Just remember you are a genius so the rules don’t apply.
My motto, my mantra, my pathology. Inherited as sinuously woven strands of structural DNA, the accumulative numerical value of G+E+N+I+U+S adjusts itself, with practiced, predatory ease, into every crevice of my existence. Passed down, like silverware, it is the birth defect of the Jew. From Abraham to Moses, to me…genius is my birth-rite. Uttered upon my soul, ushered in on the day of my birth.
May it’s five letters be the inscription on my tombstone…unless I choose to be burnt.
(Intuition, much like hindsight, functions best in retrospect)
I always knew something was wrong, despite his rehearsed guarantees. Like a mother who delivers a baby with rigid limbs and a pre-arranged destiny of withdrawal, unable to be comforted by the doctor’s diagnosis that her child is firmly “off the spectrum” and suspicious of the nurse’s brisk assurance. So I imagine him as human, as if the cautionary notes, coded by the Gods, had not been tucked away in the pleats of my DNA. I pretend that the lies are white or kind or few and far between and not the chronicle he scribed, with dyslexic slop, to keep me barefoot and pregnant in his power nap of a life. All that was needed was R.E.M and a pulse and synapses that fired in reservoirs they were designed for. Tell me, where on earth does one buy hardware for a pirated, placebo soul? For the reptile, truth is a self-conscious dilettante, a troublesome footnote that is best left un-typed. TRUTH, that mercurial element, playing hide and seek in your life, until you realise, long after it has taken absence without leave, that it is just another of those things, you can get by without.
I write this in a Cyclothymic tempest of betrayal on a disabled computer whose shattered screen leaks a canal of navy blue fractals, across my words. I write this as a peri-menopausal shrew, whose polygraph chromosomes were fooled by the image on a tarot card, misread by Hecate and the witches of Elsternwick. I write this as a matrimonial simpleton whose escalator moods and revolving door relationships have accumulated Akashic records, so menacingly patient and deserved, that even Jesus would be moved to perform a miracle upon them. I write this as Shulamit the brave, the Bedouin, the Jew, born out of sync and on edge upon the scorched expanse of a near- empty island, in the middle of her parents performing a congenital, co-dependent voodoo dance, to the beat of their brain- damaged hearts.
Elwood was not Caulfield. It was not even Elwood in those days. The word organic never left the laboratory and delicatessens were authentic European replicas congested in gloriously haphazard disorder with products from the capitalist slithers of Europe. There was a whiff of negative, post- holocaust ions in the air, made all the more obvious when the weather warmed and memories, shame and cellulite lost out to the succour of short -sleeves. In some cases, it was demonstrably unhealthy to keep covered up and, many a time, my father was called to tend to a heat collapsed casualty, who refused to go without their jumper on a 42-degree day.
With survivor abandon, they lit one off the other and cancer was shrugged off as human weakness, incomparable to S.S torture techniques. A mere pauper’s entrée, on life’s menu of suffering.
Melbourne was a sensible and dependable sunburnt slate to be composed upon. There were no coups or revolutions; its protests were sweet and earnest, its politics as neat as its lawns. We, as its grateful ethnic citizens were saved,
we were safe, we were fed and we were clean.
It promised nothing it couldn’t deliver and delivered nothing, on time, every time. A controlled artificiality, it generated itself with little to fear and much to look forward to. This was before her laneways were auctioned off to the nouveau Chinese and bureaucratic fascism had set in. When rules were not generated for generating revenue, virginity was intact and “stay away from Uncle Pervy up the road” was the extent of stranger danger education. But concealed beneath a superficial veneer of borrowed British civility and earnest colonised hope, this prison colony was built on the genocide of its landlords. Given this, it is the perfect context for the story about to unfold…
I was highly conspicuous in my school uniform, hiding away behind a lack of pre- pubescent allure, thighs itching mercilessly beneath grey, felted wool. Soon to become fatherless, I was an un- appetising child who was both fat and inhospitable, ripening with furiously pathologized aplomb and becoming increasingly loud and abusive as I succumbed to the inevitability of lovelessness. I was the kind of unnecessary anomaly the system and social workers gave up on, the variable that takes all your research and renders it wishful thinking. Being jaded enough to recognise a psychologist’s semi-skilled sanctimony by it’s vocal tone and dress- code; I consistently refused convenient diagnosis or dictatorial charm. Sarcasm was my default setting, I was beyond algorithmic measurement and my dosage of chemical sedation was always frustratingly arbitrary. Luckily for me, due to some past benevolent act of accumulated karma, I was born into money and all it’s self-conscious vanity, leaving me wanting for little to eat, buy or wear.
According to the Buddhists, I chose them. With all the whimsical consideration and mock self-flagellation of a Goth (Emo), my middle-class imagination devised this fiasco of Jewish inbreeding and post-holocaust dysfunction. HE is a demented surgeon from a Zionist tribe of concubines and combatants. Psychologically, ethnically, culturally insane and armed with a prescription pad. She is an undiagnosed Asperger’s sundae, who teaches kindergarten with the grace of a genteel adolescent but who displays, beneath the Marilyn Monroe window exhibit, a deeply unsparing and diseased cruelty. SHE takes it out on the family (for lack of a better word) pets, not often, but with enough occasional zeal and untrammelled gusto, to make you realise that she doesn’t fight fair.
So here we are…
I can see them right now, fighting in the kitchen against a backdrop of marbleised laminate. He is frothing at her, with her name on his lips along with the dialogue of a Greek tragedy. If you listen to the language, sitting cross- legged beneath the wailing, you can just make out the chant of a Palestinian curse.
My parents…scripted into histrionic hard copy, both so concurrently potent and impotent in their own aberrant ways that my permeable D.N.A will struggle to plasticise itself into anything resembling normality, for longer than an hourly burst or two, my sister will remain a tightly- woven sentinel anorexic, well into adulthood, and my brother will become a marine archeologist.
Early on, near the beginning, I had a dream.
Not the synaptic toilet –flush kind but rather, an unapologetic hereditary portent that soldered itself into the layers of my lateral sub-conscious. As I type redux memories through a keyboard into “word”, I can recall it, as pixel perfect as when it first performed behind my eyelids. In it, we are in bed, in a cabin at a holiday camp. We have been sleeping or screwing or screwing and then sleeping when gradually he gets up and out of bed turning towards the door like a Jurassic sleepwalker.
I see autism in his eyes.
I jerk upright and stare at his back as a strip of membrane peels, like a pelt, off his costume of skin. Underneath, where a human should be, I see scales. Outside our cabin, franchised vacationers frolic, having a pro- forma of a time. They play quoits and tennis, swim and eat enjoying an affordable holiday with childcare and breakfast included in the cost. They are gloriously unaware of the reptile on a timer, making his way out to murder them all, with no more purpose than a programmed imperative and no more passion than a public servant. A psychic coil of fear, hula hoops its way around my aura leaving me palpably afraid for everyone and everything, when suddenly, I am being nursed by some unseen, ancestral spirit that tracks down a confidence within my instinct and tells me I am safe, but only me, from any harm.
I question now if this dream was why I stayed.
Like a voyeur, inoculated by a lab coat, vivisecting a relationship from afar or an anthropologist experimenting with an interspecies family. I knew it had the life expectancy of a clone, that one day this photocopied, intimacy would de-colorise and die and, in stolen moments of communion with myself, I would urge that day forward with all the desire of a slave flirting with the suspicion of freedom.But on alternate days, on a surrogate planet, I believed we were a commandment, a forever and a team. As constant and inflexible as the speed of light and as certain and factual as an axiom.
We caught the bus to school, from the corner of our Spanish Mission mansion, which my mother had painted in muted coral hues. The colour was a compromise between my father’s perfunctory request for some kind of wash and wear camouflage and her wanting to loudly finger- paint the exterior in primary- colours. The house was over-sized and its interior bestrewn with neglected wed- ding gifts, dusty chattels and the occasional, imported trinket given to my father by a patient, as a souvenir of their loyalty.
Everything was broken.
No matter what colour they painted the house or where they placed the furniture, my father’s surgical rage ensured that it always had the Feng-shui of an abattoir. The décor was early drug company incentive with a series of “Sigma Pharmaceuticals” medieval portraiture prints ornamenting the walls and a REAL skeleton in a box, under the stairs. We drank coffee and tea from a set of Triquilar ED mugs, my sister and I swapped “Bactrim” monster figurines like swap-cards and our pencil cases endorsed lithium. One Chanukah, for Christmas, I even got a tricycle with the compliments of Pfizer.
Just to add to the tenor of architectural menace, the bottom left wing served as a medical clinic, where my father practised and performed minor surgical procedures. It had its own “drug room” which served as a convenient, prescription free apothecary shop for any ailment or patient, either real or psychosomatic, to take advantage of. The front desk hosted a series of revolving receptionists, apart from one named Kaye whose co-dependent transference kept her in my fathers employ for over a decade.
Either that, or she was fucking him.
They wore mini skirts, cork wedges and blue eye-shadow or else the sack- cloth and pharmaceutical clogs of a paedophiliac spinster. Most could never endure the lunacy of our household for longer than a year. They didn’t realise that the job came with three neglected children, which attracted the creepy ones, an assortment of unkempt, occasionally vicious guinea pigs and the polite insistence that you sampled my mothers unappetising cooking at least once a shift along with my fathers abusive verbosity. People died in that clinic, not often, but often enough, waters broke and boils were lanced. Malignancies were diagnosed and referred on, venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies treated with discreet contempt. The transsexuals, who serviced the back streets of St Kilda, had to pay up front and I regularly stole my father’s stethoscope, which he wore like an albatross around his neck, to play with in our sand pit outside. I gave oxygen to the dog, showered with contraceptive diaphragms on my ears to keep the water out of them and watched, simultaneously repulsed and agog, as my sister’s gash on her knee was stitched, sans aesthetic, on the stairs.
I can see it now…my childhood home.
Crouching behind a synapse, taking cover beneath the passage of time. In the beginning, it was there in high definition, EVERY LIFETIME, looming like a monument to the karma it birthed, its pastel salmon complexion disguising the mortality it housed.
This is a story of brain rape.
There is no “us and them sentiment”, well not yet anyway, and I cannot write this, in pre-school vernacular, as a third world testament to the horrors I witnessed as a child. This is not an historical atrocity, after the fact, spelled out in endearingly short and childlike sentences. Those testaments to the horrors of dictators or Nazism or communism or just any old governmental schism, are usually thinly bound, darkly spined books that you are made to read if you want to matriculate. From Anne Frank through to Pol Pot, my story is not ghost written by an ornamental author or channelled through a translator to tell the tale of an over-arching essential human truth.
I have no“ brave message” for the world.
I will not be inspiring anyone to aid work overseas, I was not trafficked, I was not tortured, I was not killed. There is death, but no one gets decapitated. I was not forced to eat any of my husbands’ livers. Aid workers and N.G.O CEO’s, the twenty first century missionaries who converse in professional abbreviations, would discard my story as the narcissistic indulgence of a first world floosy, for whom nothing would ever have been good enough and no-one ever worth being happy for.
I am not the victim, the torturer, the dictator or the hero.
I am merely the aftermath.
And I am HERE.
(What happens after a holocaust)
Mrs Wulanski was a joy division program, with scarlet, vulva lips and brassy yellow hair. I re-member her effortlessly, not for any particular kindness or cruelty shown to me, but because of her Jane Mansfield looks and because, despite her life, she still wore red. I suspected she wasn’t Jewish, but rather a Polish convert that Mr Wulanski had married after a tragic scenario involving him in hiding, the Nazis, a haystack and a barn. They had a daughter named Shirley, who was an “on the spectrum” rescue child, white work coats and matching gold teeth. They compartmentalised their past, by running a delicatessen, flashing service industry smiles as they sliced sausages and cheese. Often I watched as Mrs Wulanski would point a crimson coloured finger nail, behind the display case to a particular delicacy my mother wanted, looking up for approval.Sometimes her hands would shake and her smile would broaden nervously, and on these occasions I could see that she was struggling to remember her lines. There was an afterthought of a son, whose infrequency prevents me from generating memories of, as it was their daughter and Auschwitz Birkenau that monopolised their time.
My hippocampus is opening an image as I type, of oversized, raven-haired spring loaded Shirley, immaculately dressed in a velvet pinafore, with white lace frilled bobby socks and nerves of medicated mania. So over-whelmed by her daily autism download, her experiences of repeating kindergarten repeatedly were adolescent scab pick raw, confusing and alone. She saw every group graduate to grade one without her as she remained fenced in behind wire mesh, until she got it right. If she had known about it at the time, she would have cut herself for relief.Instead, she frequently lashed out at other children, without malice, but still inflicting pain and, as a result, we were too scared to play with her. Undeservedly miscast in her role as the survivors “ love child”, Phillip Glass could have composed the soundtrack to her life.
Shirley, conceived as a victory march and incubated with more expectation than any human should inherit, is delivered, as a mishap, onto her own frequency.
With a furrow on her frontal lobe, pulsating with impropriety, her difference leaves her parents, bewildered, again, by the implacability of jinxed kismet that plays mind- games with their lives.
There is a world where business deals are sealed with sisters and daughters,
where females are bred to sweeten a covenant or incubate an heir. Where threats of arranged marriage and murder are formulated for crimes as inconsequential as answering back. Where being betrothed to the Rabbi’s sixth and final son, I contemplated, not as the insult it was intended to be, but as a possibility of escape, that I concealed, somewhere, in the crawlspace of my heart.
I am six years old.
We are at our weekly Sunday gathering at his parent’s house, so many descendants that lunch is served in shifts with the cousins muttering Stockholm syndrome devotions, to my Grandfather and Jerusalem, each attempting to out do the other for approval.
The boys always eat first.
The weekend before this my mother had fled his parent’s house, her faded denim flares swishing with determined hurt, her blonde head gently tilted in discussion with herself, as she escaped the madness of his hereditary for the safety of our Holden sedan. My father stood there, unwilling, unable, unwanting to defend her with rote inaction, replacing an instinct to protect, that he would never give the opportunity to evolve.
My grandfather had cursed her in Aramaic and spittle, while my father translated, verbatim, well as verbatim as Aramaic can get, in agreement with the wounding syllables being crop- dusted over his wife. She was accused of polluting his gene pool, birthing not one, but two daughters along the matrilineal fault line she had fractured in his family tree.
She was not the shidduch chosen for him, but an aberration of blonde haired, blue eyed Ashkenazi blasphemy, who begat girls, one after the other to the first son of the surviving son, whose father was Osher, Aaron, Yosef Ben- Chaim who begat Chaim, Aaron, Yosef Ben- Osher, who begat Osher, Aaron, Yosef, Ben- Chaim, who begat Esther, Malka Bat- Bracha and me.
Shulamit Elka Bat- Bracha, whose mother, whose gender, whose lineage have rendered her and her sister unprotected by the divine providence that graced the four walls, of Abraham and Sarah’s tent.