Archive

Monthly Archives: August 2014

1.

We’re standing, maybe thirty of us, crammed into a sweaty crevasse of a blackened club room as a genderfucked gutter-baby pop star named Christeene gyrates in front of us, wailing and spitting songs about sexuality and aggression, grinding herself into the bodies of her naked dancers. The lights are low. The tension is high. The room is on edge.

“Remember”, she says, eyes scanning like floodlights across the room – and here I paraphrase – “when you was a little kid, before the world was so confused? Before we all had these machines, walkin’ around with these damn machines, eyes glued to the machines, not lookin’ at people, not connecting, not talking – remember when you and your friends’d get on your little bikes and ride? And you’d ride out, out past the streets and the cities and out into the woods, to that place, that special place that only you knew about, where only they could find you? That one place where you knew you’d always be safe, always be supported, where no-one could follow you, no-one at all. You remember?”

She pauses, the air electric, the audience both repelled and compelled, hanging on her every word. Then: “This – here – now – what y’all are creating – this is that woods. And in here? You are safe.”

14/8 23.35: @chr_st_ph_r_ ❤ ❤ ❤ CHRISTEENE. @paulsoliel 

15/8 00.12: @paulsoliel such a fuggin cutie xxx

After the show.

The lights are on, harsh and halogen, and for an instant the magic has been dispelled. Her backup dancers – still clad in tiny g-strings – dash about on hands and knees, picking up bits of cabbage and rolls of toilet paper – now trodden and beer-soaked – that they’d thrown out over the audience during the opening number. And she is standing in the corner, downing the dregs of a drink, rubbish-bag in hand. I approach, nervous in my gait, a little tipsy, head spinning with sleaze and song and dark, bloody images of nature, machines, wild animals. She spots me; holds my gaze, and I speak:

“Hi.”

She smiles, still in character: “Hey y’all!”.

I reply: “That… that was fucking amazing. Thank you.”

Her smile falters for a second, genuine in its uncertainty, and I am shocked for a second as her hand shoots out to squeeze my shoulder; ragged nails scratching cross my naked skin.

“No. Thank you. Y’all gave me life tonight. I needed that. We all needed that.”

2.

Sometimes it’d be nice to know the right thing to do. Specifically, when I start to pick my activities based on what I think will make a good story: is that being a good writer, or a bad human?

3.

In conversation at the Traverse Theatre, an older American woman, permed burst of dyed-brown ringlets cascading across her sponge-cake face, sits forward in her chair and cuts off the panel adjudicator.

“I think,” she says, “the Fringe is getting muh-huch less daring. All there is these days is comics. I’ve been going here twenty-five years – twenty-five! – and the quality is just… different. It’s just a different thing. It’s getting worse. I saw a show, twenty years ago maybe, it was a musical. A musical, except all the actors were frogs. It was like The Scarlet Letter in Africa, with frogs. And another one called Snowshoe, and all that happened was a tiny clown man walked across the stage, freezing as it snowed, and at the end a huge spider-web descended onto the audience. Now all we have is just… stand-up comics.”

4.

Jenny Geddes is my new hero.

On a walking tour of Edinburgh we were thrown into a crash-course of Scotland’s vast and bloody history. Ms Geddes, it is alleged, was a market-trader with a frightful temper. When King Charles I came to power, he decided to introduce Anglican-style church services across the country – simply by commanding the churches to do so, and printing a new set of prayer books giving praise to the Archbishop. Upon discovering the new book, Jenny – a devout Presbyterian – exploded into such a rage that she picked up her stool and hit the minster in the face with it. This act caused a riot. Which then led to, among other things, the English Civil War.

What can we learn from Jenny Geddes? Wait until you see the whites of their eyes. If you’re going to throw something, have good aim. Violence mightn’t fix things, but it certainly gets shit done.

As she piffed the offending stool, she is reported to have screamed: “De’il gie you colic, the wame o’ ye, fause thief; daur ye say Mass in my lug?”.

Classic Jenny.

5.

The heart of Edinburgh lies somewhere in the tension between the new and the old. Ancient buildings, cobbled roads and houses, the rich and torrid history of a country fighting for independence – and Starbucks, Nando’s, McDonalds, strip upon strip of gaudy shopping malls.

Outside my bedroom snakes a dark azure canal; lapping and whipping with the Summer wind, and it’s all too easy to imagine wooden boats bobbing up and down or schools of fish darting erratically. Behind this canal sits a tower of modernity; flat-packed hostel apartments wrapped in gaudy prayer-flags like broken Christmas toys, shooting up over a bar that proudly advertises: “THE LADY-BOYS OF BANGKOK, RIGHT HERE, EVERY TUESDAY!”.

As a city, it’s alluring. You get up, out of bed, wipe away the sleep and detritus, grab a coffee and walk. You are surrounded by beauty and history, by age. Every local you meet has a story – a battle, a side, their own Jenny Geddes – and they’re more than happy to talk to you about it all. You notice that the seagulls are bigger here, and meaner, too. They stalk like mutant sea-ostriches across the tops of buildings and glare down at you; eyes watching, militaristically surveying their surroundings in search of… something. You don’t know what they want but you sort of wish they’d stop screaming.

You think to yourself that you wish Australia had such a weight, such an antiquity.

Then you realise that it does – only it’s all been eradicated.

6.

Sometimes it’d be nice to just walk down the street without having a flyer thrust violently in my face.

7.

I wake in fright, sweaty and gasping for air, hyperventilating, my mouth a desert, and in the pitch of the 3am blackness I’ve forgotten where I am. The nights are darker than anything I can remember, and quiet, a blanket of silence save for the occasional gust of screaming wind. Crawling dread, for a second, a split second, and then –

And then, I breathe. And I let it go. And, nothing.

8.

“The Australian Review suggested I might be a little aggressive. Do you think so? Sir, do you think so?”.

We’re sitting in a theatre, yet again, as a man in a red devil suit lounges on the floor, talking to another man who sits in the front row. The first man’s name is Red Bastard.

The man in the audience replies, nervous. “I… yes.”

“You do?”

“Yes. I do.”

“What’s aggressive about me? Huh?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“Your… demeanour, I guess.”

“Have you experience aggression, sir? In your life?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s a simple question, just tell me.”

“Yes.”

“What’s the most aggressive thing that’s happened to you?”

“I… I don’t –”

“Just the first thing that comes into your head. I’ll count down, and just say.”

“No, I –”

“3, 2, 1, go.”

A hush falls over the auditorium. Then, the man speaks:

“My father.”

9.

And we are forcing ourselves up, up and out, up and over, up and up, towards the highest peak of Edinburgh, clouds grey and fat and hanging low over our heads; the winds whipping cross our covered frames and a voice, a voice that rings consistent and loud in our collective heads: go higher, it says, higher – higher still. From up here you can see the world: the countless cobblestone houses, the “new” Edinburgh pumped fat and full with gorgeous capitalism, the pride of the nation – the castle, the museums, state buildings and theatres – and on a giant hill, miles away, the abandoned Pantheon, looming half-finished and uncomfortable over the city at large.

Higher; higher still. On we climb, the air thinning out around us, and the weather, more insistent and tumultuous, raging around our sopping frames as we huddle together, pushing on, higher still.

And ahead of us, a peak. A top. A view. And we stand, the five of us – five friends, spanning some six decades in total – all come together, admiring the view. Up here you can see for miles.

And in this moment I feel somehow that I am whole. I am part of something, a great and terrifying and somehow bizarrely comforting Other. Like minuscule ants on the precipice of being sucked into a gargantuan vacuum cleaner; I feel calm, confident, at peace… in the eye of the storm. But we are here, on top of the world, and we are together, the five of us, facing it at large for the briefest of seconds, five as one. And then we venture forward and off, off the precipice and down, into the dark, into the woods.

The woods, you see, are on top of that mountain. The woods are in your local bar; growing thick and green through the conversations and the friends you make. They’re in the pleasure you get upon first seeing someone you like. The smile of your lover. That girl or boy you’ve been endlessly flirting with. It’s in the phone-number of that barista you’ve been making eyes at; digits written surreptitiously on the side of your skinny latte. Or maybe they’re at the bottom of your local swimming pool; just waiting to be fished out. Or in the backseat of someone’s cum-stained Toyota. Or in your favourite karaoke song. Or that time you finally told that special someone exactly where they could shove it. The woods are wherever you want them to be, and for me, they are there – on that precipice.

And I think how lucky I am.

And I think how glad I am.

And I stand on that cliff; toes peeking over the edge, rock debris falling all around me.

And I take a deep breath – and jump.

1.

23:56. He’s lovely though, just talk to him, it’ll be fine. He won’t want it to be awkward.

23:57. Yeah I guess.
23:57. … … …
23:57. I just. Idk. Legit came out of nowhere. What is life. 

23:59. You can’t keep bottling this stuff up though! 🙂

00.04. I just hate this shit.
00.04. Like
00.04 I touched your sexy bits. At times with my face. You could at least give that face the time of day.

2.

At my peak fatness, I had tits. Not huge tits, but tits nonetheless. Tits that came together perfectly with the rest of my body, my awkward personality, whatever else, to form a giant target sign, hovering hard and cruel above me.

It’s Year 7, and one of the kids in my class is on a tit rampage – a real mean kid, tall and pinched and slapping me at every interval, grabbing and jiggling at every unavoidable, curvaceous fact of my body. The day wears on. With every hand that touches me a twisted little knot inside my chest tightens, growing and burning with a pure and unnerving vitriol, my consciousness descending slowly but surely into the depths of my mind. Slowly, surely, brain droning on autopilot, I pull out a 2B, insert it into my brass pencil sharpener and begin, methodically and obsessively, to twist it around.

At the front of the classroom our teacher stands, writing notes upon the whiteboard. Thirty minutes prior I had sat with my hand hovering in the air, trying to ignore the pain and shock ran rampant ‘cross my frame as, yet again, a ghostly pair of hands continued to reach out from the desk behind me to dig into my sides.

The teacher turns, and for a moment we lock eyes, and I try desperately to convey the situation in silence: Help. Help. You’ve got to help me. The hands reach out to slap at me again. A beat. The teacher turns, silent in his betrayal, and continues to write on the board. I drop my hand; let it falter.

I sit.

I wait.

For the umpteenth time that disembodied hand reaches out, this time for my shoulder. Inside me, the knot snaps. My world is all white and painfully bright, ears and eyes ringing with a pure violence and I understand in that second, that one, blissful second, how alone I am in this, pencil in hand, sharpener in other, shavings clinging to the wool of my jumper like gnats crawling over my body and – and –

And I whirl round, in one fluid movement, and bury that pencil inches deep into his thigh, snapping off the lead, the head of it left in the flesh of his leg.

Silence, now.

Blessed silence, and I am standing, broken pencil held tight in hand, the mist clearing from my eyes, lungs insistent and full, on fire, I’m on fire, and – and –

And there’s a boy next to me, a friend, face pale and shaking in shock, his leg pissing blood, hand still outstretched.

And behind me, the mean kid with the pinched face stands, eyes wide, mouth agape.

And to the side of me, my teacher, standing at the head of the class, whiteboard marker pressed limp to the board.

And I realise that I’ve made a terrible mistake.

3.

I stand dead still in a Carnegie supermarket, gooseflesh raising up the curve of my arm and up towards my hands, pressed cold to air-conditioned glass. In front of me, countless rows of ice-cream: sumptuous and dark, the fancy kind stuffed chock-full of chocolate-covered Guano coffee-beans and royal jelly honeycomb at twelve dollars a pop; the kind I’ll forever associate with parental dinner parties, my mother doling out matching frozen spheres drizzled with fresh berries and a pleasant smile, and – “more dessert wine, anybody?”.

As I stand a giddy piano refrain begins to flit tinnily out of the store’s P.A. system; a refrain that rings terrifyingly familiar. I’ve heard this before. Then:

“Makin’ my way downtown, walking fast, faces pass and I’m home bound.”

My body seizes. Deep within me a wave of emotion rises up, sick and hot and ridiculously, stupidly emotional.

“Staring blankly ahead, just making my way, making a way, through the crowd.”

My hand has grabbed tight and white hot onto the refrigerator’s handle and I’m bent over now, eyes burning with tears.

Da-nuh-nuh-nah-nah-nah nun. “And I need you.”

Fuck.

Da-nuh-nuh-nah-nah-nah nun. “And I miss you.”

Double fuck.

Da-nuh-nuh-nah-nah-nah nun. “And now I wooooonder – ”

I’m looking for an out, breathing hard, the air caught taut in my throat and choking, choking me, tears free-falling down my face, and the drop:

“If I could fall/Into the sky/Do you think time/Would pass me by?/Cause you know I’d/Walk/A thousand miles/If I could/Just/See-ayy/Yewww/Toniiiiiiiiight.”

I’m crying. To Vanessa Carlton. Oh, the shame.

A beat, and a timid hand, splotched with age but surprisingly forceful, snakes around my wrist. I turn, still crying, to face a veritable jellybean of a woman, about four and a half feet tall, dressed head to toe in royal purple, a felt hat with violet flowers perched jauntily upon her withered head.

“Excuse me,” she says.

“Yes?”, I manage, thankful for the contact, the support, that someone, somewhere cared enough to try and help me. She smiles, a warm and welcoming smile, and for a second, a single second, my heart lifts.

She speaks:

“I need to get to the ice-cream. Would you mind moving out the way?”.

Ten minutes later I am home, eyes stained red, box of wine in one hand and a tub of Connoisseur in the other.

My housemate, after a time: “You need to sort your shit.”

Me: “Yeah. …yeah.”

A beat, and he pulls out two wine glasses and two dessert spoons. Happy Saturday.

4.

My mother, at a full 10, running through the house, the oven on, pots boiling, half face of make-up, wrapped in a pink and fluffy nightgown.

“There’s three hours ‘till Christmas, can everyone PLEASE GET ON BOARD AND HELP ME.”

Me, ever the little shit: “It’s Christmas, stop being such a psycho!”

A pause. She stops dead in her tracks in front of me, eyes wide and shining on the verge of tears, mouth for a second – oh but for a second – twisting cruel and knotted into a grimace.

Then…

Then her face clouds over, crinkles, turns blank and pleasant, and she smiles.

“Christopher, could you please do me a favour and get ready? We’ve three hours ‘till guests arrive and I need you to set the table.”

5.

Our bodies slam together, hands insistent and exploratory, prospecting the lines and curves of each other’s bodies like two drunk, gay octopuses, lips smashed together and he’s pushing into me, his whole body onto mine, and we’re laughing, somehow, my brain at a million miles an hour: fuck the housemates this is great you’re so hot I didn’t expect this how does this happen I’m kinda lucky will anything come from this it doesn’t matter do I even like you it doesn’t matter shush touch the body –

He smiles, eyes twinkling in the dark of my bedroom, a few rays from the streetlamp outside shining through; illuminating his face.

“Kiss me,” he says, and I do.

A few days later, and silence, an awkward, heavy silence, an uncomfortable side-eye as we pass each other and a quiet, mutual agreement to let it be.

Part of me thinks: I’ve seen your penis.

A bigger part of me thinks: Yeah, and?

And then we sit, side by side, on a bed. It is midday. The sun is beating down in rays through his open window, the sound of birds and cars filtering through. Our hands sit together, not touching but close, painfully close, the errant hairs running ‘cross my fingers standing on edge as if craving human contact.

“We need to talk,” I say.

“We do?”, he says, voice genuine in its inquisition. He doesn’t know.

“Yeah,” I say, silent for a second as a sudden ball of emotion lodges itself in my throat, heart pounding, and: “Yeah. I really think we do.”

Here goes.

6.

That sweltering knot inside of me, rising up like anxiety on speed dial against my will, a cacophony of angst and emotional stupidity swirling violent through my brain, and I am marooned, staring blank at the shore and drifting, further, brain racing, a thousand miles.

Calm down. Think it through. Think it through. And then:

00.06. I think I just sensed his awkwardness and so responded in my typical fashion with more awkwardness.

00.07. Yeah totally.
00.07. … … …
00.07. So
00.07. So, are you gonna say something?