Every face has a story behind its physical facade. A face of non plus might disguise a story of sadness or be barricading a longing or battle raging within. Look at the next face you walk by and see what you can see.
Every face has a something behind it. Sometimes that something is clear where a twinkle in an eye cannot be masked, but sometimes, it’s so well hidden that not even the wearer of that face is aware of the story.
Jimmy came into the kitchen while I was peeling potatoes one afternoon for dinner, to chat as he always did while I cooked. This day though, he was subdued and he began telling me of things he’d stolen from people at work and the drugs he’d taken. It was odd behaviour for Jimmy, not like him at all, and he was pained by it and people ostracising him, especially his friends. I believed him because I had no reason not to but I’d never known Jimmy to steal or take drugs. He felt that he was growing apart from everyone around him, except for me. He wanted to pack up and move us interstate to begin a new life. I noticed him growing apart from his friends and family and thought it a natural life process. So I agreed because he said that’s what he needed to do to make things better. I loved him and had no reason not to go.
Jimmy cornered me in the kitchen again the next day. ‘Charlene knows what’s been going on, with Joe,’ he said, looking anxiously over his shoulder. ‘She heard Joe tell everyone at a party last week about me stealing from him.’
‘You stole from Joe?’ I asked, leaving the browning onions in the pan.
‘Yes,’ he mumbled. ‘I stole Joe’s electric saw and jigsaw.’ He looked down at his feet.
‘I thought you gave those tools back to Joe?’ I reflected back to last week. ‘Yes, you did, Jimmy. I remember you walking out the back gate with them.’
Jimmy scratched his head and began pacing.
‘Remind Joe that you gave them back,’ I said.
Jimmy stopped mid stride and looked me squarely in the eye. ‘No. I didn’t borrow them, Sade, I took them. I stole them.’
‘One sec.’ I stirred the onions before tossing the wooden spoon on the bench top and turned the heat down low. ’Let’s go look in the shed together.’
‘What! You don’t believe me,’ yelled Jimmy. ‘You think I’m lying?’ He began pacing again.
I stood dumbfounded for a moment. ‘Of course I believe you.’ I walked over and hugged him. I could feel his body pulsate in my arms. I couldn’t believe that Jimmy would steal. ‘Maybe you need to ask Charlene about it, Jimmy, what she heard at the party. She’s your sister, she’ll tell you the truth about what was said.’
Jimmy didn’t answer. He left my arms and went outside. I heard the car start and drive off. I didn’t know where he was going, perhaps to buy cigarettes. It didn’t matter for now because all I could think was to check for those tools. I snuck into the shed and looked in drawers and on shelves, in corners amongst cob webs and spiders. I couldn’t find them anywhere.
Jimmy caught me in the shed. ‘I told you they’re not there.’ He yelled at me with such scorn that I was too terrified to answer him.
I became more confused over the next few days as the story grew and spawned other stories which involved more people. I couldn’t keep up with how everyone fitted into where. I thought about his accusations that went with them, many of them petty. I tried to encourage Jimmy to resolve the stealing issue with Charlene or his friend Joe because I thought it simple enough to do. But Jimmy refused and I couldn’t understand why.
Jimmy’s face became grey and his eyes dark and hollow. When he wasn’t sitting in darkness in the lounge room, probably pondering the accusations that made him out to be the bad person he claimed he was, he was pacing in the backyard smoking cigarette after cigarette, stopping only occasionally to look over his shoulder. I became worried.
I called Charlene when Jimmy was outside one afternoon and asked her to stop by to speak to him. I didn’t explain what it was about, just said that Jimmy really needed to speak to her. I didn’t want to twist the stories anymore than they were. After I’d hung up, I went outside and told Jimmy that I’d called Charlene to come and talk to him.
‘Why’d you do that?’ Jimmy snapped at me. ‘That’s my responsibility.’ His eyes had become dark craters.
‘I was just trying to help you, Jimmy,’ I replied, stunned by his reaction.
‘You shouldn’t have done that, Sade. That’s my job.’ Jimmy stormed off into his shed.
I didn’t like seeing Jimmy so upset and I was almost afraid of him because I rarely saw him so angry, yet I was glad that I’d called Charlene. If anyone could help Jimmy sort this mess out, Charlene could as she was the one he was closest to of all his siblings. My own attempts to help were failing miserably.
It was six in the evening when Charlene stopped by on her way home from work. I tended to the twins in the bath and left Jimmy and Charlene to talk.
Ten minutes later, Jimmy called me out. Jimmy and Charlene looked at one another, jaws gaping. ‘None of what Jimmy’s been saying is true,’ said Charlene.
I looked at Jimmy. ‘But Jimmy,’ I barely muttered. ‘Jimmy, you said you stole Joe’s tools.’
‘No he didn’t,’ said Charlene. ‘He borrowed my Bob’s electric saw a few weeks ago and brought it back last week.’
‘Jimmy?’ I was more confused now than before I’d called Charlene.
‘Yes, I think I remember taking Bob’s saw back,’ said Jimmy.
‘And what about the things you heard Joe say at the party, that Jimmy steals?’ I asked Charlene.
Charlene shook her head. ‘No. I didn’t hear Joe say that, Sadie.’
‘You sure, Charlene? At the party, the other week?’
‘No, Sadie. There was no party.’ Charlene’s stern face, her square jaw and tight lips, told me she was telling the truth.
I didn’t know what to say or what to believe. I felt relieved that none of it had happened, yet betrayed that Jimmy had lied to me. And why had he lied to me? I wasn’t even sure that he had, as he seemed to truly believe what he told me. I didn’t know what to think. I walked off back to the twins in the bathroom and left Jimmy and Charlene to talk.
* An excerpt from Snippets of Sadie