honey bee, let's fly home

He thought of her today.

There was a woman on the tram with a handful of freckles thrown across her nose and just like that, Chloe came to mind. He folded the newspaper onto his lap and leant his head back against the window, eyes closed.

There had been other freckly girls in the playground, but Chloe was the only one who smelled like apples. She had long sun-bleached plaits and could do a Rubik’s Cube faster than anyone else in the fifth grade. He’d once spent the whole summer holidays sneaking up to the school grounds to practise the death drop from the monkey bars to impress her. The first day back at school, he’d landed heavily and broken his collarbone. Chloe had waited with him until the ambulance came, leaning so close he could smell her shampoo. She was the first to draw on his cast; fat little honey bees, dancing in a spiral up to the sun.

It was Mrs Britt’s idea to make the time capsule. She spoke solemnly about the importance of the objects within, of what they would represent to future generations. How do you want them to view you? She had a melodic Welsh accent he could almost still hear. How do you want to be remembered?

The box was opened, and 1985 tumbled inside. A scrapbook of Live Aid clippings, a heartfelt song recorded on a cassette tape, a Choose Your Own Adventure book with so many possible roads unfurling beneath hopeful young feet.

Carly Jenkins even made the noble step of sacrificing her beloved Cabbage Patch doll, until it was revealed a week later that what lay below three feet of soil amongst the school’s milkweed in fact belonged to her despised little sister.

Chloe placed her Rubik’s Cube in the treasure trove, row upon row of coloured squares staring up at her. If you’d asked her what it said about her, the word ingenuity wouldn’t have been part of her vocabulary. She would have pulled on her plaits, wrinkled that freckled nose, and said simply I can do it.

He waited until the box was almost full to step forward. He slid a wrinkled note inside, worn along its corners from constant unfolding. He’d read it every night in bed since Chloe had visited him in hospital, the note in one hand and a paper bag of lolly teeth and chocolate bullets in the other. A joyous collection of honey bees danced across the paper, looping through the air until their plump striped bellies spelled out the words he knew by heart now: you are the best.

And if you’d asked his ten year old self what his selection said about him, he’d have scowled and slunk away in silence. But if you asked his adult self, head back against the tram window, eyes closed, he’d whisper to himself what he’d never been able to say aloud.

Because I thought anything was possible then.

Because I believed in that moment when your heart thumps and she smiles and you think it’s all, all of it, worthwhile.

And on those whiskey nights when he thought of pushing aside the milkweed and kneeling, rich dirt spilling through his open fingers as he dug, he’d tell you.

Because that was the last time I felt sure of my place in this world.

honey bee, let's fly home


Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

Dante Rosetti was a nineteenth century poet whose muse and model was his wife, the writer Elizabeth Siddal. When his renown outshone hers, she turned to laudanum, and died from an overdose at the age of thirty-three. Overcome with grief, he wrote a selection of poems and tied them into her hair before burying her.

Seven years later, the muse no longer knocking at his door, he had her body exhumed, recovered the poems, and published them to great acclaim.

Some memories belong in the earth, I think.

Artwork Comments

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