Sarah Giles (she/her) is a writer and PhD candidate at Swinburne University researching the possibilities of the contemporary short story cycle exploring women’s experiences of isolation, trauma, mental illness, and relational agency, informed by the life and work of Joy Hester. Sarah’s writing has been published by Recent Work Press, TEXT, Melbourne Noir Cards, The Victorian Writer, Lip Magazine, SMUT, Underground Writers, Discoverist: Brighton, Discoverist: Oakleigh, and Swine. Her audio documentary ‘learning to live’ was one of eight selected to be a part of the 2018 Sonic Tonic series.
The Forest

There’s a painting hanging in the second floor of my housemate’s parent’s home called The Forest, by an artist named Jenny Reddin. A mixed media piece spread across an enormous canvas, oils drip in multiple directions for Reddin’s manipulation of gravity’s effects in the production of the piece creates an intricate weave of abstract shapes.

It’s Good Friday. Lou and I are continuing a tradition launched the year before when, realising our fridge was bare and all the shops closed, we drove across town to have dinner with her parents. Appearing on the doorstep with nothing to offer but wanting.

Lou and her mum are prepping the steaks we’ll eat with smoked muscles and roasted potatoes for dinner. I’m transfixed by The Forest. Dark stems reaching from the centre of an orange cloud, cords of paint falling upward. The root of the painting, a dark core at the canvases centre, appears to me as a face with all the forest growing from her, splitting through brain and bone to open its branches so completely. Dripping from her mind in threads of yellow and strings of orange and thick stalks of shadowy anxiety bursting like hands above the surface of calm water.

It was a still night, the trees outside that usually rustled and scraped against my window were quiet. My new pyjamas were soft, I liked the pattern of blue and green bubbles, and I rubbed the palm of my hand across the fabric, trying to figure out if I was feeling my hand touching my thigh or my thigh being touched by my hand. The trees that usually made noises at night blocked out the sound of the clock ticking outside my bedroom door. I used to play music out loud on quiet nights, but mum won’t let me do that anymore. The clock was loud, every stroke made my stomach feel strange, like going down in a lift. I’m lying on my back but I’m not comfortable. I can’t lay on my side because I had heard dad telling a story about a man who came in the night and stole another man’s kidneys and left him in a bath full of ice to die and then sold the man’s kidneys at a shop called “eBay”.

Behind me, Lou pours out more wine and asks if I want a glass. When I don’t answer she comes with one filled and puts it in my hand.