A sensation of whirling and loss of balance by Laura Jean McKay


It was all very fine. Nothing really happened. There were layers of supreme matt around Tanya’s eyes and when I called her Tanya instead of mum she looked relieved. That’s the thing: when you’ve been away you can’t tell whose history you’re in when you get back. Is it yours? Is it theirs? Is it in a photograph you stared at on the shared computer until the person who had been waiting had waited long-a-fucking-’nough? I watched Tanya’s mouth move. When she pursed her lips, the hairs on her face that were white with foundation bowed into the cracks.

On the plastic lace tablecloth there were cupcakes and dips, a bread hollowed out and cheese put inside and baked or something. There were no drinks except for cordial. Everyone had his or her own plastic cup and you could write your name on yours with a permanent texta. Gary was there with a cup labeled Gary. I would have said I was surprised that he and Tanya were still talking except they really weren’t. His cordial had an amber tinge and when I followed Tanya from one room to the next I caught a whiff of him: whiskey warm and perilous. My cousins were there too, smiling and stooping as though the crosses around their necks both weighed and supported them. They’d visited me at least twice while I was away so I didn’t feel the need to stop by them. I trailed Tanya right across the lounge-room rug until it turned back to regular carpet and then became bathroom. Tanya disappeared behind the door.


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