I'm Ready Now cover

I'm Ready Now: Extract

My friends call me Casper. As in the ghost. It’s a dig at how my face responds to the sort of Friday nights I’m having, but also at my background, Casper as in Sebastian as in Lord Charles. If I turned up at the airport looking like this my mother would think I’m sick. Oh God, she’d say, you’ve been infected by that disease. But I can’t make myself vulnerable within minutes of her arriving, because I’m not sick. Plus she rang yesterday to tell me not to bother going out to see her if I was too busy. I knew she was only trying to give the impression that she wouldn’t get in the way, but every mother wants their son to be the one to greet them at an arrivals gate.

I can’t do it, not like this, so I don’t.

I shower, taking my time under the water, enjoying my nakedness, noticing my tired, spent, bony body. My stomach’s shrunken, my hip bones are obvious – they look sharp, like shark fins – and my wrists are thin and knobbly. When finished I go to my room and look for something to wear. There’s a black and blue long-sleeved casual top but I don’t put it on, as I’ve been doing since January, because wearing the top would reveal who I am, or who I used to be. I settle on a pair of faded blue jeans and a plain, misshapen black T-shirt.

In the kitchen I wash dishes that’ve been piling up all week. I make a booking for brunch at Leo’s on Glebe Point Road. Here’s my neighbourhood, do you like it? That’s what I’ll be asking my mother without saying as much. I keep checking the time to make sure I ring her as soon as she lands. I don’t want her hanging around the airport looking lost and dejected as though she doesn’t know a soul in the world. But I can’t wait any longer. I ring her mobile and leave a message saying that I’ve got on an early-morning job – which isn’t that untrue, not really, considering how the last twelve hours have been – and I won’t be able to meet her. I’ll see her at the house, she should call me as soon as she lands, I’ll be home, we’ll go up the street for brunch. I’ve got the loungeroom all set up for her. It was Levi who, in his gently advising way, said that I should have my loungeroom looking like a bedroom, that the TV should be moved into the other room, that a vase of flowers wouldn’t go astray. I’ve forgotten the flowers. So I run up to the florist at the Parramatta Road intersection, pushing myself because this will clear my head. The long shower has helped to bring focus to the morning but there’s still a way to go. My feet are light, my body weightless, as though I’m a holographic simulation, not blood and bone and whatever muscle I have left

At the florist I get a bunch of white salvia – my mother’s favourite – and quickly walk home via the bakery, knocking off a sausage roll with tomato sauce and washing it down with a Powerade. I hope that this combination of food and drink and exercise will give me sufficient colour to not look like a member of the walking dead. Or a member of the dreaming conscious. Because that’s how I spend my weekends – dreaming consciously. The food and drink work. When I’m back at the house I feel more solid, and, yes, clearer in the head. Which is good timing, or just lucky, because the flowers are barely in their glass vase on the mantelpiece over the double-sided fireplace in the loungeroom, set there overlooking the sofa-bed that’s ready and waiting, because my mother might want to sleep after her crack-of-dawn flight, when my mobile rings. Except I can’t find it. It’s calling from my bedroom. But it isn’t on the chest-of-drawers or on the bedside table. And it’s not in the black jacket I wore last night, the black jacket I wear every Friday night. After a minute of mad searching I find my phone – it’s in the pants I wore last night, the plain grey ones. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that the pants are loose on me now, they bundle up around the fly, but they’re my favourite. I must’ve been sufficiently together in the head when I got home earlier this morning to hang them on the clothes-rack. The phone stops ringing as soon as I’ve got it in my hands. There’s just enough time to see her name – ‘Mum’ – on the screen, before it rings out.

As I press redial I walk into the loungeroom.

She answers within two rings.

Published by Blemish Books, 2012, ISBN 9780980755688