‘Would you date a guy with a really camp voice?’ I ask as we pass a tall, smartly dressed young man speaking to his friends with certain flair. ‘Ummmmm, would I date myself, you mean?’ he answers with a sly sideways glance, ‘why yes, yes I would.’ I try to protest that he doesn’t sound that effeminate but I’m cut off. ‘Sometimes on the phone people think I’m a woman, you know. Like, they’ll ask my name and when I tell them they say, “oh, that’s an interesting name for a woman”’. I howl with laughter on the fourth floor of Westfield, tripping over my penny loafers with glee.
For a while in my mid-teens I was very afraid and spent a lot of time inside, alone. That should be the dictionary definition of agoraphobia, not ‘an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas, sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks.’ But there you go. Inevitably I’m asked ‘What were you so afraid of?’ but I didn’t know how to answer then and I don’t know how to answer now, half my life later. The only way I can articulate it is actually hopelessly inarticulate: I was afraid of everything that could happen. So I stayed inside where I felt safe.
We grew up together. We hid under the kitchen table and ate slice after slice of buttered bread together. We collected tadpoles from the pond and watched them grow into frogs together. We drew endless sketches of dream wedding dresses with Disney Princess puffy sleeves and full skirts together. We swung round and round on the Hills Hoist together. We got in trouble for swinging on the Hills Hoist together. We played Peaches in Super Mario 2 together. We mastered Sonic the Hedgehog together. We turned seven years old together. We went to primary school together and sometimes ate lunch together. We hung out after school together and on the weekends we lived together. We turned our noses up at the tentacles lurking in exotic seafood soup together and gorged on Tiny Teddies together. We went to slumber parties together. We played characters from Beverly Hills 90210 in annual home movies together. We took fistfuls of after dinner mints from the Black Stump restaurant together. We played wonky piano duets together. We turned ten together. We went out in matching outfits together. We learned all the words to The Little Mermaid soundtrack and belted them out together. We fasted the 40 Hour Famine then refueled with her mum’s sublime Filipino cooking together. We wandered through the crowds at our parents’ parties together. We dreamed of being Belle and Ariel and Princess Jasmine together. We became obsessed with Michael Jackson together. We went to high school together. We took a photography class and spooled film in a dark room together. We turned 21 together. We worked together and when we hated our jobs we rallied together. We held each other close at her father’s wake and we cried together.
When I lie in bed at night, I wonder who reads my stories. Outside my circle of friends, who text and email and call to heap too-generous praise, I wonder who reads until the end. I wonder how the stories make them feel. Maybe hungry, maybe happy, maybe a little bit sad; I hope they feel something. I wonder about my grammar, unchecked by subs, if it is (was?! were?!) correct. I wonder if they’d tell a friend or come back next week to read again.
I once read that Nick Cave started a Bad Seeds song with the words ‘I thought I’d take a walk today…’ because he was feeling uninspired and decided to let his mind wander. What followed is the rambling, ferocious, hysterically brilliant, ‘Oh My Lord’, including this insanely wonderful verse:
“Now I’m at the hairdressers, people watch me as they move past
A guy wearing plastic antlers presses his bum against the glass
Now I’m down on my hands and knees
And it’s so fucking hot!
Somebody cries, ‘What are you looking for?’
I scream, ‘The plot! The plot!’”
So I thought I’d take a walk today…
In the back seat, I lean my head back and lightly close my eyes. ‘Faith’s asleep,’ I hear my brother tell my mum. I pretend that I don’t hear him and continue ‘sleeping’. He tosses out an insult to test me; my eyelids flutter but I keep up the ruse. I like being in the car with my family, listening as they chatter and argue in front of me. My mum squints at and questions the GPS on her dash-mounted smart phone while my brother obstinately tells her to go a different way. For as long as I can remember he has sat in the front passenger seat, to avoid getting car sick, while I sit in the back, in my own quiet world, watching as the streets change and the cars flash by.
Dear I Could Eat Again,
Thank you for pushing me to practice writing and eating, every week, even when I’m tired and uninspired and sometimes not even hungry. Thanks for letting me get things off my chest. Cheers for your steadfastness. Thank you for travelling the world with me and for being my home stenographer. Thanks for encouraging me to be honest. Thank you for making me talk through my issues and for never interrupting or telling me what to do. Thanks for teaching me that my stories are ok if I think they are ok, even when no one reads them. Gracias for the many, many memorable meals we’ve shared. Thanks for letting me put your name on business cards before you were born, I realise that’s a bit embarrassing. Thank you for teaching me discipline. Thank you for being there when I need to cry and when I want to laugh. Thanks for helping me make my mum and dad proud.
Happy 1st birthday my blog, you bring me as much joy and agony as my own flesh and blood. Now, what should we do for lunch?
Love, Faith xo
ps Thank you for letting me take a break this week to write you this letter instead of a story, I know it’s a cop out.
In the earliest hours, the baritone drone of Radio National would lead me to my mum’s dark room, lit only by the neon red display of her clock radio. ‘Mum? Are you awake?’ I’d yell-whisper at her exhausted sleeping form. ‘Mum? I can’t sleep,’ I’d persist. ‘Go back to your bed, lie down and try.’ she’d murmur patiently, digging deeper under the covers. ‘I already did that.’ No reply, no movement. ‘Ok mum,’ in my loudest whisper, ’I’ll try again. Goodnight.’ I’d creep back to my room, hitting every creaking floorboard along the way, lie down and instantly fall fast asleep.