Saturday 18 June 2022

'Night Shift' by Helena Pantsis

The twilight draws on for as long as the silent suburbs allow. The road curves hard like the bend of my brother's spine. He is driving, us bumbling along under fluorescent streetlights, lightbulbs blistering like lightning bugs in some distant field. From the side, my brother resembles a man. I can still picture him in his hospital gown, white as milk, bedridden and cut from hip to knee. He is smiling, singing along to his whacky playlist ranging from 80s hits to video game soundtracks to club beats. I sing along too. We make up the words. The car is a world all its own, not marred by the years of illness which weathered his frail bones, the operations which turned him pale and thin, the tumours that withered his muscles into ghosts and drove metal into the shape of his hips. You could look at him and think he was ordinary, drunk on youth and his waning adolescence. I remember people used to ask if it was a car crash. I think some nights he wished that was all it was. The dusk folds over the houses on our street, reminding us that from the dark the light emerges. I point the moon out to my brother, musing on the way it is shaped like the cancer that grew inside him, part eaten away by the sky—we stop at the traffic lights, bracing, windows open and wind blowing. It's the type of weather where sticky thighs cling to plastic chairs, and we open our mouth to catch the cold like we did when we were kids. I punch him in the arm, and he throws me a wonky look. It's our way of saying: I love you, I'm glad you're here, I hope you'll be here tomorrow.

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