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Monthly Archives: March 2015

1.

It is 2AM and I am 21 and a handful of weeks old. I am lying in bed with my boyfriend at the time, a sad and dour young gentleman who proclaimed on the regular his love for me and his deep desire for marriage and a “forever” relationship. I stare blankly at the ceiling, perversely enjoying the sensation of my eyes adjusting, fighting against the darkness, trying for sight and failing. Beside me, the boyfriend snores and smacks his lips together like a dog in a cartoon, and even as I sink deeper into the monstrous pile of pillows beneath me I still hear the sound of his shallow sleep-breath: in and out, in and out, in and out.

I think of my attempts to cheer him up, each one more desperate and insistent than the last, so that they’d eventually devolve into me simply shaking him and screaming “IT’S OKAY. YOU’RE OKAY. FUCK, WE’RE OKAY, NOW BE HAPPY. BE HAPPY OR WE WON’T BE.” And I think of earlier that night, how my parents had chewed me out: “he hasn’t left here for seven weeks now,” Mum had said, “hasn’t he got a home go to?”

And of the afternoon after his birthday party a week prior, of my arriving home from work to find the bedroom still trashed, broken glass still jutting up from the floor, some kind of alcohol stain adorning my parents’ carpet and the boyfriend, sitting slumped in my chair, in the dark, unshowered and uncouth and ignoring the mess around him.

Lying beside me, the boyfriend, mid-sleep, rolls a hundred and eighty degrees and beings to snore, the reverberations oppressively loud against my skin as I press myself further into the pillows and beg whatever God there may be to bless me with sleep. And inside my chest my heart skips a beat, and out of that skip comes a message: pale and plain and written on lined paper, the kind you might find in high school or a shopping list or in in the imagined dream sequence you half-remember from a years-old incident. It reads:

THE SAD FACT OF LIFE IS THAT LOVE ISN’T ALWAYS ENOUGH.

2.

I am ten years old and sitting, terrified, in the front seat as my father drives with purpose through the cold night air. The radio is dead and so as he drives all I can hear is the mechanical orchestra of the city around me; a bevy of shrieks, whines, bangs and saws. I have been caught, some days earlier, with a large collection of receipts from the JB Hi-Fi down the street. The monetary damage printed on them had been quite severe. My parents, rightly so, had wondered: how, exactly, had I come across this money? I had stolen the money, to be exact. A shitty, impulsive, idiot child, I had seen fit to squirrel through my mother’s wallet while she wasn’t looking and take a fat and sweaty fistful of pineapple-yellow fifties. 

Abruptly, the car stops, and I jolt in my seat, the belt cutting high and hard across my chest and neck. I think for a second to complain, but, even with the idiocy of an eight-year-old would-be thief, I know better, and quash the urge.

Then, my father: “Get out.”

Fuck that, my brain screams. FUCK. NO. Or perhaps something with less advanced swear-words but the same amount of panic. He’ll leave you. Or hit you with the car.

And then, another voice:  Who’s to say you wouldn’t deserve it?

“No thank-you,” I say, voice tiny and timid and rodent-like, quavering in the dark and the cold of the night. My father is silent but the locks on the doors, which had previously been pressed down and locked (presumably to keep me from escaping) all spring up and open at once, making a terrible crack as they do. The message is clear. 

Knees and brain jelly, I extricate myself from the car and get out, leaving the front door open. My father points in front of the car as the high beams shudder on, bathing the scene in front of us with a cold, amber light. “Go on.”

I trudge roughly to the spot he’s indicating to, my knees underneath my school shorts rough and terribly cold, my whole body shaking. I look around – the ground (grey concrete), the sky (a black and unknowable mass), the alleyway walls (splattered with carefree graffiti) and the area behind me (covered with rubbish and huge black rubber bags; stinky and disgusting and feral). I wonder what the hell I’m supposed to be doing. Five, ten minutes pass, and then my father indicates for me to get back into the car. I do so. 

“That’s the kind of life that thieves lead,” he says. “The kind that ends up on the street. Alone.” Then: “Still want to be steal from people?”

And I am 19, now, standing in the JB Hi-Fi on Elizabeth Street. In front of me sits approximately two hundred vinyl records; a veritable feast of music. In my left hand, my phone. I check my bank balance, zombie-like, and read the numbers. They’re large. Certainly not large by today’s standards, but large for someone who’s never had a full time job before. I stare from the balance to the records, and realise that with this, my sixth paycheque, I’ve paid off all my debt, and that any of these two hundred musical items could be mine, if I want. Any at all. Another glance at the phone. The words seem to dance together: 

IT’S ALWAYS BETTER TO WORK FOR SOMETHING RATHER THAN TO JUST TAKE IT.

3.

And I am age 14, a veritable butterball, standing at the starting line at the St. Leonard’s Sports Carnival – masses of children and adults surrounding me, in the bleachers and the field, all adorned in the colours of the schools four ‘houses’: red, yellow, green and blue. I’m in the blue house and as such am wearing a dark blue polo top stretched unforgiving over my rotund body. A teacher blows a sports whistle and the other boys around me slide into position – their bodies lithe and practically perfect, bodies I won’t admit to myself I wish I had for another four years when I finally decide to do something about it. Another whistle – the second of three – and I myself slide into position, or attempt to, a bitter step behind my competitors. In front of me lies a circular kilometre of orange dirt and grand white lines painted perfectly across them to show the way.

The final whistle blow and we’re off; the other five boys and me, each of them zooming forward like a gazelle and me like rabid pug-dog, legs rotating wildly underneath me, none of my body seeming to move as fast as the effort I’m putting in deserves. Like the cartoon flamingos from Fantasia, the other five leap the first hurdle, gracefully, and I’m still attempting to lead up to said hurdle, my heart going a million miles apace and my pulse jolting wildly through my neck as I attempt to breathe. 

I stand, now, petulant and inexplicably angry – at myself, the world, my school, those other boys for being lithe and together and of course the goddamn motherfucking hurdles – and I stare at the first hurdle with disdain, the words OBSTACLE NUMBER ONE practically floating above it. If this was a book-reading challenge, I think, I’d fucking crush the competition.

Then, a sound from deep in the bleachers: honest and genuine and getting quicker and louder, the sound of someone, some other kid, taking pity on my fat form and inability to sports and clapping, clapping, clapping for me. Like an idiotic midday movie the clap spreads and grows louder and students are standing, now, all trying to encourage me, clapping along, whooping and hollering. Back then, at the time, my brain immediately twisted all of this, and decided, determinedly, that they’re all mocking me, every single now. Now I can see, of course, that they probably weren’t, but being a fat, shy, awkward teenager without many friends and a lot of dreams and a hateful brain didn’t exactly lead me towards the most logical assumptions. The crowd is going off now, still cheering me, and something inside me twists – a genuine change. My attitude? 

Nah. Arms jolting out in front of me, I shove the hurdle over, its painted face now in the dirt, an orange cloud of dust surrounding me as I step calmly over the wooden corpse. Fuck hurdles.

The cheering falters for a second, but rises again and it keeps up, dutifully positive, like: hey, at least you’re doing it, your own special way! Somehow this makes me angrier, like: I know I suck, I’ve shown I suck, I fucking suck, now won’t you please all just leave me alone? 

A whorl of dust swirls around my face, now, picked up from the wind, and in the Summer afternoon air, it says: 

SPORTS ISN’T FOR YOU.

4.

It’s night and I’m walking with my friend Kristen down a Middle Brighton Street. It is 2007 and I am 18, on the verge of 19, on the verge of legitimate thinness but still a bit bulky, and on the verge of (I hope, at the time) a burst of actual self confidence. Her phone rings, and she answers it:

“Hey. Hi,” she smiles warmly as we continue on. “Yeah great, awesome.” Then: “Me? Oh, not much, just on the way to something. I’m with my friend Chris.”

Silence, and her face falters for a second before continuing on with the conversation and chatting away. And she finishes, hangs up again, and says, brightly: “Oh, that was Travis!”

Me, mildly, shit-stirring though I know the answer already: “What did he say?”

“Huh?”

“After you said you were with me. What did he say? He said something about me, I could hear that much.”

“Oh…” then: “It was a question. He, uh, asked: ‘the funny one?’ …‘cause he didn’t remember you for a second.” 

I whirl around in the dark, incensed at his shallowness or that she’d lie to me though she’s only trying to protect me, incensed at my traitor body for weighing me down, emotionally as well as physically, and –

“That’s not what he said, okay? I heard it. Say it. I want you to say it.

I don’t quite understand why, but it’s inexplicably important to me, in the moment, that she say it, that she accept the actuality that her friend might be a little bit shit or a little bit biased or a little bit shallow. A second, then:

“Fat. He said “the fat one”.”

The words sting, and I nod. 

“And that’s how he remembers me.”

Six or eight months later and I’m thin, now, and at Kristen’s birthday, a “space rave” theme, donning gold leggings and a metallic mesh shirt and a healthy spray of eye makeup.

Kristen, now, not drunk but a few drinks down and happy that it’s her birthday, enjoying the ambience. “Guess who thinks you’re hot?”

I can’t. I haven’t accepted my new body (a path I still find myself on, but back then I hadn’t even gotten to the path) and still find it bizarre that someone would deem me “hot”. “I… I dunno,” I reply, taking a swig of some childish and sugary vodka drink – a Cruiser or UDL or something horrible and saccharine.

Travis!” she bursts out, smile bouncing round her face in amusement and slight confusion.

I blanche. “I… what?”

Then: I guess that’s what happens when you lose forty-five kilos.

Then Kristen’s voice rising up from the sludge of my memory: “The fat one.”

Then: No. NO. 

Fuck that guy.

Then the crumbs surrounding the piece of birthday cake I’m holding on a paper plate seem to move, to spell something out, and I’ve lost the taste for cake, indeed for anything sweet or fattening or anything at all. I catch a sight of the crumbs as I return the plate to a nearby table. They say:

PEOPLE ARE SHALLOW, BUT HEY, THAT’S LIFE.

5.

I’m 19, still, some weeks later and walking aimlessly through a Middle Brighton mini-mall – the supermarket, then the bookstore, then the news agency, and then the supermarket again. I have a job interview, but not for half an hour. In my sheer paranoia, of course, I’ve arrived mightily early.

“Hey,” a voice nearby exclaims, and I look up; pull out my headphones. A boy about my age, maybe a couple of years older, stands casually, leaning against the wall of the mall. “D’you know the time?

“1.30,” I say, wishing it was two already, my fear of this job interview rising interminably with every passing minute. 

“Thanks,” he says, and kicks himself off the wall; walks away. I move to his spot and lean. The walking is making me more nervous, somehow.

There’s a slow and conspicuous creak as the door in front of me jolts open wide. Shit, I think. I did not realise that was a bathroom. And another man – donning business attire and not unattractive, a square face and strong, stubbled jaw below the buttery curls of a sheep or other animal –  sticks his head out, looks around as if to check the coast is clear.

“Hey,” he whispers to me and licks his lips like a not unattractive version of the cartoon Big Bad Wolf. And again: “hey, kid.” He motions with his head to inside the bathroom; his eyebrows raise and he motions a fold in his black suit pants, his not unattractive, unhidden and bulging agenda.

I frown, trying, slowly, idiot, to put two and two together. Suddenly it all clicks. His face is twisted in questioning for news of his fate and I am stuck stock still, caught in confusion and terror, my heart beating hard away in my throat.  

Then: “Wanna have some fun?”

I’ve never heard that terminology before but it sticks, foreign and seedy and sweaty in my brain.

I wish I could say that I didn’t follow him. That I walked away and waited, calm and sombre in the afternoon sun, and thought of this job interview, and prepared myself, and reigned in my fear and learned to calm the fuck down. But I was half an hour early for an interview, palms sweaty and freaking out, and fun – even that kind of fun – is pretty good for making you relax.

But hey, he wasn’t unattractive.

THE RUMOURS ARE TRUE: GAY PEOPLE TOTALLY DO IT IN PUBLIC BATHROOMS.

6. 

From age 15 to 18 – the Main and Important years of high school – I held a deep and bitter unrequited love with a popular, sports-loving straight boy at our school. How times have changed. I also had a Livejournal and spent many a teenaged night reading through the chronicles of other people’s journalled lives. Somehow it made me feel comforted that somewhere, in some other country in the world, thousands of kilometres away, there was someone with a username just as lame as mine going through something just as lame as me.

One weekend, after a particularly whiny Unrequited Love Journal Entry – there wasn’t any poetry but there may have (definitely) been song lyrics both Deep and Meaningful, and lamentations, and declarations that I would never, Never, get over this, and that only at night, when my imagined dream version of this boy would hold me, could I be happy – another user – JetWolf – leaves me a comment.

The comment reads as such:

“You’re making this up to be much worse than it actually needs to be. Trust me, if in three years – or two, or one! – you still actually feel like this, come look me up. Seriously. I’ll buy you dinner and apologise.”

And below, not a comment but true and honest just the same:

CRUSHES DON’T LAST.

That, and:

GET THE FUCK OVER IT, YOU WHINY HOMO, IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.

2009. I have just set up my Facebook profile, and straight popular boy is one of my suggest friends I can “connect” with. I’m looking through the options, attempting to finish the set-up, and there his face is, spot-free and typically handsome like white bread. I pause, for a second, the cursor hovering over his face.

He’s not my friend, I think. Why would I add him? 

7.

Oh, shit, I’m still working on this one, I guess.

YOU DON’T NEED TO BE SOCIALLY AWKWARD; PEOPLE AREN’T OUT TO GET YOU AND YOU’RE NOT A SHIT HUMAN.

8.

“You might not get to a hundred percent again,” my psychologist says as I sit in her office, already tired of talking about this. “90 percent is more likely. 90 or 95 or 85 or round about. That’s just the nature of recovery – you’ve had a very serious injury and people don’t always recover as well as you have.”

95 percent, I think, immediately focusing on the highest number possible, holding on for dear life, not that I can really recognise or realise where I’ve been diminished, anyhow. That’s not too bad. I guess. I think. I hope.

Outside of the office, a young man in a wheelchair and hospital gown is wheeled forward by his parents. Jutting out from his neck is a long metallic rod, and his mother (I think) is careful to make sure it doesn’t hit anything as they pass.

It’s seven months since, and maybe because of everything that happened, of this perceived disadvantage, I’ve written two new plays, written and submitted ten or fifteen or twenty new applications (not that I’ve heard back from any, and certainly not that I expect them to be successful, but I DID them, is the point) had two public play readings and developments of my work, and met a whole bunch of new people. I truly believe that, had I simply returned to Sydney, I wouldn’t have achieved any of this, but it’s the determination not to waste a year that’s made me, as much as I possibly can, get shit done.

 95 IS THE NEW 100 PERCENT.

1.

I am 19 and lying on my single bed wrapped tight around the body of my first boyfriend with all the grace of a particularly eager anaconda. I’m approximately four minutes worth of song away from losing my virginity; the awkward elbow attacks and skin and sweat slicked tight passing for dramatic and legitimate romance; everything feeling illicit and mildly terrifying, true, but not so terrifying that my brain starts to panic.

Above me sits my record player, and resting in that record player, my first record, a copy of Patrick Wolf’s Wind in the Wires. The needle moves across as the music plays, sliding into the album’s title track; the music grabbing hold of the entire experience and cradling it, making it a real life Indie Music Daydream.

He smiles at me – this is about two years before our relationship’d go to utter shit, here, so still a genuine smile that lit up his eyes and face – and slowly, tentatively, grabs my hand, pushing it down the crevasse of his pants.

I pause, the hairs on my neck rising up and shuddering as the music continues and I flail around in the compartment of his underpants.

Oh, I think. So that’s what a penis feels like.

2.

At age 15 – a young, obese, awkward teenager on the cusp of embracing his homosexuality – I lived as most young awkward gay teenagers do: online. These were the days of MSN and ICQ, of Winamp, of authoring awkwardly lame fan fiction, of customizable Windows ’98 comic book character themes and tentatively, awkwardly typing into Google: “shirtless men” while your heart raced apace, threatening to explode right out of your chest. While doing one of the above – for about a year I worked unabashedly on an incredibly terrible fan fiction continuation to Stephen King’s It, also featuring Freddy Kruger, Chucky the killer doll and all of my friends, so it was probably that – an MSN window would pop up.

Hiya!

Then: How’re you going? What’s up?

This was (is) Jude, an online friend I’d made through a real life school friend, Rihana. Jude lived (lives) in Brisbane, and is of the same social and sexual persuasions as I am, so of course we made fast friends. As well as finding myself on the verge of confronting my sexuality, I also found myself on the verge of my first childhood crush. I couldn’t explain it – having never seen the boy or met him beyond MSN and that bastion of social introductions and excitement, Live Journal – but every time that MSN window’d chime and pop up, my heart would begin to beat faster and I’d find myself grinning like a loon at nothing much in particular. I felt, as one often does in the throes of an innocent, unfulfilled crush, the strange desire to impress him; to come off as an Intelligent and Intellectual and Humorous Young Gentleman. This mainly came down to quoting song lyrics in your Live Journal entries and taking attempted “artsy” photos that would, a few years later, be rightly and bluntly classed as “emo”. I type, the pounding in my heart leading me away from the mounds of year 10 homework that await me:

Not much. You?

…. Jude is typing a message …

Be cool, I think. Cool as a cucumber. But funny. A funny, cool, cucumber. You can do that, can’t you?

He replies, and a mildly insane idea pops into my skull. Be romantic. Romance! You can do that, can’t you? (The answer to that question, FYI, is “no, I couldn’t”, and indeed, “no, I still can’t”). My Winamp – an eclectic mix of Black Eyed Peas pre-Fergie, Green Day, Garbage, No Doubt and Marilyn Manson – spits out a Manson song. “Coma Black”. Long, slow and dreary as fuck. That’s romance, my brain pipes up. I think. Possibly. Try that maybe?

I jump in and type: This song reminds me of you.

Next to my display name is: Now Playing: Marilyn Manson – Coma Black.

Coma Black by Marilyn Manson, I add, if there’s any doubt. It’s really good.

An excruciating pause.

… Jude is typing a message …

Oh 

Dickhead. I’m a right dickhead. “Hey, I really like you, you remind me of this song about suicide and drug overdoses!”

Thanks, I think! I haven’t heard much of his stuff actually, but if you say it’s really good, I believe you 🙂 

3.

“That was really good, well done,” Rihana’s mother smiles, slight pity creasing across her face. “Shame we had to see the angry inch, though.”

To cap off Year 12 and encourage us all to really engage with the arts in the Best Way Possible, my school had held a performance night where any student who wanted to do an act could do one. Of course, I did one – convincing Rihana and a few of her friends to start a band with me and perform Wig in a Box and Angry Inch from Hedwig and the Angry Inch as my backing band (my singing voice has declined since then but it was, at that point in my life, probably the best it had ever been). They’d agreed and we’d rehearsed, I’d brought the sheet music to my singing teacher, too, and Rihana had taken care of my makeup and styling, everything coupled with a shake-and-go blonde wig I’d bought from EBay.

The actual performance had gone out without a hitch, I’d thought, until speaking to Rihana’s mother and realizing, rather quickly, that I’d worn boxer shorts and a tartan skirt, and done a whole host of high kicks. Oh Jesus. The entire year level had received an unfortunate flash of my genitalia slapping around both in and out of the confines of said boxer shorts and tartan skirt.

“I… what?” I reply, not quite ready to express out loud the realization I’ve just had. My skin is somehow both on fire and doused in ice-cold water at once.

“HEDWIG”, yells a classmate as he tackle-hugs me from the side. “Well done buddy,” he grins.

“Thanks,” I reply, and then, a second realization: it’s just genitalia, and hey, it doesn’t really fucking matter. What I take away from that night is nothing about proper crotch-coverage or embarrassment or appropriate underwear to couple with your ugly tartan skirt. What I take away is that feeling of accomplishment, of excitement, of sheer freedom: of standing on that stage singing Wig in a Box backed up by a band of your peers; of deciding you’ll do something and straight-up going and doing it.

4.

We are sitting on the couch at my parents’ house, him in tears, me not, as Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism blasts out. He cries:

“I’m… I’m… I think I’m falling in love with you, Chris.”

I blanch, and attempt to look surprised or excited or however the fuck one’s supposed to look in these situations.

“I…” pause. Pause. Pause. “I… I’m falling in love with you, too.” Lies. All lies. The lies of a terrified uncertain young gay boy who doesn’t really know how to do this, if he’s being honest.

He cries more, and hugs me tighter. Then: “Well then this can be our song. This can be ours.”

My arms hang limply around him as I nod in numb agreeance, ignoring the fact that he can’t even see said nod. My brain screams at me loudly. The hairs on the back of my neck rise up in protest and warning. I force myself to properly hold him. I think again that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I really, really don’t.

On the stereo, Death Cab sing: “I need you so much closer.”

5.

I sit stock still in my seat, quietly enjoying the standard shudders and rattles of the plane as it takes off on its way towards Melbourne. I am on my fifth journey back home. My reactions to the experiences of this journey became ROTE some time around the second interstate journey to and fro, and I feel, blithely, that nothing could surprise me. Not anymore.

The plane evens out and, like clockwork, I press “play” on my new iPhone 6. The humming electricity of strings fill my ears: Owen Pallet’s I Am Not Afraid. If this is the eighth or ninth journey either to or from Sydney, then this is the eighth or ninth time I’ve listened to this song suspended in midair. I listen to this song because I am afraid, and fairly certain I’m the least stable I’ve been in my life bar that super depressive stage I fought through at age 15. Afraid of what, I’m uncertain, but the fear is there: fear at leaving Sydney, fear at coming back to Sydney, fear at staying in Sydney. Fear, fear, fear. This is my war cry to myself; my half-arsed, desperate attempt at snapping myself out of it.

Psychiatry would’ve probably been a better choice.

6.

2014, still. The tension is high, running electric through my body, and I stalk through the streets of Edinburgh, ear buds jammed in. Christeene – “Damn’d Right” – the mononymous drag terrorist slams her patented brand of brash electronica into my ear holes as I walk, filling me to the brim with false grandeur and attitude. I am a day or two away from actually meeting Christeene herself.

I am flying again, this time from Heathrow airport to Berlin, and Christeene plays again; musical gyrations tempered with glee and dirt, slapping me ‘cross the face and grabbing my by the neck and screaming at me to go out and seize it – no matter what “it” is, I should still go and fucking well seize it. I think as I wait of meeting Christeene, and then Paul – the “man behind the mess” – and of how intense and confronting the performance had been; how taken aback my classmates had been, how I’d moved closer to the stage, grinning like a lunatic at the heady beats and synchronised obscenity before me while everyone else in the room moved further away. I think how she hit me like a brick wall, and how, more than anything, that was what I wanted to do to people who came to see my own work.

And I think of how astounded we were: for a group of writers, engaging with theatre show after theatre show, Christeene’s patented brand of filth had held some of the best and most accomplished writing we’d seen across our fortnight, and there, lying in the filth, laid something that I wanted to challenge myself with: to write as she did, not in an imitation of her or her style, but something with the same energy. Live, visceral, fearless and above all, fucking dangerous. We had gone headfirst into the woods. We were lost, but connecting for once – to ourselves and to each other; soaring above, wild and free, as each of us accepting the challenge that Christeene had, perhaps unknowingly, laid down for us.

7.

It is some time in 2006. I am 18 and sitting on MSN, as one does, talking to my friend Sienna (an effortlessly cool girl, it’d seem, who shaped much of my music tastes as they now sit).

Hey, can you answer me something? I’m trying to figure out if this guy’s gay, she writes.

Not that it matters anyway, but I have a crush on him and it’d be nice to be validated.

And below this, a link to “Overture,” a song by Patrick Wolf. This will be the second time I’ve heard a song of his, not that I remember the first one at this time, anyhow. I don’t know if he’s gay or not, but I do know, now, as Wolf dances and sings in honeyed tones, his dyed-red hair flipping debonairly across his face, that Sienna’s not the only one with a crush.

It is early October last year. I am sitting with Jeremy and my parents on the brink of an international flight. We have finally escaped Berlin. There are some ten hours of flying ahead of us. My body aches, but doesn’t scream like it used to, still as hurt and bruised as my ego and brain. I’ve been here for six or seven weeks, I think – I haven’t kept count, in fact, found it impossible to do so with the drugs I’d been pumped full of and the traumatic amnesia (not that I’m not thankful for the drugs; they took the pain away, put me to sleep when I needed and helped me otherwise). My body and brain and reflexes are better than they were in early September, but still a shadow of what they were pre-accident.

Gingerly, I place my ear buds in. I haven’t listened to music for nigh on two months (bar unrecognizable jingles on the television and an incident I don’t remember where I’d apparently gotten angry that my parents couldn’t find Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains” on my phone). For someone who uses music as means to shut out the world at large, it’s been a hard two months on top of the whole ‘hospital’ thing.

My fingers pause in midair, shaking with fear and speculation and an aching and tiredness of a much older man than myself. It occurs to me that for the first time in my life I’m completely unsure of what song to play; what best to compliment my mood or what best to kill the expanse of flight time in front of me. My thumb rests above the “shuffle” button, mindlessly caressing the air and strangely terrified to commit and press it.

Okay, I think. Whatever you listen to, when you hit the “play” button, if it feels normal; if it feels like you’re back in Melbourne or Sydney and safe and secure and together again?

A pause, then: If it does this, you’ll be okay. No matter what else, you’ll be okay.

The fear again like a knife buried deep in my guts and twisting, and before I can properly freak out, my thumb darts down of its own accord and hits play.

The song hits me like a freight train, the tune and vocal warmth solidifying around me, wrapping me up with warmth and geniality. Another first: for the first time in my life I’m having an emotional reaction to the music; big fat dumb tears rolling down my face as my body shakes and laments despite itself. Patrick Wolf’s “Overture”.

I stare out the window; pitch black but for a collection of tiny lights like fireflies on the ground – and far off, maybe an hour or two into the future, as we finally leave my time in Berlin behind, sits kilometres of ocean, black and unknowable and still and calm, it looks like: calm and blessedly inviting. I want, for a second, to plunge out of the plane headfirst, to dive in and let it engulf me, head to toe in pure blackness deeper than anything I’ve ever felt, to feel nothingness, real and knife-pointed nothingnessI came close, I say to myself, but was it close enough?

And then the strings and the harp and Wolf’s honeysuckle tones, comforting and genuine and beautiful in their simplicity. I haven’t noticed it, not properly, but I’ve stopped crying: sitting half asleep in my airplane seat, the quiet hum of the engine mixed with the quiet breathing of the Jeremy sleeping next to me, and Patrick’s voice, and the realisation, small and soft and filling me up with warmth from head to toe:

I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.

1.

Like superstitions of old, my body is stuffed full of aches and pains, some that seem to get worse each time I’m about to cross a busy road. I’m aware, of course, that these are bruises of the mind, not of the body, purely psychological, but this doesn’t mean they hurt any less. As I began to meet and engage with the poor souls who were less lucky than I, my list of pervading injuries reads like a whining high school student complaining about meaningless chores; these small yet daily reminders that yes, my body did something it shouldn’t have done, and yes, I came out alright. My list of infirmities (though I occasionally find more):

A List Of Totally Serious, Painful Ouchies That Really Hurt, Sometimes, Coupled With Other Broken Bits:

– My legs – particularly my thigh muscles and hamstrings – are shorter than a midget who’s also the runt of the litter. As such, things like

– existing

– sleeping

– walking

are hard to do without stabbing pain. Partly this was to do with the two months spent horizontal, but also partly because I started going to the gym and never stretched once. So really, it’s my own fault (like the car thing but more directly, I feel). The car & hospital simply set it all off.

– My neck – I find it nearly impossible to properly look behind me left or right without doing a Michael Jackson-esque turn on the spot. Attempting to turn my head otherwise results in a whole lot of stabbing pain and a weird clicking noise.

– My gum on my top right side has a tiny bubble that appears to be linked right in to my nerves. It hasn’t healed since September, but I sure wish it should. Oftentimes I forget it’s there, and then I’ll get stabbed in it – usually by something laughably soft like a strawberry, banana or poached chicken – and be reduced to a blubbering mess.

– My left pectoral muscle – about an inch above the nipple and perfectly adorned are a set of five circular lily white scars. This is from my mindfucked time in the hospital spent attempting desperately to escape and rip the cords and monitors out of my flesh.

– My jaw – broken, twice, but healed, thankfully. It still makes a disconcerting clicking sound if I’m eating something wide or giving someone head or yawning, and with said sound it slides out of place and then back into place.

– My skull – fractured rather badly, but possibly healed? Time, I suppose, will tell. That or my skull bursting open like the victims of one of those chestburster variants in Prometheus.

– My eye – in life’s cruel joke my sight was fine for the first few weeks of hospital (the ones I can’t remember) and then my body saw fit to pull it up and out. Now it’s lazy, and everyone looks like a 3D movie without the glasses, at least until I’m wearing glasses (fake plastic ones with scotch tape on them. Not the most medical, but they do the trick).

– My emotions – are pretty screwy, but I’m working on it. For the most part my brain sees fit to now give me panic attacks in large groups of people. I feel like this is God or some higher power punishing me for mocking all the undergraduate wankers who’d moan like a tumblr-blog come painfully to life: “I’m being triggerrrrrred” at the drop of a hat because a hat was dropped while they saw someone dear to them being murdered, probably.

These are all very dealable, and are mine alone to deal with – after all, I got myself into this situation, so I’ll get myself out – my intention in listing them is not to evoke sympathy, simply to take stock of where I am, and where I was, and where I want to be. As one would expect, this accident has changed me, and not necessarily only in physical ways.

2.

At age eighteen, I was convinced, as most eighteen-year-olds are, that I had the world figured out, A-Z, top to bottom. I thought, in ways I can now see eight years on are kind of idiotic or at least slathered thick with denial, that I was That Friend. Everyone knows That Friend, and everyone at least has one. That Friend is sharp, witty and sassy. That Friend is a bitch and will tell you what’s what without fear or distraction. That Friend won’t judge you but will give their opinion whether you like it or not – and chances are, if you don’t like it, you don’t like what you’re doing, so. That Friend cares for you too much to just sit by and blindly agree, and That Friend only spends time with those that she or he find appealing or interesting. That Friend is usually assigned by a silent jury of appreciative and awe-struck friends.

I can state unequivocally and rather bluntly that I was not That Friend (no matter how much I wished I was). I was overflowing with fear like a tap turned on full; fear cascading out of my every pore and every word I’d speak. I was afraid. Afraid of myself, afraid of others, afraid of what might be and what might not. It’s already been listed earlier in this blog and I don’t have any interest in going over it again, but there you go.

Now, I am not afraid. Not beyond the reasonable amount of regular fear that every human being feels and addresses. I’m not Superman, either, but I can identify my fear and name it, and that’s one of the most freeing things I’ve ever been able to do. Similarly, like the fabled That Friend, I’m certain now to only spend time with those that I find appealing or interesting. Certainly, some friendships may fall to the wayside when our lives go down different paths, but there are a great deal of others that I no longer have room for. You come that close to dying, you very quickly lose interest in propping people up or stroking egos. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

3.

Facebook status March 2nd, 2015, at 6.42 PM:

“Was just in my parents’ car as the mirror was side-swiped clean off due to someone’s ill timed door-opening, aaaaand, yep, whether I’m in the car or in front of it I have definitely had enough of car accidents (even tiny ones) to last a goddamn lifetime. I would like for my heart to stop freaking out now, please. Is this what war vets feel?”

This is certainly a ridiculous paranoia but in a lot of senses, it’s an earned one. In the seconds as my parents car pulled over and broken glass rained down onto the road, I had split second flashbacks to an incident I don’t even truly remember while my heart spasmed out of my ribcage and my palms immediately excreted a good few teaspoons of sweat.

The status itself was my attempt to make light of the situation. I don’t know if it worked. A friend:

“That’s a joke, yeah? Were you actually scared by it? Just make sure you don’t make those kind of jokes too often. You don’t want to seem like you’re attention-seeking.”

4.

The atmosphere is loud and strangely violent as I sit with my friend, Julia-Rose. It is last week. I am 26. We are in a pub and it’s going off for a weekday afternoon, so much so that both Julia-Rose and I need to raise our voices to engage in regular conversation. The opportunity to catch up with people from school, to actually catch up with them, and especially those who were around when it happened – though Julia-Rose was only in Edinburgh, not Berlin, her presence was felt and she was definitively on the journey with us.

“It just felt like,” Julia-Rose says. “Edinburgh was where we finally got each other and actually became friends. And then everything that happened in Berlin; I just felt…” she pauses; eyes downcast as she swills her drink around.  “…it just felt like it was unfair. For us to finally be friends, and to have that just ripped away, y’know?”

I know.

There’s a certain kind of person who deals well with these sorts of things, and I’ve been lucky enough to call a bunch of these people my friends. As I was finally repatriated back to normal life, the English-speaking world and English-speaking internet, a selection of these people made themselves quietly and firmly available – many of whom I didn’t expect. You may not know it, or mayhaps you do, but every word of support, every dumb Facebook “like”  or comment or coffee or any other modicum of encouragement, cyber-based or real-life, every single act went some ways towards rebuilding me as a person. Fear would slide in during the night and attempt to smother me while I slept, on the regular, but it was and is these examples of fortification and love that have helped to pull me out of this black mire; this weight of sadness and weakness. To these people – the Julia-Roses of my world –  I just have to give my heartfelt thanks. I have nothing intensely poetic or dramatic to add, I only want to say thank you.

5.

In 2010 a good friend of mine named Stuart passed away at his own hand. I have gone into this previously, but one of the most bizarre and infuriating fallouts from this act was the reactions – suddenly, everyone was his best friend, everyone wondered if they could’ve saved him, everyone wondered why he hadn’t let them in, what had they done?

In the days that followed this act – the long, slow, sad and drunken days – Facebook became a sort of festering breeding-ground for these thoughts, for everyone to scream to the world in letters a quarter of an inch high: “I LOVED HIM MOST”, “I KNEW HIM BEST” and, hence, “I HAVE BEEN HURT THE MOST BY THIS.”

After my repatriation, I was able to experience this for myself, about myself – a bizarre online eulogy, chock-full of people’s opinions on what’d happened, how I was faring, how I might fare. In a sense, I’ve been able to see for myself a slice of my own cyber-eulogy, and people spurting out the above in their own manner – questioning, sympathetic, genuine or elsewise. I’ve left the Facebook message stream, now, but about a month’s worth of messages sits there, tempting me, begging for attention, and in the darker moments, I give in and reread them. What I’ve realised now is that they don’t offer me anything, anymore – support or anything else. If anything, all they do is show me what it’d have been like to be someone in my life – legitimately or tangentially – around that time.

6.

In whatever way I’ve arrived at where I am today, I feel I’ve somehow managed to bolster and ground myself, moreso than ever before. If 2014 Chris was anxious, paranoid, semi-alcoholic Chris, then 2015 Chris is… someone I’m still working out, but is a damn sight more stable and grounded. I have no interest in indulging myself or anybody else. I don’t believe that I ever had an interest in indulging myself, but now I do have an interest in becoming the person I actually want to be, and past Chris would certainly let himself indulge these puerile emotions. Beyond anything else, that car smashed a tonne and a half of emotional bravery and maturity into my broken body, and I think that I still need more, but it’s a start.

For now, let it simply be said that I  am done. Done with the bullshit, the insincerity, the social uncomfort, and, yes, the car crash itself. No more jokes. No more relying on it. No more being defined by it, in the eyes of others or my own. I’ll feel what I need and discard what I don’t. Love who I need to love, and reject my fear of rejection. My broken bones have healed, and my emotional backbone has a backbone, now; I’m fortifying myself for better or worse, and not in a way where I’m hiding or frightened, anymore, but in a way where it’s legitimate – where I know who I am, I know what I want and need to do, and I go out, and I do it.

And maybe, instead of fear, somewhere, someone saysthis is who I was, and, this is who I am, this is what I know, and, this is what I want to know, and then, best of all: this is who I want to be. And maybe we could achieve that, all of that. Maybe we could do better – or maybe we could try.”

I’m stealing from myself, here, but if I’m truthful, this is the first time I’ve legitimately felt like this. Like the world itself really is open, truly open: maybe not to do or be anything, but certainly to aim high and proud; to centre my body, to aim it where I want to end up and to give it all my best fucking shot.