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  • Writer's pictureKendall Hunter

Prologue

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Zurich, Switzerland. 1999-2009. Position: Hausfrau


I lose myself in the average day. In a world presenting no apparent threat, I'm dysfunctional. Routine, causes me to forget myself; leave body parts strewn throughout the house. Chores, then, eventually become an act of survival with my female form taking shape as the day progresses. Once I find my legs, I manage to walk throughout the house, collecting things. Toys introduce an ear; girl’s pants, a nose; newspapers unveil a breast. Just in time for my husband, as he walks through the door at the end of the day, I find fingernails; locate my eyelashes. I come to him, slightly rising to my toes and brush my lips with his – careful not to let them loosen and fall to the floor. I'v clumsily made order of things but the puzzle is never right. Pieces are always, always missing.


SUV’s pull up to the school; kids pile out and hours later they pile in again. What happens in between? What happens after the drop off and before pick up, while my husband walks through a parallel universe, gone to work by the time I've awakened. I’ve moved to Switzerland but inhabited yet another foreign territory, that of a Hausfrau and of motherhood and I'm unsure of my footing.


I recall the early days, wondering if this would be the day someone asks me where I'm from. If so, I explain I’m from Canada and when the kind mother replies saying how beautiful it is there, I agree. From one beautiful country to another I’ve travelled, or so it seems… but there is the 'in between'.

Perhaps she asks about my husband. Wonders if he’s Canadian or Swiss. But I’d be getting carried away, letting my imagination run wild. The Swiss don’t pry; aren’t prone to small talk. I forge ahead — imagination usurping culture. I tell the woman I met him in South Africa. Surely here, the conversation falls silent while I ache for continuity. Is it so hard, I wonder, to say such simple words? If the ever so kind mother would just find it in her heart and say, ‘Oh, isn’t that interesting,’ my feet will fill the shoes around them, trust the ground beneath the soles and I will, just like that, be standing right here in the world again.


What happens in between? In between the story I hold, inside, and me asking what bank it is your husband works for. Inhaling, I feel like my eight year – old, as she rushes in the door, at the end of the day — her head filled with a tangle of thoughts. I do my best to capture her words, as they fly; hang them on a line like laundry that needs to be dried and sorted —put in its proper place. But, I couldn’t expect this from a stranger – such hard work for my words. I’ll choose the easy way out; blame language or culture for an awkward moment, before I turn my attention back to our kids.


With cold toes and starting to shiver, I say good-bye to my daughter outside the school, and as I catch another mother’s eye, I smile. Maybe she’s the one who surprises; opens a porthole for this incongruent being; pulling me ever so gently through. Yes, she’s the one to ask: ‘What is it you did in such a place?’ Allowing for that space where the language of my past can be interpreted. Encouraged, this breathless 'child' speaks, relying ever so much on her to understand what the hell I'm talking about.


I was a photographer for a year on a newspaper, in the lead up to the country’s first democratic elections.


Did you see anything awful?


Socks fly out of my mouth.


It’s a pretty dangerous place, isn’t it?


Underwear and bras catapult from my teeth.


Were you at all frightened?


Shirts and blouses swirl in their glory above my head; a tornado of laundry threatens to lift me off the ground.


The school bell rings with each article stopping mid-flight, hanging suspended in the crisp fall air. She walks away, a child tugging at her sleeve and all comes tumbling down. I’gather it up, the costume covering my life, grateful, for a time, that it's keeping me safe and warm.

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