I was woken up by the phone ringing. It was loud. I had thought of setting the ringer volume lower for months. But I’m afraid my mother would get angry. She wants it loud. So does my father. I had set the volume lower one time and my mother couldn’t hear a call from one of her patients and she got really angry. She’s an ophthalmologist. Very conscientious. Always said that she only knew one thing when she was growing up: that she was going to be a doctor.
The phone was in my dad’s room. The door to my room was shut. My dad’s room is across the living room. Maybe 10 metres away. There are five air vents in my room, two covered with thin glass and three with mosquito nets. The ringing had gone straight through the wall.
I got off the bed and ran to the phone. Just before I got to the phone I looked out to the front windows and I could see my mother’s white doctor’s robe. And her arm lifted in a V to hold her mobile phone to her ear. I didn’t pick up the phone. “Yeah! Okay!” and ran to the door and turn the key once. “Shouldn’t have locked the door, I needed to go to the toilet for ages.” “Yeah. Okay.”
I walked back to the living room. Looked at the clock on the wall. 9.30. I had wanted to watch a replay of the New Zealand v. Australia Rugby World Cup Semifinal 2003, it was on at 9. I sat down and turned on the TV, set it to AV1, the decoder, and pressed 3 and 6 for the channel number. That took maybe a minute. The game was already on. 25 minutes into the first half. NZL 0 – 10 AUS.
Four years ago. I was walking with Claire to her birthday party at an Indian restaurant on Crown Street, Sydney. We were walking up a hill in the late afternoon and the sun was shining and I was starting to sweat, but I didn’t mind. She was wearing a long olive-green velvet skirt that I knew had a stain near the hem but you couldn’t see it. The skirt was ruffled and your eyes would get distracted by the pretty embroidered red and yellow flowers near the crotch anyway.
Nick Agafonoff had left a message on our answering machine earlier that afternoon saying that rugby was very important to him and that he couldn’t come to the party because he couldn’t possibly miss Australia playing New Zealand in the semifinal of a Rugby World Cup and he was going to have to watch that on TV instead of coming to Claire’s party. She said fuck him, he’s so self-centred. I said, don’t worry, he’s just a child. I set the VCR to record the game at 7.30, then we took the bus to the restaurant.
The party was fine. There was pretend belly-dancing, piles of naan, six-packs of beer, sweaty bottles of cheap wine. Even Matt, who had also wanted to watch the game and came late so he could watch the haka and the first few minutes (“Australia scored first, they were smashing the All Blacks, I can’t believe it”) and kept checking his mobile phone for time, didn’t go home too early. Wasn’t even the first one to leave.
Back at home (“That was fun, wasn’t it”) I sat on the divan with my shoes still on, turned on the TV, VCR and pressed Play. It was NZL 0 – 10 AUS. I had set the VCR half an hour too late.
Now I was watching the replayed game, but I wasn’t really watching. Bodies falling into the ground, not wanting to fall to the ground, a guy with his trainer holding a handkerchief over his nose, I was looking for the blood but couldn’t see it, he had red tattoos along his lower arm, the player. “This is not the All Blacks we’ve seen carried all before them in in this tournament!” I turned off the TV, the decoder.
A couple of hours ago. I was in my room reading Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream. From where? Then I jerked off thinking about Holiday. A girl I met once at a book launch I invited her to. I was working as an editor at a small but rich publishing company and I’d come up with the idea of rereleasing a short novel written in the ’70s about a young rich girl from Jakarta who went to college in Bandung, got pregnant and committed suicide. It was narrated by her ghost. Written by a former nun. Holiday’s favourite book.
She had stood up at the discussion and asked a question, or offered a comment, I wasn’t really listening. I had not met her before but seeing this girl in dark green t-shirt and brown cargo shorts, speaking with her head tilted to the right, a rope of hair falling over and over her face, I knew that was her. Later I looked and found her near the Biography shelves at the bookstore (owned by the publishing company) where the launch was held. “Intan, yes?” I had used her real name. I forget what we talked about. Books. I told her to wait and grabbed her a copy of Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help that I’d been telling her about. She told me about this guy in Jogja who sold cheap second-hand books online. She held her mobile phone up to my face so I can copy his number. I remember his name. Homerian. And her fingers wrapped around the buttons on her mobile.
Now I was jerking off thinking about her fingers. They were soft. So was her body. Untoned. She had dark nipples. Soft breasts. Soft tummy. Folds on it as she lifted her legs to receive me. I called out her name. “Oh, Holiday.”
I fell asleep after that. I always do. Now I’m in the same bed. The blue Grove book next to my laptop. I’m watching highlights of the game on YouTube. The first try was an intercept. The pictures were blurry.