Angelina Mirabito: “Sad Clown”
Angelina’s publications include short stories in Muse and AntiTHESIS, an article in VWC Magazine. Three hour book shortlisted for the 2009 Lord Mayor Creative Writing Awards. She is a recipient of the Eleanor Dark Varuna Writing Fellowship and Rosebank Residency. Angelina is a member of the ongoing Novel Writing Masterclass with Antoni Jach, Creative Writing PhD candidate and sessional tutor. Christos Tsiolkas is currently mentoring Angelina with her novel Disobedience.
Most people have imaginary friends when they’re kids, especially if they’re lonely kids like Christopher Robin. Mine was a wet cement imaginary enemy.
I met Sad Clown when I was in Grade Five.
Sad Clown watched me through the window. His face was an ivory white canvas with huge black holed eyes swallowing me. Sad Clown never listened when I told him to leave. He’d just stand there crying stainless-steel tears that dried into scratches. Sad Clown waited in the bathroom, my bedroom and at the school bench near the drinking taps. He was so quiet no one except for me ever noticed him. His body was long, his shadow swallowed me.
Sad Clown’s clothes remained like a hot air balloon blackening the sun. He had special powers so I could see him with my eyes open and closed. His bent figure had explodable arms and legs dangling from my eyelashes. Other times he stole my concentration by dancing in front of the blackboard where I once answered the question one times one incorrectly. The class laughed. Sad Clown loved the way my face went red and for the rest of the term he continued to laugh for being the dumbest person he’d ever met.
I don’t know why Sad Clown chose me for a friend because I hated him. He followed me everywhere and stunk of egg wet clothes. He used to hug me all the time when I was busy watching The Gummi Bears, The Smurfs, and The Care Bears. Sad Clown left metal splinters in my skin, so I often spent afternoons in front of the TV scratching them out. Sad Clown smiled cause it hurt when Mother covered me in Dettol and Mickey Mouse and Friends bandaids.
When I started high school Sad Clown came with me. He was more excited than I was. From the very first day he sat next to me on the train. Every morning at the station he’d adjust my hair so it covered my face exactly the way he liked. Then he’d tie a string round my neck with a black balloon attached to the other end. Floating above my head everyone knew not to make friends with me.
I used to see Sad Clown everywhere. He was in the mirror at Gran’s house; eating my popcorn at the movies, vomiting on my homework, breaking the numbers on my calculator and always asking me if my school uniform made him look fat. Sad Clown had dark magic powers if he wasn’t next to me he was looking at me through every window or reflecting off every shiny surface.
I was in Year 10 when I stopped sleeping with my clothes on at night. I never wanted to get undressed with Sad Clown in my room so I never changed into my pyjamas and often avoided showering til it felt worse than being naked. To strip I had to steal some of Dad’s five litre red cask wine, skull it, and wait for it to do its thing before undoing my clothes. It didn’t matter how many times I checked the doors were locked even if it was only for a second it was hard to unbutton my own pants and take off my own bra.
At night every night Sad Clown would walk in circles round my bed with family photos in his hand. Mother always blamed me for stealing them from her photo albums. I told her it wasn’t me. She didn’t care she just wanted an image of her family back. She never believed anything I said. Mother always told me it’s not my fault I can’t tell the difference between truth and tales. She said it’s from Dad’s side of the family. Mother could never have her Kodak moments back because with the photos Sad Clown stole, he’d cut out the people he hated and set their faces on fire. My face was always the first to be cut out and burned.
Sad Clown spoke to me in rhyming couplets. He listed all the ways in which the other girls at school were so much better than me. In the bathtub full of cold water I never dared to turn the hot tap water on. One wrong move made all the difference. Sad Clown spent hours echoing my thoughts, going through every painful moment of my day. I tried not to think. I tried not to remember but I couldn’t trick Sad Clown, he had a better memory than I did.
Whenever I went to the shops or the library he came with me. He didn’t want anyone to see me so he’d throw black jellybeans at me and laugh until I dissolved in his shadow.
At home, when no one else was around, Sad Clown locked the bedroom door while he painted my face black and white. There was never any point fighting him, I’d learned very early on it was always better to let him do as he pleased. Inside the highlighter-blue walls I’d scrunch my face closed as Sad Clown rearranged my face til it got lost.
Whenever the phone rang Sad Clown pounced on my hands. Sitting beneath his warning eyes I listened to the phone, hammer by hammer hitting each ring further into my eardrums til the noise couldn’t be beaten in anymore and finally rang out. Sad Clown hated me talking to anyone. Each time the phone rang the cream Telstra handle black, the noise screeched louder in my ears, Sad Clown’s forbidding eyes grew, year by year, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute larger, darker, hungrier he ate all my colours. I watched the red in my veins turn bruise purple-blue and die black before Sad Clown gave me permission to move.
After I got my first period something inside me changed. Everyone said I was a woman and maybe that was what made it easier for me to start pretending Sad Clown didn’t exist. Even though Sad Clown continued to follow me for a few more years after I’d became a lady, there was always a distance between us. It was like an imaginary line had been drawn and it was more powerful than Sad Clown and Uncle Santo put together. I don’t know where this line came from or how I knew it was there cause I couldn’t see it. I don’t even know what colour it was but whatever that line was made of, neither Sad Clown nor Uncle Santo could cross it.
Sad Clown taught me about the safety that lives inside the colour black and silence, the only place to hide in. Sad Clown never said goodbye or made a big deal about leaving when the doctor adjusted her spectacles and handed me my first prescription for making sadness go away. Day by pill-stilted day, month by pill-paralysed month, gradually, Sad Clown stopped watching me through the window. More months went by, I swallowed more pills and stared at the mirror watching Sad Clown and I dissolve together, a little pill-induced further each day, til we both faded and blended into some kind of sleep-world. Once I stopped taking all the different types of medication, I ended up swallowing over the two years,
I began to wake up
Sad Clown doesn’t even breathe in his sleep.