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Monthly Archives: May 2015

1.

“Celebrity worship syndrome is an obsessive-addictive disorder in which a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity’s personal life. Psychologists have indicated that though many people obsess over glamorous film, television and pop stars, the only common factor between them is that they are all figures in the public eye.”

It is 2011, and I am standing in the Monash University Museum of Art, inspecting the works that surround me and trying to find the collection I’d actually come for (a controversial selection of coloured feces covered in resin and made into jewelry entitled A Shit For Every Chakra with an accompanying video-loop of the artist chugging dye and defecating colors onto chakra shrines. This was all a work by Georgie Mattingley, a girl I’d went to school with). Before I encounter Matttingley’s work, I am struck by a series of life-sized paintings in bold primary colours of Paula Abdul grinning toothily and looking seductively over her shoulder. Next the paintings of Abdul are more paintings of a woman I don’t yet know: a woman dressed in hot pink with waist-length brown hair and a determined look of her own; eyes seeming – although they’re only paint – to buzz out of her skull with excitement and anger and determination and general chutzpah.

I read the tiny plaque next to the work:

On November 11, 2008, Paula Goodspeed (nee Sandra) took her own life outside of Paula Abdul’s house. Before this she was ridiculed on American Idol, a show she’d auditioned for in the misguided belief it’d get her closer to her idol, Abdul. Before this, she was taken in for questioning by local police for claims of stalking and reportedly sending pages of flowers, underwear, and life size portraits of Abdul to Abdul herself. I was fascinated by the intrinsic tension between the two women and the intense, suicidal, hero-worship.

Later. Several hours later. I lie awake in bed, unable to sleep and thinking of Goodspeed.

That’d make a good play, my brain says.

The next day, I somehow stumble from Goodspeed’s story onto the Wikipedia page of Amy Fisher, the “Long Island Lolita”, who stalked and nearly killed the wife of her mechanic over an obsessive crush. What follows is a trip down an obsessive rabbit-hole that would’ve impressed even Fisher herself. I become determined to learn as much as I possibly can about both Goodspeed and Fisher’s lives and motivations.

2. 

I am sitting at a plain white desk in the plain white office in which I work, simultaneously attempting to write and attempting to not be distracted by my paranoia that the phone will ring and I’ll have to start actually doing some work.

I stare at the plain white computerised page in front of me and sigh to myself; uncertain. Then I open up a Google search bar and type: “PAULA (SANDRA) GOODSPEED,” and click search.

Within five minutes I’ve found my way to her personal MySpace blog. What strikes me most as I continue my search is how intense the public declarations of love and loss are, given they’ve come from the same collection of people who, a year earlier, would’ve been the ones encouraging her to take her own life.

3.

“Oh, but it’ll be funny,” my friend Kaitlyn says, taking a drag of her cigarette. It’s mid-winter and we’re standing in the cold talking about life: in my case, telling her of the stories of both women and the play I’ve just started writing.

“Well…” I say, still caught in the insistent delusion of a young writer; that comedy is a dirty word and somehow ‘lesser’. “Not specifically. Like, it’s not meant to be a comedy.”

“It will be,” Kaitlyn says, taking another drag.

The play, of course, is certainly comedic in a lot of ways, and that’s okay. Fuck okay, that’s a little bit wonderful.

Aside from being comedic, the play itself is a hot mess, with scenes and moments that excite me but an overall structure and intent that seems wrong and obvious, and I can’t figure out why. Not why it’s a hot mess; more how to assemble and write it so that it’s not a hot mess. The project, it seems, is over my head: I know what I want to say but not how to say it.

4.

It is 1AM and I am drunk – fucking drunk, smashed, in fact, a ridiculous mess and wholeheartedly feeling the recent breakup I’ve had foisted upon my person. I have an exceptionally large rum and coke in my left hand, and my right hand is doing some sort of epileptic dance; a shudder across the keyboard in front of me. It types: “PAULA GOODSPEED AUDITION.” In one fluid movement I scull the drink and hit pause on my laptop’s sound system – Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, the 2012 sad anthem for drunk and insecure faggots everywhere.

My finger hovers over the button as I look at Goodspeed’s pixelated face, mid-note, eyes and mouth wide and desperate as she sings her heart out in front of her hero.

And I press play.

5.

It is 2014, now, and we have just finished our second term of our NIDA course. This holidays, I think to myself, I should get some writing done. Like I’ve done none all term. A play that’s not about Charles Manson – how novel.

As the first week of holidays begin, I sit down and begin to write what very quickly becomes a new draft of Home Invasion. This time, I’m on the front foot: I know what I’m trying to say, how I’ll say it, and why.

Come Friday – a mere four days later – and I have the first (re)draft completed.

6.

And then the car crash, and the near death, and everything that happened in Germany.

While I was in Germany, still in an induced coma – long enough for word to have spread to Australia, but evidently not long enough for the coma-inducing drugs to work their way out of my system – my friend Daniel had met with Liz Jones, the artistic director of La Mama Theatre, to discuss a play he was interested in directing; one I’d also written. They weren’t so interested in that play, but my name struck a bell.

“So you know Chris Bryant?” Liz had asked. “We’ve received a play of his called Home Invasion,” – I’d sent it to her a few years earlier and never bothered to chase her up on it –and I just love it – it’s beautiful! Could you ask him to contact us?”

Daniel paused, for a second, images of a comatose me caught somewhere in Berlin near-death; my family crowded and lamenting around my bed.

“…of course,” he’d replied. “I’ll get onto him as soon as I can.”

He does, of course – two months later, when I’m home again, accepting visitors and not in a coma.

7.

“I always think,” Stephen says during one of our first classes. “If you have something to say, just say it. There’s no point faffing around with flowery language and metaphors; if you have a point to get across, then get it across.”

And this is what is different the second time around – I am not afraid to say what I need to say, to yell it out loud if necessary: this play is about the relentlessness of obsession; something I’ve experienced many a time, even in the research period of the play itself – and the hideousness and uncertainty of wanting something so desperately and feeling like there’s a chance, no matter how small, that you won’t get it. That you’re not good enough. Seems appropriate for a NIDA student who almost died.

So, I think: why the fuck not?

8.

I am sitting on a bus from outside NIDA to somewhere in Sydney city, my face pressed against the cold, rattling glass of the window, my brain tired and lost, somehow – questioning incessantly every aspect of my life, as it tended to do in 2014.

“Oh my god,” a girl behind me says. “He’s so hot.”

“I know,” her friend agrees, and they high-five.

“I want to, like, sneak into his house at night and into his bed. It’s really big; he wouldn’t know the difference, but he’s so. cute when he’s asleep. I should just fucking do it.”

The two girls burst out laughing at the improbability and insanity of the proposed situation, and an image of Paula Goodspeed flits into my mind – slathered in hot pink and dressed up to resemble an acid-trip Abdul, dancing and wailing and singing on camera, or sending Abdul life-size portraits of herself and her own used underwear.

Or of Amy Fisher, the Long Island schoolgirl who fell in love with her “so hot” mechanic and fell down a dark and twisted invention that ended with her shooting his wife in the head.

Or of Mary-Jo, the mechanic’s wife, who came as close to death as I did but was pulled from the precipice at the last second; pulled back to be interviewed on Oprah and sell her book and have a must see “live reunion” with her bastard husband.

And these women float viciously around within the confines of my brain as we drive toward the storm clouds ahead; floating fat and thick on the horizon with a stinging hypothermic torrent of rain.

1.

I have had three (3) boyfriends in total, and I have said “I love you” to all of them. I have lied – sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not – to two of these three. There have been others, however – other romances and other people loved fleetingly, from afar or close by, for a night, a week, a month, the duration of a friendship. This is a temporal love, transient in nature, and for me – probably for all – it seems to burn all the brighter before it’s extinguished.

The first is a boy with sandy hair and a pale complexion; someone I met through my adventures in amateur theatre. I am 18, and fresh out of high school. He is, of course, heartbreakingly straight, and thankfully unaware of my teenaged pining or too nice to shoot me down.

We do a few shows together and with the regularity of rehearsals he becomes the highlight of my week; the rehearsal room’s sputtering neon bulbs playing across the sharpness of his face and somehow reflecting my pitiful adoration back onto myself. He is older – some six years or so, something that seems at the time to be vastly “mature and together” but now just seems like life – with a Real Life Adult Person Job and girlfriend and everything that seems to come with both of these responsibilities. At night I lie in my single bed in my single room in my parents’ house, alone, and think of what it would be like to be held by him – in actuality, by anyone; to feel the strength and warmth of someone else lined up against my own supine form – and hope, in the desperate and desperately sad manner of someone who has only known emptiness, that one day, One Day, I’d be held like this. I never said it – to myself or to him (thank god), but I think that that’s maybe some of the appeal he held – he was so desperately unattainable that he (and our friendship) was, in a sense, entirely safe; entirely comforting in its restriction.

2.

I met my first boyfriend at Flinder’s St Station while out with friends one night. I’d seen him prior to this in a student theatre production I’d attended because I went to school with somebody else involved, and from that knowledge stood awkwardly on the platform, a few people in between me and this face that I knew I knew, I just couldn’t place.

“It’s you! Hi!” my friend Georgie smiles, and shepherds the group over. We quickly board the train, and I sit, two seats away, for the duration of the 25 minute train-ride, my skin on fire, the hair on the back of my neck erect and raised as electricity courses through my brain and screams: a gay! A Real Life GAY. I’m not the only one!

We found each other on Facebook fairly quickly and moved on to MSN Messenger (hah) soon after that, spending countless nights exchanging hopeful witticisms and attempts at flirting. Finally, after a week of pussyfooting around, he messages me:

Hey!

Wanna get breakfast this weekend

?

I pause, my pulse racing and body sweating as my heart slowly calms itself down and I realise he can’t see me. Then, every part of my body twitching with anticipation and mind-blowing fear, the gargantuan effort of self control pulsing in through my fingers, I type:

Yes! 

However, it takes me approximately two minutes to get this out, so it feels more like

Y                      e                      s                      ! 

About an hour later, I realise: I have it. A Date! I have a date! A real life normal person date!

And we’re drunk, perhaps a month later, in my parents’ house one night when they’re away, music blaring in teenaged rebellion and exaltation and appreciation at the lack of adults around. We’ve just had a fight over what I’ve drunkenly deemed “inappropriate” behaviour (I can’t remember what exactly, but let’s just say it was a play at an actual adult fight) and I’m sitting, blank-faced and blank-minded on the couch as he holds onto my legs, eyes streaming.

“Chris,” he says. “Chris! I don’t want us to fight, because…”

Because?

“Because I’m falling in love with you.”

I remain inexorable, my features and body a stone idol, but inside I’m freaking out; tiny currents of electricity coursing over my body and the ardent feeling that it’s actually much too early for all of this if you don’t mind, please and thank you very much.

Silence, except for our mutual breathing, and the song on the stereo: “I need you so much closer.” Fuck. Of course it had to be this song.

“I…” the preposition dangles dangerously as I weigh up the pros and cons and how I really have no fucking idea what I’m supposed to do. Then, finally, the words inchworm themselves out my mouth at emotional gunpoint: “I… love you… too.”

And we’re lying, some two years later, in the darkness and coolness of his bed, and I’m thinking, selfishly, that I can’t believe that it came to this, that I always thought I’d be the one to be broken up with – not that that’s a better option, really, but at least then you get to be the heartbroken one, the one who people feel sympathy for, and you get to not feel like a terrible fucking person and instead drink your feelings away.

Here goes, I think. And I launch into what it is that I have to say; what I’ve rehearsed time and time again in the mirror, and –

“Okay,” he says, voice a dull blade in the dark of the night. “Sort of like, like an Amish holiday? You want to go and experience life and… stuff, and then decide?”

No, I think. No, in fact, that’s not what I just said. That’s not what a break-up is.

And there are a million reasons I could use to justify why I was “right”, but none of them particularly matter. Yes, he was depressed, yes, he got me kicked out of home, yes, he owed me money, yes, yes, yes. He also loved me.

And I can see, now, that I took the easy way out, regardless of how I felt for him – I had one chance to set it all straight and instead I took the easy way out, like I did three years prior. Partly because I wanted to take the easy way out, and partly because I was – actually, genuinely – worried to see how he’d react if I did, and worried, in a particularly egotistical manner, that I’d have blood on my hands.

“Yeah, sure,” I say.

3.

We had seen each other around university, but the first time we spent any actual time together was on the way to the uni’s medical centre – he had an appointment (and, knowing how the medical centre worked, probably an hour’s wait) and I had a few hours to kill and a vague interest in this new person around the student theatre. It wasn’t ‘till a week or two later, however, when “vague interest” became “tension at breaking point”; directly after the opening night of the show I’d been directing and walking, staggering, drunk on too much free wine and making our way down suburban streets somewhere in the dirty heart of Clayton.

He stops and looks at me, eyes inquisitive in their drunken haze. “I’m… I’m getting this strange desire.”

“Strange how?” Even drunk off my face I don’t have time for this.

“This strange desire to –“ he pauses, for a second, wipes his mouth on his hand, and “– to kiss you.”

We pause, partly because of the suddenness of this revelation and partly because we’re both drunk enough we’ll fall over if we don’t. I lock eyes with him, and:

“Well then.”

Another pause, and he launches himself forward like an avian creature diving for its prey.

And I don’t remember when we said it, only that we must’ve, because one day, everything was turgid and teenaged, still: grand declarations of love and trust and wanting to be with one another forever, for EVER. It was exactly around this time that a close friend of ours died and this, in a sense, threw us together for longer than we should have rightly been together. And though I don’t remember us actually saying the words, it was this sudden morbidity and dramatic atmosphere that gave way to it: that pushed these declarations forward, ever forward, saying to us: you don’t know. You never know. We could all just up and die tomorrow, so don’t die wondering ‘what if’? 

And this is the distinct image I have of this time: of curling up together at the centre of my queen sized bed; the bed itself feeling impossible to fill, and of not just holding each other but holding on to each other – pulling the other closer to ourselves in our desperate and futile attempts to feel like something, anything, wasn’t normal and not fucked and nice and heartwarming. As our bodies finally calmed down; the gooseflesh lowering itself back into our skin as our bodies processed the inordinate amounts of alcohol we’d consumed (in those days, it was called Dealing, or at least An Immature Attempt At Dealing), I began a ritual of my own – reaching out with my foot and slowly wrapping the toes around his like a drunk, sad primate who didn’t understand the workings of life, friendship or what drove people suicide.

“Monkey foot,” he’d confirm sleepily from the pillow next to me, and I’d nod in agreeance through the darkness, ignoring the fact he couldn’t see and hoping, somehow, that this silent agreement would open the door for better things to come.

And it is perhaps a year and a half later, and we’ve moved into a large apartment with another friend of ours. It’s dirty and unkempt – the bathroom doesn’t have a handle and there’s a seedy older gentleman we’ve dubbed “The Smoking Man” who stands out on the tiny public balcony outside our kitchen and stares ominously in, smoking his Winfield Blues and hacking out his lungs – but most of all, it’s home.

A few weeks after our move we’re lying in bed together, in the cool, dark unfamiliarity of his room (it’s a three bedroom apartment so we’ve all got our own spaces) and he speaks – something I can’t quite remember, but the conversation, in the crispness and blackness of the night, takes a swift turn for the worse; not argumentative, but still pointless and dramatic.

“Are we… are we breaking up?” I ask. In writing this down it reads as painful and melodramatic, but it wasn’t. It was simply a question because I really, honestly did not know: were we?

“No!” he sobs, childish tears contradicting the speech he’d just given me about “always staying friends” and “exploring new avenues” and “seeing what was out there”.

“No,” he repeats, the wetness of his emotion rolling down my shoulder blade and pooling around my ribcage. “I’m not ready to break up with you, yet.”

Yet???

I mean, what IS that? I just. I wanna get through this on my lonesome but I’m getting the impression this will be way harder than I thought it would be. Duh. Dumb. Good one, Chris. SO SMART. 

Let me tell you this. And this will sound incredibly harsh but just know that I don’t mean it to, and I’m here for you whenever you need, but…

if he wanted to be with you, he’d be with you.
 

Yeah, I guess.
Well. 

Don’t guess.

Know. I know. I just miss him and hate him at the same time because apparently life can never be simple.

NEVER. Never ever.

Plus he keeps spending all his money on his new boyfriend even though he owes me a bunch of money for groceries and stuff. To awkwardly paraphrase Scott Pilgrim, apparently he was dating me and the new boyf at the same time. Saaa indecisive. Worst. It’d just be real nice if he didn’t decide to take a steaming shit on my heart. 

“Yet.”

4.

 

There have been others, and although I’ve only uttered the words “I love you” romantically three times, I’ve said it countless times more in the confines of my skull, or deeper than that, rattling through my bones and excreting out through every tear or laugh or awkward, forceful witticism offered.

I obviously don’t anymore, but it’d be fair to say that I loved every person I’ve ever had a crush on, in some miniscule way. In an immediate and desperate attempt to hold on to the person in question, I somehow filed away a little piece of this person or our friendship together; chipped it off and held it safe at the centre of my being until the remainder of my body did its work and filed each piece away: both literally, in some imaginary filing draw entitled “PEOPLE I LOVED ONCE, IF ONLY EVEN FOR A LITTLE BIT” and metaphorically, as it filed each piece down to its core and allowed the rest of my body to absorb the tiny truth at the centre of its being.

This one might say: You came on too strong. Your jokes were good but you stank of desperation. Go take a shower.

Or: Next time avoid the arseholes, please.

Or: You can’t be hurt by their actions if they didn’t know what they were doing was hurtful. If you’re going to give someone your heart, at least make sure they know you’re giving it to them. Dickhead.

Or: You ticked all the boxes, and so did he, but now is not the time.

Or: The scariest thing about being alone is the actuality of being alone. You need to learn to deal with this better. For your own sake. For everyone’s sake.

5.

And then he was there, clean-cut and bearded and conventionally handsome, sure, but not intimidatingly so; his hair flicking to the left in the kind of manner that I continually attempt to make happen even to this day and fail at, his face alternately an impassive, terrifying barrier or warm and open and inviting in a way more terrifying than before. I saw him standing in the street; in the unseasonably cold night air, waiting to meet me for the first time, and thought: Hello.

And then, stepping away from my previous fears and insecurities and doubts: I can do this.

And we have both made mistakes, of course, an entire blog’s worth of mistakes that I could reframe in countless ways, again and again and again, but he has forgiven me, and I’ve forgiven him, and we’re working, together; lifting the other up and doing the best we can at any given moment.

I could detail the time in a German hospital that we held each other as the sun sank down in a bizarre mirroring of some ridiculous, cheesy romance novel, the two of us cramped up on a single, white starched hospital bed, holding onto each other for dear life; casting out the doubt and fear of the world around us and holding on to this one, solid belief: I will get out of here.

Or the first time we had sex; two sweaty bodies smashed taut against the coolness of his sheets and the hotness of the Summer air surrounding us.

Or the birthday card he gave me, those three words written perfectly in black ink slashed against ashen cardboard: I love you.

And I could write a million paragraphs, and rephrase each occurrence and incident of support time and time again, but nothing possibly feels right or eloquent enough or simple enough. I’ve shared so much – regardless of whether anyone’s listening, or engaged – but he is here, and he is my friend, and he is judgment-free, and he is mine. And some things are, simply and inexorably, exactly that – just for me.

6. 

I’ve said, earlier, that I don’t believe I ever loved any of my previous partners – and maybe that’s true, or maybe that’s just an attempt to distance myself from them, now; to continue my journey and continue to create my life as I want it to be. I remember seeing on Facebook, some years ago, some terrible meme: the background had a man and a woman, linking arms and sipping wine, smiling, laughing, enjoying themselves above the text: “YOUR EX ASKING TO STAY FRIENDS AFTER YOU BREAK UP IS LIKE KIDNAPPERS ASKING TO STAY IN TOUCH AFTER THEY LET YOU GO.” And on some level I believe that’s true, but on another, I can still recall the lessons and gifts each one gave me, whether intentionally or otherwise:

My first boyfriend introduced me to synesthesia as a concept (something that’s fuelled many an insomnia-fuelled Wikipedia rampage), taught me the benefit of a well-timed cup of cocoa and brought me to Monash Student Theatre and the concept that it is okay to follow and chase the thing that you love, most of all. Whatever else, without him I wouldn’t have made it to NIDA last year, or gotten to the stage where I’m actually pleased with my writing.

My second boyfriend taught my the joys of bespoke cooking and of being silly when the mood called for it. He gave me the belief that I actually was beautiful despite that nagging voice in my head, and touched my body, hand to flesh, and told me that it’d be okay – and then tested the limits of that belief by cheating on me, but I came out stronger for it in the end.

The others taught me the joy of film and a really good coffee, that credit card debt is passable and temporal and you’re never too old to get your license, that cutting corners is kind of okay so long as you do it well, that giving a fuck what people think is never the best course of action, that I was competent and good and what I did. They introduced me to British sitcoms, the gay concept of a “blouse” (a feminine top), that Cookie Mueller wrote a (rather good) book involving the Manson Family, the joy of revisiting Disney classics, the coolness and lushness of Lana Del Rey, gelato Messina, Crystal Castles, international travel as a graspable concept, the idea that that getting severely high in the gator-centric woods of southern America isn’t a good idea, the works of both Kate Beaton and Xavier Dolan.

And then there is him. And he is not my teacher or anything as trite as that – and I am in no way about to declare a grand gesture of love and “forever”. I might be an idiot, sometimes, but I’m not that foolish. Things change, people change, wants and desires change and that’s okay. It’s heart wrenching, for a while, and then it’s okay.

And on we trek, standing strong and tall against the night and the darkness and finding solidarity with the hope of emotional clarity with every world-weary, exhausted step. There I am, and there he is, and we are together, or maybe we are alone – standing side by side, close or far and trying, trying to be someone better, someone who can, in his own way, teach someone else (or himself) something valuable; a lesson worth knowing.

We’re on a journey, certainly, but as to where we’ll end up, how and with whom, who knows?