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A hand resting on an open book, which is lit with dappled shadow. Two pressed pink flowers sit on the left page

Image: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

In my dreams, I often end up stranded somewhere.

In one dream, I am stuck on the lone platform at Middle Footscray Station, surrounded by a sea of purple jasmine. The flowers move like waves in the wind and when I wake up the heady scent sticks around. Purple jasmine is also known as: star jasmine, angelwing jasmine, shining jasmine and windmill jasmine.

Jasmine is hard to press. Or rather, I tried once and it didn’t go to plan.

I picked a stem with tiny flowers from the garden, placed them between layers of paper and card and turned the screws on the homemade flower press gifted to me by a friend. Something about the kind of paper I used or maybe my choice in flowers or, most likely, my impatience with the process. Whatever it was, when I took apart the press and gently peeled away the layers, the flowers inside were squashed; stars melted into the thin sheets of paper, unsalvageable. When I tried to pick them up, they fell apart in my hands, outside, under the sun.


I am laying on the floor next to my bed, unable to move, speaking to a paramedic over loudspeaker on someone else’s phone. They call me sweetheart, say the ambulance will take 90 minutes, say to wait. I have been waiting. Months. All this is is waiting.

Two hours pass like this: I pull myself up onto the bed, drag my body up from the carpet, claw onto the soft checkered bedspread. It hurts more when someone else tries to move me. There is tobacco everywhere and I am smoking on these new, expensive sheets. My partner holds a pink vibrator with a crystal button to the part of my spine that aches the most. The rattling reaches my teeth.


They call back, say that the ambulance will take another hour to arrive.

My partner holds a pink vibrator with a crystal button to the part of my spine that aches the most. The rattling reaches my teeth.

When the paramedics do appear, they stand at the door and ask me questions that I can hardly focus on: Have I been to an exposure site? Is anyone in my house COVID positive? Do I have any symptoms? Slowly: no, no, no.

They come in, secure a green whistle around my wrist, say to breathe in deep. They can’t fit the stretcher into the house, so eventually, I have to try and walk towards it. My partner helps me, kisses me and says I taste like nangs. Only one of the paramedics finds this amusing as they guide me onto the stretcher and load me into the vehicle. My partner can’t come with me because of the restrictions and I can’t orient myself inside the vehicle to figure out where their voice is coming from when they say goodbye.

At the hospital, I wait some more. A doctor eventually comes in and asks me about my health in general. When I mention that I smoke more now, he says he doesn’t blame me, having looked at my scans. He says things look bad but they can’t do anything about it right now.

I can barely walk to the bathroom, which is the first time I’ve peed in what feels like days, hanging onto the rail so I don’t fall. I leave the hospital at 4:45am with no assistance, no further pain management, no answers and my name on another waitlist. I move through the hospital, slowly, searching for an exit. I get told off by staff when I walk the wrong way, as if I did so on purpose. I shuffle out to a main road and book a car on an app on my phone.

When I get home, I stumble through the door. One of my housemates is almost completely nocturnal and I am grateful because he catches me as I fall over in the hallway. He helps me into bed and we try not to wake my partner, who has made a nest out of all the pillows in the middle of the mattress. They wake up anyway, and hold me while I cry in the dark until I exhaust myself completely.


Drying flowers is much easier than pressing them. You don’t have to do much, just kind of leave them and wait. You can sit them in a vase without water, hang them upside down, let them rest, or place them in the oven for a while if you’re really wanting them sooner. Roses are especially good for the vase method, I have found. I have three separate bunches of them dried in my room.

Drying flowers is much easier than pressing them. You don’t have to do much, just kind of leave them and wait.

The vases are not really vases, but other things: an empty bottle of rose water, an old candle, a glass milk bottle.

When my younger brother visits my new home, he always points out that I have made lots of potpourri, the dried rose petals making their way into bowls. He stops to touch and smell it as he moves through the house, taking it all in.

At twenty-seven, with a desire for a simple life, he consumes countless hours of Gardening Australia and often calls up our grandma to ask her advice on his own small patch of garden, at home at our parents’ house.

When he smells the rose petals, I am reminded that we are far more similar than I thought. Both of us are still learning how to just be with ourselves.


Have you ever watched an insect being pinned? Tiny little bodies held in place by even tinier pieces of metal. I watch videos on TikTok in which a woman pins dead bugs into place, turning their death into art. They arrive to her vacuum-sealed, inside jars that are wrapped caringly in bubble wrap. She covers them in kitchen towel, rehydrates them and gets to work.

Bodies can become unruly sometimes, hard to pin down. I find it hard not to be angry at mine despite knowing how hard it is working. In her book Show Me Where it Hurts, Kylie Maslen writes about her body, the pain it is in and the ways she tries to cope. In one essay, Maslen speaks about tattoos and how they can engender a sense of agency amid the panic of not having control over your own body and the ways it can hurt you. She also writes about being selective with tattoo artists: ‘I’m careful in choosing who tattoos me, in the same way that I choose doctors with caution. Gaining my trust is hard’.

Bodies can become unruly sometimes, hard to pin down. I find it hard not to be angry at mine despite knowing how hard it is working.

The first and the most recent person to tattoo me are the same artist. Between lockdowns, she freehanded the dog roses from my childhood garden on my left forearm and wrist. A few months after, I had my first bout of psoriasis while recovering from tonsillitis for the sixth (seventh?) time in under 12 months. Like aphids, the skin condition ate away at the roses. Then it devoured the rest of me, leaving my skin covered in a rash of red, blotchy planets that never quite turned to the promised silver. Beneath them, the roses are okay, recovering. The psoriasis never really goes away, rather it calms for a little while and then flares up again, hot and all over my skin. It almost always coincides with other illnesses, with more pain.


The day after the hospital, my partner stocks my bedside with wipes, dry shampoo, toothpaste tabs and painkillers, among other things. I don’t take a shit for at least 32 hours (an especially worrying sign with my particular type of nerve pressure) and when I finally do, it is painful. I manage a shower every five or so days (and not without pain that threatens to send me toppling over every time), so these hygiene products are necessary. My housemates fluff my pillows, make sure I have water and help me to the bathroom, despite their own pains, for weeks. I spend my days researching different surgeries that might, could, will eventually happen inside my skin, along my spine.

My mother doesn’t want me to have surgery, says I should try other things first.

When she says ‘other things’, what my mother is really saying is I need to lose weight. This has been her medical advice as long as I can remember. It is also much easier said than done when you have lived your life in a fat body, let alone when you can go weeks without being able to move from your bed to cook or go for a walk in your own garden.

Hasn’t she noticed that I am trying as hard as my body will let me? That I have spent a lifetime trying?

None of my current doctors or specialists have mentioned my weight or prescribed weight loss for my pain. I know, as a fat person, this is rare and I have lucked out in this way.

My physio says to stop the exercises we have been working on for months because my pain levels are too high.

The spinal surgery will cost me around thirteen thousand dollars, which I have to withdraw from my super (and I am lucky to be able to). I do not have private health insurance and it isn’t covered by Medicare because it is considered an elective surgery. Like many people awaiting so-called elective surgeries, I did not elect this. In fact, I would much rather not have surgery.

On top of pain and weight gain and fatigue and the stigma, there’s the financial cost of trying to fix my body and knowing it will likely never actually be better.

The bits between my lower vertebrae are dried out and no longer function the way they should. These cannot be treasured as keepsakes like dried roses. Like jasmine flowers squeezed between bits of wood, they are being pressed by my spine. They have been squeezed so hard and for so long that they’ve moved. They press against the nerves that send signals to my hips and my pelvis and my legs and my feet, and some mornings I cannot move from where I laid down the night before thanks to the pain.

Like many people awaiting so-called elective surgeries, I did not elect this. In fact, I would much rather not have surgery.


In my waking life, my friends organise meals when I can’t cook for myself. They drop off loaves of bread and plates of cookies and send care packages and pick up my medications when I can’t make it to the chemist. People post infographics about community care on Instagram while the people I live my life with change my sheets, help me put my socks on and tie my shoelaces, bring me heat packs and ice packs and food and medication.

From where I lay on my bed, I can see a bouquet of flowers I bought myself for my 30th birthday. It hangs from the verandah rafter, swaying in the heavy summer breeze. Dried by air, more fragile as the days pass, the sweet peas still hold their colour.


My partner and I walk around the neighbourhood, slow and with a list of prescriptions to pick up at the chemist.

I am still hesitant to go for walks by myself now, in case something happens and no one is around to help me.

Holding hands, we pass two magpies on a line.

For joy.

We stop outside a house, lush with overgrown wisteria that I always first mistake for jasmine, and stare at it for a while. I pick a bit of lavender that pokes through the fence, roll it around in my free hand as we walk on.


Later in the week, my love brings me a fistful of lavender from their own garden. I slip a couple of sprigs between the covers of the book I’m reading. I stick two more into my journal with a piece of light blue washi tape.

This is my preferred method of pressing flowers. Keeping them with me where I can see and smell and touch them. Where I can find them when I need them.