We Are Family

By Jo Phillips


They watch the soap bubble as it floats towards the tip of his cock. It hovers for a moment, as if considering what to do next, the room reflected back at them in a liquescent curve: whorls of pink, blue, yellow and purple, a transmogrified rainbow.

She wafts her hands as if conjuring up a diaphanous melody. The bubble bumps lightly against circumcision residue, that corona of offended skin, capitulating in a burst of Fairy Liquid mist.

He exhales, she inhales.

The object of their gaze stirs, thickens, arteries dilating with blood.

“So not a fetish,” she says, stirring the homemade bubble solution with her plastic wand.


He struggles to bring his voice back from that place of swoony aphasia.

“The fetish represents the impossibility of satiation with or via the maternal or paternal body.”

“I see.”

She touches the furry inner-slope of his thigh.

“Take a child of seven or eight, sitting in the lounge with his ‘Uncle’ Alan. The two of them watching a music video on this new thing called a television set. His mother’s locked herself in the bedroom, a Carpenters record playing to cover her distress. The child and Uncle Alan watch four sisters dancing in a swirl of soap bubbles. They are black, he and Uncle Alan are white. But because this is South Africa, and because these singers are from Philadelphia, so not their blacks (the maid, the garden boy, the petrol pump attendant), their skin colour goes unnoticed. Uncle Alan has the beginnings of an erection, but he is content to just let it be. The boy watches Uncle Alan watching the bubbles floating around Kathy, Debbie, Joni, and Kim.”

“But that child is not you. So this is not your fetish,” she confirms, preparing to send another bubble his way.

“That’s right.”

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