Girija Tropp

In the garden, stray cats watched goldfish in the pond. The telephone rang. A girl said to tell my older boy that the password was: Send Death, capital S, capital D.

We asked the boys, fifteen and seventeen, how they were going from one party to the next and the younger one said, “Chill your sphincter.”

“See ya Mum, see ya Dad,” they called out before drifting away to parties, hair glistening with eggwhite and stiffened with soap. Muddy footprints and wet clothes decorated the bathroom floor.

Duncan came in from chasing the cat, and said we could do it in the kitchen, the corridor, the bedroom or on the porch. I shrugged. He said he wished I could be as predictable as goldfish. A stranded cricket called loudly from a crevice where brick wall met yellow tile. I got out a red wine and two glasses. The wine absorbed the color of the marble bench and I could see moiré patterns, unraveling dunes.

My girlfriend, Tanya, rang, wanting me to come to a dance recital. “Sudarman is going to be performing.” Tanya said, knowing that he was my lover.

Sudarman means ‘traveler’. He starred recently, in a Bollywood film, as a young man discovering the world. He must have turned fifty by now. In the film—that I had rented out on video—he said to a gipsy girl that he wanted to eat her pussy.

Duncan made a face and shook his head when I mouthed a question at him. “I’ll come,” I said to Tanya.

Slithering into Paper Moon jeans in the bathroom, I stumbled on a bottle of hair dye on the floor. The spill stained my left foot a fire engine red.

It took me an hour to drive to Richmond. All the lanterns in the front yard had been lit and incense pooled in the hallway and I squeezed past a couple smooching against a bookshelf. I didn’t recognize them. If anyone asked, I planned to say that Duncan was not a late night person, but no one asked. I danced with a man who said he’d seen me perform at the Glasshouse theatre and his admiration was troubling, belonging as it did to someone who did not exist any more. I felt transient, and shallow. Everyone was laughing. Were they all really happy?

My ex-lover was dancing as if he had a rod up his arse. It was a standard repertoire item that deserved a new interpretation.

I said to Tanya, “Are you enjoying yourself?”

“The food is wonderful,” she replied.

At midnight, Sudarman and I went out in the garden and said hello to the stars. When he put his hand in my g-string, I said he needed a password. Something to do with the passing of time and life, I said. Not only did he fail to come up with what I wanted, he seemed to think there was some deep significance to saying goodbye.

Duncan was asleep on the sofa when I got home. He asked what I’d got up to. “Nothing much,” I replied, bringing him a cup of Assam tea. He dozed off and scalded himself.

From my bag, I took out a slice of marzipan tart and a cherry bomb. “I want to eat pussy,” he said, mimicking the voice on the video. “Did you see Sudarman?” he asked and I shook my head.

“Is it possible to get interested in the differences between sand dunes?” I asked.

“Man, you’re one crazy chick.” He said this with great affection.

As he licked crumbs off his fingers, I said he would put on weight.

“Do you miss dancing?”

I shook my head. “Not really… I wasn’t ever as good as Tanya.”

“How was she?”

“Having problems with teenage daughters!”

We fell asleep on the couch and woke when the boys let themselves in. “We are not too drunk,” they said.

“How was the party?” I asked. They put their heads together in the doorway, the most beautiful boys, and I loved that they did things together. They’d been watching TV at a friend’s house because they’d forgotten the password and hadn’t felt up to partying anyway.

Duncan was ready to play and so was I. I told him the password was Sand Dunes, capital S, capital D, and not to forget it. “It does you good,” he said to me later, “for you to go to parties without me.”