In an extract from her candid and compelling memoir Unseen: The Secret World of Chronic Illness, Jacinta Parsons writes about a life-changing moment: the first time she met her partner AJ.
When I met AJ, I was living in a tumble-down house on a small street that backed onto Molly Meldrum’s Egyptian-style mansion. Our backyard had been covered in cement, but underneath the house the grass was long and damp, and made it look like we were living on top of a dirty swamp. My housemates and I found some feral kittens hidden in that grass and rescued as many as we could. We kept one, who eventually revealed a split personality. When the moon was full, he would turn into a demon and we would need to vacate the main areas of the house as he prowled, hissing and scratching at the air like he was wrestling with an internal darkness. We called him Tiger for most of the month, but on these nights, we would huddle in our bedrooms speaking of George – the evil cat that controlled our home.
The house was on a street lined with old, tightly packed worker’s cottages, built at a time when they could not have imagined the types of tenants that would one day live there. It was the street that inspired Frente’s ‘Accidentally Kelly Street’, and though we didn’t know the connection at the time, we lived that song’s sunny lyrics. We too had slow adventures that might take days to unravel. I would spend hours listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks while I painted, carved wood and wrote stories.
I remember, with precise detail, the day that I met AJ. I was wearing blue jeans and a white top embroidered with flowers, and I’d borrowed my housemate’s brown boots. I’d plaited the sides of my hair and pulled them back. If I had known I was going to meet the man whose role in my life would become as big as the sky, I might have done more, but you don’t get much warning about these things.
I had been playing violin for years, and had done what any self-respecting violinist did in the nineties, which was play a couple of lead breaks in local bands – not well, but I’d had enough classical training to get away with bits and pieces here and there. That day, the drummer of the band, I would be playing for, gave me a lift to the venue in his old car. I had heard about AJ around the traps – everyone knew everyone – but we’d never met before.
I remember the trip in that little car that Saturday morning and the burst of freedom I felt driving out of the centre of the city. They say when you meet ‘the one’, you know. I did, even though at the time AJ was hiding underneath a large mop of hair. Something happened that day – we had found each other.
Nothing was said at the time, but I think it’s true to say that I loved him that day in the way I have always loved him. It felt like it was a love that had always existed, and that all we had to do was just stumble across it. For me, it didn’t need to be grown: it was fully fledged from that first moment, and has been that way ever since.
That evening, when I got back home to the little house in Richmond, I sat outside in the concrete garden and had a premonition of us holding our first child. Absurd perhaps – I certainly kept it to myself for many years, and I don’t experience this type of thing very often. But it was as if I was watching it on a television screen. It added to my calm surety of what had happened that day.
In the beginning, the pure thrill of having found each other propelled AJ and me through our days. We could finally get to making all the plans that you might make when your team has been assembled. Our plans involved Valiants and long trips and caravans and making art together. But that prescience wasn’t there to tell me that we should also have been making plans for illness, and that illness would eclipse any other dream we were dreaming.