Read an Extract of ‘Everyone and Everything’

Article | Issue: Sep 2023

NADINE J COHEN’s new debut novel  Everyone and Everything, might make you laugh, cry and call your sister. Here’s an extract to tempt you in …

 

JANUARY

‘So, what are our options?’ Liora asks.

It’s late. We’re in my psychiatrist’s office.

‘There are three options,’ Priya says. ‘She can go to a private rehab clinic, she can move in with you or she can stay at home. I’m not sectioning her, so legally it’s her decision.’

‘Sectioning?’

‘Remanding her to a public ward, or any ward, without her consent. I don’t think it’s in her best interests.’

I don’t remember coming here.

‘What are the pros and cons of a rehab clinic?’ Liora asks, ever the pragmatist.

‘The next week or so is going to be brutal. I’m stopping all her medications and starting her on new ones tomorrow. No weaning, we don’t have time. This will probably make her quite sick physically as her body adjusts. At a clinic, she’d be cared for 24/7. She has private insurance, yes?’

‘Yes.’

Usually, I hate being talked about like the cat’s mother, but right now I’m hoping they don’t talk to me at all.

I don’t want to talk. I don’t know if I can talk.

‘The clinic is about an hour from here, but it’s the best.’ Liora nods slowly, daunted.

‘And what are the negatives?’ she asks.

‘Once she checks in, I can’t have contact with her. The treating doctors can change her medication as they see fit. They generally don’t, but it’s a possibility. And there are people there for all sorts of reasons, many in far worse states than this.’

There are far worse states than this?

Priya tightens the shawl around her shoulders. She’s always cold.

‘I’m not sure it would be the best environment for her,’ she says. ‘It can make it hard to come back.’

‘What about staying at my house?’ I close my eyes.

‘That’s an option. She wouldn’t be leaving her normal surroundings, so she wouldn’t have to reintegrate. But it would be a big strain on you and your family. I know you have small children. It would be confronting for them – for you and your husband, too.’

‘And if she stays in her apartment alone?’ ‘I don’t think she should.’

I open my eyes.

‘What about Julia Louis-Dreyfus?’

They both look at me like they’ve forgotten I’m here. I guess I can speak.

‘Remind me again, who is Julia Louis-Dreyfus?’ Priya asks gently.

‘My cat.’

*

I love cats, but I had no intention of getting one when I accompanied my oldest friend Margot to the pet store after Pilates one day.

As an adopt-don’t-shop kinda gal, I generally avoid pet stores, but Margot said this one had rescue cats, so I tagged along.

We walked past the display cases of designer dogs, with schnoodles, cavoodles and labradoodles as far as the eye could see. It’s the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney – if you didn’t have a poodle cross, what were you even doing?

I waved at the pretty pups as I followed Margot to the back of the store. There were three big cages, each with a few cats lolling about or trying to destroy each other.

‘Look at the bubbas!’ cooed Margot, a grown woman with a PhD. ‘I love them.’

Margot’s partner is allergic to cats, so this is how she gets her feline fix.

‘Why don’t you just dump Josh and get a cat?’

‘Then who would make me ramen and put the kids to bed?’ That was when I saw her, in all her glory. A grey-and-white tabby with a hint of ginger and a Marilyn Monroe beauty spot, living her best life despite the micro-imprisonment. Her paws were wedged into the top of the cage and she was hanging off the bars like a gymnast commencing an uneven bars routine.

She looked like an idiot. A tiny, beautiful idiot.

‘Oh my god, come look,’ I squealed at Margot. ‘I love this one!’

‘Of course you love that one,’ she said. ‘It’s batshit.’ ‘Hey!’

‘It’s the cat version of your mate, he who shall not be named.’ ‘Please refrain from insulting my cat.’

‘Oh, it’s your cat, is it?’

‘Maybe. Maybe? I guess I could get a cat. Could I get a cat?’ ‘Do you want me to ask if you can hold it?’

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. ‘Yes!’

Margot got a stoned teenage pet store employee to come over and get Nadia Comăneci out of her cage. She started purring.

‘She loves you,’ Margot said.

‘I love her. Is she a her? Are we still gendering domestic animals?’ I looked at the baked kid.

‘Totally.’

He didn’t care.

‘What’s her name?’ I asked.

‘Beauty,’ he said. ‘You know, like, ’cause of the spot. On her face.’

‘Yeah, I get it. Margs, I can’t just get a cat. Can I?’ ‘Do it! Do it! Do it!’

She slow-clapped for emphasis. ‘You’re no help.’

‘We can hold her for 24 hours if you want to think about it,’ the teenager said slowly.

Oh boy.

‘Okay, let’s do that.’

The next day I officially adopted Julia Louis-Dreyfus, formerly Beauty, feline gymnast, tiny idiot, she/her.

Priya and Liora hesitantly agree I can keep living at home. Priya doesn’t believe I’m ‘a danger to myself’ and Liora doesn’t have anywhere to put me. Or Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

But there are rules:

  1. Liora comes over tonight and takes away all the pills.
  2. I check in with Priya every day, twice a week in person.
  3. I spend minimal time at home alone.

‘I don’t know how much time I can take off,’ Liora says. ‘What should she do when I’m at work or with the kids?’

I don’t want to see people. I don’t want to see people. I don’t want to see people.

‘Try and be at her apartment as much as possible while she adjusts to the new meds. She won’t be able to do much. Beyond that, it’s best she goes to places where she’ll be surrounded by people, but not forced to interact with them. The beach, the cinemas. And gyms. Even if she just walks slowly on a treadmill or sits in the sauna. Yoga is great, too, if she’s up to it – I know she likes it – and same for dance classes and that new ballet thing I don’t understand.’

Barre.

‘And when she’s ready, she can see her friends.’

I can’t imagine ever wanting to see anyone again. Liora looks at me.

‘Are you okay with this? Maybe you and Julia should just move in with us. We’ll make it work.’

I hate it when she doesn’t say Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s full name. ‘I want to stay at home,’ I whisper.

Liora makes the face she makes when she’s torn between two items on a menu.

‘Let’s see how it goes and reassess day by day,’ Priya says. ‘If it’s not working, we’ll reconsider your house or a clinic.’

‘Okay, sounds good.’

We’re nearly out the door when Priya almost shouts. ‘Wait!’

We turn.

‘No sad books, no sad TV, no sad films and especially no sad documentaries. Basically, none of the depressing crap I know you love. Also, no news. And absolutely no politics.’

I nod.

‘Comedies and fluffy crap only. Rom-coms, sitcoms, all the coms. No documentaries. No Four Corners. Promise me.’

‘I promise.’

‘If I could control your Netflix, I would.’

Liora laughs and immediately looks like she got busted talking in class.

I just want to go to sleep.

 

Nadine J Cohen authorABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nadine J. Cohen, also known as Nadine von Cohen, is a writer and refugee advocate from Sydney. Her musings can be found all over the internet, with bylines in The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, SMH, ABC, SBS, Frankie, Harper’s Bazaar and more. She co-founded and directed Hope for Nauru, a volunteer-run not-for-profit serving refugees and asylum seekers affected by offshore detention, from 2018 to 2023. Everyone and Everything is her debut novel.

Follow Nadine J Cohen on Instagram

Author: Nadine J. Cohen

Category: Fiction & related items

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Pantera Press

ISBN: 9780645240092

RRP: $32.99

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