A Speck Of Glitter, A Lick Of Paint.
On the Monday morning I am awoken by a text message from him. We were meant to meet up and hang. I was excited and pretty keyed up about it.
‘Oh god I am so fucked today. So sleepy.’ Is what I read while still under my doona and laying low. I feel a heaviness come over me. A great weight pressing on my face and chest.
‘So, no then?’ I text back. If he is too busy I will simply stay in bed all day and slip in and out of sleep, I decide. If I cannot see my friend, there is no point in getting up today.
No point that I can see.
I look up and out at the patch of sky I can see above the wooden fence that makes up more than half my view from my bedroom. It is slate flat grey. That is good, easy to feel alright about sleeping the day away with a sky like that.
My phone beeps and I read the message.
‘No, we we can. I will probably be a big bag of sleepy shit. Will need to go to the chemist for nasal decongestant tabs and antihistamines.’
He makes no reference to my earlier suggestion of going to see a film that The New Yorker had spoken highly of. I suppose I am his company for shit errands, not anything that could be misconstrued as a date. There were errands I needed to run as well but no doubt when in his presence they would evade my memory and I will simply follow him. Every one of my footsteps a silent shout of,
I always have fun with you.
We will meet under the giant clock that is still broken at 10am. I would be lying if I said I did not get out of bed without a degree of improvement in my emotional demeanor. The sky was npo longer slate grey but a hazy alluring shade of fake winter. I put on the dress I had gotton for free at my friends vintage clear out. But it seemed to 90s. Instead I settled on my red tights with black fishnets over them, black short shorts and a black and white striped tshirt with a screen printed green dinosaur on the front with buttons for eyes. and my black leather jacket thrown over it. Hair down with a blue bow with white polka dots. I was not trying to be pretty because I wore no make up. HA. Though as an after thought I did put on a quick dab of red lipstick to make my walk to the tram more saucy.
Two houses on my street had been bulldozed and was in the process of being redeveloped as apartment buildings. I still smiled at the yellow graffiti reading. ‘GET LOST GREEDY PIGS.’ Nothing was left of the houses now. There was just a vast expanse of brown dirt some parts flattened by bulldozers and some parts still piled high with dirt and rocks.
As I walked past the seven eleven on the corner of Brunswick road and sydney, I see a homeless man sitting with his back against the brick wall. A couple of broken beer bottles scatter around him. He sat legs bent at the knee with dirty hands hanging from limp looking arms. Arms covered in a tattered and faded shirt. He had no shoes on his feet and I shuddered at the thought of licking those feet clean. I was no good somaritan. I had a roof over my head but no spare change.
He is waiting under the giant clock in Melbourne Central Station. Sitting on the curved red bench. I hold a terrible tasting takeaway coffee in my hand as I walk past a gaggle of year 10 students boys and girls shouting and laughing loudly, in order to sit next to him. He is fiddling with his phone and has one leg forming a triangle with his foot resting on the knee below it. He is smiling at his phone screen. A person such as him is never completely alone. He is not wearing a bow tie and button up white shirt this time. Same eyes same mouth though. Unfortunately these are things he cannot change. Though I am sure his girlfriend is pleased by this as she gets to see it extreemly close up.
‘Instagraming?’ I ask as I sit next to him. I get up quite close and pretend to try and see what he is doing on his phone.
‘Why are you not on it?’ He asks me.
‘Because my shtick is not trying to prove how cool my day to day choices in art and books are. Also I am short sighted and instagram is a very visual medium.’
I see his instagram though. It shows up in my twitter feed. He likes to photograph how perfect his hair is as soon as he wakes up. He also likes to prove how literary he is by posting himself reading Kirkengaard.
He is why I am not on instagram. I read too but I prefer to rub it in peoples faces when face to face in conversation. He desires validation of a faceless many. I desire only his.
‘Get away you have coffee breath.’ He says leaning away from me.
I move my face around his up close in a bid to torment him. Whilst doing this I fight my knee jerk reaction to be infinitely hurt by his breath remark. A remark that would mean nothing coming from anyone else. I will just annoy him in reaction to his annoyment. Like long time friends do.
‘Lets go to Plantation for tea.’ He says.
‘O.K but at this time, the last Monday we hung out. You said it was closed.’
‘Yes. you did.’ I said. ‘Was there someone sitting there that you wanted to avoid?’ I winked and nudged him in the ribs.
He opened his eyes wide in astonishment. ‘Why do you always think that?!’
Because you have created a mythology around yourself and ensnared me within it as a victim of stupidity. I think.
‘Your brother then. No. No. Your Dad. A long lost sister.’ I say instead. He shakes his head and puts his phone in the pocket of his black leather jacket. A jacket he purchased from the Footscray Savers in the womens’ section.
Plantation is a coffee and tea place located on the level 2 of Melbourne Central station. It is a small place with black and white tiles in its small interior with low small booths for intimate conversation and sipping of hot drinks. Outside it is a large and high ceilinged area with a wall of high and wide windows showing the city scape sprawling beneath a grey sky. There are tables and chairs along the windows and couches and tables scattered amongst the wide oipen area bathed in natural light.
‘Should we sit inside or outside?’ He asks me as We stand at the till which is facing out over the large and well lit seated area.
‘Not sure.’ I reply as I remember other times I have sat with him outside sitting across from him in a table against the big windows, almost in tears and ready to leave.
He is still taking as we stand at the till. Something about the couches being good to make out in. How he has seen people making out in them and I have a vivid image inflame my inner monologue of it being him in one of the couches making out with someone. He asks the young man at the till for an english breakfast tea and Ia ask for water. My ersterwhile companion for the day decides on sitting inside and I follow him to a small round table, glossed in brown. The lighting is bright and artificial but not flurecent. The air is warm and close with artificial heating though out on the street it is not that cold. The barrista brings me a white tea cup full of room tempreture water. I drink it in one gulp and find myself still taking drinks from it as if it is full throughout my conversations with him. It is a nervouse tick that he makes no show of acknowledging with comment or expression.
As he reads me text correspondants between him and his brothers in regards to the looming christmas festivities. The barrista in black t shirt worn over obvious lean muscular chest and shoulders, brings over a small green tea pot and blue tea cup and saucer along with small jug of milk and a small glass with honey in it.
The texting back and forth is merely to illistrate to me his brothers ambivilance to spending christmas with him. The space of time between his texting his brothers (all three of them) and their respective replies are days apart.
‘I will read you my baby sisters response to my christmas plans question.’ I tell him. I pull out my phone from my pocket of my black leather jacket, made to my specific measurements about 8 years ago. I look at my phone a moment and then look at him as he picks up the tiny glass holding a bout a tea spoons worth of honey, in dissapointment.
‘oh look at that time between my texting my sister and her reply? 47 minutes! My sister loves me.’
He puts down the glass and places his hands over his face and rubs down before placing his elbows on the table and saying. ‘I will probably just spend christmas drinking alone and sleeping with strangers.’
My tiny bird like chest constricts in sympathy and relief, better strangers than people I know.
‘That is so sad.’ I say thinking how much damage would it do if I was to call home and simply invent a story as to why I could not travel to the farm for christmas. Sorry Dad. I would explain. You know that guy who hurt me so bad I spent a week in Hannah’s bed crying and watching The Might Boosh in her bed. Oh and sometimes I turned off Mighty Boosh so I could listen to Bon Ivor and cry till my head hurt. Hannah would stand there in her ;oxton High School uniform, her big hazel eyes looking furious as she looks down at me. Me in her bed at 4pm not having gotton up all day, and say, ‘ I am going to kill that evil hobbit of a fucktard.’ Yes Dad that guy. He is going to spend christmas alone and well I would like to take this oppurtunity to spend time with him at a time he may be feeling vulnerable and lost. I want to spend christmas with him and sink gin and tonics and maybe just maybe…
Truth be told I would not go into detail about my true motives for wanting to stay in Melbourne.
I would lie. Because if the word got out why I was passing up Knight family christmas to get drunk with a former sweetheart. There would be a very angry intervention.
‘That is so sad.’ I say to him again.
‘Stop saying that. your making it sound even more pathetic every time you say that.’ He tells me rubbing his hands over his face again as if to rub away the unwanted feelings of how I saw his situation.
He gets up and goes to get a spoon so he can stir his honey into his tea. He returns with two and throws one on the table in front of me. I have nothing that needs stirring. I put my hand down into the deep throat bottom of my bag and feel around , a homemade necklace now undone and the four wooden triankles have gone rogue amongst tissues and a tube of lipstick. My fingers find the long slim form of a blue bic pen and I pull it out. I use the pen to draw a face on the part of the small wooden spoon, that would usually scoop out the sugar or honey. The total diametre is about have the size of a normal metal or silver tea spoon. I calculate I would need to use about four of these spoon sized scoops of sugar to equate to my usual two teaspoons of raw sugar for coffee. I draw two big round eyes, a half circle for a nose and a smiley face mouth. At the point where the spoons handle connects to the part of the spoon used to actually spoon stuff, I draw a bow tie and a tiny shirt collar. I hold the spoon out in front of him and make my voice that of a small two year old boy.
‘Dad. Hey Dad. Dad. Dad Dad. Its me. I am your son, Dad. Dad Dad.’ I make the spoon jump up and down in little jumps. ‘Say hi to your son.’ I tell him.
‘You made the eyes too big. I have small slitty eyes.’ He takes a black pen from his backpack and the spoon from my hand and hunches over it making his alterations. ‘Bow ties are not genetic.’ He says as he colours in the bow tie and reduces the eyes to half the fatness of my originals.
‘It was left on my doorstep by a fairly rookie type stork.’ I explained. I knew it was yours and a mistake had been made. I told the stork that just because the fatherof this midget spoon is a shor ass and I am also of small stature, does not mean that the midget spoon is mine.’ The father of the midget spoon laughs as he finishes the make over of the little spoon. He uses one hand to hold up the spoon and the other hand to film the midget spoon child with his phone. He makes a little kid voice and he films the spoon saying, ‘Hey hey Dad dad. Hey. Dad? Dad Dad Dad. He has to do it all a second time because I was laughing to loudly and it ruined his little film.
I laugh and it nearly comes out again.
I always have fun with you.
The second time was much better and I was hoping he would text it to me, since it was a joint effort.
But he didn’t.
When we get up to leave he places his spoon on the little ledge running along the red wall of the cafe. I pick it up and place it in his jacket breast pocket so the face is peeking out. He removes it and places it back on the ledge. ‘Share the joy.’ He says. We leave the warm bright lit tea room and walk past the hidiouse christmas tree light installations that tower over the Christmas rush of shoppers holding bags and frowning as they scuttle from one over crowded store to another. The giant christmas trees are made entirely of small tubes of light in different colours that flash on and off. The energy required to keep this visual monstrosities working, is too horridly high to try and guess.
He and I walk past them and I try to keep up while dodging people. We stop at the food court and consider our next move. He consults a list of errands he hopes to get done today. The food court food sits under heated lamps and rots and festers with unseen germs. We decide not to eat here and mke our way to escalater going down. I stand on a step below his and we stand and watch the level below get closer and closer.
‘A girl who was about 14 was staring at you.’ He tells me. ‘It’s ok to let her and not get angry, right?’
I think a moment. ‘I guess but that is old enough to at least not stare so openly and without flinching. I used to think teenager girls stared at me because of my keen fashion sense but I have a suspicion it is actually because I look like a little weirdo.’
We make our way to the Big W at the ground level of QV. He needs black thread. The light is bright and white and there are people everywhere. Maria Carey is singing All I want For Christmas Is You. We wander into the haberdashery isle and it is free of people . As he looks at thread and small smiley faces that you are able to sew onto shirts, I sing along to Maria Carey. I sing not in a serious way just because I am so contented right in that second and cannot think of any other way to show it. I cannot hit the notes like she can and my voice goes high and annoying. This is very different to when I sing alone in my room with gusto and the knowledge that nobody is listening.
‘You have a great singing voice.’ He says turning his face to look at me with the oppsit of sincerity. ‘So. . . shrill.’
I laugh but it is at this moment I realize something horrible. I used to be able to sing. One of my favourite things to do is sing my heart out in the shower to Fona Apple. I have been told in the past I sound like Chrissy Amphlet and janice Joblin. But now ever since my kidney disease has gotten worse. My shortness of breath makes it impossible to hit parts of songs i used to. Luckily I am not the front women of a great feminist rock band. So it is no real loss.
He finds black thread but the line to all the check outs is so long, it winds around and along the path meant for people to walk down and up as they search for their required isle, that he says.
‘Nuts to this.’ Throws the black thread in his hand, into a basket of discount chocolate santas.
We go into a fashion store called Vanishing Elaphant. The store has two long racks of expensive dresses and shirts and shorts. At the front of the store to greet customers are two manniquins. One boy and one girl. As the pretty tall girl with shiny blonde hair watches us. He starts to feel up the male manniquin, which is wearing a floral button up shirt that is unbuttoned and beige shorts. He puts his hand on the manniquins butt. ‘It is so hard like a coconut.’
I feel the buttock and nod. ‘mmmm yes very taunt and firm.’ I say. We take turns hugging and feeling up the manniquin.
I giggle so much I nearly start to snort and he hugs and caresses the manniquins back.
‘Hey,’ I say as he stops molesting the manniquin and we walk out to go eat lunch at Thousand Pound bend. ‘How was the opening the other night?’
‘I didn’t go. I am in the wrong industry. I am not social enough.’
We continue walking and I remember back when we were sleeping together, how often he could not hang out with me because he had art openings to go to. The only one he ever took me to was on our first date. As we left that night a girl had come running behind us and asked him is he was going to a bar.
‘Nah I do not really like that place he had told her. Then he had placed an arm around me and led me away. I wonder if that girl had watched us leave with a twisted heart and hatred for me? I had no idea that I would be doing the same thing she did, at some point in the future. She should have warned me but, then, she owed me nothing. He owed me honesty. So, now he hates art openings? How interesting, no doubt because he now gets all he needs from his very own her. A her that is all the things I am not. Like an instagramer extrodinair a graduate of the most pretentious art school in the country (as he is) and the like.
‘I like working the bar at West Space openings because I get to see what people are really like. I will never be an insider of the art world but that is ok as I enjoy being an observer.’
We sit in a booth that is in front of the bar. To my left is a bunch of tables along the entrance wall. People sit on tilting stools, staring at their laptop screens. I simply look straight at him as he tells me a story about a dinner he went to with a wealthy young friend and a group of mutual friends. He tells me how she is seeing a guy in his 50s. I pull a face of disgust at him.
‘What? they are intellectual equals.’ he tries to explain.
I stare at him and wonder if he is being deliberately stupid or trying to get a rise out me. Intellectual equals? I am pretty sure the old guy could have found someone older than 21 to be his ‘intellectual equal’ But why would he do that when he can be with someone clever AND not yucky old looking like him. I looked across at my friend and realized he was not as good a feminist cheerleader as he had tried to tell me he was in the past. Like when he told me he could never have children with someone older than 25. Why the hell was he justifying dirty old men? There would indeed be a power imbalance in that relationship. I wanted to say all this out loud but looking into his face foe me is like looking into the sun sometimes; blinding and painful.
One of the staff brings us our food. He has a burger and I have an egg and bacon bagel. We both drink cider from glasses that have all the components of a mug save they are not ceramic. We eat and my desire of moments before to slap him so hard his bow tie that he left at home, spins in sympathy, diminishes. The fans high up in the ceiling whirr in a soothing way that is intrinsic to the sound of summer. The sky outside is breaking up the cloudiness and patches of blue are appearing in increasing sizes. The staff at the counter chat and laugh amongst themselves and the sound of creativity and freelancers echo in every finger tip click on a keyboard. The smell of coffee mixes with the aroma of toasted bagel. Indie classics from the last two years play at a volume that does not hinder conversation. When his head tilts downward to eat his burger, he looks at his food, I look at his hair.
I take a mouth full of egg and bagel and swallow before launching into a story about going to the launch party of The Canary press’ third issue. I have my legs up and crossed on the seat as there is not much leg room under the table.
‘The night was so fun there was writers twister where the coloured circles were replaced with four famouse writers. A very handsome young boy came up and said hello. He remembered me from a writers open mic at RMIT gallery, First Site. He claimed that he wanted to wear glasses because all his best friends did and they looked amazing. I said that if he faked needing glasses I would not be impressed.’
My brunch buddy smiled at me and put his half eaten burger down in order to give me his full attention. ‘Can you blame him though? I mean It is your fault after all. You walk around wearing glasses and looking great but also smart. These young guys are too young to know fully that the wearing fake glasses thing is a horrendouse fad. They just want to look great. They want to look amazing because you are amazing. Your fault.’
I lean back in my seat and feel my face flush red as I laugh at him. We continue to talk and laugh. He finishes his burger and as we are talking he reaches over and steals some of my bacon. One of those thin and long bits that are my favorite.
When he goes to the toilet he takes his phone with him and takes a long time. When he comes back and sits across from me again he says,’ I was reading my own graffiti on the wall.’ He does not tell me what it was. I do not ask.
‘I have gotten you a Christmas present.’ He tells me.
I grin in surprise and excitement. ‘What. You did not have tto do that.’ I said.
‘Shut up, I made it from the internet.’ He tells me. ‘It is no big deal.’
‘One time my mum told me she got me something and she presented it to me all wrapped up. It was a purple spatula. So as long as it is not as lame as that you are ok.’
‘Gee a spatula, that is a lot of pressure. One time my mother got my brothers and I a small taxidermead bird each.’
‘Wow, that is weirdly beautiful,’ I say.
I am so touched he got me a present. It makes me feel special and wedged out of the crowd under a spotlight that his attention.
‘Oh did you know Tall version made a song out of one of my poems.’ I tell him excitedly. I grab my phone and try to find the the little video she sent of her playing the piano and singing. I look up from my phone and he is staring at me horrorfied. ‘It’s not one about me is it?’
My heart sinks and I answer. ‘No, it’s about an ex who is now married…’
‘Oh good. I . Just do not want someone. I mean some people to think I am an ass hole.’
I decide to stop trying to find it.
He needs to get a pair of cross trainers, so we make our way out of the cafe and walk up little lonsdale street till we get to Elizabeth st. On the way to sports store on Bourke street he asks me to take a photo of him leaning gainst a giant advertisement for an alcoholic beverage. A small man next to a giant tumnler overflowing with vodka. I take the photo using his phone. I feel it in my gut that he will send this to her and they will have an in joke about it. He wants to share everything with her. He is smiling in the photos and the smiles are not for me.
I finish taking a couple of photos and hand him back his phone.
The sports store is difficult to find at first because you have to go up an escalator to get to it. The store is large and very hot and the air is warm and suffocating. I sit on a long metal bench with little circles all through it as he tries on a pair of pair of cross trainers. on either side of us are very high shelves piled high with boxes of sneakers. I feel tired and realize i have not drunk enough water today, I want to curl up on the seat and go to sleep.
When I look up he is standing with one shoe in his hand, staring at me. ‘Are you ok? You have a freak out face on.’
‘What, no I an fine.’
‘Do you want some water?’ He puts the shoe down on the bench and unclasps the metal water bottle hanging from his back pack and hands it to me after removing the lid. I take a sip and realize it is nearly empty. I look at him.
‘You can finish it. I will refill it at school.’
I gulp the last bit and remember someone once told me when I was little that the last bit of a drink bottle was backwash from the owner of the drink bottle’s mouth.
I let the last of the water slip down my throat and smiled as I handed the empty bottle back
The sun is out now and has been for a while, as we walkt to the start of elizabeth st to get our respective trams. My number 19 is there and so is his number 57.
‘Ok see ya.’ He says already with his back to me and rushing to to the open door of his tram. I watch him go with the poise of a wrecking ball banging in my chest. He is unaware of it but with him goes something very tiny and very small. He carries it unwittingly but he carries it none the less. It is bright and no doubt sparkles when the sun hits it. He would not see it though as it sparkles not to be noticed but just because it is with him. No bigger than a speck of glitter.
I have so much fun with you.
As I sit on the shady side of my tram I wonder if that is the big lesson he came into my life to teach me. That you cannot be sure of anything in this world except of your own isolation and that that is more than ok but something to be treasured and kept. The question I have here is what did I teach him? That question I will never ask because I fear the answer will be too devastating. The answer may be the big black void of the word known as,
Because he never has to be alone he has a girlfriend. Someone he does want to see everyday. He had the epiphany and it did not include me. When will I have that epiphany about my boyfriend? Will I ever? When does the assurance that he is the one for me going to come? Or am I doomed to a life of swaying too and fro from oh all right then. To, oh for the love of god leave me alone and let me wallow in self assured melancholy.
Back in my bedroom i read Infinite Jest. My phone rings. It is my boyfriend.
‘do you know when you are leaving for your parents place?’
‘Friday of thursday I think.’
I have taken Wednesday of work.’
‘Why.” I ask.
‘Because I wont see you for ages and I thought we could have breakfast at Wide Open Road.’
‘Oh that would be lovely.’ I say.
We work out a time and then I place my phone down on my bed. a nd simply sit legs crossed on the bed that I did not pay for. I have not had a bonafide new bed in years. I sit on this monument to the comparitive afluence of others when compared to me, still doing nothing. At 6:20 I get a text from the boy who holds my infinite affection but not my body when i sleep.
‘Thanks for hanging out for ages while i grumped my way through the day.’
What I did next was not in the style of tigers. Kathleen Hannah would have wanted to shake some sense into me. I could her see her staring at me as I texted the biy back immediatly. Kathleen, look, I know this is silly and stuff but not every girl can marry a member of Beastie Boys. OK. Love does not work out for all of us like that.
I press send and the six simple and beautiful words get sent to his phone in his pocket where he is at that very moment.
‘I always have fun with you.’
I put my phone down and pick up my pretentiouse tomb of a novel and read.
Without thinking to take a photo of it.