For the past month or so Missy has been getting up early on Saturday mornings. She does stuff like this from time to time, explaining that this is something she had been meaning to do for a while, and then extolling the virtues of whatever she has decided to inflict on me, in this case waking me up at around six on the first day of the weekend.
It does seem a bit counterintuitive: it’s winter, dark and freezing outside. I try to tell her that she should stay in bed, trying to get back to sleep myself but, before I know it, she’s opened the curtains and left the door to our bedroom open, letting all the cold air in and on her way out telling me I should get up too, like I am lazy or something.
As the sun slowly climbs into the sky, sort of like me dragging myself out of bed, the morning outside turns red as hell. It looks amazing but it means it will be raining sooner or later. There’s something about it that reminds me of getting up on weekends to go see my grandparents. They’re dead now but back about ten years ago I would usually go see them at least once a fortnight.
Their house was one of the few on the block that hadn’t been renovated. These days, if someone saw it in the condition it was in back then, they would post it immediately on Instagram with some smart-arse caption like: ‘How they used to live in the olden days.’ It had lots of brown carpet and apart from the old pictures that were hung in white frames that had gone a slight shade of yellow over the years. I think the thing I remember about it most was the living room. Pop would have a fire on a day like today. He would have it lit by at least lunchtime and he and Nan would sit in there in the afternoon watching the footy, having soup and cups of coffee and biscuits until the late afternoon when Pop would help himself to his cans of Tooheys and Nan a glass of whiskey or two.
In the last couple of years, before Nan and Pop sold their place, I was pretty much the only one that went to visit them. Nan used to complain about it. Well not complain, but she would make mention of the fact that, even though Dad did have a car, he would insist on driving over, only to take them back to his place, like he was embarrassed to be there.
I think people are affected by Missy because she is always so careful about her looks. Habitually, fortnightly, she visits her hairdresser to get her fringe done so it cuts a perfect horizontal line across her forehead. She likes it to be super straight, like the rest of her, which is perfect. Her look doesn’t come easy, though; every morning she hogs the bathroom mirror to put her face on, like she doesn’t have one until she’s been in there staring at herself for at least half an hour like this will make it appear.
Of course, the Missy I know, the one that wears tracksuit pants, pulls her hair up into a single ponytail on top of her head before she goes to bed and likes nothing better to lounge around on the couch eating chocolate and watching TV, would prefer the world, well, the male world, to go away. I mean, it is weird how she’s constantly worried about her looks and will spend ages photographing herself and sharing this on social media, or you will see her checking herself out in the reflection of shop windows. Yet, she will see something on television or in the media and be disgusted that they are portraying women like that.
Missy’s gone now. She left late on Sunday afternoon. I think this is why she started the early rising every Saturday business. Every so often, she decides that she needs to take a few days out, so she ups and leaves. Sure, I get heaps of texts, and the advice that I shouldn’t worry, she is with friends, but it’s hard not to think she’s taking a holiday from me.
Of course, my friends are all over this. Whenever they hear she’s away again, they start with the messages asking when they can come over for a night. They think it’s fucking great, mainly because then they have a place to come and hang out away from their wives or partners and kids. There is a certain irony about this, given what Missy thinks about men getting together and that my friends are using her, our house in a way that she would find abhorrent. It’s slightly dangerous too (you can just imagine Missy coming back in the middle of everyone being here, like ten dudes in her house, with alcohol and pot being consumed in large quantities), which my friends get but at the same time it just makes it more fun to do.
Missy tolerates my friends, she says that I need them but still she thinks that when we get together all we would ever talk about is stuff like the footy or women. I have tried to explain to her that we wouldn’t talk about either but she never believes me, like she instinctively knows what men are into.
The only person I talk about women with is Jezza, but that’s different. He’s around tonight but it’s not like we would suddenly start up a conversation about Missy, or his wife troubles right here, in the middle of getting drunk and stoned and losing at cards.
About a month ago, Jezza’s long term partner ended it. He told me but he doesn’t want anyone else to know yet, which I completely understand. He has to come to terms with it before he gets the third degree from everyone. He knows how it would go, like when Elliot broke up with Jane, which was two years ago now. I mean, he did come in and lay it all out, which, if he had his time again he probably wouldn’t do, but still, everyone was like, ‘what happened?’, ‘why’, ‘how long has this been going on for?’ ‘what about the kids?’, ‘what did your parents say?’, ‘are you really sure you guys won’t get back together?’ and the one that really took the cake was Tom’s question, who came out with ‘you didn’t do something stupid like sleep around on her did you?’
I’m cleaning the house. Once I got over wondering what Missy was up to, I did have a pretty awesome time but I am paying for it now. Missy will be back tomorrow so I took today off to go through the whole place, top to bottom. The only thing is, I forgot to put the recycling out and it’s full of bottles. It’s little things like that she hates. It’s like when her haircut starts to get just that little bit ragged she can’t stand it and has to have it fixed immediately. It’s the same with our house, everything has to be put away in its right place, you can’t leave stuff out or not in the dishwasher otherwise you get her look.
Jezza’s been staying the last couple of nights, either coming during the day, or just rocking up at night to sleep over. This didn’t help m cleaning. Most of the time he just goes out the back and gets high, sitting for ages in the garden but it’s the trail of clothes, cups, plates, ash, beer bottles that he leaves in his wake that grate.
This morning, I thought there was something wrong with him because he was out in the sun and sat there for so long, freakishly still that I had to go out and have a look at him. Eventually he realised I was there and then looked up at me like, what’s the problem? The whole breakup thing is really messing with him. I think he’s at that point where he feels very alone. He wants me to join him among the ranks of single people. I mean, I’ve talked to him about Missy, you know, bitching and complaining and wishing that she would be different and sometimes even going as far as saying stuff like I want to break up with her but I don’t really mean it. Still, he’s latched on to that. Like, a couple of weeks back the only thing he wanted to talk about was Miria and how it was all going wrong, but now all he goes on about is Missy and he keeps putting question after question on me.
I don’t have any answers for him. I mean, I don’t agree with him that Missy is particularly difficult, she isn’t. She can be uptight and particular and when you get in her bad books you know about it for sure but she doesn’t hate men, and most of the time I do like being with her. So, he zeros in on the whole going away thing and how that always seems to be with one of her friends, Frankie. I should never have told him about that or her. I mean, last year when we discussed it, he did make me feel better about it, saying that he wished Miria had a lesbian friend too but now that he’s newly single, he won’t shut up about what they’re (most probably) doing while they’re away. He keeps reminding me of what I said when I first told him, about how I thought there was something going on. I try to say back that there probably isn’t anything to it (as I tried to say when we first discussed this) but he’s not buying it. He says I would never know and that’s just the way she likes it, because on one level she likes to have control over me but on another level the more I let it go on the more she can do whatever the fuck she wants.
I did tell Jezza that he should leave before Missy came home, which he agreed to but it wasn’t the easiest thing to ask. At his and Miria’s place he’s told me he has a mattress on the floor in his living room but it’s weird. Miria will often ‘visit’ him in the night, or then on other days she will completely ignore him.
Missy texted when I was at work, saying that she was on her way, arriving around midday. I related that to Jezza a couple of times telling him that he should get out before then. Missy wouldn’t really mind but it would be a bit strange her coming home and him being there. You could imagine it, Missy coming home to Jezza and in his special way of making himself at home. The other day when I got home from work he had let himself in (he knows where we keep our spare key), made coffee and cooked lunch without cleaning up, and then sprawled himself out on the couch, with his shoes resting on one of the armrests, sleeping with the television still going in the background. I could see the remnants of the spliff he must have been smoking lying on the floor. I did try to say something but he didn’t really take the hint, he never really does.
But anyway, I am pretty sure he left and the house didn’t look too bad either when I got back. She’s back too, she’s dumped her stuff in our bedroom but she’s nowhere to be found. I text her a couple of times but no answer.
Jezza’s drinking beer. He picks it up in his hand, looks at the glass, puts it to his mouth and takes a long gulp. Then he puts it back down on the table with a satisfied air. His stubble from about a month ago is starting to turn into a full-blown beard and it suits him. I always thought that his face was too skinny and angular but now with the beard there, there’s sort of a symmetry and maturity about him.
He is attracting attention from around the room too. There are a couple of women across the other side of the bar that have been looking in our direction for a while now, and his eyes have sought out not only them but a few others too.
‘Did the Missy missus come back?’ he says provocatively.
‘Sort of,’ I say back, following it up with, ‘but missus? She’d have you for breakfast if she heard you call her that.’
‘Haha,’ he says, ‘she wouldn’t like that would she, but what do you mean sort of?’
‘Well, all her stuff is back but I haven’t seen her,’ I say.
‘Didn’t she come back yesterday?’ he says.
‘Yep.’ I say.
‘So, where is she?’ He says.
‘At Frankie’s, I think.’ I say.
‘Right,’ he says.
‘Yeah, she texted me saying that she was going to stay a few days,’ I say.
‘Right,’ he says again.
‘Yeah, don’t really know what’s going on. I’ve tried to get an explanation, texting and calling a few times, but she’s not really responding.’ I say.
‘Well,’ he says, ‘maybe’s that for the best.’
‘Okay,’ I say.
‘Well, just look around you,’ he says. ‘There are about 50 women in here, all gagging for it, and you could have any one of them. That one in the corner,’ he motions off to my left, ‘has been checking you out.’
‘Man, gagging for it, really?’ I say.
‘That’s Missy talking,’ he says.
‘No, it’s me actually,’ I say getting stroppy with him.
‘Now you’re really starting to sound like her and you’ve even got her tone too,’ he says.
There’s silence for a minute as he drinks his beer and I try to deal with my annoyance.
‘Well, if you want her back, I can teach you, you know.’ He says.
‘Right,’ I say, ‘been looking at the internet again?’
‘Fuck off’, he says snorting, with beer almost coming out of his nose.
‘Look, all you have to do is scare them, like with Miria, she’s shitting herself so bad that she starting to say I can come back.’
‘I thought you were still there?’ I say confused.
‘I’ve been coming and going,’ he says, brushing off the question.
‘Right,’ I say, ‘so, what do you mean, she’s shitting herself?’
‘Well, you know,’ he says.
‘Not really,’ I say.
‘Well,’ he says.
I don’t say anything.
‘Jesus man,’ he says, ‘no wonder Missy wears the pants in your family, and gets to sleep with half the country too.’
This comment stings.
‘Oh, get over it will you, you’re such a fucking baby sometimes,’ he says, ‘when are you going to realise that when it comes to women, the only thing they respond to is you taking control.’
‘Really?!’ I say.
He seems to realise that I am not on his side with this and then goes into his uncomfortable, little boy mode. He hugs himself while his shoulders slump inward and he gets this weird look on his face like everyone’s looking at him.
‘Well,’ he says, ‘I don’t actually do anything, I just say that I am going to.’
‘Right,’ I say.
He’s getting pissed with me now, and suddenly blurts out, ‘well, it’s not like she doesn’t deserve it. I mean, I have to go to work all day and all she does is sit on her fat arse watching television all day. And you know, she likes to say that I hit her but I only pushed her up against the wall, and that was only once, and, you know, another time I hit the wall beside her, like I was going to hit her.’
‘What?!’ I say.
‘Oh Jesus,’ he says, ‘here we go. You sound like every woman I’ve ever met.’
I see Frankie first. She’s sitting on the veranda to the house. When I get close I can see she’s wearing a super short skirt and a skin-tight top. She’s got on bright pink leggings and arm warmers, but even so it’s probably one of the coldest days we’ve had this winter and it’s getting dark and it’s only going to get more freezing. She reminds me of a teenager trying to carve out an image for herself but it’s obvious she knew I was coming.
I try to ignore her but as soon as I go to enter the house she stops me.
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ she says.
‘Into my house.’ I say.
‘Go inside and I call the cops,’ She says, pulling out her phone from some invisible pocket on her skirt.
‘Are you serious?’ I say.
‘Just try me,’ she says, starting to punch in numbers on her phone like she has to bash it to enter them.
‘What the fuck are you on about?’ I say, confused.
‘Well, Missy doesn’t have a restraining order yet, but if you go near her, then,’ she says breaking off.
‘What? Are you off your fucking box?’ I say.
‘We heard what you said,’ she says.
‘What I said?’
‘Yeah,’ she says holding up her phone again like it has some invisible power.
‘I still don’t get it, I never said anything,’ I say. ‘Besides, what’s it got to do with you?’
‘It’s got everything to do with me,’ she says, scowling at me.
‘Really,’ I say, ‘who are you anyway, and why are you always over here, don’t you have a home?’
‘Fuck you,’ she says.
‘Charming as ever,’ I say. ‘Look, I’m going inside, call the cops if you want. I haven’t done anything wrong.’
Missy’s inside packing. She looks at me but it’s the same look she’s been giving me for years, acknowledging my presence but not much else. Nothing different there.
‘So, you’re going, finally, with her?’ I say.
‘Well, after what your friend said to me the other day, doesn’t really seem like I have much choice do I?’ she says.
‘What? Who said what to you?’ I say.
‘Your friend, Jezza,’ she says.
‘Really? When did you see him?’ I say.
‘When I got home the other day. It was pretty interesting really, the things he told me that you had said about me,’ she says.
‘Oh really?’ I say.
‘He is your friend, isn’t he? I mean, you let him stay here for the entire time I was away, obviously discussing everything to do with our relationship and how you were going to leave and how much of a bitch I was.’
‘Ahhhhhh,’ I say.
‘And also, what you’d like to do to me,’ she says, and all of a sudden she’s crying.
‘What?’ I say.
‘I thought I could judge people better than that,’ she says, ‘and I thought I deserved better too. Do I deserve better? Do I, Peter?’ Now she’s screaming and all of a sudden Frankie’s in the house, looking at me, looking at Missy.
‘Here we go,’ I say, ‘here comes your knight in shining armour, are you going to call the cops now?’ I say to Frankie and she seems to see that she is not needed and retreats back out of the house.
Missy starts talking again, spitting at me, ‘You know, I know that I went away a lot but I did it for our relationship and I never slept around on you. I know you think I did but I didn’t.’
I can’t really say anything. I don’t know what to.
She scoffs, ‘Nothing to say? Fucking typical, why don’t you ever say anything?’
Again, I’m dumbstruck.
‘Huh?’ she says. ‘Just say what you’re thinking, I can see you want to.’
‘Yes,’ she says.
‘Jezza’s a fucking nut job. And, and, I defended you,’ I say.
‘Right,’ she says.
‘I did. Yes, I did talk to him about stuff, about you.’
‘About how you were going to kill me?’ she says, bursting into a new fit of crying.
‘I never said that.’
‘Well he says you did,’ she says.
‘That’s him talking, not me,’ I say.
‘Right,’ she says.
‘I didn’t,’ I say. ‘How long have I known you? I have never been like that. You know I haven’t.’
She doesn’t say anything.
‘I mean, I did talk about you and Frankie and how you were always hanging out and how you never told me shit.
‘I mean, you think it was easy to always have to see you go away and have her come over all the time, and have to sit there and watch her drool over you.’
‘Oh come off it,’ she says.
‘She does. She’s in love with you,’ I say.
‘What?’ She says.
‘Like you haven’t noticed,’ I say.
‘That’s bullshit,’ she says, crying again.
‘Is it? And you fucking encourage it.’
‘You do,’ I say in response to the look she’s giving me. ‘You know as well as I do that you like having her around,’ I say.
She’s silent for the longest time but tears still stream down her face.
‘You can’t tell me that you didn’t know this,’ I say.
‘It’s not like that,’ she says.
‘Right,’ I say.
On my way home last, I kept thinking about Nanna. When I was a kid I remember her telling me all the time to be myself. She would say, ‘You’re Peter, so let Peter come out. He’s a good boy.’ Of course, back then I was pretty young and didn’t really get what she on about, thinking that was just her being old, and that’s what old people said.
When I got home Jezza had let himself in. I think he thought he could stay saying, ‘But Missy’s not here.’
‘So,’ I say.
‘But if she’s not here, then I can stay, right?’ He says, trying to be all buddy buddy with me.
‘Ahh, no,’ I say.
‘Right, so she’s coming back?’ he says.
I look at him.
‘Right, so she’s not coming back then?’ he says.
‘Oh fuck,’ I say, ‘can you please just leave.’
‘Ahhhhhhhhh, so she is coming back,’ he says.
‘Can you stop already,’ I say indicating that he has to go and for a second I think he is about to turn mean but he’s such a weedy little guy that the idea of him trying something sort of appeals to me.
‘You’re a fuckwit, you know that don’t you. And I’m not surprised that Missy left you,’ he says, walking close past me.
‘Whatever,’ I say, ‘just get the fuck out of my house.’