Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a cis, demisexual woman navigating the world in a nontraditional body? In this ongoing column, Nina shares the interior monologue of everyday, the one just for herself, to help her understand what’s going on in her mind. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad—life can be awful—sometimes it’s about how her disability affects her day-to-day social interactions. We are very excited to share it with you.
11.01am In car, wearing first thing I could find
I haven’t brushed my hair. I have no makeup on. (Who am I kidding, when do I wear makeup?) Calm down Nina.
It’s a big family to-do today & I invited Hot Date along—his family does not celebrate Easter in any way—but he wanted to stay home and do his own thing. I’ve told him how big the family is & he’s happy to take a back seat today lol. I won’t see him most of the weekend bc I want to spend time w Auntie & the family.
Joseph (my cousin) and Josephine (his wife) met when Joe moved to Brisbane a few years ago. (When I say ‘a few’ I mean ‘an unidentified number, it’s been a while, okay?’) He lived in the house next door to her on Latrobe St, and let me tell you, it’s a beautiful story every time I tell it. He was the boy next door! She was the girl next door! They have similar names and the same nickname! Glorious. Their housemates used to differentiate between them by calling them Boy Joe and Girl Jo, and that has kind of stuck.
11.41am Arrive @ cousin’s place
Auntie opens the door & she’s smiling & she hugs me, really nice. We’re at Joe’s house today. He and Jo had their first baby a couple of weeks ago, so everyone has come to Brisbane to meet the baby (I can’t believe it took you so long to see the baby) & have a nice time etc.
The house is warm with love. Can a house be warm with love? I guess so… Everyone’s coming towards me, smiles, hugs, a lot of ‘Buona Pasqua!’, ‘Happy Easter!’ etc. Mad & Laura are stationed on the couch. Mad looks a bit forlorn. Is she hungover? I don’t know, must investigate later. Jo is by the little baby, patting his back; he is very tiny, lying in a bassinet by the couch. She’s so focused on him, and she smiles and speaks in a low voice as I come in.
11.46pm In the kitchen
Joe has been cooking all morning. He’s in his home clothes (great work, who wouldn’t be in their home clothes on Easter), his eyes tired from sleeplessness. He’s wiping down the bench as I walk in. He hugs me, the dirty cloth still in his hand. ‘Nina, you’re right on time.’
‘Oh, I am?’
‘Mum’s been here since early this morning.’ He cocks his head a little and goes to rinse out the chux.
Auntie comes up behind me, her hand on her chest, her cheeks a little red. ‘I just wanted to come along in case you needed help with lunch honey.’
I say, ‘See, your mum’s quite thoughtful.’
When my cousins & I were kids, everyone used to come to Nonna’s a little early and bring the food to the table so Nonna could organise everything on the big mismatching tables, ready for the feast. I suppose w so many ppl that kind of organisation really helped. Today there are only 10 of us & Joe has all the food ready (!!! Mangiare, bambini)
Post-lunch. Mmmmmmm life is good. The table was so loud & the food so nice, I pretty much forget that I feel like a raggedy towel hung out to dry. Turns out Mad is having a bit of a Day. It’s good, though, that we’re together.
We’re on the couch, having a post-lunch snooze; Benny has taken up the floor space, lying on the ground. It used to work so much better when we were kids, I think, bc you could fit just abt everybody without much trouble. Still, it’s nice to be here.
10.39am Queen Street Mall
My cousin Benny is showing his sisters around town. He messages me. ‘Come down to Mecccccaaaaaa. Dad on street. You won’t miss him haha’
My uncle is sitting on the benches hunched over his phone. He’s got a monochrome blue look happening, his glasses sitting on the edge of his nose. I get hugs from Benny & Mad & Laura.
Benny says, ‘Only Dad could be in the middle of the mall in board shorts and a polo shirt.’
‘He’s going for a Dad aesthetic,’ I say, taking a sip of my juice.
Everyone seems to be done w their shopping etc. so we decide to go over to Southbank. It’s only a short stroll.
Walking along the bridge, side by side in the sun, Benny asks me if I’m okay with this. I get him to clarify. He checks in w me. He asks if I’m tired, if the distance is too long. ‘I remember we used to walk along here all the time, I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.’
‘Thanks honey,’ I say, ‘yes, this is good.’
Cousins, they come in handy. Benny’s had a lot of practice checking in w me abt this kind of stuff, and it feels reassuring that he remembers.
5.17pm At home, in the kitchen
Once every few months or so, the pals and I have a feast to welcome in the season. When I told him abt it last month, Hot Date asked if we were pagans. No, we are not pagans, I said, but who doesn’t love a seasonal feast?
I stand by it. Tomorrow is the Autumnal Affair. Pals are coming over & we are feasting.
7.4.18 Day of the feast
To do: buy foods for the feast. Cook foods for the feast. Get keen for the feast.
Going to the shops w Hot Date to collect important foodstuffs for the feast. Should I have slept in as much as I did? Who knows! It’s going to be a longish day of cooking and talking and feasting so I guess I better do some stretches or something.
Hot Date seems to like traipsing through the grocery store w me. Funny. Did not think the grocery store was especially exciting.
4.37pm After a long day of ~~cooking~~
It’s a chilly breeze out tonight. I want to shower & get dressed, warm up the muscles. My body is crying out for a rest! But (as I’ve been told many times before) the show must go on. Besides, it is only close friends who are here tonight, and there should be no qualms or issues re: me being a little dead on my feet…
Pros of the Autumnal Affair: great time w great friends; laughing; bad dancing etc.
Cons of the Autumnal Affair: cracking bones; having to talk a lot, not being allowed to go to sleep at 8.30pm, my regular bedtime
6.36pm By the table, doing a lot of smiling
Pals are here. I am prepping the cheeses and the potatoes, marking out which foods are vegan, which are not vegan, etc. Hot Date has taken over the grilling of the kebabios, which, frankly, I think he is loving. They are made with veggies and marinated tofu. This arvie, I showed him how to thread & cook kebabs. It seems like he’s really taken to it, tbqh.
The only bad thing abt this apartment is: it’s hard to find. So I’m fielding phone calls & welcoming friends, that they may not lose themselves in the jungle of the surrounding buildings.
Dear God, D has arrived and she’s brought ice-cream from Messina. Ice-cream. From Messina. Have I died? This is the best dessert.
10.08pm On the couch
My back is so sore, I have taken to the couch. It’s hard, these days, to hide how I’m feeling when I’m tired and in pain. I have Isobel’s legs on my lap, and we’re talking vaguely abt our plans for the next few months.
‘Nina,’ she says, ‘this has just been the loveliest time.’
June and Leo turn to us, from the floor. June has had a fair few beers, and Leo, I think, maybe none (?) since she is driving tonight.
‘Yes, I agree,’ June says, ‘great time.’
‘You can send us home any time you like,’ Isobel says, giving me a knowing look. ‘I’m okay to be kicked out.’
8.4.18 The next day, morning
I have to go for a massage today. I have to have some intense rest. It’s taken years of learning and listening to my body but I know now when I have to slow down. It used to hurt me when Nonna talked abt the foibles of growing old, bc it felt like I was experiencing those foibles even though I appeared, to some, incredibly young.
Having a disability is different for every single person. I can’t talk on behalf of other people, but I guess, in my life, some things have held true: my friends have been so supportive, & I do need to ask them for help sometimes.
Like, for ppl who know me well, my housemates, my family, they know a bit more abt the situations in which I would need their assistance. Or, they’d see the signs of my being tired and they’d check in with me, like Benny had done a few days ago. I feel grateful to have them in my life.
13.16pm Mum and Dad’s place
You know that feeling you get when you know that something just isn’t right at home? Last night, I was lying in bed and I got the heebee-jeebees and I don’t know why. I can’t even say why I’m here.
Life of Tragedy—big three tragic times—only happened a few months back. I know that. Mum calls me, on the verge of tears most days. Dad I haven’t heard from in a while, not as regularly, at least. And Bebe, well, she’s waking up every morning and doing her daily thing. I just felt like I needed to be here.
I wake up & make my way up to Mum and Dad’s bedroom. The floor is cool beneath my feet. It’s started getting cold here, that morning chill. Nice. I crawl under the doona and lie on Mum’s side of the bed as she goes through her wardrobe.
She stares at herself in the mirror, combing out her pencil-thin eyebrows. She says, ‘It’s a nice surprise. I really wish you could stay for the weekend. Your father and I are going to Nonna’s on Sunday and Bebe was going to go to work.’
‘Okay, Ma,’ I say.
‘Do you think you can stay?’ she asks.
‘I don’t know, I’ll have to see how much time I can spare.’
‘Bebe has a counselling appointment today,’ she says. ‘Do you want to go with her?’
9.44am In the car on the way to the appointment
When everything happened, Bebe’s friends gave her Baby Lost by Hannah Robert. At first, we were a little shocked and reluctant to read it. The trauma was so raw. I borrowed it from the library last week.
‘I’ve read it,’ Bebe says. ‘It’s good. She was a lawyer before the accident, so she explains a lot abt a baby’s rights, or the legal rights of a fetus.’
Bebe is crying so much I actually wonder if we’ll get to the appointment alive. I wonder how she can see the road.
We’re alive! Bebe is inside. I’m reading the book; great book so far. Relatable.
6.26pm Mum’s bedroom
Mum is lying down on the bed. Her eyes are closed and she’s breathing heavily—not asleep, just resting—and I crawl up to stay with her for a bit. ‘I’m going home tomorrow, Mum. I have to go back,’ I say.
‘I know Nina,’ she says. ‘I just wish you could stay a little longer.’
This week has been very hard. I have just finished in Townsville & am on my way home now. I am so tired that I am imagining things.
the light plays with me here—
the mind rests
on lemons in Home Hill Cemetery
levitating above little graves
17.17pm At home, in bed
Am barely able to move rn. Went to physio yesterday. Not able to move at all today. My body feels like it is on fire. I cannot make dinner. I cannot do a thing. What will I do with all this pain.
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.