The house was cold, like a wind had come in through the front door and stayed there.
I crawled down the corridor (Turkish hall runner beneath me) and knocked on the door where my grandmother slept. No answer.
I reached for the door handle, turned it and tottered inside. There she was-a torpid, veiny form sprawled out on the bed.
Her arms were covered with injection bruises that looked like watercolour droplets.
“Little Misha, little Misha, where are you?”
She had been blind for over 30 years.
Up on the bedside table-a black plasticky unit that played the local AM radio. Chanting music (always on Sundays) and crispy-thin voices penetrating through the static.
“Misha, Misha, are you there?”
I crawled back out the door.
She made me aware from a very young age that the body was a site of suffering.
Just the thought of it. There on the bed, for so many years.
In a large Byzantine encyclopaedia of the 10th pentury we learn of the ancient Alexandrian philosopher Hypatia and her infamous cunt-rag.
During one of her lectures, a pupil became so enamoured with her beauty that he promptly informed this illustrious teacher that he wanted to fuck her.
Hypatia responded by flinging her bloody cunt-rags at the student.
“This is what you love,” she announced before the symposium, “and there is nothing beautiful about it.”
But what she meant to say was that this pupil was the most incorrigible, pestilent whore that she had ever known; that he was a slimy asshole hair and a cuckolded bag of shit that couldn’t keep his dick in his pants, an animal cantankerous, sacrificed on the altar.
Crinkled photograph of my great-grandmother Hypatia. A refugee from the outskirts of the city of Smyrna, her male relatives rounded up, shot, decapitated, or sent on death marches.
They buried gold and jewellery in the earth, thought they would come back, never did.
Came to Australia on a boat. 1930s heyday blues, rural frontier, hot summers, government reserves, a new Anglo name, fish ‘n’ chips and a proxy bride.
I can see her now washing her cunt-rags by the river.
*“Ύβρις”, Apothecary Archive, January 2021.