Rachel O'Neill sees an imperative for acts of quiet rebellion, and subsequently is a visual artist, writer, and impromptu editor living in Wellington. Her recently published writing includes a story online in Turbine 08, and another in Hue and Cry Journal Issue 1.
A living spring
At about 8pm the friends take their seats at one long table in a room separate from the kitchen. Standing behind M-L’s seat, B has already placed her chin into the intimate bracken of M-L’s hair in a way that takes for granted the familiar smell she finds there; she no longer makes a lingering request. It is the place where B goes to centre herself in the company of M-L’s friends.
M-L’s voice squeaks a little more than usual, as if she is experiencing a rush of goose bumps and is trying to hide them. The friends pay particular attention to her nose – as her most endearing feature M-L secures and maintains her friendships with her nose and its active curves. I can see that it is a rock that they are all trying to stand on.
M-L has developed habits that her friends have come to rely on and being a rock is one of them. Her nose is a small island on which the people she loves congregate. They can throw stones off into the outer zones of her features and see them ripple, amused and almost hoping that the pebbles will somehow bounce back and smack them lightly on their foreheads, an intimate ellipse like baptism.
This never happens, and they are all relieved and made awkward by disappointment.
I am attracted to M-L’s right elbow, and in the past this has been a problem in our friendship. I do not take much interest in her nose, and do not get much satisfaction from watching B hide a little in the thicket of M-L’s hair above the assembly of her friends. I rarely join the congregation in the middle of her face and in spite of myself start to ask B about where she found the delicious recipe for Tyropita, a recipe I know her ex introduced her to. I do this even though I can see the party on M-L’s nose squirm and pick up wine glasses and take sips at great speed without comfortable breath in between.
I resort to buttering the bread on my plate. I ask M-L how the life drawing class is going, all the while buttering the bread that flattens under the knife and is sucked down and breaks open and shows the flat-bone plate. M-L uses sentences that have been practised on others at different times earlier in the day, and she adds warmth to the details that bring her drawing class to life by making the words travel the full length of her tongue; the story pumps with quiet stamina.
I excuse myself from the table and go to the bathroom. B follows me and asks me if I’m all right, and I say that I have perhaps enjoyed too much rich food. The greasy marks on my wine glass are there when I get back.
The friends have left the safety of the island and are in different places of the flat, talking or stroking an object or helping tidy up the kitchen now that the plates have been cleared and dessert needs to come out. B begins to talk about the origins of her name, and the origins are admirable and have a deep root to them, and slink under the growth of time to a point made intelligible by darkness.
M-L leans over my shoulder, beside me but a little behind with her elbow almost touching my back. She wants to know what my name means. I tell her ‘a living spring’ and she says she never thought that a spring that is coiled and metallic and that hovers between the earth and the sky could be living.