Alexandra, I’m establishing an email link. It was great to speak to you when you were in Albany. I shall be keeping you abreast of the situation with granny. About dinner in Melbourne, it looks like we won’t have time as we’re really just popping in to see Jai.
All the best, James (Uncle?)
Hello Uncle James,
I like the uncle bit. Thanks for the email. It’s fine if you don't have time.
It was great to chat to you too and I appreciate you keeping me updated about Granny.
Not too much of the "uncle". We have an email link now, which is good.
“I can’t do this family bullshit,” I announced to no-one in particular after reading the last email from (Uncle) James. “Fuck this,” I yelled, kicking the sofa and hurting my toe.
“Yes, you can,” Frankie responded, ignoring me as I hopped around the room. She was watching Hugo rolling and scratching in a dramatic attempt to remove the jumper she’d forced him into. “You look so handsome! Quanto sei bello,” she giggled as he ran under a chair and sulked. “Yes you are, yes you are,” she cooed as she coaxed him out with a liver treat, picked him up and kissed his squishy French Bulldog head. “Quanto sei bello.”
“Can you read it, please? I need your opinion,” I insisted as I removed an ice pack from the freezer and dropped it on the same foot. “Fucki…”
“Read what?” Frankie interrupted as she showered a squirming Hugo in another round of kisses.
“There’s no dinner anymore and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to call my uncle uncle. And my toe is broken!” I hopped to the cupboard and grabbed one of the raw-organic-sugar-free cacao bars I was currently obsessed with.
I stuck my foot under Frankie’s face. “It’s not broken. Just ice it. I miss sugar, gelato and pasta,” Frankie lamented as I offered her a square of wild fig and orange cacao.
“OK. Fuck the diet, let’s go get gelato,” I agreed after biting into the sticky black mass. I’d tortured Frankie with this carb-free, sugar-free, fun-free fiasco for two weeks now and I was worried for her mental health. It was the morning’s kale breakfast bowl with avocado vinaigrette that possibly tipped her over the edge. Frankie was too Italian to diet. It wasn’t in her DNA.
Waiting in line at Pidapipo gelateria, she put her arm around my shoulder and kissed my head. “I’m sorry about your dinner.”
“It’s not even the dinner I’m upset about. It’s the feeling of being pushed back. My mum used to do that.”
“Your uncle probably doesn’t want to be in the middle of the drama with you two. You can imagine what she’s said… and he probably doesn’t want the pressure of being your only family. It’s a lot. Like a lot .”
“We already know what she said. The lying fuc…”
“Enough of your mother. Get over it," Frankie snapped as Selena Gomez came on the radio and she started singing along. “The world can be a nasty place, you know it, I know it… We don’t have to fall from grace, put down the weapons you fight with…”
“You’re singing Selena Gomez at me?”
“She’s very wise for someone who looks fourteen.”
A few days later I received another email.
Hi Alex. I have just had a chat with Lil and it looks like we will have time Tuesday evening if you want to catch up. I will contact you when we are there. Regards Unc. James
“I’m not going,” I announced to Frankie. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“Ma dai. You’re just anxious. Go to dinner but don’t talk about your mother.”
How could I do that when I’d been obsessing about Granny’s ninety-eighth birthday party for the past week? She was hosting. I wasn’t invited.
“Everyone will be there. Four generations. Your mother hired a photographer to capture the moment,” Granny enthused on our last phone call. Everyone except me. I pictured myself reaching down the phone line, grabbing my mother by the throat and squeezing her neck until her eyes popped out of her head.
“You don’t want to go all the way to Albany for the weekend,” Frankie thundered as I exploded in rage at being excluded.
“She’s ninety-eight!” I yelled before erupting violently into tears. “We never had enough time. That bitch stole it. She stole all our time.”
“You want to stand in a room with your mother?” Frankie demanded. “To talk about the weather with the bitch who stole time?”
“Don’t make fun of me. I’m not kidding.”
“Me either. You really want to be in a room with that woman? Answer me!”
No, I didn’t want to talk about the weather with my mother. I wanted to scratch and scream and kick and beg her to let me exist. And more than anything I wanted to recover all of my lost time.
I had no intention of telling Frankie she was right, so I picked up Hugo and headed to the door.
“Figure it out!” Frankie yelled dramatically after me.
Hugo spent half an hour at the park scratching and rubbing to remove his jumper before I picked him up and carried him home. Frankie was gone so I texted her.
Where are you?
Going to shops.
Don’t text and drive.
Stop texting then. Need anything?
Paleo mix, protein balls, coconut yoghurt. Don’t text back.
Steak. Chocolate. Pasta. Got it.
You stop it.
That night we headed to a movie so we wouldn’t have to speak to each other.
“You decided if you’re meeting your uncle Tuesday night?” Frankie asked before bed.
“No. He’s calling me tomorrow.”
“If you want a family then stop pushing them away.”
The next morning Hugo jumped on the bed, dropped a tennis ball on Frankie’s face and ruined our public holiday sleep in. So we drank coffee in bed and played on our phones while Hugo chewed on his tennis balls.
“Per l’amore dei dio,” Frankie wailed as Hugo knocked her cup and spilled hot coffee down her pyjama top. “No, no, no, no.”
“It’s just coffee. Chill out.”
“It’s not the coffee,” Frankie handed me her phone.
It wasn’t the coffee. It was the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
We stayed in bed all day, reading the updated news reports. Watching the death toll rise. Praying for the wounded. Struggling to comprehend this attack on our community.
After we read the texts between Eddie Justice and his mum Mina, we both broke into tears.
We were still crying in the evening when Christine Leinonen pleaded to the camera, “Please, let’s all just get along. We’re on this earth for such a short amount of time. Let’s try to get rid of the hatred and violence, please!”
“I didn’t want you to be right…” I said quietly as we watched the news. “About my mum I mean… but you are right. I don’t want to see her. I hate her. I hate her and I want her to give me back everything she stole from me. Look at these broken lives…” I gestured helplessly at the television. “No-one can give back what this fuck has taken from these people. And they were so young… All this time they should have had here… He stole it…”
“And that’s it,” Frankie added as fresh tears welled in her eyes. “Look at all the suffering his hatred has caused. So yes, she took the time with your family away from you. But they’re offering to be here now. And yes, she destroyed your sense of self-worth. But it’s your self-worth. You have to heal it. We have to be stronger than the hate. Louder. Prouder. More united.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to do it but I’m going to stop hating my mother. It’s time.”
“I’m going to be more involved in the fight for equal rights, here and in Italy,” Frankie decided. “And I’m going to stop texting and driving.”
“I’m going to hold your hand in public and stop pulling away when you try to kiss me on the street.”
“It’s not a competition.”
Before I could think of a retort my phone rang.
“Hi. Uncle James.”
“This situation is horrific.”
“Yes, it is.”
“We’re looking forward to seeing you and meeting Francesca. Are you joining us tomorrow night?”
“Yes,” I said, taking a deep breath. “We’re looking forward to it too. We’ll see you tomorrow night.”
First published on www.lotl.com