The summer was always a disappointing collection of months. I felt a strange tension building up every year in late October – the pressure of unfounded expectations of European romances and days spent reading in the Hamptons. Of course I had never experienced either, but my imagination was known to replicate Hollywood ideals and leave me reeking of reality. It was a high stress time of year, the University exams were looming and the prospect of learning entire law courses felt like a wall too steep to climb, and though I had done it many times before, it had never been graceful. It was more of a frantic breathless thrust of knowledge that I somehow managed to aim correctly. I saw a selection of people around me cramming in the same way, but still I compared myself to the studious ones with the high thresholds for focus. I never studied for long, but I quickly lost track of days and of the number of coffees I’d had. I stacked them on top of each other in the library until the tower fell, empty hollow crashing cardboard echoing the sound of the game they were telling me to play. Just keep passing I told myself, as I ran my mind on caffeine and off intellectual cliffs, drowning under a festering body of law in which I took a slight interest, but no passion. Still, it was a necessary distraction to occupy my restless thoughts.

The University lifestyle altered itself to fit in with our mad rushes – the libraries were now open later than the neighbouring pubs, deliberate timetabling that we easily managed to circumvent. Everyone in our friendship group had studied Masters of Teaching together, but I had lingered across the road stretching out my postgraduate law degree. At 23 I told myself that I had time, though I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted it for. In the evenings we took to South Lawn, staying on campus and importing the cheapest bottles of red wine from Don Tojo – the nearby Japanese takeout place that sold meals for under $10. It was the time of semester when our pockets were lighter than usual, as the wear and tear of the last 12 weeks had seen the holes in them growing, our Hansel and Gretel trails circling the local pubs and cafes, sometimes both in the same day. We drank red wine from the bottle. We were all impatient to get drunk and never remembered to bring enough plastic cups. The wine was passed around the circle as we sang undeniably embarrassing pop songs and old classics, Taylor Swift followed by Paul Kelly. Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses’ always featured more than once in an evening. The chorus always made me smile like an idiot, our arms around each other as we yelled, “That’s the way it’s gonna be little darling/ You’ll be riding on the horses yeah yeah/ Way up in the sky little darling/ And if you fall I’ll pick you up, pick you up”. But there was always a kind of melancholy underpinning our words and laughter – we knew that this was the tail end of University, and that our large group was about to splinter off across new suburbs and new stomping grounds.

After our wine bottles, subtle flirtations and midnight bike rides around University square, we retired home hugging everyone goodbye and knowing that we would all see each other the next day. During this time I was hitting the law library back to back and staying late into the night, although not all of those hours translated into productivity. This time of year became about convenience, anything that we could fool ourselves into being beneficial for those final exams, attempts, and waning attention spans that were only tested twice a semester, outside of which we let them have free reign over our minds and activities: our Facebook newsfeeds, YouTube clips under 3 minutes, or aimless swiping on Tinder that never led to any conversations. Distractions came easily at the Law Building – hunger, the low battery on my laptop, the wrong colour highlighter for my exam notes, and the mounting stress that was exhaled by other students. And people. People who weren’t even present but had perfected the routes through which to silently creep up on my mind, taking possession of my thoughts when I was at my most vulnerable. Our biannual security guard had returned to his post outside the door and was checking our student cards. As much as we were encouraged to study, the practical hurdles created by the University prevented and contained much of our efforts. I would frequently spend the evening in the Law Building hiding from the security guards and pretending to be one of the few students who had 24-hour access. I liked being in the large space when it was quiet and almost empty. It made me feel calm and safe to be somewhere familiar without the fear of social ambush.

Despite our distractingly busy lives, summer managed to bleed its way into our routines and cover our last weeks of University. Melbourne was about as equipped for summer as I was for my law exams, still, I partied anyway in the heat and the stress, giving the local venues no reason to invest in stronger air-conditioning. The night before my Criminal Law exam the group went out to dinner instead of importing our wine to South Lawn. I found myself sitting with twelve others at Shanghai Dumplings on Tattersalls Lane; none of them had an exam the following day and they were all keen to go out. I was keen to drink. It should have been my sister’s 21st birthday but cancer had taken her away from my family the previous year. I preferred to drink my wine than to mention it. As irony would have it, Shanghai Dumplings had a reputation not only for the cheapest dumplings and wine in town, but also for playing the music to Happy Birthday over the speakers in the event of a customer’s birthday. Everyone at our table thought it was a hilarious joke to sing for a fictional birthday and managed to have the music played twice. They launched into song. I watched the tables around us customarily join in before filtering out. I didn’t sing – I wasn’t sentimental enough to think that the dead were listening. I also wasn’t confident enough to mention my sister to the people around me. I had a tendency to avoid conversations on topics that I didn’t understand. After the singing, and more wine, the conversation headed towards the sexual – the small talk of the tipsy before the intoxicated acted it out. It was the usual banter that we distracted ourselves with, more comfortable to talk about sex than to mention death. Last call from the kitchen. We were two bottles of wine up and they wanted us out. We left with our hands pouring booze down our throats.

We sweated on the floor inside Cherry Bar, buying drinks to keep us cool. Another venue in summer without air conditioning – their business model was working. I sculled my drink and found shelter in the alleyway. Cherry had let us spill into the lane to make room for more $10 cover charges. There were a few milk crates, the people I came with, and Anderson – who had caught onto bringing his own bottles of wine to the laneway. Unfortunately he only had white wine, but we walked to a nearby alley just the same.

I sat on the bluestone steps looking down onto Federation Square, he handed me a bottle, “You take this one, it looks nicer.” I was talking with a guy who liked my eyelashes, though by the end of our encounter he could sense that I wasn’t as interested in him as he wanted me to be. I was using him as a timeout from my group and from my thoughts – an interactive distraction that forced my participation and reduced the chance of me getting lost inside my own intoxicated head.

“So when I text you later, are you going to reply?”

I was thrown, I hadn’t planned on seeing him again, but I thought his candour was commendable, “Yeah I’ll reply, I mean, I’m not rude.”

“If you feel like coming to this house party later, you should.”

“Yeah? Well, let me know what the scenes like. I think everyone’s staying at Cherry, so I’ll probably stick with them. Plus, I’ve got that exam tomorrow.”

“Fair call. I can’t believe you’re only going to reply to me not to be rude.”

I grinned at him, I wasn’t about to throw transparent promises at him to make the situation less awkward, my slightly amused face with its nice eyelashes was all that I was willing to give him.

“You should put this one in your blog, only don’t mention how fast I talk when I get nervous.”

“I’m not sure if this is interesting enough, but we’ll see.”

“Will we?”

“Probably not.”

He laughed at me, or at the situation, or most likely at our entire exchange. We hugged goodbye and I slipped back to the sides of my group, giving them vague answers about where I’d been. I had tasted freedom early, but my focus was always going to be away from the exams on this particular date. Every year I would find a distraction for my alcohol doused brain to chew on. I kept my thoughts and distractions to myself and found my own way home; four hours of sleep would have to be sufficient exam preparation.

It was only a few days later when it all stopped, like it always does. Exams ended. The concept of summer was moved from my imagination into reality and I was left purposeless for three months, still receiving the government benefits of a full time student, but with nothing to study except my own thoughts. Suddenly all of my distractions disappeared. My hunger had dissipated and I often forgot to eat until dinner. There was no reason to go to sleep so I would continue to hold my eyes open as my brain functioned at half speed until 3 or 4am. I had no reason to get out of bed, so the start of my days would stall. Socialising took up some time and my tolerance of people increased. My mother told me to find my joy, my lightness, I scowled at her and questioned why I couldn’t just be my underwhelming self? But she could sense that there was anger simmering underneath my skin. Why didn’t I call her more after I moved away? I wasn’t there enough. I put a stop to the conversation – predictably choosing the safer, less emotional option – I kept my thoughts to myself.

The New Year didn’t really bring about any changes. I hadn’t been expecting it to; I’d given up on making resolutions years ago when my cynicism had won out. Over January I watched ‘yarn bombing’ expand from Sydney Road to the city as I caught packed trams to St Kilda bars, finishing my drinks before the ice could melt. I was suppressing my guilt and on a crusade to ignore my thoughts. I hung out with the group from Uni frequently – this far into summer we had all become accustomed to day drinking. By now we were friends, at least I believe that’s what they called us – people who spent a lot of time together and enjoyed it. We visited South Lawn again, this time littering it with not just ourselves, but also our sports and picnic equipment. The group thinned by the early evening but the tides of people coming in and out had been constant throughout the afternoon. The weather was still hot at 7pm and the tennis balls were still making contact with the plastic bat. All the bottles were empty. Most of us supported sunburnt arms along with our inner city dress codes. I watched my arm change colour and the freckles multiple. My body had been paying attention when I hadn’t, we weren’t meant for summer days.

Dehydration slowly crept up but we had been students long enough to know how to keep going. With drying mouths we pushed on and planned our night. The party was set to really begin at 10pm in front of a Smith Street stage. Home grade amps and instruments, met with garage perfected talent. We said our “cya soons” with rare literal meaning and took our moving public seats home after touching on. It was half time when I got home and took a break with my housemate on our carpeted floor with a tube of moisturizing cream between us. We let our greedy red skin drink, absorbing the cool instead of its usual diet of perfumes, soap, and fake tan. My lips were just as sunburnt, but between foundation and lipstick no one could tell that night. We didn’t even think to take jackets. My housemate and I held hands as we shared another drink. I rarely opened up to her anymore, but I felt safe when we were together. The past year was probably the closest we’d ever been, and still I kept my thoughts to myself and away from her. I squeezed her hand, “I love you,” she squeezed back and smiled, passing me the vodka.

We took the stairs up to the band room of the Grace Darling Hotel and managed to avoid the cover charge as the doorman had disappeared. Everyone was there but I was closed – arms folded across my chest, drink clutched in hand, and a vacant expression on my painted face, which easily changed to a smile when noticed. I could turn it all on if I needed to, play the role of the confident attractive young woman, dance, make eyes at men and flirt, make my girlfriends laugh and gush about the colour of their lipstick. It wasn’t shallow – I genuinely liked their lipstick – but when I forced all of that energy out of myself, I too was fooled into thinking it was natural. I liked being that young woman, but it never felt right. When I stood still and alone for a moment I’d remember the voice running, banging, convulsing inside my head, the ear aching screams. You are not good enough; you don’t deserve to be here.

Regardless of our taste in music that inherent crowd mentality ensured that we still moved – people would let their bodies join in as their eyes searched for someone to rest on. And then it hits you.

Just like that.

You’re standing on Smith Street watching a band singing about lost loves with their long hair and suits.

How Beatles of them.

And you’re dancing.

With your long hair, hair that’s been died blonde and probably needs a wash. Your womanly frame moves in requisite time. Drink in hand.

But then you think of her.

You’ve seen a woman’s shaved head.

She didn’t have eyelashes by the end of it. She didn’t hold the strength to dance. She never set foot on Smith Street.

And for a minute or two, I forgot to block out my thoughts.

Every time I didn’t call. Every time I told her to get out of my room and wouldn’t let her hang out with my friends because we were older and thought we were cooler. Every time I called her a retard when I was 14 and obnoxious. Every time I didn’t go back to Perth to visit her because of some boy that I wanted to spend my holidays with. Every time I was jealous of her because she was skinny and pretty – and I never told her. I let her compare herself to me and think that she was dumb just because I did well in high school. She was so brave. I can’t remember if I told her that. Every time I ate the best part of the ice cream. Or finished the juice in the fridge. When I moved to Melbourne and left her in Perth. I wasn’t there for her year 12 ball. For her graduation. To give her advice when she started seeing her first boyfriend. When she lay in the bed next to me crying, and I didn’t know what to say to her. When they’d stopped the treatment and we all knew she was dying and I didn’t know how to say goodbye.

I kept listening to the music and felt my heart lower and my head begin to race – simmering anger – what gives you the right to be here? You are not enough. My privileged, purposeless, expensive, expiry-dated life. I was using it to drink. I was using it to “better” myself. To explore myself. And the more I did, the less I could feel about any of it. The further through my list of goals I got, the less I wanted them.

“Katie?”

“Yeah, what?”

“Did you guys want a lift? I assume he’s staying at yours.” He was referring to a mutual friend of ours that I sporadically slept with amongst awkward text messages and subtle nods of acknowledgement.

“Yeah, cool. Whatever’s easiest.”

The next morning I woke up hung over. My headache wouldn’t let me sleep any more. I was living in the days of smashed avocado brunches with savoury granola, burnt fig jam and bacon steaks – no trendy breakfast could help my unsettled stomach, so I didn’t eat. My housemate and I threw makeup on our faces and sunscreen into a bag, along with some cider, a bottle of vodka, and mixers.

“It’s going to taste like shit.”

“Someone will bring ice.”

“And a radio?”

“Yeah they said they’d have speakers for the Hottest 100.”

We watched a protest as we waited at the tram stop. It marched by us as we sat in silence. Both affected, both unwilling to talk about it. Australia Day was also known as Invasion Day and by ignoring the tension on that day I guess in some way we felt as though we were unwillingly condoning our colonial history. We went to an oval and played touch cricket with little skill. An English game that was transferred to this land the same way our ancestors were. There were two games of baseball being played either side of us. Our new influence was over powering the old.

I managed to down two ciders, collide with a fielder and skin my knee within the first hour. By my third cider the stinging had subsided and my hangover was fading to a dull headache. The cricket game was slow – I took a timeout. People walked passed me as I sat by myself and asked if I was okay, asked what I was doing. I smiled, “Yeah, I’m just having some space for a while. I’ll be back.” They nodded sympathetically at me.

***

As I lay naked next to a man that I’d met less than an hour before hand, he asked, his body still pressed on top of mine, if he could see me again. His nervous energy forced him to keep speaking, “I don’t want this to be just a one time thing. You’re beautiful. I mean look at you. I don’t know why I’m still talking.” I wasn’t putting him at ease with my closed lips. Eventually I nodded, though I still wasn’t sure. “Yeah, we can do this again.” He kissed me softly, he was good at it. At all of it. I hadn’t felt pressured by him, and he had maintained a good balance of control and tenderness that I appreciated and hadn’t expected from a stranger. There was a kind of freedom in the lack of feelings, which for some reason I was normally unable to separate from sex. Though historically the feelings had usually been negative they had still arisen, but for now I felt empty, and in a strange way empowered by that. This was easy. He had messaged me that afternoon on Tinder and joked a few times about coming over to help me clean the house. I knew that he wasn’t serious about the cleaning part, but I wasn’t sure if he was actually going to come over.

He asked for my suburb.

My phone number.

He called me.

He made it clear.

“See you in 20 minutes.”

I met him at the College Lawn, the closest bar to my apartment. I had raced out of my pyjamas and into a casually low cut summer dress, via a shower and a few shots of vodka. What the fuck am I doing? I was half way down the street by the time I asked that question and I didn’t have time to answer it.

He bought me a drink to start with. An easy opening. Decent.

“For the nervous girl,” I smiled at him and repurposed my fiddling hands. He didn’t come across as too smooth, in hindsight he was nervous, but I didn’t know him well enough to pick up on that initially. He kept the conversation moving and elaborated more than I did. He was 29, owned a house outright, and worked for some wine distribution company. He had a meeting later that afternoon.

“Should we go for a walk? I don’t feel like sitting down anymore.”

I nodded, and made a final attempt at my drink seeking to touch the melted ice to my lips with its reminisce of vodka.

“You weren’t what I expected.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you look exactly like your photo for a start, I didn’t expect you to be, well, all this.”

I didn’t respond. I assumed that we were walking back to my apartment even though neither of us had said anything about the prospect. I guess we didn’t need to – it was why we were both there, wasn’t it?

“So how come a girl like you is online talking to losers like me?”

“Losers? Is there something I should know about you?”

“You’re quick, I like that. I like that I can have a conversation with you.”

I walked up to my door, unlocked it and he followed me in.

“You want a drink: water, vodka, milk? That’s about all we’ve got.”

“No I’m okay.”

I poured myself the perfect drink – strong enough to relax me into the situation, but not so strong that I gagged when I swallowed it. I didn’t give him a tour, just gestured towards my room and he went in.

“Still nervous?”

“Yeah. Aren’t you?”

He cupped my face and kissed me instead of answering. He then took the glass from my hand, placed it safely on the desk and returned to my mouth.

We didn’t bother with removing each other’s clothes; none of this was about the foreplay. As his mouth smudged away my make-up and our sweat intertwined with my foundation, I wondered if he saw my sunburnt nose. The nearing purple circles underneath my eyes. My imperfect skin. I wondered if he saw my flaws. But he didn’t. He wasn’t even looking, we were fucking, and then, he was getting ready to fuck again. He wasn’t looking at me at all, but at a woman whose body was still firmed by youth. Even without the makeup acting as my armour – he didn’t see me. After he finished a second time I lay too close to him and made the mistake of stroking his hair back from his sweaty forehead. I made the mistake of lightly kissing his collarbone and the side of his neck. He started to open up to me, telling me about his sisters’ divorce and how her and her two infant children had just moved into the house with him. I didn’t want him to get attached to me or to his idea of me. He was lonely but I knew that I couldn’t help him. I listened vaguely to his words without reciprocating, all I was willing to give up was the body for which I was responsible, a body so sexualised that I hardly recognised it as my own but rather as society’s play thing – and so I used it too, just as I’d been taught. He was equally using me. Even if he didn’t realise it yet. With ease we both slipped into role playing, using one another and fooling even ourselves.

After he left for his meeting, I stayed home in my pajamas. I made scrambled eggs for dinner and watched bad movies that reminded me how useless the human endeavor to live was. The movies weren’t aiming for this reaction in the audience, I was just lucky. I ignored the messages on my phone from several different friends telling me to come out into the city. I felt hollow from the moment I saw them – I didn’t know how to talk to my own friends. I spent the evening looking at old photos; they were taken only a few months prior but they felt old. I looked happy. I was smiling; I loved looking at photos of myself smiling. Maybe I was self absorbed, I probably was in a number of ways, but looking at these photos I was able to rewrite my memory and convince myself of a previous joy and happiness that I had never actually felt. I took photos obsessively to funnel images into my head of what my life looked like from the outside. The young confident woman who was ambitious and studying law and wasn’t terrified to her core. But when I thought back to the events that the photos came from I remembered that the person I was and the life I was living in those photos was no different, nor happier than me now.

The deeper I fell into my head, the less control I had. I felt that familiar warm tingling stretching through my body – simmering anger – making my limbs feel similar to when I’m drunk. A racing heart, a body filled with energy. But this time it’s anxious energy. You’re not enough. Building, lowering, making me frozen in position. Legs firmly crossed, tightening muscles protecting myself – trying to protect my body from the words and images inside my head. You never helped her. The heating energy makes me want to throw up. I picture myself yelling. I can’t hear it but I can see the anger on my face. The effort, the flushing of my skin, wrinkling of my neck as my jaw opens wider to let more pain out. I can’t hear it because it reverbs inside my head, bouncing inside my skull. I picture myself yelling but I can’t let it out.

***

The summer was a disappointing collection of months but it followed the script and gave way to another semester of University. Another semester of timetables, exams, essays, coffees, cramming, drinks, stress, anything to distract me from myself. When I was younger time had seemed like an infinite concept. There was always more of it. The weeks had dragged on and it seemed as though the school holidays would never arrive, I sometimes thought that my sister and I would be waiting for them forever. But as I grew up, I found myself at an equal height to time – staring it straight in the eye as it tested me. You’re still here, it taunted. You’re still playing by my rules, it gloated. And all I could do was watch it pass.

Pass

Pass

Pass

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I
Am easily distracted
And you
You
Are sticky taped inside my head

I
Will let you flatter yourself
As you
You
Think that I have fallen

I
Don’t need that disclaimer
That you
You
Are writing for when you leave

I
Am already bored
With you
You
Are becoming too heavy for the tape to hold

I
Have begun to wander
From you
You
Will never have the courage to pull me back

I
Am already out with someone else
And you
You
Never really wanted all of me

I
Am easily distracted
And you
You
Used to be just that.

Draw the Blinds

I spent my undergraduate degree in rooms without windows. I was either surrounded by a droning voice imparting knowledge to my unheeding ears or by pumping music and heated breath. I could tell the time on a tram without looking. The moment the sun disappeared, the scents became stronger. Perfume, cologne, alcohol. And I became a passive smoker, breathing in the beginning of the night. In the hours when we used to dream we now hallucinate and forget, with the help of pocket substances. The only catch with this routine is that you lose the day. To hangovers, unconsciousness, stomach rejections and coming down. The trams act as the drugs of this city, delivering the chemicals of the night to their destinations. Through the needle, and down the vein.

In the winters I would walk home in the constant August drizzle to the smell of wet paper bags, clinging to…

View original post 1,362 more words

You tasted good to me
When you were dripping with love
Spilling it all over my thoughts
Where I let it dry
Like cement to fill up all the pits that I had dug.
Years of exploration, I found the dynamite quickly
And then you –
Found and lost.
We breathed in turn
But let go of that patience when we were yelling
Over one another
I blew us up
Out of habit and fear
Choosing to exhale your ashes
In one emotionless breath.
But the truth is – you never stood a chance,
Between those dehydrated dates
That repeated every year.

I envied her skeleton trees

As I watched my metallic blood

Spray all over her pavements.

I had joined the march –

Early mornings

Late nights,

Disguising myself so that she would be fooled

And so that I could forget

That there ever was anything else.

 

The zips of my dresses pulled my body together

And pulled me into the line up,

Of vacant stares

Modestly touching on and off,

Without touching each other.

By the weekends I was blind

To the fluorescent crime scenes covering her corners

And to the back street deals

That I would unknowingly feed off.

Her hunger was greater than mine

And her stillness unnerved me.

I sought to feed her parts of myself,

As I scurried between the years.

 

She held her scars out proudly,

Exchanging her used needles for freshly printed gazettes.

She had become an architect

Of loneliness.

But I stayed to wade through her morning fog,

Circling the seasons to watch her sweat in February

As arrogant lovers locked their hopes around bridges

And left her with the key.

Her momentum was reined in during the months

Of heat fleeing suitcases.

I didn’t near the rotating doors,

Residing instead with those left sucking at her taps of lager-

Lining our ignorant guts

As she lined herself with mirrors

Understanding that we were casually restructuring her soul.

 

I watched her move across the Night Cat

Lusting after the rhythms that she had heard before.

Her contorting shape moved more freely than mine

As I plummeted to the words at the bottom of my glass –

Wanting to throw their heavy soggy meanings

At someone who wasn’t there.

Still, she kept the trams running

As my shyly building confidence

Left each morning –

And I became, again,

Just one – wading through her fog,

Soberly harbouring withdrawals

From the passion I had imagined to her jazz

And with his hips.

I was trying myself on in front of her

Different selves for different hours –

She found suburbs for them all.

I fed off her – dividing her into consumable segments,

I had been drawn into the cycle

Of using her and stepping to the side

When they approached –

With bolt cutters in their hands and in my sight.

I did nothing.

 

Her afternoons were flooded

With backpacks strapped to uniforms

Swarming swiftly through her streets,

As if their schedules didn’t permit them to look around.

I remembered when I first subscribed, open eyed,

Determined to justify my place in her world,

Before my thoughts evaporated,

Leaving me as cold as the three slim men

Of the Bourke Street corner

Who gawked at her height above their names.

I was as tall as them now,

And able to slide my hands into theirs –

Cool, heavy, empty equals.

The blinds had positioned cigarettes between their puckered lips

Frozen in time, but still

Ashing,

Onto her bluestones.

The parties we frequented were often divided. To the eye it was between those who danced and those who talked, but to those in the know the division was based upon the drugs we took. In the backyards of Brunswick we were all illegally experimenting. The parties that started off with trending Triple J music, enjoyed by beanie cladded model looking men and lipstick coated girls, always turned into 90s sing along choruses by 3am as we recited a tribute to our shared youth.

The incestuous crowds we moved in fed our insecurities and thirst for replicated TV drama. Those we used to fuck, those we still did, those we wanted to, and of course those who wanted us. We would section off into groups and rooms, often trying to gain something – networking both above board and below it. By 4am the mixers had been reduced to discarded plastic bottles across the stove, allowing free hands and straight spirits to coax bodies to move behind closed doors.

I never had a good time at his Hope Street parties. Him and I often ignored each other and he always drank too much. I stood on the other side of the kitchen sink people watching, and remaining vague with the two young guys trying to engage me in conversation. My friends were in the backyard wading through new faces, moving seamlessly around the crowd and enjoying themselves. I filled my plastic cup up with water. I had chosen my position because it allowed me to observe the party and rehydrate simultaneously. I didn’t like mixing too much alcohol with drugs. Perhaps I was a conservative, or responsible, drug taker. My mother scoffed when I used together the terms that she deemed mutually exclusive.

I didn’t feel comfortable flirting with people in front of him, not to mention at his own party. After almost a year of on-and-off dating we were no closer to figuring out the concept of ‘us’. My newly developed indecisiveness hadn’t helped, and his decision to move from the other side of the country to be with me had pressured us both in different ways. I didn’t always like him, but he was good at talking and he challenged me. The worst thing about all of it was that part of me loved him, but I couldn’t work out what that meant. He came over to me and my cup of water, teasing me about its contents and handed me his drink with instructions to “go for it”. It was a bottle of tequila that had seen better days, the lid had disappeared along with most of the liquid and it had never met a mixer or chaser in its short life. Matt took my hand, ignoring the eggs that had been smashed into his floorboards, and led me into his room – it was time for another line of coke.

I stayed a few more hours in the backyard shed that had been dubbed the ‘rave cave’. I danced for a while and got bored – I found my housemate near the recently broken table tennis table and announced our departure home. Matt insisted on walking us to the main road to find a cab. He had asked me to stay at the party with him; I declined – there were too many people still revelling and I had no interest in continuing. We fought on the walk to Sydney Road and he picked me up off the ground. I struggled and felt my uncontrolled elbow collide with his face. He put me down as his nose bled out the remains of the coke that he was counting on absorbing with each sniff towards dawn. I showed no remorse and got into the cab.

***

I must have looked picturesque as I sat perched writing in my notebook on the brick fence, its letterbox my platform. The wind was soft and my hair and long skirt were graceful in the moment. I was annoyed by both of them.

There were palm trees lining Barkly Street, my conditioned brain inferred that we must have been near the beach, though I knew we were in Footscray. I watched cars have near misses on the busy road that led nowhere but the highway. I had no idea how the flowers in the front yard were still alive, they were beautiful and didn’t match the occupants. I had left the 1950s style house, bricked for consistency with the fence, by clutching onto the metal railing at the steps purposed to help the weak or elderly. My face was tired after 20 minutes of conversation, and I was retreating.

The outer suburbs had their charm, but I realised that this was probably considered an inner suburb now. The years of growth had seen the Melbourne landscape rezoned and rapidly re-priced. I was on the wrong side of the house waiting for Matt to drop off the speed that a three-day festival demanded. On the other side, my friend’s BBQ was in full swing to celebrate the night before we were due to drive down the highway in a borrowed school bus.

Matt had already taken a cut by the time he arrived for delivery. He walked up grinning at me.

“Can I kiss you?” I asked.

“Always.”

He was a good kisser, and I was starting to wonder if maybe I’d made a mistake by not committing to him when I had the chance. He was moving back to Perth – after working in Melbourne cafes and partying for a year, he said he wanted to find some direction. He had promised me that he would come back but I didn’t believe him. I knew I could ask him to stay, but I also knew that my feelings had a track record of fluctuating.

“Thanks for getting me this, and coming all the way to Footscray.”

“No worries, you knew I would.”

“You want to come inside? There are people out back.”

“Nah. This stuffs pretty strong, you’re going to have a great time on it.”

“I won’t have reception at the festival, turning my 3G off to save battery.”

“I won’t be calling.”

After Matt left I went inside to re-familiarise myself with my friends. There were six of us with packed bags and smuggled drugs heading to the festival the next morning. Most people were attempting to secure some sleep before it all began.

I sat in the kitchen, “All present” the only other occupant joked. He was the one who had thrown the BBQ and lived at the house. It didn’t seem like he wanted company at the table, and I didn’t care at the same time. He wrapped the small cap sized piles of MDMA in tally-ho paper. A delicate task – one down, nine to go. He then put them into empty panadol caps so that they were easier to swallow.

I was drinking water out of an old jar, it was only 1.30am and our scheduled departure was in 4 hours. The driver, my best friend, already disliked me for being awake. Another light, another pair of footsteps heard and felt in this house above the softly shuffling music. We were listening to his iPod, I ashamedly asked who the artist was. “Nick Cave” without blinking. Their bills were blue tacked to the kitchen wall. $376.65. A similar amount to the ignored bill that was magnetised to our fridge at home.

He’d never done speed. A statement. Simple as that, released to float across his dirty sink. The kitchen air was intermittently rearranged to make way for someone in search of cups or food. He left it there, to find my ears. My glance. His change of song. Same artist. The scraping of his library card as the gear made its way into the designated carrier. We didn’t have much conversation left in us.

Wrap, twist, cap, swallow- good luck.

***

We drove down the highway looking at cars with their boots full and windows blocked by VB slabs. We were all going to the same place. The place where stranger danger was non-existent and we left our valuables in unlocked tents and our booze in open eskys lying under someone else’s gazebo. Everyone relied on everyone else – we didn’t bother playing music at the campsite; we knew that someone nearby would have it sorted.

I looked at the slanted hills beyond the site – slippery grass; dewdrops ready to spread underfoot. Gravel stones, unsecured and rolling. I knew myself well enough to steer clear and concentrate on the simple task of walking. The fashion parade began. We watched and participated at the same time. I slapped the drugs into my brain as if I were applying sunscreen. An invisible layer of protection from the outside world that my body obediently absorbed. A lot of people were chewing gum. We chewed it to stop the speed fuelled grinding of our teeth. My fear and respect for drugs was still intact at this point, though with each familiar face I saw it waned in correlation.

“Cool music.”

“Yeah. You dropped yet?”

“About half an hour ago, should we get closer?”

I nodded and we became the children that Jim Morrison sang about – insane, limitless and free. But the decades had changed since he sung those words and we were a generation defined by multitasking – balance without balance as it were. We were the youths who lived off government payments and got ourselves important paper degrees from prestige institutions; we were the youths who dressed up in our parents’ clothes and sleeked our hair back to ace job interviews. The nine-to-five world that we effortlessly slipped into paid for our hallucinogens and sent us down highways to run into shared mindsets. We were the state’s teachers. The role models for mentorees and siblings, the grandchildren who dressed appropriately for Christmas lunches, the law students and future officers of the Supreme Court. We were the consumers, the supporters of the corporations- Coles and Safeway were where we had stopped to buy our mixers. Our freedom was merely an expensive time controlled escape down a highway.

As involved as I could be at 11am with the buzz of last night’s lines still fuelling my consciousness, I sat on a picnic rug and fantasised about sleep. The drugs had kept me awake and suppressed my appetite. I drank as something to do, and people watched. I was practicing the suspension of my disbelief. Again I saw everyone else enjoying themselves. I reached for my water bottle, the responsible drug taker that I was. I tried to start a conversation with my friends; we were staring at the hills beyond the perimeter again. The boys were too stoned to speak so I gave up on them and declined a toke of their joint. The night before I had considered some of the people who made advances but defaulted on my indecisiveness and bowed my head. I took my best friends hand and shared my sugar free lemonade and vodka mix. We agreed that it was disgusting and alternated shrivelling our faces as we continued to drink our artificially flavoured impulse buy.

My head wasn’t clear for days after the festival, and though I had initially boasted that being on drugs meant that I could remember everything, it all began to blur once our school bus hit Melbourne. The familiar streets, trams, traffic. Nothing had changed, and nor had we. We hadn’t grown closer as friends, we had just shared bathroom lines and picnic blankets, passed around sunscreen and touched shared water bottles to our mouths. We had spent 72 hours together, barely any of them sleeping, and hadn’t managed more than a handful of conversations. We hugged goodbye, pushing our sore and empty bodies into each other without thinking twice.

I saw Matt the next day before he left for Perth. He still smelt like a café – there was chocolate powder permanently lodged underneath his fingernails from the cappuccinos and smudges of coffee beans between the light hairs on his arms. He was familiar and handsome. We sat in the park near my house and joked about our dysfunctional relationship. It was our usual banter, but there was proof in the way that we teased each other that we had been more than friends. He had spent a year getting to know me, listening to my senseless ramblings and remembering it all. He had used this information to comfort me, and laugh along side me. But I had spent the entire year not listening to anything, being closed off to the idea of love and taking his affections for granted only to throw them back at his face. And he had let me. He had understood parts of me enough to be patient, to wait as I was reckless with other lovers, drinking myself into poor decisions. He had held my hair back and brought my Law books home from my locker when I was sick and living on the other side of the city. He had helped me carry supermarket shopping home without being invited in. He had offered me love and I had never given anything back to him. I knew that I was about to lose it all – his love and his friendship.

“Don’t go back to Perth.”

“Give me a reason to stay.”

“We could play basket ball again? With enough practice I might even beat you.”

“You already know how to play the game Katie. Your problem is committing to it.”

Perspective.
Like a slap in the face when you’re mulling over a boy.
A violent shock that knows better than you do;
its jewelled hand leaving imprints
on your barely cleaned skin.
A tear slicing through
the caked layers of your voluntary weight;
maybe it was just a bead of sweat
From all the work it takes to live
in denial.
Perspective,
as we wait at the hospital
for a broken arm- just flesh and bone,
cured
by the signing of a cast.
Growing pains and privileged thoughts
of egocentric children
who were ripened by gravity,
we fell; forgetting-
Perspective.
Feasting on each other’s anxieties
to fill our already bulging guts-
we hide beneath white napkins.

Perspective
knocks at the window of my relationship,
where I am passed out underneath the metal frame
of the bed where we used to lie;
naked and fraudulent.
Watching-
as we yell, and fuck and tear ourselves apart,
plucking at each others bodies,
hair by hair,
for the sake of a dedicated quest
to not be alone.
We break.
Another lease,
another affinity,
another layer of contentment;
sliced.
Sucking joy from the prisoners of our alliances,
emotional fragility severing our hearts
nothing solid this time.
We never see the shards.
Perspective,
as the staples in my shoes edge out
forgetting their place
behind the yellow line,
as metro speeds us into the city,
late again,
we hold wine, illegal again,
perspective,
as we hand our smiles
to the authorities out of fear,
crippling still stomachs-
it’s someone’s birthday.

Perspective
waits at the entrance of my exam
as I plough through highlighted notes,
a trained brain
reciting logical monstrosities.
Compiled learning-
there is nothing that I truly know.
Perspective,
behind a coffee machine burning the milk,
destruction served up
cup by cup.
Fired.
Before you paid the rent.
Perspective
that watches you lose your dinner
to the sea gulls
who freely fly away
no currency lost, nor punishment imposed.

Perspective,
when it keeps going
and she screams no.
In tears she is operative and spiritless,
freezing at someone’s touch.
Her head
floating in the clear thoughts of suffocation.
Perspective,
as a limp body breathes
Just
In
Time.
Nothing broken in our palms,
nor in her figure.
Perspective creeps
through a PICC line
into a still arm.

Perspective
seeps out to mix with a body’s fluids
as I rip my tights to a bleeding knee.
The kindness of a stranger
walks me home;
nothing expected or taken.
Falling apart onto the stairs,
cracking
my composure-
lost
to the night
lost
to an inkling
fatter than persecutive
that we might not succeed;
that she might not succeed.
Lost to knowing
that her young laboured breaths
have stopped.

Perspective,
I brace for your slap,
and put aside my white napkin.