If I was to describe myself to you, I would tell you that I’m like the Cindy doll. I don’t have all the perks of the Barbie because I am a cheap imitation. My hair can be brushed and you can still squeeze me into tight clothing. My body is similar to my rival’s, except for my legs, which are not made of rubber, but of a type of hollow plastic that can be bent and moulded, easily destroyed. My hair is shiny, golden, and I give you the illusion that I’m the type of doll that can withstand the test of time. Perhaps I’m also a little ahead of myself, maybe even naïve? I certainly don’t have the talent to handle criticism and I’ll shatter if you throw me across the room with the intention of hurting me.
When Evelyn’s children talked about the woman who was here before me, they said that she wasn’t always faulty, but that she became that way. They said that she liked to cook, but that she hardly ever ate. When I asked them why she didn’t eat, they said that she had lost her sense of smell due to an injury, which is why she could bear chores like cleaning out the cat litter and unclogging nests of hair from the tub. Evelyn never talked about her ex-wife, but I knew that they had a secret, something that had bound them together for all those years.
I met Evelyn at a pathology clinic. We stared at one another in between sips of $1 vending machine coffee. I was attracted to the look of her teeth when she laughed – she had two jagged lateral incisors on both sides of her palate. When she asked me what I was doing at the clinic, I told her that I was making sure that everything inside me was in order. She decided to evade my question when I asked her the same, then insisted on seeing my bandaged vein. She gripped my wrist with her clammy hand, then used her thumb to press down around the wound to make sure that I could bleed. It hurt so badly, but I didn’t tell her to stop. She told me that the colour of my veins reminded her of snot, then made a joke about her children.
I met them, a few weeks later, at a picnic by the river. I handed them half a sandwich each. They nibbled on the ham that had the size and thickness of a tongue. This is when they told me that the other woman left them because she no longer loved them, and when someone leaves you, they are weak. They showed me a photo of her in which she is sitting by the river next to Evelyn. A car is parked where some kangaroos are standing. The sun is out. When Evelyn sees me looking at the photo, she snatches it from my hands, rips it up and lets the pieces fall onto the grass. I scurry to put it back together, because I am curious about what she is hiding, what they are hiding. When she is whole again, I realise that her face is punctured with faded bruises, just like mine.
Barbara Ivusic is a writer and editor from Sydney, Australia. She is currently residing in Berlin, Germany and writing her first novel, along with a series of flash fiction pieces that are centered around the theme of isolation and the Australian Gothic. “Thirst” is the first in the series, published in Tears in the Fence Volume. 72 in September 2020.