‘The market was great, wasn’t it?’ Lexie hadn’t had the energy to organise a stall for her own books this time but she was glad they’d made the effort to go.
‘There were more stalls than I expected and not all that many lesbians there we didn’t know,’ Irene noticed Lexie wince as she changed down to second to turn left into Nicholson Street., ‘I must say I am looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the telly for a change.’
‘And the roast?’
‘I took the leg out of the freezer last night.’
‘Great,’ even though they’d got up late, and had only spent a couple of hours wandering around the dozens of market stalls set up at La Trobe Uni as part of the 1992 Lesbian Festival, Lexie was exhausted, ‘When we get to your place I’m going to get out the banana lounge and sit there without moving till the sun goes down and really get the most out of this extra hour of daylight,’ especially since they’d lost an hour of precious sleep last night.
A mere half an hour later, Lexie was curled up under the sleeping bag on said banana lounge, turned on her side to ease the pain in her coccyx and not even bothering to pick up her book to read. She was appreciating the chance to be utterly relaxed and drowsy.
‘Would you like a fire tonight?’ Irene asked.
‘That’d be nice.’ It wasn’t all that warm and becoming cooler as the afternoon progressed.
It had been a hectic three weeks with first one play and then the other and now the circus show to contend with. In fact, in all that time there hadn’t been a single day where she hadn’t either been rehearsing, doing tech runs, performing or otherwise been occupied with organising the Lesbian Festival events she’d undertaken to do.
And all of this with what might well be a broken coccyx since falling off her skates during a circus rehearsal, the day before International Lesbian Day, ironically enough. Which had left her in extreme agony and barely mobile for the first few days and with only limited movement ever since.
She opened her eyes to watch Irene squatting down in front of the shed to split the wood for kindling. They’d postponed making love that morning with the intention of going back to bed after the market. Neither of them had mentioned it since and Lexie wondered of she would suggest it now or wait till a bit later after she’d rested perhaps.
She closed her eyes. All the long hours, the constant rehearsals, not to mention the nerve wracking experience of that first night with her one-woman play, had been worth it in the end. The fact that Irene had been doing the lighting for all three shows was extremely fortunate, as it had turned out, seeing she, Lexie, hadn’t been able to drive for the first couple of weeks. And even now it was a bit dicey, pulling muscles in her lower back she hadn’t realised were there.
‘We make a great team, don’t we?’ Lexie said sleepily, ‘You’re doing a great job with those lights, you know that?’ meaning the lights for the circus show. It was the end of production week. They’d just completed a full week of rehearsal, dress and preview nights followed by opening night. Three performances down already with six more to go. Was it any wonder she was exhausted?
‘Er, Lexie, I’ve just chopped my finger,’ Lexie’s eyes flew open, ‘I need to get to the hospital straightaway,’ Irene was moving down the path her left hand in the air, blood welling from the forefinger held aloft.
Lexie glanced and began to panic, ‘Oh, oh, oh,’ struggling out from under the sleeping bag as fast as her own injuries would allow. She followed Irene into the kitchen not daring to look too closely at the deep gash, the blood, the mess of that precious finger. Not wanting to believe it was as serious as it looked.
‘I have to go to hospital. Can you drive me?’ Irene was saying as she fumbled in a drawer to find something to stop the bleeding which was even now dripping onto the floor something fierce.
‘A tea towel would be best,”’ Lexie tried to calm herself, ‘Where are they?”’flapping helplessly, full of dread.
‘In that drawer there,’ Irene was the calmer of the two as she pointed.
Lexie hesitated over the newly ironed tea towels then grabbed one up to wrap it over and round that terrible finger. Anything to keep it out of sight. The blood immediately welled through the fabric and seeped onto the floor.
‘Let’s go,’ Irene said.
‘I’ll just bring the banana lounge in,’ Lexie went outside again.
‘Leave it,’ the finger was beginning to throb with excruciating pain.
‘It might rain,’ Lexie locked the back door behind her and went to the sink to rinse out her mug.
‘Lexie, I need to go. Now!’ Irene stressed, as her lover bent down to wipe the blood off the floor.
‘Thank goodness I got the clutch fixed this week,’ Lexie said conversationally, as she eased herself behind the wheel of the panel van. She wasn’t really clear about what she was doing. Her mind steadfastly refused to dwell on the bloodied towel covering Irene’s hand in such a gruesome and chilling fashion, ‘Which hospital?’
‘The Royal Melbourne. Hurry!’
‘Is that the closest?’ she asked casually, staring ahead through the windscreen as she turned the ignition.
‘Yes. It’s the closest. Now hurry. This is starting to hurt. A lot.’
‘You haven’t got your seat-belt on,’ Lexie noticed as they were turning into Sydney Rd. She stopped to fuss the belt onto place with Irene not giving a damn whether she had it on or not.
Fortunately, by this stage, Irene had realised that Lexie was in a mild state of shock so she didn’t want to do anything that might upset her unduly. Irene’s whole being was concentrated on getting to a doctor as soon as possible to get something for the pain and to stop the bleeding. And given she was having to rely on Lexie to get her there, impatient though she was with Lexie’s vagueness which was quite unlike her usual efficient self, it was best to let her be.
‘Drop me here and I’ll walk in while you find a park,’ Irene directed, as they pulled up outside the emergency section.
‘Are you sure you can manage on your own?”’ Realising she had been less than helpful Lexie wanted to make amends although she wasn’t sure in what way. As soon as Irene disappeared through the wide glass doors Lexie sped off to park the van a couple of blocks away.
As she hobbled back towards the hospital along Royal Parade, Lexie made herself calm down. Irene was in the best possible place and everything was going to be alright. It was then she realised that her coccyx, no doubt responding to the emergency, hadn’t been nearly as painful driving in as it usually was.
‘Lexie,’ a nurse called to her as she neared the glass doors, ‘over here,’ she crossed to the other entrance.
‘Are you alright?” Lexie asked, as soon as she saw that Irene’s hand was still wrapped in the blood-stained tea towel. She was holding it upright at an awkward angle in front of her face. To slow down the bleeding, Lexie supposed.
Irene smiled reassuringly, ‘I’m fine and you?’
Lexie shrugged dismissively, conscious of how inadequately prepared she was to support Irene under these dire circumstances. Except for the emergency dash in the van, where she was prepared to admit she’d acquitted herself not too badly, her injured coccyx and the stiff new clutch, notwithstanding.
‘They’re going to admit me and fix me up through there,’ Irene indicated the emergency ward behind the counter with her body.
‘So, if you’ll just take a seat,’ the nurse said to Lexie, preparing to bear Irene off though the plastic swing doors and out of sight.
‘Admit you?’ Lexie exclaimed, the vision of her longed-for evening on the couch in front of the telly receding by the minute. To be replaced by a feeling of resentment that this, her first free evening in almost a month, was going to be spent languishing in this wretched place. And she hadn’t thought to bring a book with her to read, either.
Oh well, it was times like this that she was forced to catch up with the latest crisis to do with the english royal family whose shenanigans had kept the woman’s mags agog with scandalous news for months now. She lowered the magazine and looked around the dreary confines of the waiting room She hated this place. The last time she’d been here, she’d almost fainted.
A so-called friend of hers at the time had slashed her wrist. And with a towel wrapped around the bleeding arm Lexie had been the one to drive her in for emergency treatment to have the gash stitched. No wonder she’d responded so badly this time round. It probably reminded her too much of that particularly horrendous, painful and irrational episode in her life.
The time before that she’d sat here till three in the morning with a fish bone lodged in her throat before they’d found the time to operate to remove it.
These memories associated with the place were not good ones, even in retrospect. And this latest episode only increased her antipathy. What had prompted Irene to try and chop her finger off in the first place? Was it a bid for sympathy because Lexie’s coccyx had been taking up so much space in their lives lately? Irene’s support had been exemplary but maybe there was a limit. Lexie rather feared she wasn’t going to nearly as sympathetic about Irene’s finger as Irene had been about her coccyx.
‘Irene’s friend,’ she was being paged over the PA system.
She went over to the counter where a male doctor told her they’d looked at the finger and it would take another half-an-hour before Irene could go home.
‘Another half-an-hour?’ she repeated, obtusely.
He grimaced, ‘Better make that an hour, to be sure.’
She sat down again, full of regret for the fading light in Irene’s backyard and realised she hadn’t even asked the doctor how Irene was. Some lover she was turning out to be. But noting further resistance inside her she figured her annoyance at Irene’s carelessness was becoming even more entrenched the longer she had to sit there.
That evening, as she limped around putting the roast in the oven, peeling the potatoes and collecting what firewood there was by carefully side-stepping the kindling and tomahawk dramatically abandoned outside the shed as a grim reminder, she knew she was being unnecessarily heartless. She wore a martyred expression and sighed loudly as she knelt to light the fire but she couldn’t help it. Irene’s injury, on top of trying to cope with her own, was too much.
The sight of her beloved lying on the couch with an enormous bandage on her damaged finger, her arm in a blue sling round her neck and with a pain filled face was more than Lexie could stand. Not able to contain herself any longer Lexie finally blurted out how she felt about Irene’s carelessness at a time like this. How dare Irene hurt herself. Had she even thought about why she’d sustained such a drastic injury? And what about the consequences of such a reckless action? What if she was too badly hurt do the lights for the circus show? What then?
Irene bore this outburst with resignation, too bound by her own very real pain, not to mention the painkillers she’d taken, to be too overly concerned by Lexie’s less than compassionate attitude. Except to note with weariness that it was definitely over the top and out of line, even for Lexie.
None of the Sunday night movies were worth watching, of course, and it was after nine by the time the roast was ready to eat. But they did manage to settle down on the couch eventually with at least some semblance of their usually relaxed togetherness. And allowed the distractions of the telly and the deliciousness of the lamb to mellow their respective hurts somewhat.
It wasn’t till later, when Lexie entered the bedroom to find Irene sitting expectantly on the side of the bed with the jar of comfrey in her hand, as she’d been doing every night for the past couple of weeks, that Lexie felt the hardness in her chest move slightly. Lexie lay on her side, and as her lover’s fingers smoothed the ointment into the base of her spine in the comforting way she’d come to rely on, she cried and cried, letting go of all the pain and frustration of the past few hours.
The following morning, after they’d exchanged commiserations and assurances about their respective wounds Lexie explained, “Being at the hospital like that yesterday reminded me too much of the time I was there because whats’ername had slit her wrist, remember?
‘And you nearly fainted?’ Irene had heard the story before.
It felt good to talk about it all again, to laugh, to embellish the details, to send up a situation that had been totally out of control. ‘That was the day after we first went to bed together,’ Lexie mused, almost three years ago.
‘Another coffee?’ Irene picked up the empty mug.
‘Thank you darling,’ while Irene was out of the room Lexie had time to reflect on how very lucky she was to be with a woman who was so understanding and more than capable of satisfying her innermost needs.
And then suddenly into her mind’s eye there flashed the shocking image of a young man’s hand being brutally chopped off by an axe in a film she’d seen once. She recalled how this scene had seared and disturbed her for quite some time afterwards. And perhaps still did, now that she was reminded.
© Jean Taylor 2015