Fitzgerald wrote about trying to emulate the past by recreating the exact environment in which something happened, and hoping it mimics itself precisely. Utilising nostalgia to recreate the simpler times.
Except your childhood wasn’t exactly that simple and your parents were actually struggling to make ends meet and were wondering if they could afford Christmas presents for the kids that year. The boy you thought liked you back actually liked someone else and just didn’t know how to break it to you, and the way those guys treated you at work wasn’t flattering but in hindsight a form of cruelty.
And no matter how many times you go over it you can’t figure out how you’re here, how you always end up here, alone on a Friday night, with nothing but a cup of tea and a book about space by your elbow. You take a Panadol for your headache but that only works on fevers and doesn’t help you come to terms with the fact that the Sun has a diameter of 1,392,684kms but that distance feels smaller than the space between you and the person you love.
People tell you that your time will come but they say it while sitting on the lap of their boyfriend and they forget that sometimes, just sometimes, people’s time never actually comes or if they do, they miss it because they were too busy looking up at the stars.
And no matter how you try to change deep down unfortunately you’re still you and there must be something about you that no amount of mascara or hair twirls can change; it’s still been five years since you’ve been on a date and it’s a thought that will always haunt you after the third glass of wine.
Jay Gatsby was chasing a thing in his past that was better than his future but still not everything he ever wanted, and it makes you sad when people say they don’t like the novel because they have what you don’t.
some days and nights i treat my apartment like a therapist. walking up and down the long hallway, or quietly fidgeting on the lounge, voicing all of my thoughts and problems, my questioning of the universe and why it is the way it is. i’ll laugh and i’ll cry and i’ll crack open my chest and lay everything out, spilling out every part of me saying here it all is. but my voice just echoes back at me saying honey there’s no one here we have to put this back together ourselves.
I can’t see the sun right now, it’s been covered up by the dust. It’s made the apartment to be an eerie yellow. It’s unnerving.
As I’m sure you all have noticed, I’ve been posting quite a lot on the internet today about the bushfires that are ravaging NSW and QLD at the moment. These two states have been declared to be a climate emergency. There are currently 97 fires burning across NSW alone.
These postings have led to various discussions of the politicisation of the bushfires. Some argue that now is not the time to point fingers.
And I get that, I totally do. At least 3 people have lost their lives today. 7 people are missing. 150 homes have been destroyed. Many more will follow. It’s horrifying. And my heart breaks for these people.
And to talk politics now seems … crass. Unsensitive. But, the question arises, if not now, when?
We have tried to talk about climate change prior to this moment. But our climate-denying PM has always argued with its existence. Deputy PM Michael McCormack yesterday said that climate change is only the concern of “raving inner-city lunatics”. Which is just so awesome for our country.
On Sept 20 thousands of adults and children took place in climate strikes across the country. ScoMo condemned those skipping work or school, stating that children shouldn’t miss class. Today 575 schools and universities, not to mention the thousands of businesses, are closed for precautionary reasons.
The Liberals have proudly declared their 2019-20 budget surplus. But this was at the expense of a series of cuts made. $78.5 million of those dollars were from either Fire and Rescue NSW or the Office of the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Today, all Scott Morrison has offered are his “thoughts and prayers”. But that is not enough anymore. We need immediate change and widespread policy shifts that put environmental concerns at the forefront.
Prior to the election I asked for people to be aware of who they were voting for. What their stances are. The Australian public voted with their wallets and not the environment in mind, or with the classic donkey vote. These are the devastating consequences.
So please. Be aware of politics. Pay attention to the policies of the people in charge. They control the nation. A nation that is currently on fire. They need to do something about that. They need to make a change. That is all I ask.
But the priority, above all, is safety.
Please be careful. Download the NSWRFS app ‘Fires Near Me’ and be aware of what’s going on around you. Donate what you can, whether physical goods or funds. Be safe out there it’s looking pretty sketchy.
I don’t know if we talk enough about this. If we give enough credit to the fact that no one really, truly, knows what they’re doing. That this is everyone’s first time going through life. Making choices. Real life proper decisions that will categorically have a profound effect on our future. And just, hoping they stick.
I’ve written this piece a bunch of different ways and not been happy with any of them. They all turn into some bildungsroman of my life which is a sorry road no one wants to go down; I wanted life to go one way, it went another, I’m sure there’s a point to this but it 100% got lost along the way.
So let me try again, from a different tack.
For the past ten years, or there about, I’ve felt very lost. It always starts when you’re 16 doesn’t it. I guess that’s when you become aware, when you move into that next phase, when you start having school classes on ‘deciding what to do when you grow up’ and people actually have a kind of idea.
I don’t know if I’ll ever know what I want to do. I’m in my final year of my BA: Writing and English Literature / Modern History, and people often ask what I’ll do once I graduate. Like I embarked on this very expensive four-year long experience knowing where I want to end up, and how I should get there. If someone doesn’t walk up to me at graduation and say, ‘Taylah, we’ve been keeping an eye on you (for some unknown reason) and we think you’d be perfect for this incredibly niche job that you’re going to love wholeheartedly,” I am screwed. I love my degree. And I’m very lucky to be able to say that. But damn knows what I’m going to do with it. (Legit, if anyone has any ideas, please hit me up).
And that just kind of sums me up. Graduating at 26 with a BA, having no real direct line of employment. Actually no, the story I really like to tell that sums me up is this. And this is just a full flaunt but I don’t even care:
I love James Acaster. Love love love. I think he’s just the funniest person in the world and I am kicking myself that I got on that bus so late and missed out on getting any tickets to both his Australian and English tour. Anything I currently reference comes back to him. I yell ‘no more jobs’ before I go to sleep every night. I am a devout fan.
So anyways, I’m in London AND HE GETS ON THE TRAIN I AM ON, IN THE CARRIAGE I AM IN, AND SITS SO SO CLOSE TO ME. I happened to already been sitting with my back against the windows, facing the aisle, so it wasn’t weird that I continued to sit this way and therefore try my absolute hardest ESP to get him to look at me. Which he did. We had some real nice eye contact and I smile. It’s going on my gravestone. Anyways, so I’m hyping myself up to go over and say, ‘kudos on existing in a particularly funny way’, but want to give him enough time to settle in so that I seem less fangirl more hot girl on the train I should 100% ask out. Turns out the next station was not far down the track and there were A LOT of humans waiting to get on. So now there’s maybe 50 people in about a 3m2 space between me and old James. During this busy time, he falls alseep, cap pulled down, headphones on, head resting on that flimsy little tray. The majority of humans get off, he stays on the train. But he’s still kippers so both the moment and opportunity is gone. But then, to my absolute luck, an elderly couple get on the train. She sits next to me. He sits opposite and one behind, next to him. They’ve got travel documents they need to sort out. WELL LET ME COME TO YOUR RESCUE. DO YOU WANT TO SWITCH SEATS SO IT’S EASIER FOR YOU GUYS. NO, I DON’T MIND AT ALL. IT’S A HUGE IMPOSITION, BUT I’M A NICE GUY. I am now seated next to James Acaster. The current love of my life. The person who I said was, if I could see one famous person in England, this is who it would be. Sorry Idris, you’ll always be my No. 2. Talk about meant to bloody be.
THE DUDE SLEEPS THE ENTIRE TIME. A whole hour we were sat next to each other. Didn’t rouse once. Sneezed the loudest I’ve ever sneezed in my life. Didn’t come close to saying ‘bless you’. Listen to Thom Yorke’s Anima the whole time on the oft chance he’d wake up, be astounded by his good luck, ask me what I’m listening to as a way to start conversation, and then by astounded by how cool and with it I am musically. But no. I have never in all of my life been so close to greatness and then been so monumentally stitched up. This is definitely the story that sums me up.
So, luck is clearly not on my mate. I get that. And if he had been awake it probably wouldn’t be a huge meet-cute and I probably wouldn’t be living in London right now after a hasty green card marriage, cause who wouldn’t want Boris Johnson as their leader. And because he was a sleep I now have a funny anecdotal story, plus a slightly weird video that I took. There is a reason for everything I’m sure.
But some people just seem so freaking not similar to me. Just so bloody lucky, living the good life, having clarity on their job, doing something they both like AND are good at. What are the odds of that. Plus, with a life partner that genuinely loves and cares for them and they both find each other attractive and they’re both on a similar enough intellectual level that they have stuff to talk about and similar interests and principles and life goals and whatever. HOW TO PEOPLE GET ONE OF THOSE I AM SO CONFUSED.
All my life I wanted to be married at twenty, kids by twenty-three. Loving mother, devout wife, 100% a product of my very conservative Christian upbringing by that’s another story. And when twenty came and went that was fine. Then twenty-one. Twenty-two. Twenty-three hurt a lot I am not going to lie. Most people I was friends with are either married, engaged, or in serious relationships. I apply to go on exchange. Amazing copy mechanism. Definitely not the cheapest.
I went over to England and was a twenty-four year old hanging out with a bunch of nineteen to twenty-two year olds. It was the greatest time. First time in a while I hadn’t felt behind. (Aside from being sometimes quite a bit older than people who were at the same stage of life as me, but that is neither here nor there.)
I’ve never been in a relationship. Never come even close to a boyfriend. I’m sure there’s a reason for that. Not sure if I want the answer. But with this perpetual singledom came the misconception that people in relationships are further ahead in life. (That misconception can be furthered by people in relationships, but that is not the point of this piece, and not all the blame can go on them). And while we are different, there is no denying that, one is not better than the other. I put being in a relationship on a pedestal. It defined my early twenties, wanting to get one, lamenting not being in one, cursing the good fortunes of those who were. I spent those years just waiting for one to happen to me. Waiting for life to happen to me.
I defined myself by my relationship status (or lackthereof). I compared myself to people, always feeling I came up short. I’m at UNI a couple of years later, still working in hospo, not sure what to do with my degree, not knowing what to do with my life, not having someone currently to share it with. To be fair, I did get out of the sharehouse life, so there has been some personal growth.
But, this year, I’ve had a real breakthrough. I don’t know what it is. Maybe they were right, travel really does change you. God, I’m so cultured now I’ve just seen the world and what it can do. Which really just means I’ve eaten Maccas in multiple countries.
Maybe I’m watching the right movies, the right TV shows. Strong female leads (Fleabag) and interesting storylines. But also, Bachie. Or maybe I’m reading the right books, strong female leads, well-written fiction, interesting memoirs (I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Everything I Know About Love), educational readings – thanks uni.
I know for a fact I’m surrounding myself with the right people. I’m very very lucky on that count.
But, for the first time in what feels a long time, I feel really and truly properly happy with myself and where I’m at. I’ve stopped comparing myself with others. I have always been happy for others, I want to make that known. But I’ve never been able to make it not at the expense of myself. And that’s on me. I’ve got issues. That’s old news. But, I’m at peace with where I’m at.
There’s two quotes that have been stuk in my head. The first is from Fleabag (I just binge-watched S1),
” … either everyone feels like this a little bit and they’re just not talking about it, or I am completely fucking alone …”
And the second is from Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize for Literature Acceptance Speech,
“I’ve been emphasising here the small and the private, because essentially that’s what my work is about. One person writing in a quiet room, trying to connect with another person, reading in a quiet – or not so quiet – room. Stories can entertain, sometimes teach or argue a point. But for me the essential thing is that they communicate feelings. That they appeal to what we share as human beings across our borders and divides … But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: ‘this is the way it feels for me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?’
I guess I have said all that to say this.
I write purely so that people can read something and say, ‘hey, you put it into words. It feels that way for me to.’
I have spent years comparing myself to others and feeling like less of a human because of it. But, once you come out of it, once you have that epiphany, life is good. Age is just a number, time isn’t real, this is all definitely just a social construct.
And with that has come the realisation, that everyone else is in the same boat. No one is on their second time round, handling the tricky turns like a pro. Everyone here is a rookie. Hoping the degree the chose is what they hope it’ll be, that the date their going on next Friday might finally be ‘the One’. That the boy she says yes to marrying allows for the future she’s always dreamed.
Life is full of these huge decisions we make on a whim, that have profound domino effects on the rest of our existing. And everyone every day is walking around, doing potentially life-altering things, like it’s no biggie.
I think things in life happen for a reason. I’m beginning to see my reason.
I first heard Raury’s ‘God’s Whisper’ in the closing scene of American Honey. It’s a film about a girl trying to find herself and while travelling the American Midwest selling magazines with other such teenagers. But that’s beside the point. Or maybe it’s not, you can never really know until it’s all over I guess.
The first time I saw American Honey was one weekend recovering from a netball social when I was at Lancs. And that song, in that final scene, stuck with me. Gosh, I played it over and over and over. It seemed to perfectly encapsulate, just, the entire experience. I’d felt, and it’s such a cliché – cheers Chbosky, infinite. And now, any time I hear it, I think of England. I’m listening to it on repeat.
Going back to England I knew would be a shout. You’re never going to have a bad time on holiday. But damn. Visiting Lancaster again was like having the final week I wish my final week had been. While spending 10hrs a day working on six different essays with Frankie was as good as we could make it, LOTR soundtrack on and cracking a Budweiser as soon as was socially acceptable, it was a little tedious. Not the last hurrah one hopes for. But that week in Lancs is what dreams are made of. Bowland winning Founders for the first time in 5 years, which I don’t think was a coincidence at all. Afternoon BBQs at Williamson Park watching the sun set at 10PM or something equally ludicrous – never got used to that either. Becoming heavily invested in Love Island and incorporating it into pres, it is what it is. Extravs, fluffy ducks, games of Paranoia. Dancing like absolute idiots at empty nights in Sugar. Going to Daltons on my first night there and being completely sober but very much on a level. Celebrating firsts and 2:1s with bottles of Prosecco on the hill. That entire week has a sundrenched filter over it.
My first time round at Lancaster I knew I’d met some right sorts. I marvel at how lucky I’d got. The entire application for exchange was done on a whim, bit of a coping mechanism. People asked me why I chose Lancaster, and I really can’t remember why. I think they had a course I really wanted to do. Cancelled it the week before I started. Chose Bowland in the way that you choose the second cheapest option at Coles. You don’t want basic basic, but you are skint. I got placed in Flat 8 of Ash House, in the girls end of the corridor. And everyone I lived with was amazing. But three of those girls were proper nice – Frankie, Anna and Ellie. Organised a lunch at Bowland bar for one lunch, and thus Pie Pals was born.
But experiences like that can just be a little phase. That Aussie girl who lived with us for a while who said words like heaps and punish and called everything chips. Who, like some kind of idiot, thought 5 degrees was cold.
By going back, I made it concrete. These are people I’m going to know and love for the rest of my life. Not just those three girls, but all the other rad humans I met over there. (I’d list them all but then they’re be the politics of what order to put them in and if I’ve left any out.) People who made me feel very comfortable and accepted, by way of bantering and making sure the self-esteem takes some real hits, proper floppy now.
I’ve never found leaving a place this hard. I was thumbing through my little notebook the other day and found something I wrote but don’t remember doing, while at Gate 10 in Melbourne Airport: the cruellest part of the human existence is that you can only be one person.
Future note: do not make a 35hr commute home while hungover.
In 1994, the Hutu majority of Rwanda went about systematically wiping out the Tutsi minority. In just a hundred days, 800,000 people were massacred. The international community did nothing to intervene.
It was a cooler night, with clear skies and the moon peeking out from behind the neighbouring apartment block. The dishes had been piled in the sink and now cups of tea and half eaten cookies were resting by our elbows. Friends was on in the background, but neither Angus or myself had been paying it much attention. It was an episode we’d seen before, the pilot episode, the ‘one where it all began’.
“Angus. Do you think it’s possible to have survivor’s guilt just from existing?”
He looked up from what had been a long Instagram scroll. “Sorry, I was lurking this girl from high school. What about survivor’s guilt?”
“Well, we were discussing the Rwandan genocide in class today. All of these people massacred, and no one did anything to stop them. Our teacher told us that the Hutu’s would force families to rape each other, so in the middle of the night Tutsi neighbours would switch so that at least it wasn’t your own relative that you were forced to, you know…”
Joey: And you never knew she was a lesbian?
Ross: No, okay? Why does everyone keep on fixating on that? She didn’t know, how the hell should I know?
Joey: Alright Ross, look, you’re feeling a lot of pain right now. You’re angry, you’re hurting. Can I tell you what the answer is? [Ross nods] Strip joint!
“…I cried about it on the bus home.”
“That’s horrible. God, Til, that’s just, I mean, shit.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
“Sometimes I don’t think those things are worth thinking about.”
The genocide began within the Hutu military. The soldiers and police encouraged the civilians to take part in the killings. Participants were given incentives, in the form of money, food, or land, to kill the Tutsis. The massacres were carried out mainly with machetes.
It was week eleven. The assessments were starting to pile up, and a lot of our time was being spent at the kitchen table, with the tap tap tapping of keyboards, surrounded by loose sheets of paper and textbooks and old teacups and new teacups.
“Lawrence utilises the two male characters in Lady Chatterley’s Lover to demonstrate man’s dichotomous nature, believing that full humanity is achieved when both the body and the spirit are in harmony. Clifford represents the intellectual husband whose impotence embodies the debilitating effects of a culture that values the spiritual or intellectual at the expense of the physical. Mellors, on the other hand, draws his energies from nature and physicality, mostly through sex. When Connie asks what he believes in, he replies, ‘I believe in being warm-hearted. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart’.”
I stopped typing and looked over at Angus. “I don’t know how you do that.”
He didn’t look up from his screen. “How I do what?”
“Just not think about things. Before, when we were talking about Rwanda. You said, ‘sometimes I don’t think those things are worth thinking about’.”
“Yeah, you know I don’t. They make me too sad. I get all depressed and mopey. What’s the point of that? It doesn’t change anything.”
The apartment across the way was lit up. They seemed to be having a party. I could hear an out-of-tune rendition of ‘Shallow’. It sounded like they were having a good time.
“Yeah, nah, I get that. Ever since doing the readings, I feel like I’ve had this physical pain; genuinely depressed. But I don’t know. It feels important too. This is the world we live in. I don’t think we can just plead ignorance. That’s how people get away with literal genocide, people burying their heads in the sand. I’m sitting here writing an essay on the symbolism of the phallus in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It just seems so bloody trivial in comparison.”
“Ooft, what an essay topic. Any saucy language?”
“I get to use the phrase, wait, let me find it so I can get it exactly right, ‘fine brown fleece of the mound of Venus’ in a third-year literary essay. I’m living the absolute dream right here.”
“But it just makes me mad, you know. This is a novel where the complication is that an upper-echelon white English woman … actually I think the white goes without saying. An upper-echelon English woman gets her best jollies from a lower-class white man, instead of someone on her ‘level’. I get that Lawrence wrote this really powerful book about the freedom of women and living your best life, but these colonial powers and what they deem to be important. This was released in 1928. England still had colonies in 1928. Not commonwealth nations or dominions or protectorates, of which there were a lot, but literal colonies. Nearly 30 of them. 30 countries that they’ve invaded and subjugated and they’re over here writing about the inter-class orgasms.”
Angus didn’t seem to be paying attention anymore.
Joey: Of course it was a line.
Monica: Why? Why would anybody do something like that?
Ross: I assume we’re looking for an answer more sophisticated than ‘to get you into bed’.
Monica: Is it me? Is it like I have some sort of beacon that only dogs and men with severe emotional problems can hear? I just, thought he was nice, you know?
Joey: [pause] I can’t believe you didn’t know it was a line.
“Friends isn’t at all like real life is it?”
“Um, okay, time for a new conversation I guess.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, I just got distracted.”
I looked at Angus. He really didn’t seem to want to talk about it. And how hard do you force sobering reality down someone’s throat?
“The river Kagera flows into a steep ravine that forms the natural border between Tanzania and Rwanda. There is a small waterfall where the river narrows before entering the gorge. In the rainy season the river swells. As it sweeps down from the highlands, it gathers into its current’s huge clumps of elephant grass and numerous small trees. In the late spring of 1994 it was much the same with human corpses. They, too, twisted and turned, rose and dropped and came bouncing over the falls before they found the still water which would carry them down to Lake Victoria. They did not look dead. They looked like swimmers, because the strong currents invested them with powers of movement. So lifelike did they appear that for a few moments I winced as I watched them thrown against the rocks, imagining the pain they must be feeling. It was only beyond the falls, where they floated lifeless among the trees and grass, that one could accept the certainty of death. The border guards told me people had been floating through in their hundreds, every day for weeks. Many had their hands tied behind their backs. They had been shot, hacked, clubbed, burned, drowned.”
(Anonymous eyewitness, 1994)
“Growing up I thought mid-twenties would look exactly like this. Equal pairings of really good-looking friends, all with heaps of free time, at the same time, lounging around at coffee shops.” Angus was still looking at the TV, speaking almost absent-mindedly. “Then you actually get here and realise that your twenties are spent working 30hrs a week at a part time job that you don’t love, serving people coffee, but not in the casual way that Rachel does, but where you spend 8hrs run off your feet. And on the days that you’re not working you’re either at Uni or doing Uni work trying to maintain your grade average because you want to get into honours so that you can actually get a job because everyone has a Bachelor degree these days. And on the side of all that mowing lawns 5 to 8 hours a week for your Dad’s landscaping company just to have a little cash that isn’t going to bills. And then the absolute cherry on top is doing all of that while maintaining mental health and spending quality time with your significant other and keeping friendships alive and making time for social outings. If this wasn’t my life pretty much every damn week, I wouldn’t think it was possible.” He turned and looked at me. “And as if that wasn’t enough, every week there’s a new atrocity committed somewhere, or some devastating piece of history on the front page of newspapers. Don’t get me wrong, my heart breaks for Rwanda. But I honestly don’t know how much more reality I can take.”
Friends had set almost impossible standards to live by. It had made that kind of life seem attainable. That all it took was some elbow grease, a couple of epiphanies, but most importantly the company of five other humans who all had very similar time schedules, life plans, core beliefs, and never got on each other’s nerves. That life has a way of working out and while you’re juggling a career, you’ll also meet the perfect person and they’ll fit seamlessly into your life. All while being able to afford a nice apartment in the Village.
“I realised the other day that this first season of Friends was released only a couple of months after the genocide.”
“Please, Matilda, don’t.”
“I’m just pointing it out, that’s all. While this was being filmed, on the other side of the world thousands of people were dying. And you wouldn’t ever know from watching. From the looks of this, our number one issue or not is whether we’re getting laid or not.”
“It’s not, Gus. I’m sorry, but it’s not. It’s numbing ourselves to reality. Because what we do with our time and what we surround ourselves by affects us. It shapes who we are. It’s not escapism. It’s influence. I’m not against an episode of trashy tv here and there. But, there’s got to be some balance.”
He gave me a look that nearly broke my heart. “But what the can I do, Til? What about my life can I adjust to make it better for people thousands of kilometres away, who don’t know me, who I’ll never meet? I’m barely keeping my own life together. How can I fix theirs? Geez, you spend your whole life focused on the plight of others. And I love that about you. You believe so strongly in being aware and trying to fix these horrible things. But when will you fix what’s here?”
“Fix what here?”
“This. Us. You’re on this, I don’t even know what, mission to civilise? Which is marvellously ironic.”
“You can’t compare me trying to be aware and educate myself, about things that have occurred in our lifetime might I add, with the English settlers who forced their culture on indigenous people to ‘make them better’. It’s not at all the same.”
“Maybe it’s not. But it is you choosing what issues are most important to you. It’s you, putting them, over me.” He brought the fresh cup of tea over and switched it out for my cold one.
There are moments in life in which a monumental shift will occur, and you’ll hardly be aware of it. The day I impulsively quit my job to move three hours from home on a whim. It was a Monday, but that’s all I remember. The who’s and what’s and how’s haven’t stuck. And then there are other instances where time almost seems to stop. Maybe it’s life’s way of saying, “careful now. This matters. What you say or do next is important.”
“It’s not a competition. It’s not you or them. I don’t have to choose you and your way of going through life, or the people and issues I study and research, and how I process it. It can be both.”
“You don’t have to choose me?”
“Angus, you know that’s not what I mean. Of course I choose you. I have chosen you. I’m here, I’m with you. And I’m grateful for that.”
“But you’re not, are you. Not really, not anymore. I know because I remember what it was like when you were here. You thought I was funny and interesting and what I had to say was important. You cared about my opinions, my beliefs, where I stood on things. And now you’ve turned me into a freaking cliché.”
Roméo Dallaire was in charge of a UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda when the violence broke out. He did everything in his power to quell the initial violence, and put in multiple petitions for more personnel and weaponry. They were all denied. In 2000 he was found unconscious on a park bench, after consuming a bottle of scotch and his daily dose of pills for PTSD. He later sent a letter to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation thanking them for their sensitive coverage of this episode. He wrote, “There are times when the best medication and therapist simply can’t help a soldier suffering from this new generation of peacekeeping injury. The anger, the rage, the hurt, and the cold loneliness that separates you from your family, friends, and society’s normal daily routine are so powerful that the option of destroying yourself is both real and attractive. It appears, it grows, it invades, and it overpowers you.”
(Dallaire, quoted in Power, 2001)
We were both standing now. For some reason fights always end up in the upright position.
“Babe, I don’t mean to. I want to be here. I want to be with you. But always in the back of my head are these truths about the world we live in. Which sucks, I get it. But I’m not going to change it. It shouldn’t make you feel bad though. I don’t mean for it to.”
“Til, I know you don’t mean to. But that doesn’t make it better. God, one of the things I liked most about you when I met you was your passion for this. I wish I felt that strongly. But now all you seem to do is to spend your days with your head either in a book or reading some poignant article that makes you draw into yourself and barely even speak to me. And I tiptoe around wondering what the hell I’ve done wrong.” He put air quotes around poignant.
“You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“But I have, haven’t I. I haven’t felt as strongly as you do. And I see that look in your eyes. You think you care more than me. But you’re wrong. I just care about different things than you do. I care about the things that are here.”
“I care about things here.”
“I’m sure you do. We’re just different, that’s all.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I don’t know. I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” He started to switch off the lights. “Don’t stay up too late okay. You’ve got work in the morning remember. Oh, and I brought home my leftover Thai from lunch for you to take with you.”
“You didn’t have to do that.”
He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay. Oh, and before, when you asked if I get survivor’s guilt?”
I nodded, trying to coax him back to me.
“I do. But for different reasons.
I like it but I don’t know why,
and someone once said a similar thing about me.
Nothing perfectly matched,
everything on a whim.
“You don’t follow conventions, I’ve always admired that about you.”
All I’ve ever wanted was to be like everyone else.
It’s pencil on paint,
childhood tools in an adult world.
Her mouth is smudged,
not fully formed, not fully finished.
It reminds me of my own,
or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.
I think I can see a face,
an eye, a nose.
But I’m no longer sure what is up and what is down,
where the ocean ends and the sky begins.
It’s pink and it’s red and it’s blue and it’s green.
Mum always told me it’s the hope for things unseen.
There is sunshine in the middle,
but it’s surrounded by confusion,
red and brown and black.
Is organised mess still mess?
I know exactly in which nook my favourite shirt is,
even though you can’t see the floor in my room.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
but sometimes you’ve got to really squint to see it.
If I squint,
I see a woman.
With my eyes wide open,
it’s just a mess of colours, shapes, texture.
1. I walk into the room.
2. It’s the same as it’s always been.
3. I sit in the same chair, in the same position, facing away from the door because of a weird personality quirk.
4. I look around and see a lot of familiar faces. We nod and smile. Recognition. Camaraderie.
5. We are all here for different versions of the same reasons.
6. And there’s a comfort in that.
Ibuprofen is used to reduce fever and treat inflammation but it’s not helping me come to terms with the fact that the Sun has a diameter of 1,392,684 kms but that distance feels smaller than the space between us. An appointment between the hours of 11 and 3 in Building 17 can provide personal support for students experiencing difficulty but I don’t know if that includes unrequited love.
I don’t have a history of blood clots or strokes but my heart hurts in a way I didn’t think it was supposed to.
One million earths could fit inside the sun and I wonder if on any of those earths I’d get to be with you?