something stupid

I did something stupid last night.

That’s what I told them at work today. I did something stupid.

This is what I did.

I got in a taxi cab. It was nearly midnight. I had just gotten off the plane and I hurried out of the terminal with my cabin-bag and no checked baggage because I’d travelled light. As you do on flights of a certain nature. The taxi rank was clear and the man in the fluro vest radioed for a taxi and joked about the cold weather and held the door open for me so I could get in.

None of this was stupid. This was okay.

I told the taxi driver my address and asked him to take a certain route because I’d been tricked into going the long way once or twice before and was determined it would not happen again. I was tired. I had limited funds. I wanted to get home to my bed.

This is reasonable.

The taxi driver said okay okay yes yes sure but you’ll have to direct me. I was tired. I said I can try but don’t you have a … and he said yes yes okay okay sure I do, I can do that. And plugged my address into the maps app whilst we drove out of the airport, his mobile phone glowing from his lap.

This was the beginning of the stupid thing.

He wanted to know who I lived with and did I have a boyfriend? I said yes, I have a partner and a cat because I thought the cat consolidated it. The cat created an image of familiar, long-term relationship and he should just back off and stop talking. But he didn’t. He said, am I too late then? Too late for you? Have a missed my chance? You are a pretty girl. And I said, yes, you are too late and I should have said more but I was sitting in the back of his cab and it was midnight and I was tired.

That was stupid.

This was even more stupid.

He asked if I used taxis much. I don’t. But the last time I told a taxi driver I used Uber I feared for my life so I said, I suppose, sometimes. He said, okay okay, great great – I’ll give you my number so you can just call me direct. You can just text me, he said, and I’ll get you. Any time. Anywhere. Even if I’m not working, I have my own car, I have a Ford Falcon and I can drive you anywhere. You and your friends. If you’re at a party you call me.

And I took the number because it was easier. I thought. Until he wanted me to text him so he had my number. He said he wanted to make sure I had the right number. He said he wanted my number so he knew who needed the taxi. I was sitting in the back of his taxi at midnight and I should have said no way, you’re not getting my number. But I didn’t. I sent the text.

He said we were friends.

I should have said no, we’re not.

But I didn’t say anything.

That was stupid.

Then he wanted to know if girls like men who sing and dance and I said I suppose when, really, I should have said I am tired, please just drive me home. He then sang which I thought was funny and something I could write into a short story or book and I clapped a little to make him stop for it was really quite terrible but he kept going even when he couldn’t remember the words. He didn’t know when to stop. It went on and he kept checking my reaction in his rear-view mirror.

Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you, that is how I know you … go on … 

There was a story about a couple kissing in the back of his cab and his high school crush and what is the definition of crush and perhaps he should go to university to meet girls.

I listened and smiled and laughed in the right places. But I didn’t want to.

When we finally arrived I paid him and got out as quickly as I could. He got out too. He demanded we get a selfie. We have to get a selfie he kept saying and ran around from his side of the cab to mine, blocking my path. I said no, I am tired. I said no, I’ve just got off a plane. I said no, I don’t want to. But he put his arm around me and pulled me in and held his phone up high and took a photo but he didn’t like that one and he shoved the phone in my hand and said you do it and he tried to position himself behind me, as if we were a couple standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or something. I said no, I don’t know how and he did it himself. I saw the photo. I am smiling. That is stupid. Then he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and I scrambled up to my front door without looking back and felt so very stupid.

 

Reasons to Stay Inside

Reasons to Stay Inside - Artwork by Clinton Cherry

Reasons to Stay Inside – Artwork by Clinton Cherry

The year I turned 13 was the year I started high school and the year anxiety moved on in.

We didn’t know it was anxiety. Mum and I. We had no idea what it was or even that it could, possibly, have a name. All we knew was that school drop-off became hell. For her and for me.

I couldn’t leave the car.

I really couldn’t.

It was like I was too heavy for my body and everything was in slow motion and I felt sick and exhausted and my heart was pounding– boom, boom, boom, boom – and I was hot and cold and empty and sweaty and red faced and cracked lipped and I was going to be sick or faint …

I couldn’t join that group of girls who met under the veranda by the library and greeted everyone with a hug as if they hadn’t seen each other for years. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I didn’t know how to arrange my face.

Of course, they wouldn’t know this. I would get there, eventually, or not. Some days, Mum would say let’s go home but not always, not everyday and on those days I would get there because I had to. I would join in. None of them would have known. None of them would have noticed the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat and the tremble in my hands.

I wasn’t good at the things you are meant to be good at high school; parties, talking on the phone, hanging out, sleepovers. That sort of thing. I think I may have been good at it, once, but something happened inside me and I would overthink it and worry and talk myself into not going. So I wouldn’t go. Unless I had to. And when I did, because I had to, I was fine, of course. I had the funny dance moves and the long hair and the silly accents and I could handle this and, most of the time, I did. No one noticed.

They didn’t notice and could not be expected to notice. Why would they? By the time I was in my final year of high school I was school captain and played Juliet in an angst-ridden performance of Romeo and Juliet and I was on the debating team and the school ball committee and the year book committee and carried a clipboard for you to please sign this petition against this and I was in the local newspaper and was probably going to be, like, an actor or something, you know …

But I was struggling. With anxiety.

I could get out of the car and I had figured out how to arrange myself and what to say but I still hadn’t mastered that other stuff. That important stuff. I made myself sick over having to call a friend after school because I didn’t think I would know what to say. I didn’t turn up to parties or just go and hang out on the weekends because I didn’t think I would know how to act. I played versions of these events in my mind, over and over again, until I felt sick and had a stomach ache and thank god I can’t go now.

Friends get annoyed at that sort of thing. Of course they do. You find yourself not invited. You find yourself waiting for them to pick you up for the Year 12 graduation dinner only to discover they’re not coming via your house now because this is payback high school style and of course they cannot understand. How could they?

Anxiety feels like such an issue of privilege … Part of you thinks, how dare I be anxious? It is really, quite ridiculous. But it is true. And it is there. And, my friends, it is the reason I sometimes stay inside and miss your party or the opening of your play or your phone call … and for that I am sorry. I hope you know that. I hope you notice.

***

I have written a play for young people, Reasons to Stay Inside, about a boy who becomes so anxious he builds a giant pillow fort and refuses to leave it. His best friend does all she can to get him out. Nothing works … But she doesn’t leave him. She stays. She waits.

Anxiety is awful. Having a friend with anxiety is awful. I have written the play I wish I had seen when I was 12 going on 13. I have written the best friend I wish I had had. I have written something I hope will get the conversation started and make it easier for young people to talk about anxiety. 

 

Things I nearly wrote

You fail only if you stop writing.

Ray Bradbury

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.

8. Mercy.

9. Rehabilitation.

10. Is this really the world we live in?

11. Nauru.

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.

20. Cats.

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 …

31. Nothing

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.

37. Anxiety.

38. Nothing. Again.

39. …

Short thoughts from a messy notebook: One

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 …

Clet Abraham's  magic with the one way sign. Kreuzberg, Berlin.

Clet Abraham’s magic with the one way sign. Kreuzberg, Berlin.

Ugly Ducklings and Snow Queens: Thoughts on a New Year

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.

This is the Place (part two); I Heart Berlin (OK?)

BERLIN WALL

I am not cool. It has not and will not ever be a word I could associate with myself. I mean, it is a dumb word anyway, when you think about it … Cool. And we say it far too often. Regardless. Cool is cool and I am not that. Berlin, on the other hand, is the epitome of cool. At least, it seemed that way to me which is why I had assumed we just wouldn’t, you know, hit it off …

I had no intention of making Berlin The Place. New York, yes. Paris, obviously. But Berlin?

I was wrong.

Berlin is cool. And that’s OK. The thing is, you don’t have to be cool. And that’s OK. In Berlin, everything is kind of cool. So, by default, you are cool … OK?

On my first night in Berlin I dreamt of an old man selling fruit. I say dreamt but he was standing right beside me. He didn’t know I was there.

There are ghosts all over this city.

The ghosts and the people live side by side.

From my little apartment I can hear them all. It’s a noisy street. Traditional Turkish music mixes with the chimes of church bells. Apartment buzzers buzz. High heels click on cobblestone. Talking. Laughter. Clinking of beer bottles. Kids throwing tantrums (which sound the same in every language).  Cars parallel parking. Double parking. Sirens (which sound different in every language).

On my street, like many other streets in Berlin, are kindergärtens. I see dads and mums dropping their kinder off in the morning. They don’t just drop and run. They ride in together. Walk in together. Converse together. Together.

On my street, like many other streets in Berlin, are informal gatherings at little tables and chairs set outside little shops. They drink and smoke and chat with the shop-owner, who keeps half an eye on the store.

On my street, like many other streets in Berlin, people tumble out of clubs at all hours. No one minds.

On my street, like many other streets in Berlin, is a stolperstein. A stumbling block. A brass plate set in the cobblestone to commemorate a victim of the holocaust. On my street is Johann “Rukeli” Trollman. On another are the families Adler and Heilfron. On another is Max Bayer

Here they remember.

Here is the Berlin Wall.

And the Brandenburg Gate. And The Fernsehturm. And Karl-Marx-Allee. And Alexanderplatz, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Mitte …

Here is green space and parks and the river Spree and people using them. Here are big people, small people, overweight people, thin people, all people riding bikes. Everyone. Everywhere.

Here is the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn. Frequent and on time. Here is public transport where the most difficult thing to deal with is pronunciation.

Here are galleries and museums and galleries and museums. And architecture. And street art, street art, street art. Here are bullet holes in the walls. 

Here is me feeling like me in a place where I don’t speak the language. All I can say is Sprechen Sie Englisch and Nein and Ja and Schwarzer Kaffee and Hallo (which is German for hello) and Ciao (which is Italian and Berlin for goodbye). I know that zahnfleischschutz is toothpaste but I have no idea how to say it.

Here I pack my own groceries into my own bag. Here nothing is open on Sunday. Here I leave my empty bottles outside the bin so those who collect them for cash don’t have to rummage through the rubbish to find them. Here I lie to the gypsies who ask me if I “speak English?” and feel terrible about it.

Here I meet writers and artists and people not from here. Here I sit with writers from Egypt and Italy and Munich and Hong Kong and the UK and USA. Here we sit amongst the tumbling bookshelves, the rising damp, the lamplight in the basement of the bookstore. We talk about writing. We write. We watch films. We drink. We listen to stories about the East and the West. And the Wall. My tutor smokes, inside, amongst the paperbacks and I try not to plan my evacuation route. They make me realise, without doing anything in particular, how big the world is …

Here I try to eat my lunch but instead get told off by two old East Berliners for not following the rules: You Can’t Eat Here. I smile. They do not.

Here at the train station a man I do not know carries my suitcase down three flights of stairs. He doesn’t speak a word. He just does it like it is the most natural, expected thing in the world. It’s OK. Here the junkie at the top of the stairs offers to carry my bag back up. He offers like it is the most natural, expected thing in the world. His arms are skinnier than mine. I decline but say Danke because that is another German word I know. He smiles. It’s OK. 

Here are thunderstorms in the late afternoon and warm evenings and bright mornings.

Here is The Place.

Now that I am back here, which is away from there, I am the ghost – wandering the streets of Berlin in my dreams. I stand next to an old man selling fruit. He still doesn’t know I’m there.

This is The Place (part one); I Heart London (I think)

LONDON

I have this problem. Anytime I visit anywhere I decide that is where I am going to live. This is The Place. And I know, I know, I know … It’s a warped, unrealistic, romanticised view of a place – just like Sandy meeting the wonderful Danny in the summer holidays only to then meet the jerk Danny in Rydell High. Of  course the place you visit is better than the place you live; you don’t have to go to work, it’s exciting, it’s different, you have actually budgeted money for shopping and eating out. And, in this case,  it was summer. I know it was a rare summer for them. The best summer they’d had in a long time. But still, like Sandy’s hopeless devotion … I wanted to move to the UK.

I spent time walking through old houses and palaces. I touched doorways and walls because, underneath all those other touches, somewhere, is a fingerprint belonging to Winston Churchill or the Duchess of this or the Earl of that. I spent time inhaling musty air and wondered; did it always smell like this?

I spent time admiring flowers. And flowers. And flowers. And bumblebees on flowers.

I squinted into the sad, pretend eyes of taxidermied animals in private collections of Lord this or that who liked to stuff what he had killed. As a keepsake. Of course. I glanced at collections of exotic butterflies; beautiful wings under glass, pinned through the heart or where I assumed their heart would be; I didn’t listen as much as I should have during biology.

I learnt about titles and inheritance.

I learnt about Gypsies and Travellers.

Esperance me console. 

I spent time in Essex and Southend-On-Sea and Kent and loved it, even though I don’t think I’m meant to admit it.

I spent time in London and loved it, even though I think that’s expected.

I learnt to accept the blisters on blisters and grimaced through poor choices in footwear. I limped over cobblestone and ran through crowds of tourists to make meetings I regretted arranging until I was actually there. I kept my cool when lost on South Bank (only I could have trouble locating the city’s largest theatre). I had meetings and cups of coffee / tea / water / nothing, thanks, I’m fine, in foyers / out the back / coffee shops just across the road. I nodded and smiled and gradually got better at describing the kind of work you do and what are you working on now and what makes your work unique and feel free to send us some of your work. But I could not think of anything to say when they asked why don’t you just move here?

I stared at police with machine guns instead of the landmarks they were guarding. No one else seemed to notice. Some tourist got photos. Others asked for directions. These guys are far more accommodating than the Grenadier Guardsman. Despite the machine guns.

I jumped on and off of the tube with varying degrees of success. I avoided peak hour. I enjoyed the quiet carriage. I saw a lot of theatre and visited a lot of galleries and bought a lot of second-hand books. I drank in pubs and parks and by the river but nowhere near as much as my English counterparts.

I tried really hard not to roll my eyes every time I was told I must have brought the weather with me.

I embraced the long nights and the early mornings and reminded myself this was a rare summer, everyone said this was a rare summer.

Yep, I was ready to move there even though I know that there would be less time for old houses and flowers and taxidermy, that peak hour would be more difficult to avoid and footwear would need to be more sensible and meetings would be less forthcoming and police with machine guns would not be so easy to dismiss and the quiet carriage would get noisy and summers like that are rare …

But then I went to Berlin … Now, this is The Place …