She slammed the empty glass down on the kitchen counter and wiped the cordial from her mouth.
He places his empty glass besides hers.
They ran through the kitchen doorway, down the narrow hall and out through the front door. Their bicycles were baking out on the dry lawn. They straightened up their bikes, mounted them and rode down the street. She burned the inside of her thighs on the bike seat, swore, and stood up to ride.
The street was old; cracks grew to pot holes, strewn with crumbled bitumen and gravel. They deftly navigated their bike wheels between the pot holes to avoid grazing legs with flying gravel. Riding past the line of suburban houses and the vandalised playground, they made a left turn, skidded and swerved on to somebody’s lawn as they fell off their bikes.
A black sedan halted and honked at the children with their bikes. Adam gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles turned white. He had almost hit those damned kids with his car.
He turned the engine off and tried to steady his breathing. Through the windscreen he saw them stand up and glare at him. The girl raised her right arm and flipped him her middle finger. Adam rolled his eyes. “Fucking kids,” he whispered under his breath.
Adam released his grip on the steering wheel and looked down at his trembling hands. He tried to steady his nerves like Amata had taught him.
Close your eyes. Now, slow breath in with clenched fists. Hold. Slowly now, release your breath along with your grip and open your hands in time with the exhalation. Good. Again. Breathe in through the palms of your hands. Hold your breath in with fists, release your breath, your fingers the flue.
His right hand clutched his left, and he ran his right thumb over the grooves of the knuckles of his left. The deliberate force of pressure exerted by and upon his hands helped return to him a small sense of awareness and control. Wringing his hands, like the ringing in his ears, were frequent reminders of how dissociated he felt within his body.
He looked at the spidery white webs that marked his hands, remnants of scars that had faded over time. It was never quite clear to him how he got them, the scars that lined his body. Skin grafts, he had been told. A car accident, or so they said. He couldn’t remember if he had been a passenger or a pedestrian.
Adam traced the scars with his fingers, circling his left wrist then over the outer edge of his hand. His scars resembled the seam of a glove carefully stitched into his skin. His scars stretched up his arms. The scars of his body looked like a patchwork quilt, uniform sized pieces moulded to the contours of his body.
He ran his hands down his chest, feeling every bump of scar tissue. He stepped closer to the mirror and inspected it. It was faint, like a squiggle drawn on his skin. He rubbed his finger over it and it didn’t come off. He ran over to the window, opened the curtain, and inspected the blue mark. It appeared to be a series of numbers. He furrowed his brow and moved back to the mirror, positioning himself so he could see his body better in the light. His eyes darted all over his reflection, looking for more blue squiggles. He changed position again, pointed his elbow to the ceiling and moved his hand down the side of his ribs. There! He saw another one.
Adam spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting his skin for more of these numbers. He sat on his bed, fully nude, with a thin blanket draped over his shoulders. His eyes now recognised the slight discolouration that marked the numbers on his skin. Every patch of skin had a number. Every shape that the scars outlined and made had a number. He was a patchwork man of serial codes.
Adam shook his head to clear his mind of the conjured images of his reverie. Skin grafts, that was right. There was an accident that was so traumatic, his mind had simply blotted out all memory of anything since… since anything.
Adam groaned. He was going to need find Levi again, the dust of past psycho-crazies was coming back to him again. “A good smack upside the head,” he murmured under his breath as he watched the kids climb back on their bikes and ride away. He waited until he could no longer see them in his rear view mirrors, turned on the ignition and drove in the opposite direction.
The kids laughed as they dismounted and walked their bikes to the barrier that separated the residential area from the bush land. They each had to bend down and under the metal barrier and drag their bikes behind them.
“I can’t believe you flipped him the bird!” said the boy as he straightened up on the other side of the barrier and looked ahead.
She stooped beside him and nudged his arm. “He’s a psycho. What else was I going to do?”
The grass on this side of the barrier was much longer and greener than on the residential side, and the storm water drains all lead out to the creek that was here. They walked their bikes over to the storm water outlet and looked down to where the water flowed out to the creek.
More rubbish had been dumped here since when they last visited. The water appeared stagnant.
“Hey, dare me to climb on to that shopping trolley?” He pointed.
“If you want,” she shrugged and sat on the edge of the outlet.
He walked around the bank, eyeing the best spot to start climbing down. The grass was long and itchy, it made it hard to be sure footed. He held his arms out for balance and inched down the slope with baby steps. Finally he lunged and jumped on to the side of the shopping trolley. It wobbled and sunk a little further into the muddy water. He waved his arms to maintain his balance, then placed his hands on his hips in a triumphant pose. She picked up a piece of gravel and threw it at him.
“So,” she stood back up and brushed the grass from her backside. “Which way should we go today?”