Must Have Been About Leather | Meg Hill


Must Have Been About Leather

Meg Hill

The Hate and Coat Award



We went to look at the car the next day. It was upside down, some problems clear in the light. There was a big log about somewhere it shouldn’t have been, and such an unformed dirt road, badly kept. I imagine everyone agreed. I had been in a baby seat; I must have been about four. Mum was still wearing her leather jacket from the night before.


I wonder how old my younger brother was when I told my mum not to stop drinking. I think I must have been about three, which means he was less than a year old. What a feat it is for a three-year-old to sabotage an intervention. We were on the front veranda. Its splintery timber is oddly comforting in the worst of memories. I once or twice fell asleep on the bare wood, lying in the afternoon sun. The floor was sometimes safe. My older brother was there. My older sister? I don’t remember. Where was my baby brother?

When my older brother told my mum she had to stop drinking, her jacket was hung up near the front door. I interrupted, thinking they were talking about water, and told her she couldn’t because she’d die. I think I ingested the curse.


I could hear her, in her cell, from the police station reception area. She sounded different. She is different in every way when she smells different, when she smells like leather. Her voice is different, her face is different. She wears different makeup and says different things. My step-mum was there; she must have been about thirty-five, maybe younger. I was anywhere from nine to 12.


I climbed to the top bunk and fumbled under the covers. The floor was sometimes not safe at all.

I guess my younger brother was around three, which means I must have been five, although we could have been slightly younger. I had a memory that once I had made chaos go away by forcing sleep, and when I woke up it had just been a dream. I was trying to convince my brother to come to sleep with me. He was crying, we both were, but he didn’t take to the idea.

Mum had gone to play a gig, and my younger brother and I set up camp by the window in our room. We sat there, overlooking the driveway, for what must have been all night, waiting for headlights.

We ran to meet her by the front door and she walked past us. She smelt different. I don’t remember what happened next or why everything was unhinged. Mum left and returned, out and in through the same door, but not the same mum. She did not hang her jacket up.


I called every day. I think I was about 10, maybe 11. My little brother must have been seven, eight. I didn’t visit much, but I called every day.

One day, or maybe night, he answered the phone crying. His words were all stuck together and sodden, but I could hear our friend in the background. I asked to speak to him. Mum’s boyfriend had hit her. I thought, at the time, he didn’t like it when she wore leather. Other guys liked her when she wore leather. She must have been… late thirties? He knocked her to the ground. I think she was still bleeding when I got there.


Every second weekend at mum’s house was the arrangement when I was about 11. When I got there on one of those weekends the house smelt of leather, smelt of something that was once alive but had died and been repurposed in a way that it could have never fathomed. I sat in the lounge room, chucking a ball against the wall over and over again, unsure of what to do. Mum walked in with a stench, and told me her cancer was back. She handed me ten dollars and asked me to leave, turned the music up as I closed the front door. I can pick fake leather pretty easily.


When we talked about the upside down car I was definitely 15. My older brother was 20. I didn’t remember how exactly the car became upside down, just that it was, and that mum smelt different. We were driving to mum’s boyfriend’s house. Sometimes, I woke in the night at his house and couldn’t remember where I was. It was so far from town there was no light. How old was he? I have no idea. It is true that the road was dirt, and badly kept, and there might have been a log, but none of those things were the problem. My older brother said we were almost at the house when we crashed. Mum stumbled out of the car and walked away. My brother smashed the window to get me out. How old is a child when they can think to do that? If I was still in a baby seat he must have been around 10.


Mum was making dinner in their kitchen, so I guess she could have been about nine. Her older brother was there, how old was he? Her older sister too, I never got to meet her. Her younger sister was still a baby, I’d guess. Someone was walking to the kitchen, but it wasn’t mum’s mum. You’d never mistake his footsteps for hers, but they both smelt the same. She wore velvet; he was naked a lot. He kept a shotgun in the boot of his car. She always smelt that way until, I think, she was about 80.


Amyl smells a bit like leather, the toxicity that somehow feels good, like straight alcohol, cigarettes, or a powder dripping down the back of your throat. It’s the imminence, in part. Mum’s leather would fill your lungs. Will I hang mine up before its wrinkled and wrung?



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