While I was working on the final draft of my novel, I mentioned offhandedly to my editor that the characters were all based on real people. He asked if I’d changed the names, “to protect the innocent,” and I told him no, and that I wouldn’t, because none of the people were entirely innocent. He wasn’t pleased with this, so I made a deal with him: I would find evidence of the guilt of all characters, then proceed to publish on that basis. He told me not to call him for a while, which suited me as I had a lot to be getting on with.
I set about researching and surveilling the named individuals around the clock. Encouraged by some early breakthroughs, I resolved to work on nothing else until I had what I needed to publish, but within weeks the more complex cases were dragging. Bound as I was to carry all investigations through to exhaustion, I took on unrelated cases in my spare time, to finance the core mission. Becoming a licenced private investigator and advertising my services online, I put the novel on the backburner for a little while.
I’m pretty sure that in the end, I’ll prove that everybody did something. My editor has remained mercifully silent on the whole issue.
I am a collection of cat’s-eye neurons
Nothing firing off in any direction
Soaking up light and reflecting it
When it comes from the right angle
When the lights come back on
I don’t know what the residents will make of it
Pale bodies dropping out of windows
In their blinded confusion
I’ll sweep up the mess of broken glass
Like I do every few years
Living with volatile BPD is kind of like living in a house that’s constantly on fire, that never burns down or goes out. When people come over, they’re normally pretty nice about the fire, but maybe they’ll ask you out of curiosity if you know how to put it out.
You’ll give them a detailed breakdown of the source of the fire, your theories about why it’s still burning, some charts and graphs about how professional firefighters handle their fires, and maybe even an amateur treatise on the physics behind housefires.
They’ll take all that in, nod politely, then ask if you’re going to put the fire out, at which point you’ll notice that you’ve put all your notes down on the floor and now they’re on fire too, and the jug you’re using to douse them is full of kerosene.
You’ll smile, a bit embarrassed, tent your fingers on the table, look sheepishly at the curtains you hung last Thursday spreading flames across the re-plastered ceiling. “Yeah,” you’ll say, “I get that a lot.”
Try to find a private spot to piss on Churchill Avenue. I guarantee you can’t. Suburbia is designed for reflexive surveillance, because everything that happens on purpose is meant to hurt people. You will only find relief in this world in the gaps between intentions.
I took my mother’s typewriter down tonight and tried to write this story. Once I’d cleaned the dust off, I slid in a sheet of A4 and tested the keys. The heads left nothing but dusty impressions on the page. Determined to extract something meaningful from the typewriter, I changed tack.
I took out a legal pad and pen. For the next several hours, I held the spool up to the light and read it in reverse. I noted down every letter, punctuation mark and space in order as I went, until the pad was full. By dawn, I had reconstructed the last letter my mother had ever typed, and copied it into a note on my phone.
The letter was headed:
“Catholic Diocese of Ballarat,”
“To whom it may concern.”
The arteries of this city have become clogged
And everything gets pushed up into the wires
Electricity has been falling out of the power cables
And burning twisted cracks into the pavement
You think it’s the tree roots pushing up from below,
But really you know there’s nothing under there
1. The hum of fluorescent lights in an underground carpark will drive you insane if you listen too closely.
2. Your hand will smell like keys if you insist on clutching them on your walk home.
3. You will never open the door of your flat to find it ransacked, there is no need to test the knob.
All of the worst things that will ever happen to you have happened already. All of the worst things that will ever happen to you will happen later. Start humming.
The radio waves have come loose from the air today,
Intruding into unsupported frequencies.
Cassandra screeches becoming visible by degrees.
Your shoes are on the telephone wire over Bakery Hill.
The chatter on the wind is all about what you’ve been up to,
And it’s getting denser by the hour.
There’s a house on the edge of town that we will visit tonight.
We will both snap our heads around as it bursts into flames,
But we will not catch a glimpse of each other.
There is a woman here at the airport who is disappointed with Frankfurt. She has only seen the airport, but she blames the city.
Australians, you mutter, breezing past her. You are disappointed with the woman who is disappointed with Frankfurt because of the airport. Australians, you mutter again, fucking Australians.
The woman is falling asleep beside a small pile of wine spritzer cans on a cafe table, and really she is disappointed that the kiosk doesn’t sell cider.
All of the streets around here are No Standing zones.
These pavements belong to the quick, and you move too slowly to follow.
You slink along with a chaplet of roses about your orange hair,
A sunset kaleidoscope visible only in flashes as I rush past.
Today, I turned onto an unfamiliar street to find it empty and unhurried.
Beyond the fibro houses, in among the scrub, I watched a ball of fire gently burning.
I followed at a tiptoe, and lay down in that place until I was alone again.
I am coming home with a flower tucked discreetly behind my ear.