The joy of the Lord is my strength. – Nehemiah 8:10
So there’s Nehemiah, ringside at the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Or is that him at the Rumble in the Jungle, as the ‘Ali, Bomaye!’ chant starts up? Is that him swaggering behind Bruce Lee? What is the appearance of this strength? What is the joy of the Lord?
I didn’t see my Mom as a joyful person. She was definitely not the one to be happy-clappy, singing out the ‘joy of the Lord,’ that is for sure. She was often grim and weary, actually, burdened by many responsibilities, beset by challenges, bowed down by grief and betrayal; her strength lay in her firm resolve.
There was a day when I accompanied her to our new home, 19.8 acres, fenced, with a yard site and barns. It would become the family home base. On that day, though, it was not yet…
I stepped outside the doctor’s room into the surgery. The air felt warm even though the air-condition was on. It smelt clinical and I felt nausea. My mouth dried and suddenly, I felt I needed to drink a whole tank of water. From the red seats, amongst the other sick patients, and their loved ones, Bill dutifully stood up. He walked to me. I saw the water cooler near the receptionist but resisted the urge to stop and drink. A toddler, covered in bandages was crying in pain. I needed to get out.
Bill wore a black T-shirt and a pair of old Levis. His hair was messy.
“Yes?”, he asked when his eyes met mine.
I didn’t reply. I walked past his glaring eyes to the lift. I felt his previous night’s anger slicing through my back as I stopped in front of the lift. The lift arrived on the 13th floor, and I stepped in. I pressed the green “G” button set on the silver squares inside the lift door. I tried to get a space as far from Bill as possible. It was close to midday and already the lift was full of office workers and sick people.
“What did the doctor say?” Bill asked as he squeezed next to me. He reeked of Old Spice and alcohol. I turned away.
“I’ll tell you at home”, I mumbled as I looked at the people in the lift.
A beautiful 5’ foot 7” blonde with popped China Red lipstick gave me a weak sympathetic smile. Her make-up was flawless. She had my height, but her red high heels put her at least two inches taller. An old Muslim lady, head covered in pink cotton stood next to the blonde. The old lady only reached three-quarters of the blonde’s height. In contrast to the blonde’s green slimline dress, the old lady wore a brilliant blue Mama-dress, and a pair of flat, soft, black shoes. The old lady was holding onto two girls, about three, and five years old. The three had beautiful olive skin and deep-set eyes. The girls were looking at the blonde. The old lady looked at me with no expression.
“Why don’t you tell me now?”, Bill broke my thoughts.
“I don’t want to”, I said.
The middle-aged man, Indian, dressed in a fine, light grey Cashmere suit stared at me. He was on the other side of the blonde, and directly opposite. I looked down. The Indian man’s right hand-held
a briefcase by his sleek pants. He should look at the blonde, not me, I thought. On the floor, next to the Indian man’s black Italian leather shoes, my eyes caught a pair of white crocodile-skinned shoes. It had a pointy tip, just like a real crocodile’s mouth. Who wears crocodile skin shoes?, I wondered. My eyes travelled back up his green tight vinyl pants into the eyes of some 17-year-old wacko with pink shirt. He had stood his pale two-inch blonde hair up in an attention with strong gel. He slipped me a fake smile when I caught him starring. Croc-shoe boy wore a small gold earring on one ear, and a diamond stud plunged into his narrow flat nostril. He exaggerated his eye lines with some make-up. The croc-shoe boy’s friend was twice his size. He seemed to be the same age but looked unhealthy. He was pimply, scruffy and dirty; a complete opposite to the croc-shoe boy. They were saying something and giggling. They both looked at me, mocking. Why is everyone looking at me?, I wondered and kept my eyes down.
“Is everything alright?” Bill asked me again, and the lift jerked off and glided down towards the front of Wickham Terrace, Brisbane.
I ignored Bill. I felt the lift stopped. A tall young man stepped in, and greeted the blonde awkwardly.
“Lunch?” he asked smiling. She blushed.
The lift took off and did not stop on the next level, nor the next. The Indian man in Cashmere tried to press the buttons. The lift kept going, and accelerated.
“It is not stopping!” he yelled.
It felt like the lift was falling into empty space and my gut was going in the opposite direction. I heard screams. My mind went into slow motion.
BANG! The lift crashed into something hard and stopped. We must have hit “G” Level. Everybody kept screaming. The lights went off and came back on. Some people fell on the floor. Bodies crashed onto me. The two girls screamed for their mother. They grabbed the old lady. The alarm went. I felt sick. I turned into the cold silver wall and let myself slide onto the floor. The last thing I saw were the white crocodile shoes.
“Jess! Jess!” I heard Bill calling.
“Jessica! Wake Up!”
I came to. It was very hot; I was drenched in sweat. It smelt. Different smells of people smell, both good and bad. I must have passed out. I could vaguely see the others in the room but they felt close. They were in various moving shapes. I didn’t know what had happened.
I felt like throwing up again and tried to focus. Slowly, everyone came back into form. I could hear the two little girls crying softly into the old woman’s dress. She was speaking very gently to the girls in a foreign language. The awkward young man, looking concerned, had his arms around the beautiful blonde. The blonde was pale. Her lipstick smeared. The Indian man had taken his jacket off, revealing a sky-blue cotton shirt teamed with a pin-stripe tie. In a large “V” shape, sweat soaked and darkened all his front chest. He looked crumpled on the floor with his briefcase in his lap and jacket rolled in a ball.
My eyes turned to Bill’s face hanging over me and I looked away. I had leaned into the lift wall with my head resting on the croc-shoe boy’s shoulder. The croc-shoe boy and his friend were cursing nervously. I felt awkward. I could not move myself so I turned and looked at Bill. In place of his 40 years of age, I saw a sweaty 55-year-old wrinkled man. His unshaven face matched his salt and pepper hair. His eyes were bloodshot and his jaw line was tight. Now the Bourbon was obvious on his breath. His eyes continued to hold the question as he spoke.
“The lift is stuck. There is someone coming.”
There was no emotion in his recount.
“You have to stay awake,” he changed his tone.
What is wrong with you?”
I had no more strength to hold it back.
“I am pregnant!” I said aloud.
Bill’s jaw dropped. He stared at me in disgust, speechless. Everyone in the lift looked at me as if I had announced I had smallpox. I had kept this for three months. Bill and I have not had sex for at least three years.