Paloma (Stir, Stirring, Stirred)  

Illustration by Ben Steele. 

1. I never know if my tarot card pulls are accurate, or if I make them accurate. It’s easy enough to manipulate the meaning. Each morning I lay them all out face down, I flip the same card over, week after week. The Hierophant. It’s a card that is about tradition, paths, and past wisdom, about looking back to go forward. Chalking it up to coincidence is easier than giving weight to it. Each time I pull it from the deck I stare at it longer than I need to, already knowing what it’s trying to say. 


2. My stepfather is making paella in the kitchen, I am sitting at the bench top. We are in their new house, boxes strewn across the rooms. He, my mother, and my sister moved in not long before I arrived. I’ve gotten to know him better since the hard border between their state and mine came down – a chance to make up for the lost time. We get onto talking about his youth, and he tells me about him holding the record for the fastest drive between two towns, about motorbikes, about his family farm. He tells me about how he’s always been pulled between duty and wanting. I ask how he brought himself to choose what he wanted, and he told me the choice is easy when you’re willing to make it.  


3. I am walking through the Fremantle city grid in the early afternoon. The limestone buildings shade one sidewalk and illuminate another, and I cross the street each time to walk in the sun. A true Queenslander. I am alone this afternoon, making my own way through the streets. I slip into a bar, order a Paloma, and sit at the high tops by the window. I feel like I breathe easier here, whether that’s because it’s colder or because I am wholly alone I don’t know. I couldn’t have had a drink alone a year ago, but my own company does not make me feel lonely anymore. I know what it means to be alone. Salt and grapefruit hum together as I sit, I have a fortnight left here.  


4. I’ve spent more time with her over west than when I’ve been in Brisbane. I’m sitting in the backyard of a friend of a friend, making a mental note to bring a jacket next time. Someone is sound-checking their guitar on the verandah-turned-stage. A small crowd is sprawled across the backyard, and I sit next to her, we catch up over a few beers. She looks happy in the way I want to be sometime soon. She gives me a few musician recommendations and they are what I needed to hear, whether she knew that or not. A cautionary strum tells us that the music is about to start, and we settle in.  


5. My sister asks me if I am alright. I say that I will be. I am on the other side of the country when my landlords call to say they are selling, and the sooner we’re out, the better (for them). I feel my sense of security in Brisbane collapsing, my tether to this place eroding in real-time. This breakaway gives space to a pull I have felt for a long time, a pull that my cards have been telling me about for longer. There are things that keep me in this city, but I know there is not enough to make me stay.  


6. Half-empty houses echo in a unique way. Sound travels further than you mean it to when it doesn’t hit couches, curtains, blankets, or tables along the way. The echo makes me think there are more people in the house than just me, waiting for the end of a lease, the start of something else. The start of, hopefully, something better. I am packing my art pieces into tube mailers late at night, and the empty walls make for a stark reminder of how I made this place home. I cry, and the echo carries. I remind myself that it is alright to be sad after making the right decision.  


7. I do the grocery shopping while two wines in after a literary salon. The supermarket is dead as I wander through, picking up things that I’ll be able to get through before we move. Sparkling water, a block of cheese, soup, bread rolls, oyster mushrooms. I put the coffee beans back when I remember my housemate has already taken their machine to their new house. In a few weeks, everything will be different. I am excited and scared at the same time, mourning and reviving over and over in the self-checkout line. 


8. A friend invites me over for dinner by her fire pit. The months of rain have long ended the fire ban, and I bring over nice wine. We sit out on the grass. I’ve known this home since I was little, it is a home in and of itself. I lived here once when I was between houses. It is a soft place to land. I’m here, again, on the precipice, the bushland of outer Brisbane brings me a clarity I don’t know if I will be able to replicate in a new city. I leave in a few weeks and I know it is what I am stretching out for. A new path, following what is now a tradition in my family, to move over west in a time of great change. My friend talks for a long time about bravery, about choosing what you deserve, about how feeling half-doomed comes with a freedom that you cannot get ahold of any other way. I feel my chin wobble, feel myself come apart at the seams, preparing to put myself back together. I feel myself starting to stir.  

Em Readman
Em Readman

Em Readman is a writer from Meanjin who lives in Boorloo. She has been published in Aniko Press, the Suburban Review, Bowen St Press, Baby Teeth Arts, and others. They were an editor of Glass Magazine in 2020 and 2021, and won the 2022 Blue Knot Foundation Award with the Hunter Writer's Centre.

Articles: 64

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