June 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
My flatmate pours over a picture of her boyfriend, who is back in Germany. I see her sitting there, in her little room with her little pictures. “He’s fucking some other chick RIGHT NOW” is what I think. And who knows, maybe she is too. People are very bla’se when it comes to living double, triple or quadruple lives these days. One of my managers at work – and I must fill in here that ‘work’ is a demountable cabin the size of a houseboat – is completely capable of acting like the next room of the office space is “another department”. Having previously worked in a real bureaucracy, she is simply unable to relinquish the habit of a piece of paper taking a week and a half to move between two people. Knowing this, I constantly yell out to her from my desk like we are on a building site: “Got that memo about David’s contract? Chuck it under the door will you?”. She spends most of her time scurrying around getting cups of tea or taking “time in lieu” just to avoid the horrible discomfort. People, to her, are figments. The job she wants is one where she can stop in the corridor for some faux-speak about keeping such-and-such in the loop, only to disappear into her rat-hole of an office to become “The HR Department”, present only in vague official emails and at meetings. Oh, and in everyone’s mind. The content of her emails are, of course, rubbish. She never does any of the things she puts in them, she claims she is having meetings she is not having, and that she understands systems she has no idea of. I had to go into her office one day for a form, having been under the impression that it was a slick interview room full of manuals. I could not open the door for the paper banked up against it (she must have left by the window) and there was half a cake under the desk. There was paper piled up on the chairs, bits of what appeared to be a PA system, and every single memo and file I had been asking her about was heaped in with receipts, bits of printing and other books and papers in three Coles bags on the floor. She’s mad. It’s obvious, but no one can point it out, because it’s work and you just can’t.
What this demonstrates, though I’m actually not entirely sure that it does, is that people can tell themselves stories and live in entire worlds of make-believe and they actually truly and utterly have convinced themselves of the truth of it. Or that I can’t forget the amount of infidelity I have seen since the shedding of my child brain began here…
…I’ve just re-read that last one and it’s like every kind of “verbal photograph” I could ever produce comes off as this nostalgic reflection of a golden past which was fake and should be disregarded.
Out here in the crisp mountain air one can really appreciate the mediocrity of Andrew McGahan and improve one’s arm in darts.
May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’m sorry the blog is mournful lately, but I need an accurate picture of this experience. I am worried about various issues and it comes out that way. It’s why I think The Waste Land is essentially a poem about working in a bank. Mum says more people would like me if I wasn’t such a cunt (to that effect). I will try harder.
May 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
The past week has been a process of embracing my total dumbness and re-calibrating my entire self, basically, to sit firmly within the parameters of externally-defined average. We folk. Specialness can be a true creative effort in these realms. I have been trying to rouse my own interest in something, anything, to pass the hours. I have a truly colossal music library, which I have meticulously sourced and sorted like a horny finch over a pile of sticks, but when it comes to it, I feel disinclined to actually listen to any of it, and flick from one track to the next after the first few bars. Music. No matter the genre, it is making reference to a host of emotions I haven’t experienced since my early twenties, and would rather not be reminded of. Or worse, it is “depressing” music. I don’t have the energy to be actively sad either.
I have been rolling around in the blankets enjoying my freedom from conscription and overt slavery or persecution. And while many of the things I can confirm I do still experience – such as cold, periodic hunger for food and the need to pass urine – have been deferred into complex systems of wealth and social organisation, I wonder if it could ever not be this way, and whether the capacity for ignorance could therefore be the most valuable of all the human potentials, as I reach for what is probably the definer of all true things at present: codeine. When you sleep all day, stare at the wall, stare at the computer, massage the block of concrete in your chest, contemplate the perceived magic of childhood, and, with casual connoisseurship, inhale your own farts, you get a headache. When you get a headache you can only think about not having a headache, and would burn half a rainforest for something that works, ie. not any of the joke medicines that can’t be converted to heroin with a PhD and some coffee filters. I have no idea how to make codeine, and as such the whiteness and smoothness has secured itself in my psyche as the transcendental properties of an Earthbound god. And yes, yes indeed: I vote.
May 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
When I started menstruating my mother gave me a single sheet cardboard calendar to keep in my bedroom cupboard. I learned it was identical to one in her cupboard, and in all probability, to one in my grandmother’s cupboard of the early 70’s. On this calendar I was to mark crosses for the days on which I bled. I may, it was suggested, want to use a different sized cross for lighter flow, or a different symbol altogether for suspected days of ovulation, or anything else I might want to associate with my cycle: chanting, invertebrate spawning, human sacrifice, so on. It was a glimpse of the outside world. The fact that I am no doubt surrounded by people who can be bothered doing this is key to my understanding of my inevitable doom and failure in the human struggle. I just this morning stumbled, pre-coffee, into the W/C and was literally shocked to find that I was leeching blood. Ah! Oh yes. That. Good. Must get something from around the house to stem it I suppose, can’t exactly sit here all day. Then I have to set about cancelling everything for the week, of course; notifying my supervisor at uni that I could possibly drag myself in towards the end of it but if I get a sour and bored look on my face at the mention of theory it is almost certainly due to a lack of iron. Though privately, there is something spare and jolly about the whole thing: nothing like a bit of colour, and yes, quite pleasing in many ways to find that I am still alive. Retrospectively – no, no actually I’m sure – it’s timely. There are, thankfully, sections of this organism that are maturely and resignedly getting on with it with seemingly little care for the state of literary criticism vis-a-vis a new media society and words upon words smacked together like two handed patty-cake. Instead, we have the alarming flourish of a deep and constant, self-obliterating renewal; the assured and continual flow from the cherished idea of within.
May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
I met you six weeks before Chamberlain declared war – my father, stalking the kitchen wireless and lecturing at nobody; strange weighted pauses between glances, transactions, salutations – when I found you along with your brother. We were making that trip to Lincolnshire through apocalyptic fog. Do you remember? Hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous, things suddenly appearing before one. We were going to see Richard Holcomb. Holcomb had aggressively advertised his intention to paint, and said that was why he took on a duck farm after Cambridge. But still, we kept up the ‘chap’ even after Antwerp; old boys and insignias as far as the eye could see at the funeral and not a single mention of the bloody ducks. You were upset that day, about the shooting, the guns in the back. But you came anyway, protesting and clinging on – remember Bertie’s driving? – stretched across the back seat of that dinky little Morris with your knees up and your ankles crossed, dressed in public school brown. I could see your eyes trying to catch details in the whizzing treeline whenever I looked backwards, but occasionally you would lean forwards, to check on the men as if we were carrying you across the desert on a covered stretcher. Bearing exclusion, you made your own jokes and laughed at them. It was tumbling and artless, your laugh, and its formation with lips and eyes morphed an unshatterable vision of pink and blue that I did everything not to be religiously obsessed by; glimpses – or maybe I was staring – in the grubby oval of the chipped side mirror. I don’t know why he kept that old thing up, actually. I remember thinking, even though Bert and I were locked in our standard exchange, half in German and constantly threatening teenage politics, how much better everything was with you there. And that you were exactly, though I would never have known it before, what a woman should be like.
May 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Whenever I eat Subway (I go through stages of addiction followed by stages of wondering why I am eating space food when I am going home to defrost the freezer in Randwick) I think of that awful job that I tried to do for 4 months or so, before I had any experience of the sheer amount of bullshit that gives any organisation of humans – big or small – a misguided sense of cohesion. I took the job to support myself while I was studying the first time, when I was 18. Since it required cleaning tables it seemed almost like “waitressing”, which (I knew) was what Hollywood stars once did between auditions as well as practically everyone in Paris, and was thus a glamorous step up from from my checkout work, which seemed parochial and open to a certain degree of ridicule. The franchise was a new venture for inexperienced partners and a few members of their families; I remember being yelled at by all of them separately for using too much lettuce. They took advantage of new “traineeship” arrangements set up by the government, where in exchange for filling out a couple of shitty workbooks the young employee receives a certificate saying that they are prepared to do practically anything for ten dollars an hour, at a moment’s notice. I remember liking the idea of the certificate. A certificate, my parents solemnly impressed upon me year after year, was a good thing to have, and would be a sign that I successfully embodied all of the attributes that they had almost frantically instilled: arriving on time, following instructions, being humble and grateful for work, sticking at things one doesn’t particularly enjoy, being respectful to the boss.
I started on three shifts a week. The food arrived from America in identical cartons and looked like plastic likenesses from a game about food. I remember unpackaging it and casually noticing that most of the meat products had curious properties, like bouncing, snapping or crumbling. Within a few weeks I had developed weeping blisters up my arms from some product we were using. I would burst the blisters and rub them with cream, but they persisted in forcing me into a stomach-turning trope about lepers. Though the real issue – and the one which ended up messing with my life – was the floor. Because of the management reluctance to pay overtime, part of the procedure was to clean the majority of the outer premises an hour or so before the store closed, and then spend 40 minutes packing up the food, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and getting things ready for the morning. I can’t remember if I was particularly good or bad at physical labour back then: I doubt I was brilliant, since until I moved out of home and spent a long period of time relaxing in my own environment, I was extremely under-confident with my hands, almost to the point of having a tremor. However cleaning the store before closing time was obscenely idiotic by any standard at all. The lack of economy made me boil: if no customers came late, we would be fine. But if they did, they would walk across my clean floor, sit at my clean tables, put rubbish in my clean bin, use my clean drink machine, and I would have to start all over again. Part of me felt that there was something wrong with this at the time, but if I was being asked to do it by a couple of blokes who had taken redundancy packages, bought a franchise, and had never cleaned a house in their lives well, it couldn’t possibly be wrong.
It was, of course, wrong. And I quite often finished late. This, plus the rash, plus the bowel condition I was suffering from because of stress, led to me not making it through the probation period. I will never, as long as I live, forget having to come home and confront the source of my bowel condition, explaining to them that I had been let go for incompetence. The kingdom roared. I always had been, and always would be, completely useless. There was an audible sense of relief from the kingdom at being so resoundingly confirmed by an outside party. This was why – stated the kingdom – it was absurd for me to be at that university. Triumph slickened the walls.
As I take in the contours of my fossilised recording of this event, I note that it was delivered from the horizontal throne, with the television flickering in the background. Cleaning was the defining mark of my sex. I was a failed human.
This happening and the aftermath sank into my musculature and danced alongside my tremor. It would jump out from behind shelves, or into my rear view mirror, at the tiniest hint of a mistake. Dropping my purse on the floor could make a tear creep from my eye. I was, six months later, chosen from a large selection of state candidates for a rewarding job with training and international opportunities and I turned it down, since the whole incident of my inevitable hopelessness was strung about me like old carcasses. I re-enrolled at uni, where at least I had Michel Foucault. Marx seemed to see something in me that was charming, but which I had to admit simply wasn’t there. Foucault understood that I was useless, comfortable, narcissistic and righteous; all I needed was some terminology.
A few years later I ran into one of the other girls who worked at the Subway when I was there. She greeted me warmly, which surprised me, since I was under the impression that I lost my job because being new, I was the easiest person to blame for all of their mistakes, which was fine in a certain view of the world I suppose but probably didn’t suggest the exchange of Christmas cards. My status as the first and ultimate loser in the game of survival seemed to awaken in her instant rapport. “What about that terrible job?!” It seemed like she had been bottling it up. “The only way we managed to do it was by lying on the timesheet about what time we finished. We would always shave off an hour or so. Probably wasn’t the right thing to do but I really needed that job.”
So the pauper was banished over honesty. And afterwards the pauper needed a fresh start. The pauper walked into a bar in a strange town and asked for a job. And the pauper came home every night and decided who she was going to be. And the sickness and the tremor went away.
May 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
God I’m drunk and awful.
The marks that are bad are not worth very much at all. It might still be possible to get through if I stop excessively playing games on the internet, writing this blog, twittering and so on. I’m actually really scared this time in a way that can only be expressed with brown.
-> You don’t really enjoy it any more, the philosophy course is too advanced, and the net stuff makes you feel warm and popular, but you have to give it up or you are going to fail. Just approach the next month as a challenge: to stop fucking around and try, if possible, to pass. It can just be our private little deal: 51/100. No stuffing around, no thinking these theories are daft, just actually try. I know you must be struggling with this very badly, when so many things have gone wrong for you in your life because you just seemed uncomfortably and unfortunately SMARTER and MORE CREATIVE than you should be (everything: school, friendships, being female, EVERYTHING) but just because you are smarter than a lot of people does not mean you are brilliant. You’d have to agree, kiddo, it was a pretty tall ask, every last bit. Also you wouldn’t even be putting on here how fucking wrecked you are about this so I think it would be a good idea for you to see the counsellor. Remember those nights when you slept with the bottle of Johnny Walker alongside the bed, and you didn’t think you would ever smile again, ever? I know it went on for too long, far too long, but were you right?