Time & assignments are once again curb-stomping me so I haven’t been able to finish the entries I’ve been working on lately. Instead, here is a secondary monologue I wrote during ATYP’s National Studio (again, ’round the theme of food). New content one day when it doesn’t feel like my brain is going to explode.
[beat. she clears her throat.]
Hello, friends. Family… and the rest of Year 12 Form H4.
I know we have all been affected by this most horrible thing that has befallen us. I know I speak for all of us – all of us – when I say that Anthea will be missed very dearly. We met one chilly Autumn lunch-time, two eight-year-olds waiting patiently in line for the Year Four Sausage Sizzle. I remember the amazement and vague terror in her eyes as she watched me laden my vegetarian hot dog substitute with lashings of red tomato sauce. Misinterpreting this for greed, I held the bottle out, but she backed away, dry meat, white bread clutched hard in hand: “No thanks. I hate Rosella; we’re not allowed it. Mum says dad gets really violent whenever he’s on the sauce.”
Since that first serendipitous meeting, our friendship revolved almost entirely around food. Bake sales, sharing secret recipes, manning the Shrove Tuesday stand year after year after year… it’s probably no small coincidence we ended up in Home Economics together. Now, as many of you are aware, Home Economics is – was, her favourite subject.
Indeed, that hallowed kitchen was where the three of us named our little group: ‘Triple A”, after the battery. While Anna-Sophia and Anthea thought of that name as trivial – fluff; a tiny slip of golden privilege awarded to the reigning board of the Future Homemaker’s Society three years running – that name meant so much more to me. Because, what does a battery do?
Power. It generates power.
Earlier this morning, I was out shopping for my funeral dress with Mum, and I bumped into Mrs Jansen, who teaches this class.
[recognizing MRS JANSEN in the audience.] Oh! Yes, hello.
And – and, Mrs Jansen said to me, an air of conspiracy about her: “Adelaide,” she said, with a nudge. “Adelaide! Looks like the triple- A battery has been downgraded to double-A.” At first, I must admit, I found this statement to be… quite problematic. “Looks like the triple-A… has been downgraded to a double-A.”
However, friends, I’m happy to report that the more I thought about it, the more I realised how extremely wrong I was. In History class, we learn all about context. Mr Fredericks says: context makes the world go round, and I think I agree. The Nazis, for instance, didn’t know they were Nazis.
Oh, like, I mean, they knew they were Nazis, of course, I just mean, they didn’t know they were in the wrong, necessarily. What I’m saying is, everyone brings their own personal level of experience and subjectivity to everything that they do. With this in mind, I began to ruminate on Mrs Jansen’s statement. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised just how much more useful double-A batteries actually are. Open up your calculators. Your television remotes, your Gameboys. They all operate from double-A batteries. And what about triple-A? Who uses those any more?
Um. That was a rhetorical question.
In a sense, I found that to be a strangely pulchritudinous sentiment. Anthea may be gone, now, but we two – [now gesturing to the audience] and we, too – will go on, and become stronger for it. And like the Nazis, I’m sure that’s what Mrs Jansen meant when I bumped into her exiting The Reject Shop this morning.
Anthea had a gift. With flair and panache, she could slow roast a turkey so thick and tender the juice’d run red rivers down your chin. Her quiches were exquisite – dappled pastry crisp and new like a freshly-starched sheet, filled to the brim with fluffy egg and the crispest bacon; strings of mozzarella like woven spider’s silk. Her meringues were… heavenly. Like, literally; as if from the kitchen of Jesus Christ himself to Anthea’s serving plate. And as a triple-A, all she got were As. The gingerbread house, however, continually eluded her.
I will never forget her ashen face when Jansen – uh, Mrs – announced the mid-term exam. Build your gingerbread dream home, and have it survive the ultimate challenge: the table-top earthquake. While Mrs Jansen beat the table with her cast-iron pan, ginger ceilings would crack and crumble upon innocent families of green and yellow jelly babies. Thick globules of buttered sugar-snow and chocolate lattice-work would avalanche on down, wave upon wave of the stuff, leaving blood-red raspberry coulis and wanton candy carnage in its wake. Ninety minutes. Go.
Well, I tried as best I could. With cautious hands I slathered on layers of icing mortar, piped on tiny frosted windows and crushed up jawbreakers to dust the roof with. I even cut up liquorice bullets to pave the front yard. But there was something rotten at the core of this house. Its foundations were off, rank and poisonous and it was all I could do to keep the thing from falling down around me. I had planned a six-bedroom mansion with walk-in robes and chocolate buttons to boot, and had ended up with a diabetic primordial ooze.
And there’s Anthea, brow folded deep in concentration, and somehow it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in all my life. This honest, modest little cottage. Gorgeous spearmint lawn. A rainbow ‘killer python’ piping the front edge of the roof. And, propped up in front of this masterpiece? Two matching purple jelly babies, standing hand in little gelatine hand.
She’s smiling at me now; looking at me, and I’m looking back at her, and I’m sweating, hard and fast, my body shaking in some kind of natural, terrible ecstasy the likes of which I have never felt before. And then she laughs. At me.
My hand springs out, a flesh-made wrecking ball, and before I can register what exactly it is I’m doing I’m punching, I’m punching and clawing and there are chunks of my stupid little house flying all about the room, god! Tear the fucking thing down, smash it into pieces of saccharine oblivion and nothing, build nothing in its absence. There’s a ringing in my ears and Jansen takes me outside but I can’t hear, I still can’t hear what anyone’s saying because this chorus of sharpening metal in my ears and eyes just won’t let up, and Jansen’s shaking me now but I’m checked out, not here, not anywhere but sitting on that little spearmint lawn, the sun beating down on my face and then– and then I think: If she can’t give me this one thing, this one tiny thing, then she may as well just be dead.
If – if you’d all like to exit by the aisles at the end of your row, the funeral procession will be on its way. Thank you to Anthea’s parents for letting me speak… and to everyone who contributed a dish to the refreshments table. I made the cupcakes; the ones with the purple jelly-babies on them.