“Do you want another drink?” my friend, someone I’ve not seen in a few years, calls through the melee of people and voices and thumping music shaking the walls and floor and my very body.
“Yeah,” I reply, pulling a ten-dollar note out of my pants. The note is sweaty. My pants are sweaty. Everything around me is sweaty, it would seem, and we are two veritable human jellyfish squabbling through the thick and hot molasses of Sydney Summer air. I’m sweating just by existing.
My friend takes the note, crumples it up into his own jeans and turns sharply, his neck twisting behind me as he turns back and forth.
“Is that guy looking at me?” he asks, turning my face towards the offending “guy”, an older gentleman with a salt-and-pepper quiff, Clark Kent glasses and a veritable bush of chest hair poking out through his too-tight shirt. The guy sips his beer, runs his own hand through his hair and jolts awkwardly to the music.
“I don’t know,” I reply, feeling awkwardly out of sorts and hoping against hope that said guy won’t notice us, if only to avoid the awkwardness.
“He is,” my friend replies with a crowing confirmation, stepping backwards. “He totally is.”
I don’t know what to say.
“Cool,” I reply.
“Not cool,” said friend replies. “Weird! Super weird. This isn’t even a gay bar or anything. Don’t you think that’s weird?”
I still don’t know what to say.
“And his blog. I did a search the other night, and you are never mentioned in it. Not by name or any other reference. I thought the idea behind the blog was chronicling life and the things that happen in it. You apparently aren’t significant enough to have warranted a mention.”
I sit, stunned, pressing with angry insistence at the “down” button and reading onwards. There’s a lot I’d like to say, to give myself the right of reply, however, I can’t stop people having their assumptions.
Even if they’re wrong and paranoid, I think, bitterly.
“The whole self indulgent, ‘doing it for the art’ theatre lifestyle gets old very quickly.”
I promise myself to hit myself square in the face if I ever do anything “for the art”. I think of another text message sent – to my partner, not me – of how said partner is or was apparently nowhere to be found in the depths of this blog, not even under a nom de plume or simply nameless. I think of how this partner actually is in the blog but how I thought I’d be clever and not name him, how I wanted some level of privacy, of how sometimes, a private life is just that: private. And then I begin to wonder – as clever and “confessional” and so damn interesting as I thought I was, drawing stories from my own life, my dull, boring, unspiced life, have I invited a whole tonne of people in where perhaps I wanted just one or two people?
Maybe only one or two people did make their way in, I think, just only the crazies.
It is a house party, perhaps two years ago, and I am talking and drinking with friends; soaking up the atmosphere and having myself a whale of a time. Across the room we spot another friend of ours, Sarah, who, chatting away, slowly makes her way over to say hello. Sarah is doing a dual photography/writing project of her own devising entitled CLUTCH, where photos – mostly of humans we know – are paired with interesting, intelligent or elsewise humorous quotes. As she enters the stratosphere of our conversation, I sense the other conversationalists tense up both mentally and bodily, immediately wracking their brains for interesting, intelligent or elsewise humorous things to say; faces and arms and chins at right angles, playing in the light, attempting to make their silhouettes into photo-ready exhibition pieces.
She doesn’t even have her camera with her, I think, dripping with derision. Or a notebook or anything. She’s just here to enjoy the party. And then, shamefully, despite myself: What was that thing you said that made Trelawney lose her shit? That’d do. That’s quotable.
We’re drunk, now, walking home and my friend is – for once in the life of our friendship – far drunker than I.
“So,” he says, and stops, pinching the bridge of his nose as if to guide his feet across the pavement and over any tripping hazards. “So,” he repeats. “This is prob’ly a really lame question – no wait, fuck, it is really lame – but…” he fades in and out like faulty radio reception. “But how does someone get on your blog?”
“What?” I ask, dealing with my own tripping hazards and apparent disbelief. “What d’you mean?”
“Oh just like…” he trails off again, his reception obviously not dealing with the walk home or otherwise the whiskey and cokes that very swiftly put an end to our night. “…like, people are on it. Not all your friends, but some people.” The reception again.
“And what,” I slur, disbelieving. “You want to be on it?”
“Maybe,” he replies, suddenly playing coy. “I dunno.”
“It’s not a thing,” I try to explain, “Like, this week you’ll be featured. It’s just my own shit and occasionally other people feature if they like… affect me, or something.
Great. Stellar. Intelligent. Wordy.
“And I haven’t affected you?” the friend asks, raising his head.
The question that runs through my mind on a constant, then, is this: where do I stop?
Not as in, “where in life do I stop”. This isn’t an attempt at telling a cohesive narrative of my life (and shit, that’d be boring as hell) or getting from point A to point B. But more, when do I stop digging? What am I hoping to achieve? What have I done or others done that shouldn’t be said?
You explored your problems with alcohol, I think. And unrequited loves, countless adventures and affectations and lies and whatever else. You’ve painted yourself occasionally as an unforgivable arsehole. Is there anything you won’t explore?
Well, yes, but to speak of those things would open them up to conversation and speculation, which is exactly what I’m trying not to do.
The fact of it all is that, like cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and sex, there is something I’ve found definitely addictive about this. Not in the act of writing these things down, but in the sense where the Internet and anyone who stumbles upon these words becomes my therapist, my confessional, whether they like it or not. This has never been about other people, or even, more generally, directly about my life – that’d be fucking boring, and I’ll allow myself many a vice, but I won’t allow myself to be boring – it’s about me, the way I’ve interacted with the people that I love and like and dislike and hate, my remembrance. It’s less about the actuality of anyone – of myself, even – and more about the experience, the way in which somebody made me feel. And above all else, me asking as many have beforehand: why? And how?
Countless people have messaged me across the last year and a bit telling me how “brave” and “honest” I am, and while I very much appreciate these messages, whilst they bolster me, wholeheartedly, I don’t feel brave nor honest – I say what I need to say in a stream-of-consciousness word vomit, reread for grammar and spelling, then click “send”, post it online and forget that it exists. But I suppose, like the people plumbing the depths of these words for suspicious information about everyone I’ve ever met, it’s imperative that I remember that words have an effect.
So, where do I stop?
That is an excellent, loaded question. I’m using this, in a sense, to try and find out who I am, because I honestly don’t know. To try and tear myself apart and hold myself up to the light and examine myself. I’m getting closer to knowing, I think, but when I feel like I no longer need this – this anonymous word confessional, plumbing the dark and bitter depths of my psyche and attempts at humour – I will give it up, wholly and truly, like cigarettes and alcohol before it.