Three is my favourite number, and I am the middle child.
I grew up wanting to be a fire-fighter, artist, superstar and chef.
On my eleventh birthday, I wished that Nico Lyons would like me back.
When I was 13, I got my first job at a local art gallery framing pictures, worked at Subway making sandwiches, and met my first boyfriend.
At 15, I fell in love.
But not before I had my heart broken – once, twice, too many times.
When I turned 16, I sat my restricted license, and then bought my first car – a 1993 Land Rover Discovery. I sold it about six months later, too busy and broke to afford to pay for my own petrol.
During my adolescent years, I learnt how to play the piano, snuck out to parties, attended student council meetings, and joined the Cobden premier netball team. I kept busy with school and sport commitments, talking to boys and fan-girling with friends. My room was painted purple, decorated with film photographs and posters of Gabriella and Troy, and I had an entire wall graffitied with vivid; untold secrets, inspirational quotes, long-term goals and mindless expression. I wore my heart on my sleeve and blood didn’t scared me.
Another year passed, and at seventeen, I ended a good relationship with a bad decision and thought I knew everything. I finished high school even though I hated it, some of it, most of it, struggling in class with the conventional ways of learning and making distractions for myself when I got bored by talking a lot. I conversed with anyone – new kids, bad boys, good girls, the teachers – but there were only a few people who I could really call friends, and since then nothing much has changed so I’ve figured that’s just how life goes. Even at high school I thought of myself as a social outcast, never fitting in with one specific clique, and choosing my own way most of the time so that at least everything was still fun.
A few months after I turned 18, I left home, moved to Christchurch and got a cat. We named him Pistachio – Stash, for short – and started calling our flat the Pussy Palace because three out of six of us had adopted kittens. First, there were the brothers, Stashy and Buu – Majin Buu – and then, Nina. She was our first girl, our baby, and even though I made fun of her for being a schizophrenic, the day she never came home hurt; all of us. But it wasn’t long before Shadow came along and warmed the empty space she’d left in our home. Every morning we’d wake up to paw-prints on the vanity and bathroom floor, having left the window open so that the babies could come and go through the night. We were the crazy cat ladies and our kitties would venture into the dark for us, stirring mischief with Riccarton’s strays when we were too worked to be out making trouble for ourselves. I enjoyed my nights cuddled up inside, watching movies and entire television series in bed, kissing and spooning and then sneaking out into the lounge when I couldn’t fall sleep, my mind busy with uncontrollable thoughts of loneliness, desire and need.
I spent three years there flatting, falling in and out of love, drinking a lot, smoking pot, missing my family, going to gigs and getting grimey at the Dux, meeting new people, making a home, running through Hagley, getting lost up the Port Hills, having a boyfriend, working, studying, and attending church, once. I loved being away from home, the freedom that came with it, and even though not having a car meant bussing every day and walking home from the supermarket with a trolley full of groceries, I soon found a place in Christchurch’s broken city and figured out the fastest way to get to uni without having my own wheels. I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English, minoring in Linguistics, and learnt how to dry washing in the winter without a fire, dryer or mum. Mostly, that just meant blasting the heat pump at 28 degrees and nicking somebody else’s clothes rack without asking, but I made up for it by refusing to make meals from a packet and taking the rap for going over the flat-shop’s budget.
The night before I turned 19, my flatmate and I snuck into the Redzone, just off Latimer Square, and raided an old comic shop. There wasn’t too much to see – broken windows, rubble, flooded buildings and downstair carparks, an old clay teapot – but I still kept a magazine I found in a pile on the floor for memorabilia. Everything was a mess and the room felt and looked like it was on an uneven tilt; it was the first time I realized how badly the place would’ve had to have shaken to cause the amount of damage it did. People didn’t even bother coming back to collect the rest of their belongings.
For my 20th birthday, we decided to throw a hippy party at our Lyndon flat, decorating the house with fairy-lights and cliché seventies décor. By the front door, we put together a shrine around my little brother’s head – a retro art piece of a vortex he’d coloured with rainbow crayons back in primary school – aligned with a stack of green fairy-bread, Skittles, burning incense, candles and fifty pairs of diffractive paper glasses. The whole night could only have been described as an acid trip without the acid. Everybody wore paisley, fluro and flowers, sitting around getting stoned in the glow of lava lamps, forgetting to talk at times and munching on bags of potato chips, Burger Rings, and triangle-cut bread sprinkled with hundreds-and-thousands.
However, on my 21st, I didn’t plan or ask for anything. Instead, I thanked God for all of the beautiful people in my life – my friends, family, my Pistachio Nut – and laughed my way through to 12.01AM without even realizing it was birthday again. Before that, I spent an entire week in Wanaka with one of my bestfriends – exploring the valley and walking Mt. Iron, watching the Winter Games’ half-pipe finals, drinking warm mulled-wine at the Cadrona Pub – and every morning, I’d climbed out of bed and stand naked on the balcony, purely for the sake of being alive; being blessed; and being me. On my second day there, we smoked two big fatties and biked around the backroads until we got lost and found ourselves at a riverbed in Albert Town. I was a real girl about it, unsure whether or not I’d make it through the muddy tracks, and stopping every two minutes just to state that I’m useless. Eventually we made it back to the lake, and the two of us sat in the rain, just opposite the Lonely Tree, drinking green tea from a flask and feeling like Tom and Jerry. My time in Wanaka felt like home, even though I knew nearly nobody and had left my cat with mum and dad. It was nice; I read Gabriel García Márquez at Ritual café, drinking home-made chai tea and not knowing if I should buy the carrot cake (Lisa, it’s up there) or cheesecake, so getting both. I acted like a local, shopping at the farmer’s market and talking like a kiwi so that everyone knew I was.
My name is Rasela Rebecca Barrow, I was born in New Zealand on September the 3rd, 1994, three is my favourite number, and I am the middle child.
My little brother, Euan, has always been the family favourite. When he was three, we went full punk and shaved his head, leaving nothing but a small round patch at the top of his crown. He never complained anywhere as much as we would, and if he did, it’d either quickly end in tears or with somebody getting smacked by mum. Some nights I’d dress him in my pretty dresses and draw on his face with lipstick; and – because we were boss – he’d always be in middle, and never be allowed to sit in the front seat. Euan, Joey and I spent entire summers in our backyard, chasing white butterflies with nets for 10 cents a catch and torching black insects with magnifying glass. We ran around naked, innocently unaware of the wrong we were doing to societies’ expectations, until it was time to eat. I’d organize a picnic or something modestly closer to shared sandwiches and raisins over a tea-towel, we would eat, drink, laugh, and then continue on with being children. But we weren’t always nice to each other, and that hurts a little when I really think about it. I remember Joey and I use to tease Euan for having a big head, which eventually just stuck, and there were times where I wanted that to hurt him, especially when I was afraid to hit him hard but too angry not to retaliate. It was sibling rivalry, our character building, and we used each other's weaknesses to test the boundaries of selfishness and power. Still – most of the time, if we made Euan cry, it was accidentally-on-purpose, which meant the guilt that followed instantly granted him king’s speech, and he could then do whatever he’d want.
On the other hand, Joey had the type of wisdom naturally gifted to the eldest child; he was the leader of our trio, the peacemaker, and although we would often have our moments of not meeting eye to eye, he was the most compassionate out of all three of us. He was also the best at everything – the fastest, fittest, most logical – and won all of our running races and extreme jumps. We loved throwing a ball around and would more than often kick it over the fence, breaking a window or two and being a cute nuisance to the neighbours. Because of Euan and I, not always getting his own way made Joey extremely tolerant, and he was patient, always one step ahead, and never complaining if waiting in line meant proving a point. Joey would be the first of us to realize what was wrong, silly or stupid, and often, even when he knew he was right, let things go for the sake of peace and silence. He gave me lunch money at school, even though I never needed it and it was always more than he had to give. We took turns at drying the dishes and spent our days around home with Euan and mum; writing and reading, watching Disney movies, playing Pokemon, fighting over the Playstation, sleeping, and waiting for dad to finish work at five. There was always a meal on the table and our full bellies never went hungry; mum would always be cooking and cleaning, and every Sunday, we’d drive to the bakery for fresh bread or get fish and chips from the local takeaways after a routine surf-check.
Our home was located on the north shore of a small, low-decile suburb called Cobden. The beach was a stone’s throw away, and our house was protected by a red-brick fence and black Labrador. I don’t remember Tuffy; he was put down for biting the paper man, even though, from what I gathered, the paper man was being a cunt and had it coming. I do remember we always had a cat, sometimes two, I think at the most, four. But because of where we lived, down by the beach and on a long road to nowhere, at night our street became a speed lane for those wanting to get places too soon. I’ll never forget the day I left for school, dressed in mufti, feeling free, and getting just out the driveway before spotting that one of our cats, Dobby, had been hit by a car and left on the side of the road. I jumped out and ran to pick him up, shaking and not knowing what else to do but not wanting to leave him in the rain. When I picked him up, his body was stiff – rigid and cold, unevenly straight – and forever, that stuck. Fear swept through me. It wasn’t my cat; it was a dead corpse that once radiated love but now sent jagged shivers down my spine. We ended up burying Dobby in the backyard, alongside our graveyard of other dead pets and missed companions. I cried until my face was puffy, refusing to talk until I found my own voice again, and not the condemning one in my head, guilty and heartbroken.
Mum and dad worked hard to give their family everything they possibly could; a home, a heart and all the motor basics to domestic harmony. We went to the Cobden Anglican Church almost every Sunday, which was sometimes a bit boring and tediously slow in my younger years at Sunday school, but eventually, I was granted the opportunity to help collect wine glasses, and then graduated to the sound desk when I hit highschool. I played secret DJ in the very back row, scribbling love songs on small pieces of paper and paying close attention whenever somebody stood up to protest the sermon. We were a busy family, but weekends were reserved – for us, the church, the surf, and catching up on dad’s latest DIY project.
Dad was a registered nurse, but he often took up being the leisurely tradie, which made a lot of sense to me as a little girl, because daddy could do everything and always had an answer. He and mum were driven and did their best to remain loving, even when we pushed the limits too far. They hugged, kissed, cuddled, and argued in front of us, which only ever felt normal but sometimes scared me, especially when mum locked dad out of the house and refused to talk to him. As kids, we didn’t know why mum and dad were arguing, we just knew we hated it – but now that I’m a bit older, I understand; love demands to be felt, and sometimes it comes in unexpected waves, which is why you should never underestimate the power it has to destroy and restore everything it single-handedly touches.
My name is Rasela Rebecca Barrow, and I was born, September the 3rd, 1994, on the lounge floor of our first family home in Palmerston Street, Greymouth. Three is my favourite number, I am the middle child, and this is the untold story of how I danced with the devil and began to wage a war with God.