From baby is this wonderland? by Jeanne Bernhardt


I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Asked if the glass measures full or empty, I answer 'both'. Unconscionable as it is to speak of separation, when multiplicity is the key phrase. No matter that it sounds the same . . . narrative betrayed, the promise broken.

We bleat, we wave, we fall out of the sky and history attends us and abandons us and loves us and fails to love us enough.

What did you see in the glass? they ask (they will, they already have), and we answer that we saw ourselves because it could have been us (look closer, look closer). It could have been us.

Jimi and I were going to form a band. Most of our practices were spent arguing over what to call it. We settled on Brave New World. A year later he hung himself.

Rosemary jumped from the cliffs at Tomahawk Beach. They found her naked with kelp jammed in her mouth and cunt. One eye missing. They said she did it 'for love'.

Simone bled her wrist dry. The last two years of her life she lived alone in a bach on Waiheke Island, walking around in her dad's overcoat. The first time I met her, I remember thinking that she was perhaps the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. A friend who found her journal said each entry contained such loathing and disgust for her body that it felt like self-abuse just to read it.

To celebrate having been a junkie/worker in Melbourne and surviving, Kathy went to Africa. She contracted AIDS fucking a boy in Uganda. She lived five more years, then took her life.

Scott was murdered hitching up the New South Wales coast. They never found who killed him, but they found his arms ten metres from his head. His face had been burnt over thirty times. Separate round burn-holes like black measles.

Leon was seventeen when he attempted suicide. He'd taken a tab of acid and gone to see the movie Woodstock. During intermission he tried talking with the woman seated beside him. He was tripping, his words were strange. She moved away. Leon left the theatre, caught the tram to Victoria University, climbed onto the bridge and jumped. He lay in hospital six months, his spine broken in two places, then his mother took him home.

Danny died of AIDS in the St. Vincent hospice in Sydney. So did Marianne and Michael and Stephan and Tim.

Jo OD'd. Peter came home from work and found their two-year-old son climbing over her body. When he told me, he kept repeating how blue she was, how blue she was Jeanne.

Theresa OD'd in Brisbane. Jeff two days out of detox. Tony and Felix and Lisa and Phil OD'd in the space of a year. Christine three months ago.

Rodney got stabbed in Singapore. Fifteen times in his back and chest. His parents keep his body here with a machine. Not Rodney, his body.

Fiona died of breast cancer. They discovered a lump and the next day they hacked off her breast. She underwent chemo- and radiotherapy for three months. A year later it had metastased to her liver.

Stewart's been in a psych ward for ten years. He's like Rodney here, not here. But what here is this?

We bleat, we wave, we fall out of the sky and history attends us and abandons us and loves us and fails to love us enough.

©Jeanne Bernhardt