Iridology, Louise Robinson

The naturopath came highly recommended. As she pointed her long black lens at my eyes I gripped the bottom of my chair, like I used to do on roller coasters and boat rides. I hoped she might heal me, find the root cause. The doctors were no help. The essential oil burner bubbled and wafted sweet lavender through the clinic as she studied my results and bloods. Eventually, she cleared her throat.

‘Your results are quite unusual, Lucy,’ she said and reached out to pat my hand.

Sydney Harbour had whipped itself into a froth by the time I reached Cremorne Point. The wind made floss of my hair and iced my cheeks. So much for the relaxing walk. I called mum and explained I wasn’t feeling well (‘completely exhausted’), that I took the afternoon off (‘fuck work anyway’) and that I saw a naturopath (‘turns out I have adrenal fatigue’).

‘What’s adrenal fatigue?’ Mum asked.

‘It’s when your body’s over-stressed and in flight mode all the time. You’re burnt out from constant adrenalin, rushing around–so your adrenals give up.’

Ferries criss-crossed the choppy water as I walked. Couples hoping for sunset picnics packed up their baskets and frowned at the darkening clouds. I sat by the rocks at the harbour’s edge.

‘Then she did this iridology thing, analysing my eyes. It was strange. She said, you only see eyes like this in prisoners of war, refugees, torture victims, people who’ve been through serious trauma. Then she asked me, has something happened to you, Lucy? I’m guessing she’s just picking up on work stress, my bully-rich corporate environment.’

I could hear mum breathing heavily, and what sounded like a wet, muffled cough.

‘Mum, what’s wrong?’

‘Oh honey.’ She was crying. ‘There’s something I have to tell you.’

The harbour lashed waves against the rocks, frenzied and rough. Sea spray fell near my feet. There was no one else at the point now.


‘Your grandfather… I found out at the funeral, from your aunts… I didn’t know.’

‘Didn’t know what?’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘What are you talking about?!’

‘He sexually assaulted your aunts. Joanne and Faye told me themselves. They’ve known for years what a grub he was. But you and your sister, all that time you spent with him when you were little. The school holidays, the trips to Wonderland… God, I’m furious! I could kill them for not warning me. And I’d definitely kill him if he wasn’t already dead.’ Mum let out a breath and sniffed. ‘I have to ask, did he touch you?’

‘You think that’s the trauma the naturopath saw?’

‘Yes.’ I looked up. The foreshore was a blur, my jacket and pants soaked through. I couldn’t see the ferries anymore. I could barely see anything.

‘I’ll have to call you back mum, it’s raining.’

The Day I Leapt from a Wicker Basket, Angus Macdonald

All I can remember from that morning is standing in knee high grass looking up at the sky. It was a cloudless day, and the heavens were painted with light blue streaks. I saw four hot air balloons already adrift. They seemed to hang inexplicably, as if dangling from space on gossamer threads. The scene was dizzying, their height enough to make me ill, and that is where my memory fails. The rest of this account has been informed by my sister and the television.

If you’re unfamiliar with hot air balloons, I’ll do my best to explain the logic. Hopefully you are familiar with wicker baskets and can picture one secured with rope to an absurdly large and colourful bag of air. The vessel achieves flight thanks, of course, to an open flame, and is then surrendered to the mercy of the winds. The concept was pioneered in 1783 and has been given very little critical thought since then. Today, hot air balloons service the criminally insane and families who haven’t really thought the whole thing through. We fell into the latter.

My mum was suckered by a marketing campaign that championed the quaintness of balloon travel. She bought us a family pass for Christmas. I had been filled with a sense of dread since then, and have flatly refused to go higher than three stories following “the incident.” This is a detail my sister never fails to omit from her retelling, which she presents at every possible opportunity.

She begins by explaining our entry into the balloon, which was fairly routine. The four of us climbed aboard and were introduced to our guide, Phil, an older man who I apparently expressed little faith in. Phil proceeds to untether us. In my imagination he was manically dropping sandbags and slashing ropes with abandon, but my sister assures me that this was also fairly routine. We rise from the dirt.

“Like Icarus,” I say, according to my sister, “we will fly too close to the sun.”

I believe this to be an embellishment. The rest of her account is equally extremist, and so I’ll rely on the more reputable reportage of Channel Seven News for the remainder of the story.

“A close call in Camden this morning as a man has survived a fall from a hot air balloon. Mr Macdonald leapt from the basket only seconds in to the flight, when the craft was just one metre from the ground. He reportedly scrambled out of the vessel when the pilot said, “Whoops,” after accidentally stepping on another passenger’s toes. Macdonald landed on his feet but fainted from shock. Thankfully, he was uninjured and is now in good health, though he has no desire to go back in the air anytime soon. Here’s Mel with sport.”

Don’t Forget to Drink to Forget Drinking, Hannah Baker

Long ago there was a girl. Woman, sorry. She had only ever gotten so drunk that she vomited once. But what a night it had been.

One of her oldest friends, a vegetarian with incredible eyelashes, had taken her to an… Indian? No, Nepalese restaurant, where our protagonist had managed to make a fool of herself by asking for milk and sugar with her pot of chai despite the waiter’s hesitant protestations that it was not the traditional serving method.

After a mild beef curry (can you tell she’s white yet?) they had wandered onwards to a 90s themed party. Maybe it was someone’s birthday, maybe not. The beautiful vegetarian looked stunning in torn jeans, a crop top and a flannelette shirt. Our gormless protagonist wore excessive eyeliner, too-dark lipstick, and a vest covered in various badges. Were “pieces of flair” a 90s thing or an American thing or both? I don’t know and I don’t care enough to Google it. She didn’t either, but just committed to A Look.

First there were the ciders, three each of the cheapest brand they could find. Remember Three Kings, in the black bottles? Probably those. Then came some equally cheap rosé, and lastly several sticky cupfuls of extremely questionable punch ladled out of a huge plastic tub. There was dancing, and shouted conversations with strangers dressed as Spice Girls (boys, mainly, hilariously) and Pokémon, and a game that involved drinking whenever Sting sang the word “Roxanne” and spinning every time he mentioned a “red light.”

They didn’t stay the night. The vegetarian’s share house was a short walk from the party and the cool air and quiet were undoubtedly pleasant as they stumbled and giggled toward it.

They fell back onto the bed, fully clothed, staring blankly up at the world map blu-tacked to the wall. Let’s say it was one of those ones (from a popular quirky stationery retailer which will remain nameless) where you scratch the brown top layer off the countries you’ve visited, revealing a colourful under layer. The beautiful vegetarian had travelled a lot since high school and a fair few countries had been scratched out, leaving green and orange and purple smudges all over the poster. Our omnivorous protagonist felt vaguely envious.

Then she rolled onto her side and calmly regurgitated beef and rosé onto the pillow.

In the stumble to the ensuite she managed to get vomit on her white t-shirt as well, and remember previous parties where the beautiful vegetarian’s ex-boyfriend had also been this drunk and how kind she had been; to hold his sun-bleached hair out of the way as he slumped over the toilet bowl, and generally to look after such a dropkick for so long.

She came back to her friend remaking the bed, and probably making them both tea.

The moral (sort of): Become a vegetarian? Count your drinks. Apologise, but not as profusely as you may want to. Third person can be the plausible deniability you need in a confession.