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Published August 2007Become a subscriber
friday morning I’m there in her apartment at the windy end of the fifteenth floor the place is, as usual, tornado-struck: the floor strewn with socks and undies mashed crayons and plastic toys we sit at the dining table in broken-backed chairs and I shuffle my books and papers trying to find a clear spot on the table-top amongst the half-eaten apples and unpaid bills she sighs and says ‘I didn’t do much too busy too tired’ and she tells me about her week: ‘ali went to hospital again layla doesn’t like school mohammed has the flu’ ‘and what about you?’ I ask ‘bad this week,’ she says ‘you know, I got my period’ I rub my abdomen in sympathy our months have moved together ‘I take nurofen but it doesn’t help’ she pours herself a mug of thick black tea throws in a handful of sugar ‘I have to buy a car’ she says, ‘it takes too long to get to islamic school at the weekend one hour there, one hour back it’s not easy, you know’ the phone rings it’s the sister who lives in footscray she hangs up laughing ‘we’re going to the eid festival on saturday – she says she’s on – what is she? a machine?’ I laugh and we read a book about santa claus we talk about words like reindeer and elves and sleigh afterwards she says ‘australians like christmas but they don’t believe in god’ ‘some do…’ I say but she’s already on the soapbox: ‘but most don’t they say they believe in themselves what kind of god is that?’ it’s the most heated I’ve ever seen her I think: the sugar’s hit the brain when she’s finished she slurps the rest of her tea and says ‘australians only believe in fark’ ‘what?’ ‘you know, fark – that’s all they say around here: fark fark fark why do they have to say that all the time for? what does it mean?’ I open my mouth but she carries on ‘I know what it means it means nothing like that all the time they sound like ducks: fark fark fark, fark fark fark!’ we’re both laughing now rocking back and forth almost falling out of our broken-backed chairs clutching each other’s arms and trying to hold our hysterical aching moon-afflicted bellies