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Nov. 9th, 2012

There is an emptiness in my future, lurking about the Christmas that's yet to come, the New Years, the every otherwise triumphant trips to my childhood home. An absence that will be felt more fiercely than most presences ever could be. There will be no wet nose at the screen door basking in the smells of Christmas lunch, no sitting on the back porch calming a large furry beast frightened by fireworks and thunderstorms.

My dog was put to sleep today, and though I moved away for university and it's been months since I've seen her, I miss her. It is like a part of me has died too. I am filled with regrets. I wish I had said goodbye, instead of telling her to be good, telling her I'll be home soon, telling her to stay for me, wait for me, promising I would come to see her again in time. I wish I'd had more time with her. She will not wait by the gate for me ever again, will not grumble amiably as I stroke her fur and settle her down for the evening. She won't wave her tail, filled to bursting with happiness to be with people who love her. She won't revel in the simple pleasure of an unanticipated biscuit, or preen to be told she is pretty. She is dead. No one who has not known the unadulterated joy of the companionship a dog can provide would understand this grief. My parents cry like it's the loss of a third child. Her expectations of life may well have been less than that of most people - she demanded only food, and company, and a place to rest - and by those standards her life was rich indeed.

There will be people who think it is silly to feel the passing of a dog so keenly. She was one of our family and now she is gone - I cannot express it any other way. Though she lived only a little over ten years, she wound her way into our hearts with her gentle and sweet nature. I keep expecting to see her - despite tearful phone calls from home breaking the news, I feel like I'll walk past the door and she'll be there waiting to be let in, and it hurts anew remembering she is gone and she will never be there again. It's not quite real. While I don't believe in an afterlife for people, I find it almost impossible to believe her irrepressible personality is simply gone. I feel like she is sitting beside me, shoving her large head into my space, her warm chest against my arm, licking at my tears, not tolerating my strange behaviour for a second when there are bellies, chins and ears to be scratched.

Marta, sweet little girl. I know you knew you were loved, and I know that you loved. You were simple, sweet, good natured. You were wimpy, devious, a greedy guts, a loyal guardian and a staunch defender of your people (however hard of hearing, however cranky to be caught asleep at your post). You were wary of strangers, and I don't know how I'll ever trust a new boyfriend again, without letting you first determine your opinion. You will always hold a place within me, and if I can hope to be one-tenth the soul you are I will be a better person than most. Vale, my good girl, my sweetheart. Goodnight, Marta-Marta, rest well.

Apr. 7th, 2011

636 / 2000 words. 32% done!
The noise in the library is enough to kick start my inner cynical dialogue, and I'm fantasising about when global hegemony is mine and I get to institute literacy and intelligence tests in order to ensure that the deeply stupid are held under house arrest. Although this sounds somewhat illiberal, I think it is essentially a utility win, since in the outside world they are at best an annoyance to others and at worst a public health hazard. I think some standardised testing would help with Western Bogan Regional Library's selection as well, as they seem a little heavy on the fluffy chick lit, the Cartlands and Dan Browns, and excessively light on the more interesting literature. They also don't really have a politics/philosophy section, which is not tremendously surprising given that the vast majority of other library patrons seem at a loss for what to do while they wait for their hour of free facebooking time, the prospect that they might shut up and read something seeming a bit beyond most of them. Normally the sheer volume of books in a place like this would have my inner nerd in paroxysms of joy, but this is somewhat abated by the high proportion of pastel covers and disappointing reality that they don't have any Dostoevsky, but they do have six copies of each Twilight book.

This may be a left wing politics fail, given that the sorts of semi-literate goons I am currently encountering in the Outer Western Burb Bogan Book Depository are probably of the disadvantaged socio-economic classes, the sorts of people who think the baby bonus represents value for money and who seriously consider a fourth child as a savings plan towards a flatscreen television. (Because Border Security just isn't the same on the smaller screen..?) Unfortunately, I can't help it. I am keen to promote literacy and give everyone the opportunity to experience the wonderful world of the written word, access to the the combined knowledge of Western (and, for that matter, Eastern, I suppose as well) civilisation.

I love the notion of the democratisation of knowledge, in theory, anyway. Everyone has potential, every child should be given the opportunity to know and love Orwell. This fades somewhat when I am confronted with the sorts of people who think making a flamethrower from a Lynx deodorant is the height of intellectual endeavour, the sorts of people who were something of a pustulent plague at Further Out West Secondary College, and I am transported to memories of a time in which learning how to put out spot fires in your hair was a survival skill necessary if you sought any sort of formal education. I can't help wishing these kids had paid more attention when the primary school was trying to help them understand the complexities of Spot. Sure, the system failed them and they were probably raised by the kind of only barely sentient bogan parents who see the education system as a convenient childcare system and a necessary evil until the kids hit sixteen and can go start a family of their own and get on the dole. Nobody inspired them with the written word, read to them as children, listened to them read. Nobody showed them the value in knowledge, and it is a tragedy. I don't have an easy fix for this, but I think it's probably not a terrible start to bring back corporal punishment and empower librarians to brutally beat people incapable of using inside voices within what should be peaceful places of learning. At the very least, we should be capable of ensuring a minimal standard of behaviour for within libraries such that they are not periodically turned into hyperdomes attracting confused-looking neanderthals whose minimal attention-spans are positively indulged with shiny colours and the sort of literature which would be of more social use pulped and lining litter trays.

Oh, who am I kidding? A peaceful place of learning, the modern local library? No, they must be non-threatening and welcoming! Libraries now apparently feel the need to compete with the local shopping centre for tack and vacuous shiny things, encouraging 'expression' and 'approachability' so that the bogan is essentially transported to the book section of Big W, except the books are free and no one will shout at them for being particularly obnoxious or letting their children climb all over the shelves. It is archaic, and far too much to hope, this expectation that people might come to the library to be quiet and read something. It is surely only a matter of time before they begin to hold Zumba classes and offer little cocktail sausages on sticks. And then, why not allow for corporate sponsorship, so that the children's section could, for example, be sponsored by Dora the Explorer and be all about teaching pidgin Spanish and the joy of merchandising to inquiring young minds? Hola Kids! Come Explore(TM) the Dora The Explore(TM) Combine Harvester! It's pink and makes pretty sounds while it's grinding the other neighbourhood kids into a scarlet jammy pulp!

I may have gotten a little carried away there, although since there is apparently already a Dora themed toaster, probably not as carried away as it is possible to get. Let me make this simple point relatively clear. The library should contain books. It should contain useful periodicals. There's probably nothing wrong with some documentary style DVDs in moderation. It should probably contain some sort of internet acces, but preferably in a space removed from other areas of the library so that no one needs to hear excitable bogans rant on about how good they are at Farmville. And maybe some sort of nasty-looking contraption with lots of spikes bearing a sign which explains in quite small and graphic words what happens to those who can't manage to keep their voices down and control their infinetismally tiny attention spans for the duration of their stay in the region of the books. We are unfair on the bogan. By never requiring it to adhere to a bare standard of civility we never give it the opportunity to peel itself from the glittery tack of its cultural aesthetic to embrace something more substantial.

Crap. With rants like this, it's only a matter of time before I'll be penning concerned citizenry letters to editors about the Youth of Today. Don't get me started on museums without explanatory placard things, either. Glorified fucking pomo art displays...

We exhale, and she slips from between the soft and tangled sheets, draping an old shirt over incandescent skin that was, moments ago, so warm against my own. I raise myself on one elbow, quirking an eyebrow in question. She smiles, tossing her head, the dark curls drifting across her bare shoulder, and softly steps out of the space we have made in the morning light.

In her absence I am vulnerable. I take a moment to look around, taking in the walls that were so much background to the soft-focus intensity of the night. There are books everywhere, spilling across overstuffed shelves and piled precariously on available surfaces. Fiction, philosophy, politics, science, law, a collection of ideas. I wonder if she has read them all.

I lever myself out of bed, past the warm shadow she left behind, and, suddenly shy, reach for the sheet to cover my nakedness. Taped to her wall below the bookshelf are photos of people and places unfamiliar to me. She is small in the ones she is in, and hard to pick out, as though she was simply coincidently part of something greater. There are monochrome prints of morning in some foreign city, empty park-benches and the play of light through leafy trees.

The door creaks open, and I am startled out of my reverie. She is back, shyly stepping over the threshold to her bedroom, nudging the door closed with her bare foot. She has two mismatched mugs, steaming gently, taking up her hands. She crosses the floor and places one into my hands. "Morning". It's the first word either of us has spoken since the frenzied confessions of last night. Her hair is tousled, make-up smudged beneath her eyes, and in those two syllables I can sense questions and hesitation. I place the mug on her desk, littered with pages of angular handwriting, and remove the one still in her hands, placing it adjacently.

Her eyes will not meet mine, and so I place my hand on her cheek, and lean in to press my lips against her forehead. Surprised, she looks up, and I capture her lips with my own, tender from the excesses of last night. She sighs into my mouth, a sound of comic relief. "Morning". I retreat, and take a sip from the mug she had handed me. Warm chocolate, threaded with a spice that is rich and delicate on my tongue - cinnamon - gently counteracting the chocolate which would have been too sweet. I feel it lifting the weight of a restless evening from my shoulders, and I am revivified. She sits on the bed, and I join her, the spaces that used to lie between us filled comfortably as flesh mingles with flesh. We watch the sun rise from her bedroom window.

No one asks what the next day will bring.

Depths of frivolity

The clouds are soft silver tinged indigo. Sepia leaves of autumn stand against them. The cold seeps through brick, past cotton-swathing and deep into flesh, pale and shivering. The day is passing hours unproductively, waiting for night when I can sink into mattress, draw the covers against my skin and delve back into dreams of fire, extremity, bright and sapient colours of imagination, far from the mere numb sentience of awakening. In the mornings that come too soon, I tempt myself back to sleep with promises that daylight obligations can be placed on hold. In the blurry world before glasses, coffee and proper attire, it is easy to believe the real world is insubstantial mist.

Life, however, looms like an iceberg somewhere beyond a shower and breakfast. It is hard to know how to be armoured and prepared. Today I chose sensible shoes, jeans, layers of t-shirt. I throw my coat in the boot of my car - it is not a day for walking, I am already going to be late. Mail has arrived - my last week self bought a handbag on the internet made from a recycled suit. This was supposed to cheer me up, the receiving of mail. I tuck a few pins into the tweedy outer-lining with nerdy philosophy student quotes and Marie Antoinette eating cake. I slip some readings, my computer, phone-wallet-keys-pen, a charger - into it, wrap a scarf around my neck and leave. The window is ajar, just a crack. It will be cold when I get home, but I want to get some work done and not doze in the hazy warmth and comfort of my sanctuary.

The lecture is obligatory. I know materials are being covered that I ought to know but don't, but still my attention wanders. I am here to get my name marked off on a sheet. Despite my nerdish leanings and pins of intellectual snobbery, I am currently an inferior scholar. Exhausted, getting out of bed was enough of an ask. Tomorrow's tutorials are a draining thought. Discussions. Engagement. Eugh. I go to the library, more out of habit and panic than out of any real intention to get work down. I put it on the shoulders of tomorrow's self, hoping she is somehow more diligent, more resilient. I write. I look for messages from friends. I think I will attend a debate this evening and not rush off home, despite the hectic schedule.

What Epicurus Left Out

The hand holding back the branch is pale, and it trembles slightly as the leaves once more obscure the view. She knows she has had a glimpse of something that doesn't belong in her world. She warmed herself over a reflected glow, only borrowed. She wonders why she alone seems to be too thin for the world, not slender like the girls in the magazines, but rather brittle and stretched, a mind, a soul, somewhere it just doesn't belong. She doesn't know the rules here, and she plays the games like a foreigner – watching and mimicking but never really understanding. She shrinks back into the shadows where it is safe, comfortable. She wishes you had never let her sit with you in the sun, waking with memories of the bright warmth on her skin, feeling you close. She opens her eyes into the dark, alone, suddenly so aware of her wrongness. You showed her the door she cannot open; and until then she'd never realised she is outside looking in.

She learned from the best. Stoic Greek men who advised her to keep her desires to a minimum. A little bread, a little wine, a little companionship and laughter every so often. Good health, a light touch on the world. A red-haired primary school teacher who made her class draw the rooms they wanted, and the rooms they needed, and the difference between them. Hours spent embellishing fantastical, pretty desires on one side of the page, and neat, clean lines on the other. A bed, a window, a cupboard. Twenty years on and far from home, knee-high boots and a librarian skirt emerging from the car that's only five years younger than she is, overpriced hairstyle slipping into her eyes, she is surrounded in disposable consumerism.

She seeks out the esoteric, buys her chocolate fair-trade and her biscuits from little German delicatessens, her apples from the organic grocer, handmakes and repairs. She doesn't smoke – probably the only promise she kept to her past – but she can't escape the game, not even close. She knows most of her desires can be put away, postponed, offset. She can make iced tea with tealeaves instead of buying a soda, bake a pie with wasted fruit, write letters when she's lonely. You didn't know it, but you taught her there are some desires that cannot be postponed, cannot be put away forever. Life cannot be stored in a box at the back of a cupboard until you are ready for it. I thought I was impervious to falling, and it had been so long I had forgotten how to get back up again. I covered it with a bandaid, but it hasn't gone away yet. I am suddenly aware of being ancient, dried out and inhuman – and horribly, horribly naïve. The world moves on around me. All the boats are gone, now, and the sea rises with solemn inevitability. There is no chance of rescue. I close my eyes and wait for the last memories of warmth to fade.

I pour myself another mug of warm spiced wine, and set out to write a fairy tale for the dark-haired girls with pale skin, with eyes that flash retorts and laughter that is fresh and alive. For the girls who buy their own drinks, open their own doors, drive their own cars. For girls who read, who play in the sun, who won't wait uselessly to be rescued. For women who are never likened to a flower, limp and dainty things, or a summer's day - airy and light without definition when they more substance than gossamer. They define who and what they are, and are described into existence by no one.

My heroines have pens and paper. They have dark libraries and the smell of ancient paper. They have inkstains on their fingers, a clumsy fashion sense modelled loosely on the notion of warmth, and hair that seldom does what it is told. They are kind when no one is watching. They think, they ponder, they reconsider, they evaluate, they agonise. They bake a mean apple pie with healthy irony. They survive without taking and give without announcement. They revel in thunderstorms and warm days on soft grass. They try very hard to pay attention.

There is no shortage of anticlimactic twists and adventures to be had, but because she does not need to be rescued, it is difficult to envisage where she might find a space in her world for someone in shining armour to fit.

Oct. 12th, 2009

She's well acquainted with the touch of a velvet hand, like a lizard on a window pane
A bud, soft ivory petals bound in delicate green, unfurls at its own pace, retreating as soon as it is observed and taking little of the night with it. A shallow and unlikely premise, she knows delicacy is not her sin.

She lives in the deep background, so much a part of the scenery that she may as well dress in theatre blacks and only move in the dim-light behind the curtains. Occasionally she dreams of spotlights with a mixture of fear and longing, but mostly she recognises her role as an extra, the background for other's scenes. When arms shove her into the curtain call, try to make her life look bigger than it is, she is only reminded of the unlikeliness of entering that world.

She improves on closer acquaintance, I am sure, but any potential for glory days were wasted in waiting for a cue that never came. Better than theatre blacks - mild case of shyness and the sort of transient face that is a little difficult to recall. Best to live in the pale-faced world behind the stage, amongst the greasepaints, rigging and discarded props, where in the shadows a sort of understanding exists.

Oct. 4th, 2009

For what it's worth, I missed you.

First time you even got an inkling, huh? Never was any good on the spot with that phrase, it dangles awkwardly from the side of my lips but is snatched back for fear of feeling the limb beneath crack and fall. No more than a copper teaspoon's worth of emotion, a half inch of unspoken feeling, but it was true. There aren't enough gentle truths out there, and gods know I spend enough time propogating sharp and vicious truths, the kind that take the shine off the lies that shield the weakest parts of us. So here it is. In a corner of the world it is almost entirely certain you will never discover, late and unlikely to be of value anymore - the words it took six months to say: "I missed you". The very definition, I am sure, of too little, too late.

You were just slightly short of an open book, but I managed to keep all my words hidden. A quintessentially hollow victory, to wrap oneself away from the world and observe it from a height, tracking the patterns of the ant-hill, working on the very pre-Copernican assumption that, alone of all the people in the world, I am the only one it is truly impossible to understand. Time to get over it, girlie, you're only as unique as everyone else, and your layers and subterfuges are all mere excuses. For too long she thought she was too young for life, and now she begins to feel too old, and she doesn't want to reach a place where the memories she needs to rely on simply do not exist.

How hard should it be to step beyond your comfort zone, pull out the appropriate attire, and be someone not overcome by shyness and quietism? Thus far, overwhelmingly so, with every venture into the world masked with a potted character - giggly disposable girl, shy and gentle ethicist, intimidating intellectual snob. When each is rejected I can rejoice for being two-thirds unrefuted, and I once again miss the point.

Sep. 20th, 2009

She comes from a long line of quiet intellectual types, wary and anxious on the way to visit the outer-family regions, and never quite able to see the merit in engaging at the lower levels.

I don't care about: football, 'true crime' stories, anything that you saw on A Current Affair, the latest beauty treatment or recipe involving some brandnamed cereal, reality television, fad diets. You don't care about: philosophy, politics, books that don't make the bestsellers lists, films with no one attractive in them, vegetarianism, intellectual curiousity, or an independent media, but you might have canned beliefs about them - "the media, the media is biased" - like it's a revelation.

It means, though, not learning to relate to anyone. Time spent learning to smile politely and suppress the questions she wanted to ask while she feigns an interest in the latest scandal, story, celebrity secret was time spent suppressing that which was lively. It means now she walks into a room quite confident her views are boring, elitist, intellectual wank that it is impolite to subject people to. Arrogant, most definitely, but the kind of arrogance which breeds humility and shyness. She never really learned how to walk in your world.

The sniff with which it was said, "Oh, an academic" as though there's something inherently dishonest about earning a living removed from manual labour and dealing with people. As though facts, science, methodology, debate - these things are somehow unclean. As though drawing a wage for it is cheating someone, somewhere, who does 'real work'.

She went to university and learned about class politics, worked urban proletariat jobs and felt the disconnect everytime she used a word with more than three syllables in it. She let strange men in navy bomber jackets who reeked of Winnie Blues breathe smoke in her face and call her 'doll', in penance for her pretensions to a world outside this sphere. When the revolution comes she's not first against the wall, but somewhere in the middle with her compatriots - pale and weedy from hours in the library, with their deeply suspicious knowledge and middle-class guilt.