fbpx

'Eudaimonia' - Emily Sun

On The Page is a series of writing and poetry submitted to the Centre for Stories as part of the 2019 Centre for Stories Inclusion Matters Hot Desk Fellowship.

Emily Sun is a long-time emerging poet and writer. Emily has had various works published in anthologies and journals over the years, including Mascara Literary Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry Journal and Growing up Asian in Australia.

Get to know more about Emily here.


[EXTRACT]

Eudaimonia by Emily Sun

Allegra rode the subway in New York, the metro in Paris, and the u-Bahn in Berlin. She’d even taken the bullet train from Shangha to Hong Kong, before the chaos of course, but couldn’t remember the last time she’d caught a train in Perth. She would’ve Ubered it all the way to Southville, some far-flung suburb that was so new it didn’t yet have its own postcode, had there not been for that morning prang on the freeway. She wanted to cancel the meeting her 18-year-old niece Hayley had arranged for her, but Hayley had insisted that Allegra “had to” meet Sharmayanne, a class mate who Hayley referred to as “the social media guru.” Allegra usually drove everywhere but although her Audi GT was a four-year-old model, it was still noticeably shinier—and dare she say sleeker—than the Commodores and Fords that populated Southville Shopping Centre’s carpark.

Allegra would certainly not have made the effort had Hayley not explained that Sharmayanne had close to ten thousand followers on Instagram. This was a smidgeon of a percent compared to Ariana Grande’s numbers, but it was an impressive feat for a local teen who wasn’t your standard “insta type.” Hayley had told Allegra that of all the students in their graduating year, Sharmayanne was the one most likely to attend their ten-year school reunion as a self-made multimillionaire.

Hayley only had 543 followers but that was significantly more than Allegra ’s 205.  Allegra consoled herself with the fact that Linda Evangelista, the 1990s supermodel who refused to get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day, had fewer than 720,000 followers to Ariana Grande’s 167 million. It was difficult for someone Linda and Allegra’s age to compete with the young ones, which was exactly why she needed an assistant au fait with social media to help her build a lifestyle brand for the more mature woman.

Allegra wanted Hayley to be her social media manager but Jazlyn, Hayley’s mother, made a big song and dance about Hayley’s studies. Jazlyn never cared about the girl’s education and had turned down Allegra ’s offer to pay for Hayley to attend St. Cecelia’s, Allegra’s alma mater. Jazlyn’s excuse was that “it wouldn’t be fair to her other kids.” Allegra found Jazlyn typical of most Southville mothers—single and living off child support from the three fathers of her four children, of which Allegra’s brother Charles was one. Allegra knew that Jazlyn’s Marilyn Monroesque proportions had played a role in her younger brother’s seduction as there was no other reason why someone like Charles would’ve been attracted to someone like Jazlyn.

Allegra strategically took the first non-peak hour train to avoid mothers and their screaming toddlers. There was nothing worse than sitting next to a screaming child on a train except perhaps sitting next to one on a plane. The idea of being trapped next to a sniffling toddler in an enclosed space was why she always flew business class even when she took Hayley to Bali to visit Charles, who now ran a successful surfing business with his Javanese wife. Allegra always paid for Hayley’s flight but it was up to her parents to bid for an upgrade, which, of course, neither of them did. She’d also encouraged Hayley to intern at Charles’s company after she finished high school so she might get to know her father better, but predictably Jazlyn talked Hayley out of it. She said that she didn’t want Hayley to think that life was “one long surfing holiday with Balinese princesses” because that was not their reality.

When the train stopped at the station just before Southville, a large man moved slowly into the carriage. He carried his weight well despite the enormity of his belly that extended from the bottom of where his pectoral muscles should’ve been. He was over six feet tall and Allegra recognised something regal in the way he stepped onto the train carriage. She was reminded of a bull elephant she once saw in Namibia. His smiling eyes told her that he’d once been attractive enough to make the first approach at a bar and if she hadn’t seen his body, she might have even swiped right on him. She smiled, then, noticing that the flab emerging from his right sleeve was covered in raised red bumps, some of which were still raw from scratching, she gagged and masked it as a gentle cough.

When Allegra was married to Angus, a partner at her father’s law firm and seventeen years her senior, she was content with being a part-time mother to his three school-aged children. It was only after their divorce, a mutual decision, and when she was in a relationship with a fireman, that she wanted to have her own children. Unfortunately, it never happened for them and their relationship ended after two unsuccessful rounds of IVF. Allegra later heard from mutual friends that the fireman married the year after they broke up and was now a father of a three-year-old boy. The men she was attracted to were far too young for a serious relationship, let alone parenthood, and besides, keeping an eye on Hayley fulfilled her maternal needs.

The train pulled away from the station and she went back to compiling a list of potential blog posts on her iPhone. She already had:

    • Feminist perspectives on botox parties for working-class women
    • Resting bitch face
    • Chinese vitamin market
    • Follow up on Claire’s Thai orphanage
    • Trees and charities

Allegra looked away and tucked a loose strand of hair from her freshly dyed ash-blonde fringe behind her ears and as she did, caught a glimpse of a large advertisement for a new weight loss clinic. She added to her list:

    • The social and economic benefits of gastric banding

Allegra knew the future was online, but she wasn’t interested in drop shipping or sourcing cheap goods from third-world factories for people who didn’t need more useless objects cluttering their lives.  What she wanted was to help women in places like Southville, where few could ever hope to live Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP lifestyle, to flourish in all aspects of life just as she had.

The only barrier to Allegra’s success is that she did not know how to reach her target audience. She asked the women on her Facebook group for female entrepreneurs for feedback on her blog. The consensus was that her writing was inaccessible, or “too flowery.” One woman semi-parroted Alice from Wonderland when she asked Allegra what was the use of reading something without pictures? Hayley was convinced that Sharmayanne would make the perfect assistant and social media adviser.

***

The café where Allegra arranged to meet Sharmayanne was inside the shopping centre which was a short walk from a newly built train station. The last time Allegra had been this far south was around the time Angus transferred parcels of the land to his children. As Allegra walked through the food hall, an anime style smiling calf behind the Roast with the Most counter caught her eye. She wondered why anyone would use such an adorable baby cow with big brown eyes to sell foil containers of roast. A thin woman with greasy and unnaturally black hair sat close to the roast counter, sharing an enormous serving of bacon and eggs with a skinny teenage boy with a severe acne problem. “At least they’re eating breakfast,” she thought.

She’d arranged to meet Sharmayanne at It’s Coffee Tree Time Again, a familiar franchise that sourced organic Brazilian beans. The owner of the original café was a friend from Allegra’s Yoga and Peacemaking class. She joined the queue and wondered if Sharmayanne would be another of the young people who applied for the position but didn’t bother showing up. Was Sharmayanne another of Hayley’s unreliable friends?

Allegra checked her phone for messages and then used the reverse camera to make sure that her loose strands of hair were still tucked behind her ears. Her eyes scanned the food hall for anyone who might be Sharmayanne and rested on tattooed thighs of the tall and pale skinned woman ahead of her. Allegra wondered why anyone would cover up such beautiful skin with such ugly mismatched tattoos.  The black ink outline of Taylor Swift wasn’t too badly drawn, but the sunflower yellow and stripy hot pink and teal coloured ribbons on the girl’s upper thighs were unsightly. One would struggle to find such a clash of colours in the natural world; only a human could have conjured up such an obscene colour scheme. Beneath the ribbon on the left thigh were the words Nice to meet you and, on the right, Where have you been? Her legs wouldn’t have looked so terrible if she’d picked a font that was more congruent with the ribbons than the thick black Gothic font. Allegra wasn’t against tattoos (she had thought about getting a sea turtle inked between her bikini line and belly button), but these ones hurt her brain.

It was at that moment that the girl turned around, as if the girl had felt Allegra’s eyes boring into her tattoos.

“Oh my god! Allegra? Allegra, oh my god, Allegra right? You look so much like Hayley,” the girl squealed and kissed her on the cheek.

“I usually have coffee first thing in the morning but I had to drop my nine-month old at her Mu Mu’s first thing this morning.”

Baby? Why had Hayley not told her that Sharmayanne had a baby? Was it because Allegra had gone as far as contacting the education minister to lobby against the building of a crèche at their school for teenage mothers?

“I had a meeting earlier this morning but if you get me a flat white darl, I’ll find a quiet place where we can talk,” Sharmayanne said in an unexpectedly deep and husky voice. She handed Allegra a ten dollar note.

© 2020 Centre for Stories / Site by Super Minimal