February 4, 2008

“Joel, Joel, there’s a phone call for you.”


“Oh yeah, who is it mom?”


“Didn’t ask. It’s a girl. Come down and get it.”


“Yeah, hello?”



“Hi Joel. It’s me, Layla.”


[Joel, embarrassed]:

“Oh hi Layla.”



“Hey, you’re famous. You are on the back page of the Herald.”



“Hmmmm…you mean the one of me beaten black and blue? The one that’s opposite the shiny, happy one of you? My parents gave me a right going over. I’ve been told to pull my head in and I’m not allowed to go to watch you tomorrow.”



“Aw, bloody hell, that’s a pain. Mind you, I got a bit of a drilling too. Dad thinks I’m going too far with this Gift thing. He wasn’t happy about the environment either… too much drinking and gambling. He’s going to give tomorrow a miss. I think I would have been grounded too except he’d have reporters and Demons at him for days.”



“Yeah look, I’m really sorry Layla. I was completely out of line yesterday. Sorry. I’m never going to drink again. I feel very bad about it.”



“Yeah, you were very odd. A bit intrusive. I’ve never seen you like that before. Hey, I suppose you were a bit like me. Scary, eh?”



“So, have you done the essay for Hart?”



“What are you talking about? You’re having a laugh aren’t you? No, Joel, it kind of slipped my mind. More important things and all that. Anyway, we’re on holiday. Plenty of time for that the night before we go back.


Joel, the reason why I called is I want to invite you out for dinner tonight at the Indian. Just me and you. I’m desperate for a Rogan Josh and, according to the back page of the Herald Sun, you’re my overly protective boyfriend. So, poor vulnerable me is requesting male assistance to, during and from dinner. What do you think? I’ll go dutch.”



“Oh, oh, you are asking me out now? Wow. I’d love to. I promise I’ll behave. I’ll be a real gentleman. I thought I’d kind of put paid to any possibility…”



“Let me stop you right there Joel. It’s not a date… exactly. We’re friends right? This will sound a bit silly but I had a dream about you and I want to tell you about it and… Rogan Josh, hmmmmmmmmm. Are you in or out?”



“I’d like to be in but I’ll have a hard time getting it past mom.”



“No worries, I’ll come over and ask for you. I’m sure they won’t turn little old me away empty handed. See you soon.”


Soon after, Layla in a fetching outfit.



“Oh hello Mrs Underwood, my name is Layla Parkin. Me and Joel are footy mates. And class mates. Is it okay if Joel comes out for a curry with me?”


[Mrs Underwood]:

“The famous Layla Parkin! How nice to see you. [Goodness me, what a stunning girl] Well, Layla, you are obviously aware that Joel didn’t live up to the high standards we expect of him yesterday. He is grounded. And tell me, you’re not dating are you? He is too young for all that. And that kind of thing is against our religion. He needs to start behaving in a more Christian manner.”



“God no Mrs Underwood. As if. As I said, we are just footy mates. And my religion frowns on dating too. No, I have a race tomorrow and I’m just a bit toey. I thought a good curry would calm me down. Joel’s like a big brother you know. Please, Mrs Underwood, please. You could come along too?”


[Mrs Underwood]:

“I’m right for dinner thanks Layla. Hmmm, Mr Underwood would never allow it. Lucky he’s out for the evening. Alright, look, be back at 8.30 and I’m putting you in charge. If I smell any smoke or alcohol on him I’ll be talking to your parents.


And Layla, I saw you on tele yesterday. I thought you were fantastic. Good luck tomorrow. Happy Easter.”



“Thanks Mrs Underwood. You too. Errrm, Mrs Underwood, can Joel come tomorrow? He’s, like, my number one barracker.”


Mrs Underwood smiled at Layla. What a strapping, young girl. It would be nice to have one like her under your belt. She imagined the spirits of six beautiful grandbabies emanating from that welcoming womb and fell in love with each of them. Of course, there’d be issues. Layla’s family wouldn’t be happy for her to convert but she’d have to… for stability and for her own good of course. Then again they seem modern enough. They don’t make her wear the scarf. She might save Layla sometime in the future. Invite her on the next Alpha Course.


[Mrs Underwood]:

“Right Joel, Queen Layla is at the door for you. It seems the Queen always gets what she wants. Listen up though, I’m still very annoyed with you so don’t even think about stepping out of line. And Joel, IF you behave, you can go to Stawell tomorrow.”



“Oh thanks mom. Thank you. I’ll… see you later.”


[Mrs Underwood]:

“Before 8.30.”



“Layla, I can’t believe it. My mom never changes her mind. You’ve got a gift.”


[Layla, cheekily]:

“Not really. Just tell them what they want to hear. It’s manipulation, but in a good way.”

The two teenagers parked their feet under a round wooden table and tucked into some poppadums and tasty topping stuff. The owner came out and said how honoured he was to have Layla in his restaurant. They should order anything they want and there would be no point to pay. Other patrons congratulated her and well-wished her for tomorrow. They took fawning photos – the owner, the staff and the diners – then left them to it.



“Thanks for this. It’s great Layla. I’m going for the Chicken Madras. And a Nan bread. And a side dish of mushrooms. Share a plain rice?”



“I’ll share, but make it saffron rice. Yeah, I’m right too. I’ll have a Lamb Rogan Josh of course and a side dish of Aloo Gobi.”



“How big has the last week been? And yesterday? Wow. And tomorrow! It’s crazy. Apparently, I’m looking at the next Olympic gold medalist, the world’s fastest woman ever? I can’t believe all this. You’re from another planet. You are amazing. And I know you. How do you do it?”


[Layla, admiring her finger nails from on high]:

What can I say Joel? What can I say? I just really enjoy racing. But listen, stop blowing smoke up my bum, I wanted to tell you about the dream I had of you.”



“Oh yeah. Turn it up. This should be good. Go on then.”



“Well, you see Joel, although I appreciated your effort to protect me yesterday I wasn’t happy with you drinking alcohol. I don’t like it. I mean, I really, really hate it. You shouldn’t do it; it’s so bad for you. Yuck.


I thought maybe I should stay away from you in future because, yeah we’d been pals, but I didn’t want to be around anyone who drinks. So yeah, I was pretty over you. And then I had this dream.


It starts with you in a sparkly pub. Drinking bottles of VB, naughty boy. But you are a kind of fountain. It goes in your mouth and out your thingy. Did I say you were nude? You were. But you’re marble so it’s kind of flattering. Don’t worry.


Then I enter the pub. Angrily. Eye brows mean like this [pushes eye brows together]. Why are you in this place? Disgusting, disgraceful. I drag you out into the busy street and you are very embarrassed. Maybe the nakedness helped that, sorry heh, heh. Then you’re not marble and you’ve got pants on. You lift your legs up and float on your back. Like in a swimming pool. You’re a bit shaky at first and you flap about a lot but then you become confident. You look at me and want me to be impressed. I pick up on this and tell you how proud I am of you. I float with you.


Then the scene changes, you turn into a whole mountain of fountains. And your water is revitalizing. I try to take a drink but it’s like I’m pressing my mouth against glass, I can’t get to it. Frustrating. I’m perplexed. Then, an annoyed suity man comes and tells me to get off the mountain because the races are all finished. You squirt him. He doesn’t know where the water is coming from but has to back away.


I’m angry with the man but instead of remonstrating with him I vanish all your water, making you droop. Immediately, a huge, sad fog wraps around you and suppresses your painful choking. The fog turns to me and chastises me and makes me realize that I’d done the wrong thing to the wrong person. That I should put it right. So, I turn the water on again and the fountains recuperate.


Then I do gymnastics. Running, rolling, somersaulting up and down the mountain. Balancing on big buildings. I finish with a bow to you. You give me a ten, a nine plus one. The perfect score. I’m joyous and beaming, for both of us.


Then you walk into a prison in Iran. There are ten of me looking at you from ten cells. You aren’t surprised but a bit dejected. “I wish I could do something” you say. All ten of me say “That’s fine Joel. You’ve done your best. It won’t be long now.”


And again, we are in a flat desert. I am a lighthouse and you are, oh no, you are drunk again. But it’s worse than that. There’s evil nearby. In fact the night darkness is the evil. It’s a heinous evil. It would call you on an untraceable phone and give you a choice “drive your car into that train or I will roast your baby to death.” I leave my regular duties and put a spotlight on you to force back the evil darkness and guide you to my door. And it would have been a lot easier if you weren’t so sick and drunk. When you are safe I go back to work and just keep an eye out for you in case you wander.


Finally, I’m very ill Joel, very ill. In bed, very ill. You appear. I’m very surprised to see you because this is not a place where anyone else has gone but me. I’m very happy to see you though. You approach, sit, say ‘Layla’, kiss my hand and hold onto it. I die. My spirit dusts itself off from my body. You are overjoyed. “You can see me” I say. “Yes, you are standing between the gates at St Brigids”. “Are you going to carry my bags this time” I say. “No” you laugh “I’m not your slave and, besides, I’ve got my own bags to carry.”


[Layla, leaning forward and touching Joel’s arms, seizes him excitedly with her eyes]:

“Pretty thrilling, right? My dreams, they are reliable. You can count on it.


Oh Joel, you must see. We have a very strong connection with other, mucho strong. We’re intertwined, like this. [lifts and crosses his arms onto her shoulders] We’ll look out for each other forever no matter where we are. Hey, maybe we’ll marry and I can milk young Underwoods? Who knows? And, Joel, when I die you will be there for me, caring for me. How beautiful is that? I’m so looking forward to it.


These are scenes from our different lives and cultures. The mountain bit was the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa where I was born. The Iranian prison is part of my ethnic and religious history. You being drunk was errrmm you. Yeah, that’s bad but see how you improved beyond belief when I helped you. And you helped me too so that’s good. How’s that, eh?


So, anyway, I realize now you are a good guy and I’ve not always treated you with the respect you deserve. I apologize. And I forgive you for your loutish behaviour yesterday. Just lay off the grog when you are around me, okay? I have to draw the line somewhere.”



“Okay. That’s an interesting dream … and interpretation. I’m not as prominent in the dream as, say, you are. But, hey, I’m glad you’re not still mad at me. Look, Layla, I think you may be building this drinking thing into something it’s not.


Hmmmm, so anyway, reading between the lines… are you saying… do you want to be my girlfriend?”


[Layla, horrified and astounded by his lack of perception]:

“Noooo. I’m not saying that. I’m just musing over the future… the far future, the dreamy future. No, no. Fourteen, Joel, fourteen. Boyfriends not a good idea. Nuuuuw.”


They finished their lovely dinner and left the restaurant. They stopped at the Botanical Gardens for a sit down on this beautiful evening. They chatted a bit. About tomorrow, about friends, about time. It was time to stand up and head for home.


[Joel, tentatively]:

“Layla, I’m not drunk now. I think you should honour your agreement.”


[Layla, coyly]:

“Oh yeah, and what’s that?”


[Joel, faking a diligent mining of his memory]:

“I recall that you said … what was it… I might get lucky.”



“Oh yes. But Joel, I said might, might. Right? And you have been very lucky. Great dinner eh? HEYyy! [muffled squeal]”


Joel had thrown his arms around Layla, squashed her to him and, at right angles, enveloped her mouth with his. X. They intertwined tightly with blind, deep suction kissing and slow-burn rubbing until Layla tapped out on Joel’s shoulder.


[Layla, in oxygen distress and patting her cheeks]:

“Joel! Ooooooh. Ooooooh, my poor heart is racing. Are you finished? Good. Ooooooh.”



“Layla, I …”


[Layla, waving him away]:

“No, that’s okay. I just wasn’t expecting it. Here, take my hand. Let’s walk home.”



“I… I never kissed anyone before.”


[Layla, blowing]:

“I know… I know… except an orange. Me, I mean. It’s… it’s a bit of a drama isn’t it? A trauma. A jar. You know what I mean?”



“Yeah, I know what you mean.”



“Well settle down Joel. Your mother would kill me if she knew. So, are you happy? Taste alright?”



“Yep. Yep. Rogan Josh hmmmmmmmmm.”


[Layla, barking]:




“How about one for the road?”



“How about hitting the road? Go on. Off you go. I’ve got a race to prepare for. Byeeee. See you tomorrow.”


Layla shoos Joel into his driveway.



“Bye Joel, SWEETY. [Bends forward and shakes out a wrinkly raspberry]”


Joel went about becalming himself as the door closed behind him. That’s better. All things made new. All things. She’s all things to me. Cool to say. Yayyy! All things are perfect if only for today. She’ll always be perfect for me. Coffee, coffee, coffee, need a bucket of coffee.


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