunburn has gone down enough so shower doesn’t sting anymore.
7.35pm (after sh0wer)
Have covered self in sorbolene to assist healing process.
Woke this morning to a glaze of sweat over my body. Ahh, qld summer. Sunburn still going down.
9.37am Donna’s House
Have decided I need some TLC so have gone to my second home (aka where Donna, my self-professed Brisbane Mum, lives). I walk down driveway to Donna’s house—best driveway in town, imo—and through the front door, which is open as if it’s always been open for me. Terry comes to door, actually gets off couch and comes to door, and hugs me.
Man, he must really feel bad abt my fkn tragic times. He hasn’t even raked me over the coals for showing up @ his place w/out notice. What is this???
Hug from Donna. She says, ‘Do you want something to eat?’
We go into Han’s room & I’m on the bed. Donna picks up an empty plate covered in toast crumbs. Han laughs and says to Donna, Thanks Mum, you’re the best.’
Han & I have been in bed for a couple hours. She’s telling me abt work. I’ve just been lying here listening, offering nothing, maybe a smile. What a day. What a luxury it is to come here and be at home. She is in the clothes she had on last night. She wants to wax her bikini line, so I just stay in bed and look at her texts while she warms up the wax strips by rubbing them between her hands.
Donna & Terry have hugged me again. They don’t spend time looking at me though (perhaps they know what it’s like to be looked at too hard and too long by people who want to make sure you are coping). Nanna is leaving Brisbane on Monday & I want to see her & the fam before she goes. I have to leave now, I suppose, since I’ve been hugged many times.
5.10pm Home (finally)
So tired. So tired I don’t want to write. Will summarise. Went to see Nanna @ Uncle’s house. Stopped at shops on the way to pick up baked goods. Thought Nanna would like baked goods. Was all good!!! Was making my way out of shopping carpark, nice and easy. And then………………….. I hit… the car.
Worst thing ever. Worst thing, I could not think.
worst thing, thought what is point of life.
worst thing, could not breathe.
Called Dad in car. Dad said, ‘That is shame, but is only a car. Are you okay?’
I did not answer.
He said, ‘We’ve all done it. Everyone’s hit their car before.’ This doesn’t sound soothing, but after I got off the phone, was easier to drive.
Arrived at Uncle’s house. Dogs, two poodles, said hello. Uncle said hello, told me the baby was asleep. Had glorious afternoon, played hide and seek w my little cousins, who are both under three years old. Family is wonderful in times of tragedy.
8.15am At computer
There are so many things to do and so little time to do them. Overwhelming.
Just got a ‘coffee’ (aka bullshit chai latte, no caffeine) & sat outside, wind blowing through my hair. Has been a hard morning. Thank god for morning tea break. Called Mum, it went to message. Called Dad, said, ‘Feel like my brain is made of marshmallow fudge.’
‘Me too,’ he said, ‘actually, Bebe said hers is like that as well. We’re all that way this morn.’ He calls out to Bebe, I can hear his voice echo through the house. ‘Your sister says her brain is like marshmallow fudge.’
Good relaying skills Dad.
He says, ‘Did you see your Nanna on Saturday?’
‘Yes, and the kids are gorgeous.’
‘Did you drive today?’
Oh, don’t remind me. ‘Yes, car is fine. Will fix later.’ Then we talk a bit more abt a number of things.
‘I wonder if we’re all connected,’ he says. ‘We are all the same today. You have to be gentle with yourself. Some days you may be running at thirty-per-cent when you want to be going at it all the way. That’s to be expected, given what’s happened.’ A pause, then, ‘I don’t think I’ll get anything done.’
I laugh, tears cool against my skin.
‘We’ve been through a lot, you’ve got to remember. It’s only been three or four weeks. There is a lot to process.’
I try to cry in that way—without sobbing—where the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t know you’re crying. We say goodbye.
27.1.18 End of day, in Bebe’s bed
Had most peaceful day. Decided to come to Mum and Dad’s for weekend. Can’t take it in Bris atm, ppl asking me to go out & do things, ppl asking how I am, ppl wanting to go to dinner or fkn breakfast or something, me wanting to say no. Land Of Tragedy impenetrable. Don’t want to have to dredge up the story again, just yet.
So much energy to be spent. Feel as if am on the edge of a very large, very glassy pool, abt to be submerged in the water. So. Many. Tasks. This morning Bebe said to me, ‘I think I have MS.’ She’s been getting pins and needles in her arms and vagina since it happened.
She’s scared that the symptoms mean something. To which I can only say, we have to wait and see what results come back from the doctor.
There is not one point in my life that I’ve not been in (at least mild) physical pain. Ongoing process of self-acceptance, living in this body, w cerebral palsy. The area above my hips today a dull stabbing, and a pulling feeling down my neck, as if the cartilage is slowly being peeled away from bone.
Bebe sent me screenshots of her internet browser last night: ‘According to a 2008 Danish study of more than 19 000 women pregnant women, those w a high level of psychological stress had an 80% greater risk of stillbirth.’
I haven’t been able to reply to Bebe. There are not words for this.
She means to say that if the first tragedy hadn’t occurred, and the second hadn’t, then the last one to have happened may not have happened. But we don’t know, do we?
She was lying in the hospital bed, the second-to-last day before being discharged. She became sentimental suddenly. I held her hand as we and cried and cried and cried. She said, ‘I’m so grateful you were born, that you didn’t die. I don’t know what I would have done here without you.’
I stroked the back of her hand, taking hold of her fingers softly, and waited for the midwife to tell us we were allowed to go.
Don’t @ Me Questions
Hello, if you (or anyone you know) has questions about what it’s like to live in this body—my body—pls feel free to email me. At the end of next month’s column, I will answer questions as best I can. If you would like the questions to be anonymous, that is okay!
My email is nina [dot] baldotto [at] gmail [dot] com
Nina is a poet and writer living on Turrbal Land. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was four years old. She tweets @ninabaldotto mostly about poetry and the weather.