Monday, November 14, 2011

How Was Your Weekend?

Something buckles in your brain on the second day. It’s when the eyes wobble that the conversation strays from vaguely intelligent, to straight up strange.

“Would you rather have 5ml of urine dribble involuntarily from your cock every five minutes for a year, or eat a used tampon a month?”

“Can I cook the tampon?” I was sure there’d be a sauce to complement.

“Don’t be an idiot, of course you can’t cook the tampon.” Smiling now. A handsome man, even in the throws of a bender.

“Ok – and can I wear a nappy?”

“Dude, no.”

“So, if I take the urine scenario, right, then that would happen 12 times an hour.”

“Like you’re swimming.”

Like I’m swimming? Don’t think too much on it. Not on the swimming. Answer him.

“12 times an hour, for 24 hours… for 365 days…. That’s gotta be over 100,000 times.” I’m chuffed with my speedy addition.

“Or 12 tampons. 100,000 dribbles of piss, or 12 tampons.”

“Bring on the tampons. We’ll make it an event, you know?”

He did know. When the question swung his way, he took the tampons without hesitation. I’d done all the speculating.

Our Would You Rather game starts to teeter on the edge of absurdity, so we move on.

“Noah is the name of the dude in The Notebook, right? But there was no mention of his owning a boat.”

My friend has a valid argument. Nothing controversial here.

“Do you remember that TV commercial for the Webber BBQ?


“Has too many adjectives…”

“Like Sean Connery.”

“How is that like Sean Connery?” I’m sure he had a point somewhere. He always had a point. I felt stupid for not being able to piece together how the BBQ ad with too many adjectives related to Sean Connery.

“Well, he’s the least attractive Bond of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love the accent, but let’s be honest, he’s a bit fucked. You know, visually.”

And there the night and conversation ended. We’d talked about the idea of “terminal loneliness”, whether Bono was related to Ono, if you can hear someone smiling on the other end of a telephone, whether cemeteries conspire with florists and if someone can 100% replicate the sound a typewriter makes. I went to bed, fearful of ageing poorly and being terminally lonely. Only to die, piss my pants and have no one attend my funeral. My body would be offered up to Science, to experiment on. And they’d marvel at my lungs and their holes and the length of my big toe and the triangle shape my shoulders make and the 12 tampons lodged in my lower bowels. And they’d smile on the end of the telephone, telling their loved ones of their discovery, picking up a steak on the way home, to be seasoned with exotic spices and accompanied with a Would You Rather conversation concerning tropical paradises, jail and polka dot dresses.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Explosion on the tram.

There’s a man on the tram with a forehead so bulbous I imagine it's pregnant. His head skin doesn't have anymore stretch, pushed to its limits. Inside, there's one idea feeding off every piece of information he's ever consumed, drawing on everyone he's ever met. His head cap is stretched to its limits, veins bursting. He motions for a book in his satchel but I distract him with a yelp.

“Are you ok?” He asks.

“Yes. Just startled easily by...” I search the tram. A lady and her headscarf eye me lazily. “... by pigeons. I'm startled easily by pigeons.”

I couldn't risk having his head explode through the carriage. I'd be implicated in some sort of terrorist plot. I'd go to court, plead ignorance, but the prosecutor would know better:

“Mr Coleman, you knew a book like that could push a man's brain cap beyond its capacity, didn't you?”

“Yes, yes I did. But it was not my book.”

“Not your book you say...?” The wigged prosecutor for the Crown would mumble before screaming ‘AHA, it just so happens’ and introducing the court to a person I’d never seen before who’d ultimately be responsible for my demise.

I'd go to jail for 20 years. A book would be written about me. In the end I'd confess, but in the decades following, would make several appeals claiming police had intimidated me into my statement of guilt. The title of the book would be "Mind Trials" and upon my release would have sold more than two million copies. I'd never see a coin.

“You're startled by pigeons?”

“Yes sir, could never survive in Rome, much less as a fountain.”

“But there aren't any pigeons around here?”

I searched the tram for the headscarf, but it was gliding through a mass of school bags and blazers and newspapers to the doorway. I started to move for her, to grab her, prove to this man that pigeons could be on trams. She escaped and we lurched forward. I could never explain now, so it was time to depart from this man and his bulbous, pregnant brain. But not before I let him know, warn him.

"By the way, don't read that book."

"And why would that be?" He asks in a most demeaning way.

"It’ll make your head e... Don't worry. Sorry."

No insanity plea today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This is what happens when I am left alone to pee.

I’m stuck at a urinal.
The dark matter expelling from my anteater stinks like vodka, or at least the smell I associate with vodka. A smell wedged somewhere between sour milk and the fart of a child who hasn’t yet moved on to solids. It’s entirely illogical, but so is sleeping with a kitchen knife under your pillow on lonely nights, or buying a People magazine from a service station at 4am with money you could have spent on a Paddle Pop.

So my urine is spilling and swirling down four holes that look as ominous as the pursed rear of a stray cat. It’s spilling and splashing and swirling and creating a sort of white wash. It reminds me of long summers body boarding in Merimbula. Being driven into the shoreline over and over until it was time to retrieve a Vegemite sandwich and juice box from the esky. Sucking on the straw until it made a slurping sound, then continuing to suck until being scolded and reminded of the dangers of going beyond the yellow flags. Cubba, don’t go past the yellow flags. And stop that slurping noise!
The beautiful memory doesn’t stay for long, quickly receding back into my ocean-brain. Back into vast amounts of water, filled with dangerous sharks and horny dolphins. Dolphins that pack-raped their own, practicing Japanese wax torture on the weak, before expelling their own fluids; a white wash synchronised with my own.

Look down. Some of the dark matter has, in all the chaos of spilling and swirling, ricocheted onto my khaki pants. The urine bullets are dark and noticeable, like a Batman symbol in the clear night sky. I bet this never happens to the Illuminati.
Calm. If people in the restaurant stare tell them you’re a descendent of the Tupi Indian, an extremely hygienic people. Then further explain how the Tupi washed 12 times a day, and burnt their dead, then crushed their bones into dust and blew them across a –

I catch myself and laugh at the ridiculousness of my standing there.
How long have I been here? I mumble.
I turn to my right to find a proper gentleman looking at me as if I were the first woman he’d seen naked. He doesn’t answer my question. Instead, he zips, bypasses the hand basin and pulls on the door. A roar of laughter and conversation and orders being shouted inside the restaurant echoes around the bathroom for a few moments and then disappears, leaving me with my thoughts again.
A new man enters and I apologise in advance without even beginning to explain.
I zip, bypass the hand basin and burst back into the roar of conversation and laughter and orders being shouted.
As I sit down at the table for two, her hand finds my stained thigh. Our eyes are wide in the darkness of the fancy sushi bar, and I realise I’ve found the only girl who may begin to comprehend the trauma of pissing on your pants. One of my tribe, a Tupi. 

We Should Never Leave.

The supermarket aisles were teeming. The businesswomen’s stilettos tapping out their staccato in the organic food and fruit sections. The school children collecting change and lint from cotton shorts, surveying the shelves for an affordable sugar hit. The junkies by the juices, assessing the security landscape. It was a Friday afternoon, when we wheeled out the discounted items trolley. One lurking pensioner caught my attention. She was mouthing the words to “Sweat” by Inner Circle playing over the speakers, fondling courgettes and tapping out a rhythm on her white blouse. Ignorant of the dark sexual innuendo of the lyrics, like I had been when I first heard the song in my early teens.

“Excuse me, dear –“ The decaying lady and her over-sized trolley stared up at me.

“Yes, there. How can I help?”

“Can you point me to the Milo?”

“It’s a bit difficult to find”, I started futiley, navigating the aisles with a crooked finger, “but I’d be happy to show you. Here, I’ll grab this.” I moved for her trolley. It contained only three items, one I identified as panty liners for the incontinent.

“Dear, where do I know you from?”

“I am not sure you do. Know me, I mean.” We were in front of the Milo now.

“No, no. I feel I do. Do you attend church?” Here we go. It started with an innocuous ‘dear’, it’ll end with us getting matching tattoos of Jesus’ face.

“No, I don’t, I’m sorry. Not that I have anything against those that do. I grew up with religion, I suppose, I just don’t see, you know, how it’s relative to me now.”

“Not to worry. You seem like a boy who knows where he is going.”

I wasn’t. I was working in a supermarket, having relinquished a six-figure salary as a copywriter to stack shelves, as a promise of sorts. So I could finally write that novel. The one with the beautiful title. The self-indulgent, depressing tale of a 29-year-old early success, who lost the girl of his dreams to…

“Wait a moment – “


“From the church. I recall seeing your face at our church. You were at that young lady’s funeral not six months ago. At St Bede’s. You were… I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry. That must have been…”

“It’s ok.”

“Very unfortunate thing to have happen. At such a young age, too.” She held onto the such, as if it were her misery. “Genevieve was her name, was it not?”

“It was. I’m actually going to a wedding at St Bede’s tomorrow. Her father is re-marrying. It has been a hard six months for him, too. As you can imagine.”

People have wonderful imaginations.

“I won’t be attending that particular service but I look after the Father in the small terrace next door. If you have a moment you could come after mass? We can have tea.”

“You know, well, I have…” I began considering the reality of tomorrow’s events, “Actually, I’d like that. Thank you. What was your name, sorry?”


“Like my late grandmother. Funny. Mine is Jeremy. Nice to meet you, Jane.”

“And you, Jeremy. Thank you for showing me to the Milo. I hope to see you tomorrow. It is the terrace next door, shouldn’t be too hard to find, it’s the only one. Come any time after the service, just knock at the front door.”

“I will.”

The next day there was nothing in my head, save a rounded, aquarium-like silence. Wind beaten petals from a nearby florist jumped from the pavement, crashing into my face. I fell into consciousness at the church’s entrance, pulled tight my tie and took position on her father’s side. He saw me from a distance, flashing a smile. The type of smile that said you’re not the only one who misses her. Halfway through the service I cried, imagining myself as her only true living embodiment. I imagined her eyes would have been clear, but unfocused as usual. Genevieve had forever looked like she was underwater.

Before the Pontiac pulled away I offered my congratulations. The mixed pain and happiness in her father’s face shot me back into the aquarium-silence. We held each other and didn’t let go for what seemed an inappropriate amount of time.

I watched the Pontiac leave on its journey, withdrew a cigarette and the letter from the inside of my borrowed suit jacket, and stole a position on the bluestone perimeter. I read until the fear of blotting the ink became too real and returned the unremarkable, folded paper to the safety of my pocket.

It took several knocks for Jane to come to the door.

“I heard it was an amazing ceremony. How are you, Jeremy? Do come in. I am boiling some water. I was hoping you’d come. Do come in. Sorry about the mess. Go on in - straight down the hallway.”

I entered without an opportunity to return the greeting, and searched for the alleged mess. Half way down the ordered corridor I spun, narrowly avoiding collision with the frail woman.

“Thanks for having me. I am not exactly sure what I am doing here, to be honest. But thank you for having me.”

“It’s no problem, dear. Just keep straight down the corridor, the sitting room is to the left. Sit anywhere, I’ll be with you in a moment.”

I took a seat in a large burgundy armchair and felt curiously uneasy, like the first time I’d seen a psychiatrist.

“Do you take sugar, dear?” Jane shouted from across the corridor. “For your tea.”

“Yes, please – one – thank you.”

“And cream?”



“Yes, please. Thank you.”

Two minutes later the delicate figure set a tray down on the coffee table that doubled as a chessboard.

“Do you play chess, Jane?”

“No, not anymore. It belonged to my late husband, David. A great man. Very good at chess and the like.”

“Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Oh, please, dear, don’t be. Not at all. He hasn’t been with us for almost 15 years. David is with Him now, and that seems just fine. To me.”

“How did you start living here, Jane?”

“Well, after David’s passing, I was spending a lot of time in and around the Parish. I guess I was seeking guidance, from whom I don’t know. And as it happened I found a good friend in Father Geoff. When he realised I didn’t have much to support myself – David hadn’t been the wealthiest of men at the time of his passing – the Father took me in. As repayment, I look after him, so to speak. Do some cooking, a bit of washing, help out in the Church when it’s needed. On the day of that young lady’s service…”

“Genevieve – “

“Yes, Genevieve’s service, I was helping out with some bits and pieces. I remember your eulogy, actually. Stirring words. They had a great, lasting, impact. As you can imagine, there aren’t too many things I can recall so vividly after six months.”


“Why can’t I remember things? Old age, I suppose.”

“No – why did my words have ‘great impact’ on you?”

“I suppose I can’t put my finger on the exact words. More, I can remember the way you spoke. It was the most composed sadness I have ever witnessed. As if you’d made a promise to her to say everything clearly. Making sure it was heard. It is hard. Losing someone to suicide. Someone you loved more than anything.”

You think it’s hard?”

“Yes, dear, I do think it is hard.”

Backing away from my tea, I stared plainly at this woman. There was something beneath the fragility and warmth that had dried up. Like a grape turned saltana.

“I have Gen’s letter here.”

“The one you read from in the eulogy?”

“That’s the one!” My tone pregnant with hollow enthusiasm.

“Will you read me some?”

“I suppose. It’s not, you know, much to…”

“If it’s all too much, needn’t worry.”

I shook my head.

“Look, Jeremey, I can’t wait until I see you again. Until I see your stupid eyes. And you say those ridiculous things that, if they came from anyone else, wouldn’t get more than an awkward smile from me. Like the time you talked about wanting to stack shelves in a supermarket just so we could spend time together during the day. So you could write a novel, and then we could move to Lake Como and you would write and I could draw. I can’t wait until I draw you again. I still draw you. I have a stack on my desk of sketches of you. I haven’t forgotten what you look like. You’ll forever be burnt into my memory. And it stings to recall you sometimes. But it’s a nice pain. A pain that reminds me I’ll soon be in your arms again. On your pillow. Smelling your morning breath.

Jeremy, it seems silly to say this via a letter, particularly after only being away for three weeks, with so long to go. But you know those times we’ve been on the phone and I’ve told you I wanted to say something, and just started crying? Well, I’ve wanted to say this for a long time. Even in the first few months of our being together. While we were talking ‘hypothetically’ about those future days overseas, you and your book, me and my drawing, the entire time I have wanted to say it. I love you, Jeremy. I love you so much. And I am starting to think that these plans aren’t just fantasies to fill in conversation. I honestly believe I want to move away with you. Forever maybe, and we’ll stay until we never leave, if that even makes sense. and isn’t too scary an idea.

Anyhow, for now, I love you, from all the way over here.



I started breathing again.

“She seemed so happy, from that letter?” It was the first time I heard Jane’s voice crack.

I looked up from my letter. She was crying now. And all I’d done was read a letter, from a girl she had never met. I’d read it without emotion. It wasn’t even an emotive letter, for outsiders to hear, anyhow. I put my arm around her. I let Jane cry into my shoulder. Her frail hand scratching at my stubble-face.

“It’s ok.”

“She seemed so happy. You were making plans… She seemed so happy. How did she…”

“Disappeared from our apartment. I got a call six hours later. She had hung herself from a tree. It was a special tree in the Carlton Gardens. We’d first kissed there after a long night of drinking. She was hanging from the tree. Still. Just hanging and someone found her and she was dead and they couldn’t do anything and then I got a call from the police and they told me she was dead and I couldn’t do anything and, like, and I was…”

We were holding each other now. And I knew David had killed himself, too. I knew and I didn’t have to ask. Jane was crying like it was her loss. I could feel a heart gasp through her frail, flat chest against me. I kissed her hair and rubbed her back, knocking over a tea with my bent leg. And she didn’t move, except her chest that shuddered like a mower starting.

When we finally broke from our embrace I returned to my seat and searched for the letter. I found it on the ground in front me, limp, stained with tea. The ink had smudged, the paper was torn in places where I must have stood on it.

After long minutes trying to piece together letters, the only words I could make out clearly were “stay until we never leave”, and I guess that’s all I needed. The rest was burnt into my memory, like a picture I couldn’t throw away.