Stress junk, trigger warnings and nudity.

My first uni assignment is due in a few weeks and it appears relatively simple, which can be a stumbling block for me because I see something simple and then second guess myself and make things hideously complicated.

At least I guess I know I do that this time around.

I decided to join UNSW’s library, mostly because I have friends who study there and because the guy I spoke to at Sydney Uni was really rude.

I went to pick up some books on the weekend and discovered that old looking books act as some kind of first-year student trigger for me.

Most of the books are hardback and don’t have dust jackets, so I almost keeled over in shock, because they all looked about 60 years old and I was terrified I’d have to do an assignment with horribly out-of-date information and fail.

Turns out you can take the clothes off any hard-covered book and it looks old and worn.

Kinda like me.

Helen.

This house is thoroughly depressing, it’s so clearly the house of elderly people.

I imagine them hopping into bed every night, pulling up their lilac and white doona cover, talking about their daughter Helen, who lives over the other side of town now, and is a big-shot public servant (She’s not, she’s just a pencil pusher, but she works in a highrise and back when they first moved to Canberra, they found the business district very intimidating. It’s not a place “people like them” go, but they’re happy for Helen. Now, if she’d just find a nice man …). Helen visits once a week for dinner and bought them the sheet set because she thought it was cheerful and she’d started to find their original ’70s decor suffocating.

The set was on special. She didn’t put much thought into it.

slippers

Those five pictures have been hanging above their bed for several decades, but if you took them down, neither of them would be able to tell you with much certainty what had been there.

They put the house on the market, telling people they don’t need something so big anymore, and they’re going to travel (They won’t. The suitcase in the corner is for trips they make on occasion to Sydney. They catch the bus and are always at the station an hour before it departs. It drives Helen nuts, because they’re habitual even in their anxiety and indecisiveness.).

He had been taking a nap just before the real estate agent arrived to take these photos. Every since they decided to sell, he’s been feeling more exhausted than usual. Something about the timing of that disturbs him, but he can’t tell you why.

When she called out his name, he pulled the doona up in a hurry and kicked off his slippers, unaware of the horrible sense of finite intimacy they would lend to the photos.

Pinkerton.

I have a lot of depressing interests: all the PJ Harvey albums about death, true crime documentaries and books, looking at affordable real estate for sale in cities I don’t live in.

I partake in each of these activities compulsively, but the only one B has asked me to stop involving him in is real estate. B has come to realise that when I get have an idea, I grasp it like the huge jaws of a staffy with a rope on a hills hoist.

I will hold onto that idea as the hills hoist spins faster and faster and instead of letting go, I wear the hills hoist down.

Yes, B is the hills hoist and in the past 12 months, even though I promised I was “just looking” we have bought a dog, moved and bought a car.

I am now banned from ideas and purchases including our fortnightly food shopping.

However, I have not been able to go cold turkey on looking at real estate we could afford if we didn’t live in Sydney. Instead, I have stated to collect the weirdest real estate pictures I find.

If we owned this house, I would constantly walk around barefoot and pretend I was padding around the lining of a uterus.

Every time I went out the front door, I’d pretend I was being re-birthed.

pink2pink

The best part about this house, besides its re-birthing experience possibilities is that it’s located on Pinkerton Circuit.

I would love to meet the owners and tell them all of this.

One Little Flicker Of Light

I’ve been reading a lot about the death of comedian Harris Wittels. I’d not heard of him before, but reading about him, discovered I’m a fan of many things he’s created and that a lot of people I know really loved his work and are really sad today.

People who knew him are devastated and angry and confused and almost preemptively nostalgic for something so soon gone.

All those reactions make sense to me. Certainly drugs, if that is what killed Harris, can take lives suddenly, but sometimes they creep in, slowly snatch away parts of people we love, replace those parts with things we don’t understand, or sometimes downright hate.

It can be almost like seeing them slowly erased: you begin to lose them far before the final moments.

+++

One night in the tale-end of winter in 2009, I was sitting on the fence outside the tragic redbrick apartment building I lived in at the time. The courtyard was continuously scattered with garbage, the police a fairly regular presence. The rent was cheap and I didn’t know any better.

I was waiting for a friend to show up. It had been three months since his brother’s suicide and I’d promised him homemade lasagne if he promised to spend the night with us.

I’d spent all day cooking it from scratch, wanting to let the mince simmer properly so it would be perfect.

He was running incredibly late. He’d called for directions several times.

Finally his car slid past, I waved and watched him struggle to park further up the street.

When we hugged, he didn’t let go and I thought nothing of it. It was a strange time, his brother’s death kept ricocheting, like an echo that wasn’t growing faint.

It wasn’t until we were almost at my front door that I realised he was high. More than high, I realised he was high on heroin.

I followed him in, frantically miming injecting myself to my partner at the time and another friend.

He sat on the couch as we all stood silent. He started to tell some stories, there was a lot of forced laughter and sideways glances.

I felt stupid. There was my stupid lasagne in the kitchen, like some kind of kitsch Florence Nightingale band-aid for a problem that was far bigger than I’d realised.

I served it anyway. He praised it, swallowed several mouthfuls and then fell asleep mid-sentence.

While he snored, we stared. I looked for track marks on his arms, something I’d seen on television. I can’t remember now if I found any because the rest of the night was so devastating.

He woke up, grinned at us and said, ‘Well. I guess that’s why they call it going on the nod.’.

This was some sort of punishment for something.

Maybe for not hurting as much as he was.

Maybe for not being a salve for his pain.

This was definitely something he intended for us to see.

He went outside for a cigarette and I took his phone. Maybe I had a vague idea I would call his mother.

Suddenly everything got very serious, very fast.

He was throwing up everywhere and I was locked in the laundry with my cat.

I was terrified, and it’s only recently that I’ve realised I wasn’t scared of him dying, I was scared of the strength of the drug, I was scared that anyone, anyone’s body, could live through that.

It was violent and chaotic, a reaction to the distress his organs were in, frantically trying to process the drug.

He threw up for the next nine hours, on and off.

When he wasn’t throwing up, he was joking around, listening to music, smoking cigarettes, pretending it wasn’t horrible and confronting that he needed to excuse himself to vomit in my bathtub over and over.

At one point I hissed at him, ‘You brought this into my house? This was supposed to be somewhere safe for you.’.

It was the only thing anyone said to him about it that night, though mutual friends later told me it’d shocked him and was the precursor to getting clean.

I don’t know if that’s true. Those are two very small sentences against the weight of that night.

He made it through.

Heroin was the length he was prepared to go to, to numb the pain he was in and I couldn’t hate him for that.

I still don’t know how you save people from it.

I’m unwilling to say how he later explained the appeal.

I will say that he was the first people who made me realise addiction is an illness and not necessarily a choice and sometimes it’s an escape from things no better or less harmful.

Hello, I am Julia and I am a Mature-Aged Student.

It’s been ten years since I was last at uni and I’ve been wondering what things I would notice were different now I am a mature-aged student.

Here is a small list so far:

+ Last week I got my subject outline and have already read it, highlighted important information and things I need to follow up in pink and blue highlighter, respectively.

+ Purchased the recommended text book and rung the Co-Op book store to confirm the order and request the switch it to a rural store to ensure the order is fulfilled faster.

+ Purchased the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (and JG Ballard’s Crash in the same order. Analyse that!).

+ Researched which university libraries I can join in Sydney and which other popular mature-aged student study venues are conducive to study and have power points.

+ Hooked myself up with a study buddy.

mrburns

(img.1 Said study buddy, the last time we studied together when she was a journalist and I was a PR-ist. Now she’s studying medicine and I’m studying psychology, so … communications degrees, hey?)

I also found this picture, taken in the middle of the night when I was writing my thesis on feminism and science fiction:

DSCF1880

It’s barely visible, but I had a framed photocopy of a picture of a Russian Orthodox priest hanging above my bed, because they are badass (and bad).

Nowadays I only frame pictures of puppies and kitty cats.

Delileo + Juliette

lilahredbull

Delilah is in love with a neighbourhood cat she met about four weeks ago.

We discovered an alternate route for her nightly walks, which mostly sticks to a path, but passes by two driveways. Perched on the red brick fence of one of the houses was a gorgeous, fluffy calico cat who had absolutely no interest in Delilah.

Wuz doesn’t like Delilah much, whereas Delilah is attracted to anything cute and fluffy.

This cat ignored her completely.

Delilah was smitten.

Now, every time we walk past the yard, cat or not, Delilah runs through the gate and sniffs in frantic circles in the front yard, trying to find her friend.

I have spent many an anxious minute creeping outside the bedroom windows of these poor, unsuspecting cat-owners, hissing, ‘Delilah! Come! Here!‘.

Of course Delilah thinks it’s a game, so she crouches and darts through my legs, wheels back and makes like she’s going to hoof it down their driveway.

Last night we were running late to meet B and I had to message him and tell him I couldn’t catch Delilah and when I finally did, she pulled up on a patch of grass, lay down and refused to move, such is her love for the cat.

Like the Montagues and the Capulets, this love will end in tragedy, we’ve decided to leash Delilah whenever we walk past there now (why didn’t Romeo and Juliette’s parents think of that?).

And just like that, she will learn her first lesson in heartbreak.

 

Book no. 4 of 2015: The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl

Books

My older sister told me about Shauna Reid in about 2000, I think. At the time, Shauna was running the now-rebranded blog, What’s New, Pussycat? which was/is a hilarious personal blog. At the time I picked up, she was just preparing to move to Scotland with her sister.

Unbeknownst to me (and all other readers), Shauna was also the author of another popular blog, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. The blog was a personal journey through what it’s like to lose half your body weight (literally). I remember when Shauna revealed herself as the author, I was excited for her when she announced her book deal, but somehow I found myself preferring WNPC? to Dietgirl and so it wasn’t until recently that I borrowed the book from Mary (aforementioned older sister).

The book reminded me of what first attracted me to Shauna: she is funny and not in a way I find much online anymore. She’s not about the short, sharp one-liner take downs, she knows how to tell a story about giant underpants in a way that will make laugh laugh heartily and want to squeeze her.

Unlike a lot of personal bloggers I’ve followed, years later I still want to be her friend.

Additionally, through her blog, I discovered another, I, Asshole, created by the amazing SJ Alexander, who I’ve had the great pleasure of sharing a drink or two with.

This book, it turns out, came to me at the exact right time in my life. It’s not a diet book, it’s a memoir about what it’s like to gain and then need to lose significant amounts of weight and while it won’t feel like it at the beginning and might take some getting used to in the middle, life goes on around weight loss.

Adventures are there to be had and new things are there to be loved.

I’m hanging onto this copy, to turn to throughout this year.

4/5

Dumplings and fun things.

I am pretending that I didn’t see the 2-for-1 sale on flights to Japan today because I am still so sad that we didn’t make it over there for Christmas.

Instead, we have decided I have insisted we take a week or so off mid-year and visit Melbourne and Tasmania. The last time I had a holiday was Easter last year and I spent most of that in a coma induced by both sugar and Queensland heat.

I have been to Melbourne a few times now, and I love the city, but the visits have always been fraught with issues or general weirdness. I would dearly love to sit in a bar and drink a cocktail and eat some dumplings and not have a worry in the world.

So Melbourne will be my food and drink holiday and Tasmania will be for freezing temperatures and art galleries and hot chocolate.

Book no. 3 of 2015: The Kindness of Women

Books

The Kindness of Women is a sequel to Empire of the Sun. Set in the ’60s and ’70s, it revisits Jim as an adult, grappling with the trauma of Shanghai which he has never been able to find closure from and which manifests itself in an almost innocent obsession with sudden and often violent death.

Again, the simplicity of the writing is what makes it so powerful, and quite often touching. Older Jim is much more gentle, a kind, dependable father and friend.

The uncertainty of the ’60s swirls around him, world events including the assassination of Kennedy are touched upon, but the events which shake Jim happen much closer to home. He is attracted to people with a loose grip on life, he is often a spectator to the insanity and danger that envelops them.

The Kindness of Women isn’t as tightly edited as Empire of the Sun, but a slight looseness suits the tone and themes, as the plot almost dreamily traverses a period of dramatic change in cultural and social norms.

4/5

Book no. 2 of 2015: Empire of the Sun

Books

Empire of the Sun was a book I’d seen a thousand times before on my mum’s bookshelves. She owns a rather arresting hardback version, a stark white and red cover.

When I lived at home, the premise didn’t much interest me, although at some stage I realised it was written by the same author as the infamous Crash, which piqued my curiosity a little.

I think I was discussing the plot of The Narrow Road to the Deep North with Mum and my disappointment in the quality of writing when she offered to lend me what she thought was a much superior book written about the same era.

Much has been said about Empire of the Sun, it is now firmly entrenched in popular culture, there has been a film, there is a band of the same name, so I don’t want to rehash discussion which is readily and more eloquently available elsewhere.

Briefly, it is a fictionalised autobiography of J.G. Ballard’s time spent in Japanese internment in Shanghai as a child. It is a war book, but not as they so often are, a story told by those fighting.

Empire of the Sun is a story about how war stops time for ordinary people, how brusquely everyday life ceases, how societal norms collapse, how people become complacent and compliant in order to survive and how they come to feel safe in captivity and begin to build microcosms of the lives they led on the outside.

The writing is stunning in its simplicity. The young Jim is a perfect protagonist. Because he is a child you can forgive him his selfishness and small cruelties, his naïvety allows him to infiltrate parts of the human psyche in a way that would seen devious or distasteful in an older character. For the reader, it means slowly becoming aware that you empathise with some of the things he does, some of the things he thinks and that in in times of tragedy there is sometimes no space for grace and martyrdom.

5/5