My last city, my home city, is not really much of city. A stop-over. A gateway to the rest of the world. All heat and wind and prosaic buildings spread over four blocks which someone once labelled ‘city’. Somehow the label stuck. It might have been a city. Once. A long time ago. But it has not been able to keep up with its neighbours. We get out of there as quickly as we can. Often we have no choice. It closes before the sun goes down.
You fail only if you stop writing.
It’s been about 70 days since my last post.
These are things I have been writing and deleting:
1. Changing the dream.
2. Selling out: The reality of “changing the dream”.
3. Why am I here or: Casting directors who flirt with your audition partner.
4. Anxious Sunday nights.
5. Coconut flour.
6. The death penalty.
7. Andrew and Myuran.
10. Is this really the world we live in?
12. Children in detention.
13. Australia needs more lectures from the UN, please.
14. Real Australians Say Welcome.
15. Is this really the world we live in? (part two)
16. 90s Hip Hop is the greatest Hip Hop.
17. Fake it till you make it.
18. Thoughts on being a 34 year old babysitter or: $20 an hour just doesn’t cut it anymore.
19. Walking home, alone.
21. Itchy feet.
22. School Assemblies.
23. To the person who tried to steal our car.
24. How many cups of tea are too many cups of tea?
25. Writers Block – The Return.
26. What is the point of this blog anyway?
27. Finish something goddamn it.
28. Hit the publish button.
29. Something is better than nothing.
30. that’s what my psychologist said when I told her I was concerned about doing enough exercise in a day, you know, sometimes you just can’t fit it all in and she said, don’t be so hard on yourself, just think something is better than nothing so even if you just a walk around the block that’s great because that’s something but now I find it hard to even fit in a little something every single day and I worry because if something is better than nothing then what is nothing … nothing is … nothing is nothing and I need to worry about that … surely …
32. my grandad said nothing is at the end and he seemed OK with all that until nanna died but you can’t truly change your mind when you’re an atheist unless, you know, someone from the “other side” comes over and tells you “hey, there is something” which then completely undoes all that need for faith upon which all this is (conveniently) built and you wouldn’t believe it anyway because you’re an atheist and you can’t truly change your mind on that sort of thing, can you? Besides, we have all seen City of Angels and know the awful consequences of those sort of “visits”.
32. City of Angels.
33. Where are you, Meg Ryan?
34. I’d rather be in New York.
35. I’m doing this wrong: 30 minutes and 20 drafts to create one tweet.
36. Being quiet.
38. Nothing. Again.
The tiny butterfly flew out of his mouth.
He thought he had something important to say. Instead he got a butterfly.
He cupped it in his hands. Its colourful wings folded upwards. It wasn’t flat and colourless like a moth. If it has been a moth that flew from his mouth he would have been worried. And disappointed. But it was a butterfly. And that was OK. Impressive almost.
A male passenger in a white van stuck his head out of the window and yelled. At me. I was walking down the street, nearly home after a long day at work when they drove by. A quiet street. My quiet street.
I couldn’t hear the words exactly but I could hear the sound. Like when someone speaks in a foreign language and even though you don’t know what they’re saying, you know what they’re saying. Know what I’m saying? Something in that tone, that leering face, jolted me. He made that certain kind of sound you will sometimes hear certain groups of certain kinds of men make at certain establishments when they have reached a certain level of a certain thing I shall call “jerk-ness”.
I stopped. I turned around, flung my arms in the air, in that Tom Hanks I’m-acting-like-I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that fashion (which I always thought was kind of unrealistic until I found myself doing it) and watched the van continue on its way. Come back, I thought, come back and have a conversation with me. Get out of the car, look me in the eye, and repeat what you said.
He didn’t. Of course. Even though I knew they could see me, standing there all Tom-Hanks-esque and angry. No, of course they didn’t come back…
This happens from time to time. Most of the time. Because, to some men, when women walk down the street they are not people. Not fellow human beings. We are objects to be objectified. Of course. Yell, whistle, beep the horn.
It is not flattering. It is not funny. It is not harmless.
It is intimidating and pathetic. It is vile.
These are not sincere, heartfelt compliments given from one human to another. These men don’t look you in the eye. They couldn’t.
You never see these cowards again. You never know who they are.
This van was marked with a company name.
I tweeted them.
They got back to me. Quickly. That sort of thing doesn’t look so great on social media.
They were sorry. They wanted more details. They would follow-up. They took this seriously.
Good, I thought.
The managing director, who was shocked and wanted to call me right away, called me right away.
She had been given a different story.
She thought I should be told the Different Story.
Here it is: A couple of young guys driving to football training with the radio up, singing loudly, having a good time. The passenger is not an employee. The driver is. And he is a great guy. Polite. Hardworking. Finishing his masters degree at a top university. From a good family. He doesn’t remember any incident … But he remembers singing, having a laugh with his friend.
The story ends.
And I wait.
The managing director takes my complaint seriously. She told me so. Many times.
And because she Takes This Sort Of Thing Seriously she would have to fire him. He would have to go. Her hands were tied on this one. The company takes a strong stance on this type of thing.
Is there any doubt in your mind? she asked.
Could it have been a couple of guys singing and having harmless fun? she wanted to make sure.
I heard no music. I heard no singing. I heard a man yell. At me. I saw his face. Hanging out the window. At me. It made me stop. It made me fling my arms in the air. It made me red, it made me shake …
It made me change the route I walk home.
If that is this case, she told me, then he would be fired. Will be fired. The company takes a strong stance on this type of thing. Her hands were tied on this one.
But … If there is any chance I was mistaken … well … then she wouldn’t have to fire him. He would get a warning but he wouldn’t be fired.
I told her again – I didn’t hear what was said even though I knew what was said, you know? (I don’t think she did.) But, yes, I suppose … Doubt.
And that was that.
She thanked me for my considerate handling of the situation.
He would get a warning: A Serious Warning.
He would write me an apology letter.
I got the letter. I don’t know if he got the warning.
In the apology letter he wanted me to know he was polite and responsible and goes to a top university and comes from a good family. He wanted me to know he had learnt from the actions he said he had no recollection of.
I didn’t get to tell him I am polite and responsible and went to a top university and come from a good family.
I read his email, keep my head down and my iPod on. Loud.
And that was that.
Except it isn’t.
(PS: I have had this post written for some time but never wanted to publish it until I read Girl in the Hat’s excellent post If I Had a Dollar (Why I Am a Feminist). My story ain’t all that important. It doesn’t even matter in the scheme of things. It doesn’t even register when we consider what other women (and men) deal with on a daily basis. I have dealt with a lot worse but I know I have it a lot better than many, many women (and men) on this planet. This didn’t hurt me. This just made me think; what the hell? But I think what is interesting is my reluctance to post it … Are there any posts you have been reluctant to publish?)
The new girl in the office said she didn’t eat carbs.
But I saw her eating chocolate and stealing staplers. It made me wonder about her moral compass. But then, who knows which way that thing is meant to point?
When I have two choices, north or south, I always end up going the wrong way. Heading In The Wrong Direction.
This must be south, I think, but it never is.
You’d think I’d get it by now …
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
I needed to say something but I thought I would cry and if I cried I’d need to explain and that would be hard so I didn’t really say anything. In the end.
But I needed him to know the profound effect his ordinary poems had had on me. Like hearing someone with a similar voice say –
this is the day
this thing that you do
this language that you use
this voice that you have
it is okay
I would hear the the words and my voice and I longed to sound different.
I wanted to show him that effect he had had, the difference he had made, with his ordinary poems on an ordinary person.
All I could manage was to ask for his signature and then wonder why I said signature not autograph and then why I bothered asking such a question at all considering there he sat and there I stood at the book signing table.
Behind him they sold his books. Collections of his poetry. I had brought my own. Like a cheapskate at a cheap restaurant holding on to the cheap BYO wine. Free corkage. Bargain.
I felt a wave of guilt for my well loved copies.
One I had bought on special at a closing down sale.
One was two quid at the Oxfam store in Notting Hill.
I wanted to tell him where I had stumbled on his poems. I wanted him to notice my copies stubbornly ignoring the gleaming newly designed slick covers of his back catalogue. Look at me. A true fan. With the real copies. Battered and read despite the uninspiring cover art. It’s the inside that counts. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or price tag.
But I didn’t say that. In the end.
I just politely asked for a signature.
Polite is boring. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Before I lined up I did the obligatory browse through the obligatory pop up book store that accompanies such events. Couples in expensive coats who are meant to be seen at such events pondered which book to buy. A woman sighed wearily. Looking was difficult – she didn’t realise there were so many, didn’t know which one to buy. She could have bought them all. I could tell by her umbrella.
Into her sighs I suggested my favourite. This is my favourite, I said. Politely. Of course. She had that umbrella.
She smiled a non-smile and flicked through my choice. Quickly. Too quickly. Then she put it back.
No, she winced, these are short stories.
No, I said, they are poems.
And I left her to figure it out.
At the book signing table I thought I should tell him that story. But I didn’t. In the end. I asked for his signature and tried to find that thing to say, to make that connection, to have that moment that would make the change –
this is the day.
Suddenly, without warning, the word Inspiration fell out of mouth. A decayed tooth sitting there on the page he was about to sign. Or autograph. Or both. I wanted to pick it up and put it back. But there it was in all its clichéd glory … Inspiration …
I tripped over an apology but on my way he offered a landing; you write poems? he asked with his voices and his eyes.
I try, I told him.
We’re all just apprentices, he said.
And I felt like that was okay. In the end.
Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up.
Hans Christian Andersen
I chose the swan, and everyone laughed. Even the girl who was meant to be my friend – although I had had my doubts before this incident. The mean girl, whom I shall call Vanessa, because that was her name, had a tendency to rub her hands all over my face and chant “snow queen, snow queen” at me because, duh, I am quite pale. Yep. But still … Vanessa was meant to be a friend. And she laughed. At my swan.
It was the first year of high school. The well-meaning, socially awkward health teacher must have had some weird epiphany overnight and instead of the usual food pyramids and condoms on bananas, he asked us to draw a picture of the animal we’d most like to be.
I wanted to draw a human because, when you think about it, we have it pretty good compared to other animals. But I was studious and well-behaved and my rocking the boat stage wasn’t set to begin for another two years or so.
I had heard how swans mated for life and I thought there was something lovely about that, plus I thought they were elegant and I still secretly harboured a desire to be a ballerina despite my lack of coordination and, well, training. I had gone the route of many young women growing up in the early 90s; Jazz Dancing. There was nothing elegant about Jazz Dancing: Jazz Hands and Jazz Smiles and Jazz Leaps to The Shamen’s Ebenezer Goode. Anyway, regardless of my varied and weird reasons, I drew a swan.
If I had known we had to share our pictures with the class I may have gone for the lion or the eagle or the dolphin like everyone else. I said swan and they all laughed. Because they laughed, my well-meaning, socially awkward teacher thought I should be put through more humiliation and offer up an explanation for my choice. I wanted to tell him where to go but I was studious and well behaved and, as a result, provided much needed entertainment on that god-awful final period of the day.
I don’t know what the point of that story is to be honest … Maybe I still haven’t embraced my inner swan, maybe I’m still the ugly duckling, maybe I am a writer and read too much into things.
It happens every year; every time we click over to January 1 – I start to overanalyse and get anxious about goal setting and dream journalling and vision boards and what-am-I-doing-with-my-life and who-am-I and does Kiki-K have a range of items to help me plan for everything I think I need to achieve this year? (The answer is yes, yes they do. And no, I will not buy them all.)
I worry about the point of this blog, its raison d’être and the fact that I just popped in the phrase raison d’être because I love it even though I know it sounds completely pretentious, unless you happen to be French, of course. Nothing and everything sounds pretentious if you’re Parisian. What do I intend to do with this thing, this blog thing, this year? Why am I even keeping a blog? What is a blog really meant to be anyway? If my blog was an animal, what would it be? Blog is a weird word.
If I had the confidence and, let’s be honest, vanity and, let’s be even more honest, musical inclination, I might put it to music and become one of those on-trend cabaret performers who sing about their love-lives and embarrassing-but-oh-so-cute moments in witty, pithy songs whilst straddling the piano Delta Goodrem style. But this sort of vanity, let’s call it blog vanity, probably suits me better; I can hide in my “office” and assume no one has noticed, rather than looking out to the empty auditorium.
In the first serious show I wrote and performed in a friend whispered to me from the front row. We were about to begin. I started on stage. Very contemporary.
“Do you want to bother? No one is here,” he whispered – although he didn’t need to.
Despite his well intentioned warning, we went on. I couldn’t tell who was out there with the stage lights in my eyes, naivety in my heart. The three people in the audience, including the lighting / sound guy, clapped at the end and we all got a drink afterwards.
And that’s it … That is my big old plan for 2015. To perform for the three people in the room. To choose the swan when everyone else is the lion. To maintain a messy blog. To preserve. To create. To throw in French whenever I can, merci. And to try and read less into things …
Here’s to 2015.