The Big Issue : Edition 568
42 THE BIG ISSUE 2018 Kit had waited all day until finally they were gone. Waited through the dry summer heat, the sun glinting through the leaves of the bottle-brush tree, shading her from the sun’s slow burn but not from the baking, desiccating warmth of the air itself. The soil and matter underfoot crisping and bone dry, an arsonist’s food for thought. Kit had waited. Waited while she sweated, her skin taut in the hot easterly wind, passing the time inspecting her nails, picking at the dark moons of dirt trapped beneath them. Picked too at the scabs on her knees, revealing the fresh pink skin, the new Kit. Watched ants oblivious to the heat and to her as they beat their never-ending foraging paths. The birds came and went, beaks open, ruffled feathers, wheezing their bagpipe calls. Kit waited until the cooling draught of the sea breeze had whispered in, scuttling the easterly, and coating the city in its soothing balm. They had come from upriver just before noon heralded by the buzzing outboard, all shouts and laughter, and then just as swiftly unloaded tackle, eskies, buckets and booze onto the jetty, the moored tinny then silenced. Three men, young and loud, all surfing T-shirts, shorts, thongs, tanned, blond: Kings of the World. Kit wasn’t sure if they had come for fishing or drinking, so closely were the two combined. Fishing and drinking. Drinking and fishing. She watched them through the heat and the laughter, the cursing and the joking. Watched as the beer and heat lulled them, the occasional cheer of a catch still marking their presence. Through the long, roasting afternoon Kit waited. She had waited before. Waiting was her thing. Waiting and dissolving. Dissolving into the background was easy when you were just some small gawky kid with scuffed shoes and lanky hair, unremarkable in every way. No hidden beauty, no Cinderella. Sometimes she wondered if she could disappear completely. Dissolve. Cease to be. Did she, in fact, become invisible? Really invisible. She wondered how she would know if she was invisible? Would she feel different? How would she know if it was that people didn’t see her, or if they were just ignoring her? Invisible. Ignored. Was there a difference? Kit knew there was a difference, but maybe not for the person who was ignored or who was invisible. Being ignored was something Kit didn’t like to think about. It moved too close to that knot in her throat, that little piece of tension, of longing, of pain, that tightened, constricted, and wouldn’t let her talk, let her breathe. It just sat there. Day after day. The knot in her throat. Sometimes she could hardly feel it. If she got distracted by the TV, or by lessons at school, when her cousins came to visit and they ran and hid and laughed. Those times, just for a while, the knot shrank and withered, and she forgot it was there. But then, every time her mother told her she was being stupid, or childish, that she had messed up her clean floor, that she didn’t have time to look at every piece of treasure that Kit brought home, the knot tightened. When her father missed her school play, missed because his work meeting was important, or forgot to take her to the park, was too tired, too busy, too late, too something, the knot tightened. Tightened, so her words were lost, her breath was caught, her eyes sometimes prickling and moist. As the knot tightened and grew, Kit shrank. Her needs became less, her wants unfulfilled. And so, she dissolved, and slowly slipped between the cracks of their lives. Faded. Forgotten. Unwanted. Invisible. The fierce heat of the day had gone as the sun dipped towards the horizon and the loud, laughing Kings of the World buzzed away in the tinny. And then Kit, who had waited all day, slipped from the cover of the trees and made her way to the jetty. She could smell beer, the wasted contents of a spilt can drying on the deck, but there was little else to mark the presence of the young men on the day, just some tangled fishing line caught in a knot of wood. But there were fish. Several, maybe a dozen. Small with bodies like latex. Pale bellies and darker on top. Blowies. Mostly they were intact, a few with mouths damaged by hooks and rough handling. And then one moved. Its mouth opened. Gasping. Kit nudged it with her shoe. Its fin moved. She nudged it again, gently, not wishing to cause the creature more harm, pushing it over. It gasped again. Kit pushed the fish, watched it move closer to the edge of the jetty until one final push sent it into the still water. And Kit watched as the fish gently sank, glassy eyed and still, consigning it to its murky grave. But then it twitched and arched and breathed and swam off, slowly and slightly skewed, but alive and away until it disappeared into the darker reaches of the river. And was gone. Kit smiled. She turned and saw another fish. Inert. Lifeless. She nudged it to the end of the jetty and off into the water. Hoping. Watching. Heart sinking with the body of the fish. And then twitching and lifting as this fish too gulped and inhaled and swam, stronger than the first, more sure of its course. Kit gasped. And turned, and prodded, pushed, cajoled each fish, in turn into the water. Some did not move as they sank and were swallowed by the gloom. Some could not come back. But most did. Most of the fish revived, even the one whose mouth was ripped and flapped. Even that one. Even that one! Each movement and breath and flick a triumph over the Kings of the World. Until all the fish on the jetty were gone, back to their briny world. And Kit laughed. Laughed and jumped. And clapped her hands. Kit raised her face to the sun and giggled. Kit stood tall and sighed, a smile on her face, the knot in her throat absent, taken with the little fish into the dark river depths. Maybe not for always, but certainly for now. For here and now Kit was not invisible. Not today, not here, not now.