Speak: Monopoly

Words by Claire Bowman

Pictures by Caitlin Fraser

Published on October 22, 2014


It’s raining outside. Not that romantic mist from funerals in films. Fat summer drops that disperse barbecue parties and cleanse the earth. I order a pizza. I love the thought of the kid getting on his scooter to deliver it. I love him with his hood up, his only purpose on this earth to keep my pizza dry. I love how miserable he looks at the door, grey debris dragged from a swamp, and the dead way he says, It’s eight ninety-five.
I give him a twenty. I say, Keep the change.
He smiles, big as you like.
I eat the whole pizza. It’s Friday night and I’ve got a hundred thousand taped episodes of Ellen DeGeneres and this acrid green nail polish that was two dollars from Price Attack.
Someone knocks on the door. For a wild salivating moment I think it’s more pizza. I open up.
He’s dripping, freshly baptised.
He says, I challenge.
His blue bike is flaking paint onto my fence.
He says, You know the rules.
I say, You don’t play by the rules.
I step back and he comes in.
He gets himself a towel. The cupboard door hits the wall before it opens properly.
It still does that, he says.
He sits at the table. The green linoleum tabletop throws a glow on his face that’s like four-am leftovers and frantic teenage sex.
He says, Where is it?
The box is on top of the kitchen cupboards. My fingers leave streaks across the dusty top. It’s heavier than I remember.
I’ll be the bank, he says.
I put the box on the table and sit. He takes the car and the hat and puts them on Go. The arrow on the square points at his chest.
You first, he says.
My chair scrapes when I stand up. Sorry, I say, I just have to do something.
He rolls the dice and says, Hurry.
I go to the bathroom and close the door and sit cross-legged in the empty bathtub. There’s a crack in the porcelain. When she gave me the place, my mother said, Maybe you’d like to replace the bathtub.
Maybe, I said.
We both knew I wouldn’t.
I’m looking at the crack when he knocks.
He says, You can’t avoid losing forever.
He says, Come and face your maker.
He says, Are you okay?
He says, I’m coming in.
I don’t want to be sitting in the bathtub. He sits on the edge.
So what’s new? he says.
I laugh.
Tell me something good, he says.
I say, Are you happy?
Do you want me to say yes or no? he says.
I don’t know.
What is happy? he says.
He doesn’t ask if I am happy.
He says, Did you get that job?
I say, Yes, I work at the home by the river. I care for the elderly who can’t care for themselves.
He says, Well you got seven years practice, caring for me.
Everything comes out when he says that. It fills the bathtub around me and spills over the edges and onto the floor. Every bit of him is there, and all the bits of me. It all floats around us in a soup. His eyes are closed. I want to ask if he can feel our lives gushing over his thighs, the splashes of them hitting his bare shins. I don’t want to be sitting in the bathtub.
He climbs over me and into the bath and sits down cross-legged. He puts his hands on my knees like a child.
He says, I’m clean.
He says, Promise.
He says, I’ve missed you.
He doesn’t say he’s sorry. He doesn’t say, Do you forgive me?
He kisses me like the last time. Familiarly, with all this anger.
I hold his face in my hands and I tell him, Please go.
He says, I’m clean. I’ve missed you.
I’m happy for you.
I’m supposed to make healthy relationships.
Is that what you’re doing? In my bathtub? Jesus.
When my mother said, Maybe you’d like to replace the bathtub, I think what she meant was, I give you permission to change.
I say, We aren’t who we used to be.
Just one game.
I can’t blame him. He stands up and I let him take my hand.

Claire Bowman is a QUT graduate who lives in London but mostly writes about living in Brisbane.

Caitlin Fraser is a 26-year-old student from Brisbane. She likes taking photos of her cat and the 5pm sunlight. See more of Caitlin’s work here.