I decide to ring the Department of Education because it is mid way through August and we are supposed to hear about Jasper’s application in August. I don’t really expect to be given a result on the phone, and so when the person says, “I can check, what’s his name?” I am unprepared. I feel my heart wobble. It comes free from its attachments inside my chest. Name given – a pause – “It appears he won’t be being offered a place in the first round,” comes the reply.
I close my eyes. My head screams, NO. My heart slides downwards towards my stomach. The disappointment is visceral really. I have my own disappointment, but more than that, I have a son to tell. He has already become very attached to the idea of studying visual arts at the school. He will take it hard.
Graham is away, and so it falls to me to deliver the news. I could wait till Graham got home, in a week, but that seems deceitful – to know for all that time and not let on.
I wait till we are home, after school, in our kitchen. He has a very crunchy ANZAC biscuit in his hand and his back to me when I begin. “I rang the department today to ask about the visual arts and I am sorry to say they said you didn’t get in.” When I start the sentence he turns to look at me, a slight smile, and I can see from his expression he thinks the sentence is a good news one, but as I get through to its second half, it dawns on him that this is not a good news sentence at all and his face changes. It crumples into tears. I go to comfort him. To hug. He pulls away and rushes from the room.
I don’t follow him immediately. I wait in the lounge, by myself, wondering how long do I wait for. What words of comfort can I offer? I know you’re disappointed, I rehearse in my head. He is not in his room. He is not in the study. He is not in my room – that I can see. He is in my wardrobe – behind the clothes – crouched in a huddle – beneath dresses and jackets and the confetti of shoes. I can see his sneakers and in his hand the ANZAC, untouched. It is a safe hiding place. Go away.
I close the wardrobe door and leave him in the dark. I’m so sorry…
I leave him.
To myself – Maybe don’t eat the ANZAC in there..
I leave him some more.
He comes out.
He is outside in the courtyard, bouncing a ball, and I am in the kitchen making a cup of tea. I view him through the window, across the sink. Skinny, lanky, always moving. I see a big tear fall from his face without hitting his cheek, like a rain drop falling to the ground. I am crying too and he sees me. He comes inside. Let’s take the dog out. We walk the dog. My solution to all woes. The road by the port is closed and we must walk by the railway. Broken glass. The slap of skateboards. Still beautiful. It is a day like any other to the dog. There is winter grass to pee on. There are urine soaked telegraph poles to sniff at. There are homeless begging in the mall. Jasper asks what has happened to his career? He is eleven. “We’ll just have to show them what a great artist they missed out on teaching,” I say. We eat churros dipped in melted chocolate.