Sevana Ohandjanian

Sevana Ohandjanian is a writer, translator and film programmer of Armenian descent, living and writing on Wallumedegal land. Her work can be found in Meanjin, Chogwa, The Suburban Review, Shabby Doll House, The Wrong Quarterly, Tincture, SBS and more. Her unpublished manuscript Black Grass was shortlisted for the 2017 Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Prize. Find her online @ichbinsev.



The drip started when I came back. Or maybe it had always been there and I just hadn’t seen it. Felt it. You’re always leaking, faulty, dispensing parts of yourself unknowingly. The drip begins and you simply continue. There’s no before or after timestamp. A faucet with the slightest leak, a midnight droplet that gathers on the showerhead and plops down with its weight, a drop in the ocean. But the ocean is a sponge and it soaks everything in. My drip is expelled from what it feeds on.

I wanted her to have become ugly. But she looks the same. Maybe I can’t see her any other way. Standing at the back of an Armenian Saturday school classroom, I watch the children clamouring to get her attention. Miss Lily! Miss Lily! Every child is a remodelling of prepubescent me, enamoured.

When Lily sees me, blood flushes my face, my breath caught. Caught like a 10-year-old being told for the first time, “You’re my best friend”; caught like a girl found out. She smiles, approaches.

She stands beside me during the principal’s announcements. Leans towards me to speak softly.

“It’s been a long time, Eva. Are you married yet?”

“No? I’m sorry. What?”

“I’m engaged.”


“Thanks.” Her bunny rabbit teeth briefly appear when she smiles at me. “I haven’t seen you around here in a long time.”

“I was living in London for a while.”

“I know, I saw the photos on Insta. How come you’re here though? I didn’t think you kept in touch with anyone from school.”

“I’m just doing a favour for one of mum’s friends. They said they needed another teacher.”

“Yeah, Ani had to quit. Her baby’s due in a couple of months.”

“Sure. Right. Then I’m here to replace Ani.”

“Are you back in the suburbs then? With your mum?”

“Yeah. You know, trying to take care of her.”

“And you’re not engaged?”


“In a relationship?”


“Dating any boys?”

“That’s also a no.”

I had arrived airtight, the excommunicated package returned to sender, not a leak to stain the exterior of me. But questions kick my sides into dents. I’m devoid of meaning in this place. Yet I can’t resist the urge to ask.

“So, who are you marrying?”

“You know him actually! He was a year above us–”

The principal calls to me: “Eva, we’re ready to start, let me show you where your classroom is.”

I’m tasked with overlooking the work of three pre-teen girls in the back of a classroom, minimal responsibility while an experienced teacher manages older students emanating static exam preparation energy. The room coils with summer heat, brick-encased sweat, blinding yellow sun glow. The girls kick their feet and rapid-fire questions. We’ve never seen you before Miss, where are you from Miss, how come we don’t know you Miss, did you come to this school too when you were learning Armenian, Miss?

The heat brings the warm sweat drip. Frizzed ends of hair damp at the nape, elbow crease droplet a wet snake. Soles melting into asphalt, fire hits hot, until it swallows feet and turns into statue grey stone. I’m pebble-footed, fog-headed, standing in front of these children, teaching them words I’d forgotten.

Afterwards in the parking lot, my car idles as I avoid the touch of molten metal fixtures against bare flesh. An atomic sizzle between my fingertips and steering wheel, my skin branding and moulding itself to machine. Gathering itself back together, water to jelly to rock. Baby hairs dance around in air conditioning vent choreography, and I see her, striding gracefully towards an electric blue car. Nissan Skyline, Fast & The Furious fantasy for the high school dream boys with fade cuts and bubbling aggression.

The car pulls out, drives by me.

There’s nothing to do here besides walk through grass smoked into hay, and stare into people’s backyards. Jumping back when a dog comes barking up a driveway, its snout snarling through the gate. Hearing trucks barrelling down the main highway. Driving for the sake of hearing an album through car speakers, to give it motion. Other peoples’ houses and time-haunted shops, the only places to go.

Western Sydney suburban ennui cushioning my red skin, my squinting eyes, dripping into my vision when shut, all squiggly flashing lines. I can’t leave it. I’ve taken it with me to every city I’ve lived in. An empty street is home even if it’s hollow.

The shopping village that still holds the dirty yellow glow of too-low lighting and too-dark corners. Butcher meat stink pulses, bakery loaves expand in their racks, the newsagency ceiling fan whirrs dust over untouched magazine covers.

In the unnaturally bright grocers, I’m slumped over a shopping trolley in the produce section, eyeing off the fruit, willing light to disperse me amongst the blood red apples.

A hand on my shoulder brings me back, collecting and rearranging me. Of course she’s here. Actualised from my mind where she’s found residence since I saw her in the classroom a week ago.

Carrying a shopping basket like a handbag in the crook of her elbow, she is what activewear ads convince me I could be: slimmer, fitter, happier, wearing leggings to the shops after the gym session. She exudes a glow that highlights my dullness.

She’s talking to me but I’m still the pillow crease from the morning, blue light shining in my face. My finger surfing over my phone screen at speed with a tender touch, cautious voyeurism. She is amalgamating before my eyes: crucifixes, gold and silver, shiny helium anniversary balloons, lace and chiffon. His pink nose filtered to snowy white, tight shining faces dripped together and melted, pushed in so close as if to pull apart would tear the conjoined sinew.

She’s inviting me to a party in her backyard. As I agree, I’m thinking of excuses not to go.

I have been here before or I haven’t. Down cul de sacs lined with palms, into townhouse driveways signposted with identical beige postboxes. Two years of sucking in smog and suffocating sound is compacted into the back of my mind, an already othered memory.

The backyard grips me by the neck, thrusts me face-first into nostalgia. Plastic white chair-seated men, hookah pipe passes, women in constant motion to buckle a trestle table with food.

This is every backyard from high school house parties when we’d stand around, flip phones grasped like prizes, being fed alcohol by parents who didn’t care for local laws. The so-small world looking remarkably wide in a fenced-in, half-concrete yard.

He’s not beside Lily, he’s amongst the white chair men. Legs spread, possessive eyes, shisha in hand. Déjà vu so strong I’m convinced he hasn’t moved an inch since 2004. His nose the same ruddy pink as that hot humid day, when I had squirted my water bottle at him while we waited to climb into the school bus. The second last day of school. Giggling to coax male fury off the ledge when he said, “I’ll get you for that”.

My skin pink the next day walking down the highway home, water dripping from hair and hem timed with shivers. Truck drivers honking at my now transparent cotton sports uniform. My ears echoing the smack of litre on litre pouring over my head. Ice cold shivers from frozen water bottles, then lukewarm waterfalls from orange juice-stained canisters. His deep laugh slicing through the cascade.

Now, a bead of sweat tickles down my back. I plant myself in a corner, let my sandaled feet brush grass. Sinking myself in deep, deep enough to become a nutrient for the soil, enough that I might fertilise and dissolve. As I watch him watch her, I know when she is watching me.

There’s small talk and a barbecue, drinks and cigarettes, heels poking holes into garden grass. My eye can’t leave the white chair corner, even while three ex-classmates come to interrogate me. They’re trying to strike gossip gold to take home tonight. Lily joins and stands across from me, that beaming warmth enveloping.

“Having fun?” she interrupts the conversation to ask me.

“Yeah, thanks for inviting me”.

“Of course. You should come to the wedding too, maybe you can meet a nice Armenian guy, make your mum proud.”
She laughs, a delicate thing. How is it so intimate yet the furthest thing from close. A reminder that the space is so vast between us, it is practically solid.

I move closer to Lily as someone takes a drum out, slapping a rhythm that draws people into hand-held circles. An unrushed dance, hands grasped with strangers, two steps forward and one back. A movement that should be in my feet already, a genetic predetermination. She’s the centre point of it, like a fountain timed to music, her hair splaying out, her body spinning, her arms elegantly shaping in the air. When our eyes meet briefly, my smile is second nature. I feel stripped down, heart stuck in throat. Melted as if to expose the centre of myself.

She is the person they sing about in the song, and I’m the person who dances to it.

Heat has a personality of its own. It demands. Craves the attention of all your senses. Heat sticks in your throat, it inflates humid into the lungs, it sinks into pores and forces your insides out.

I stand under the lazy ceiling fan in the classroom, in another lesson that has blurred into the weeks preceding it. Saturday mornings of burning sunlight and irritable children desperate to be elsewhere. Lily in the morning gathering, hearing her voice ring out an octave higher than the students during the national anthem. Afternoons of parking lot small talk, disappearing into cars and separate worlds.

The fabric on my skin is becoming one with me. Cotton tendrils sneak into microscopic pores, latching onto cells and choke-holding them until shirt is body and body is shirt. I want to flatpack myself. Ship myself back across oceans, until all that falls on me are snowflakes turning water, until my hair is drenched and my breath is tangible fog.

Once the bell has rung, I turn off the lights and stand in empty midday darkness. The stale air, the flecks of dust, the beige brownness of it all. I was never afforded silence in this space. Even now, I can feel the squeeze of time against me. Siren songing me into the past, into a safety that regresses and reidentifies.

Lily is sitting on a bench outside the school gates when I approach her. A backpack sat at her feet, she types speedily on her phone and doesn’t look up until I’m sat beside her.

“Did you have a good day today?” she asks, looking up from her phone, eyes directly on me.

“Same same really. I don’t know if I’m actually helping these kids learn anything.”

“I’m sure you are. They’re good kids.”

“Do you need a ride?”

“No, Sako will be here soon. We’re going to get a late lunch.”

The sun is bearing down on my unprotected face, marking its spot red. The drip is puddling around me, forming a lake on which I’m drifting. When was the last time we sat so close.

Back when she was ankle socks and me regular-length folded and pushed down. Back of the school bus giggles, we’d gotten lucky that the older kids let us sit there. We felt older than our 12 years with the privilege of hiding in the corner, huddled close. Grease of morning margarine sandwiches still on our lips, discarded foil crunching beneath our feet. She told me her underwear was black. Everything I wore underneath was a virginal white. Show don’t tell, we lifted skirts, reached across and under as if to confirm that the differences between us ended at the colour of our underwear. A Year 10 girl turned around to look at us and we knew somehow this wasn’t allowed.

We’re in a cone of cool silence now. The heat is away, the drip has stopped. Like an ice cube down the back of the shirt, there is something kinetic here. Something that wants to burst out of my pores and slide over the seat. Where are the lines drawn on our bodies now, that didn’t exist then.

“Do you remember those bus rides we’d have to take here every day?” My voice is not my own. It’s liquid turned sound, moved its way from stomach to trachea and out.

“They took so long! How did we even do it. They were so boring.”

“I liked them.” Me and you. Shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, leg to leg, knee to knee. Gossip and giggles, a level playing field.

“Sako used to ride on that bus too, you know? He said he had a crush on me even back then”. Glimmering eyes, bunny teeth, the child peeking out of the adult. “But he never did anything about it.”

A car honks and the sun hits my eyes, firing down my face. She walks away, a gentle wave, a slide in and shut door.

I drip away in a sun melt. Until I can fall from the bench in droplets, slink my way down the gutter, foist myself into the drains. Let myself be carried to the dam, rushed alongside the drips of others, funnelled into drains mapping our suburban yellow underground. Until I slip down her tap, into her glass, and am entirely consumed.