Free Drinks On A Spring Saturday
I am not my feature image. That is not something I can constantly be. Saturday proved this in hyper colour and surround sound. At least thats how it seems in my anxiety filled over thinking and reliving every wrong word. Why wasn’t I just chill about it all?
It was a rare day where I was to make an appearance at more than one event. I felt pretty good about this. It is sunny and waiting for my friend to pick me up, I stood and marvelled at the beauty of my tree lined street. The sun dappled through branches and leaves. Dappled sunlight is my preferred way to enjoy sun. Anything extra is too much and makes me want to punch people.
My friend and I go to a book launch in Yarraville. I have never been to a more crowded book launch in my life. It was taking place in a hall and it was full. There was a long table filled with delicious food: cheese, cracker, mini scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream, chicken sandwiches, chocolate chip biscuits and craft beer, sparkling wine, white and red whine. It was like church dance food from my teen years, only so much better as there was booz and we were celebrating creation of literature not creationism. I ate as much brie and fancy cracker as I could without seeming greedy. I think. And drank a couple of cups of ice cold sparkling.
As I was standing in a circle of friends a tall generically too handsome for his own good man came up and stood beside me with the kind of confidence that comes from existing in the skin sack version of winning the genetic lottery looks wise. He is staring at me when I turn my head and look at him. ”I know you.” He says. He is smiling as if we are friends and I am filled with the distinct impression of an opposite emotion. He has the swagger of many annoying young men of my past. ”I do not know you.” I say. ”But Im not wearing my glasses so hang on.” I phish my glasses out of my anarack pocket and place them on my face. I look at him blankly. ”nope, still no idea who you are.” I say.
Turns out we went to uni together in Ballarat. We both stayed in the double story student housing estate called Bella Guiran. We had not ever been in the same unit though. I had no memory of him and after speaking to him for too long than was probably required, I understood why. He was boring. He had enjoyed his drunken three years on college accommadation. He studied management and was now a city planner. When he asked me about what I do now. I tell him excitedly about the National Young Writers Festival and how it was such a honour to be a part of it. He responds with basic bastard crap about how we are in out thirties and couldn’t possibly be considered young. Being creative is not like management I retort. You dont simply graduate and step into a job and then slowly start to die one boring day at a time. You start the slog when ever if hits you and then you die slowly one day at a time, while creating as much as you can. There is no one way to be a writer, there is no hard and fast timeline. God I hate you. I think as we continue talking.
I rant about how living on student halls of residence was a cultural and intellectual wasteland for me. How the rape culture was rampant and toxic, with drink spiking incredibly prevalent. How the pick up charts in every unit made you feel like a loser if you didn’t do any of the things ( sleep over for sexy times, vomit from too much alcohol, shower with someone)For him it was just fun going to uni and binge drinking. He never had to make certain plans every time he went out on the town like the young women did.
He never had to deal with little things that ate away at your autonomy. Like when I got my drink spiked with alcohol by a trusted male friend. I had never drank alcohole before then due to my religion. I never got to choose to drink alcohole on my own terms. I do of course tell this guy that as well.
”Im so glad I never had sex with any of those idiots. I declare. He tells me he goes back to ballarat four to five times a year to see mates. I never go back. I tell him. What annoyed me the most was how he introduced himself as knowing me. The absolute gal of it. He does not have any idea who I am. Seeing me around uni and speaking to me a few times while he was wasted is not knowing me. The person he spoke to while drunk all those years ago no longer exists. I tell him that since no longer caring what men think of me, I have become so much happier and confident. It is obvious by the way he starts looking away from me and staring out at the crowded hall, looking for an escape, that he did not envision his interaction with me going to such intense levels so quickly. I don’t do small talk. He was only at the launch because he had a high school connection to the author. Lucky for him my friend comes to get me as this guy is saying that he seems to have brought out a lot of bad memories. She has so many. My friend declares as she drags me away. I stop and get one last question out while gesturing at me face with my hands. Have I changed much since then? He shakes his head. I laugh as I walk away with my friend. He is so wrong.
The next scene takes place at a friends home on a stunning street in an area I am unfamiliar with. It is a birthday gathering that will contain me into the late hours of evening. On entering the house I am already happy tipsy but probably also a bit rattled from the previous encounter. I told him too much about myself, I stress inwardly. He did not need all that information. You should have just blanked him after saying you dont remember him and avoided him in the crowd for the rest of the launch. I should have simply said that it was a grand time of growth and independence surrounded by amazing and inspiring people. I should have mixed some of the truth with a portion of pretty. I loved how cold it was there. I loved the friendly goths.
As soon as I entered the home of my friend she hugged me and hugged my companion. I was going to follow her through to the kitchen when a young girl locked eyes with me. She was very nearly as tall as me. She came up to me and asked how old I was. I tell her. she took in this information without changing her expression. ”Do you suffer from Drawfism?” I say that I don’t. Then why are you smaller than everyone hear? She asks. I fight the very strong urge to kick her in the shins and burst into tears. In my grown up voice I answer with a ”no”. I feel bad about feeling offended by this. It reeks of internalised ableism. Or does it? If you are asked repeatedly over time if you have a condition that you don’t have, even by grown ups, is it ok to be miffed and annoyed? Because that is how I feel. Perhaps it is because I do already know about the things I do have (not suffer, that is ableist language) I leave the little ”intellectually curios” scamp and follow my friends for a drink.
When a friend suggests I remove my anorak, I get weird and say that I wont just yet. It is warm and I do want to take it off. The paranoid voice inside whispers that if I take it off, my structural crookedness due to scoliosis would be shown more noticeably. If that little human came up and asked with her dead eyed stare why my posture was a bit weird and my bare shoulders looked rounded, I doubt I would have any patience left to explain it to her in my grown up voice. When her parents heard about it they looked uncomfortable and apologized saying that this was why she didn’t have any friends at school. I didn’t really fully relax until the little family left. It was then I sighed a breath of relief and shrugged out of my Aldi children’s Anorak, and drank my fourth drink of the day.
When it gets dark I get so emotionally vulnerable that the hostess kindly takes me out the back of house and we sit there together on the steps and look out into the dark as I talk and cry and talk some more. She helps me see that there are options and I am not so alone as I feel sometimes. Her kindness is so overwhelming and the crying and talking really helps. Its like throwing all your worst parts out into the open air and someone else catches them gives you an escape and then lets it float away and dissolve.I was not crying because a little girl had the gal to ask me questions. I know thats what it looks like. But its just that the kids I see regularly do not ever ask things like that they just no me as aunty by blood or by association. It has been years since I was teaching primary school kids and getting questions like that so often it didn’t matter. I lie, it did matter. As I sit and cry hot cathartic tears, the beautiful lady greyhound comes over and licks at my tear stained cheek. It s not even an overly sloppy lick, it is more like a sniff with a bit of a soft kiss. Dogs are neat. So is having strong female friendships who let you do the cry thing once in a while.