Sleepwalking

This acoustic version of Sleepwalking reminds me of the hours and hours I spent alone in my Melbourne apartment, writing, drinking, freezing, singing, crying, hating, loving – feeling terrified, empowered, and lonely.

At the time, I was numb to all of it. Those emotions were ripples across my surface – except the loneliness – I felt that as keenly as the icy winds that greeted me every night as I left the call centre I worked at.

I remember feeling new, like paper. I was blank, nothing – a few etchings beginning to appear as my new person developed. Someone wholly separated from the person I’d been in all the years leading me to that point. I vowed I’d never be that girl who hurt herself by staying where she wasn’t actually wanted. I vowed I would never date a musician again. I vowed I would stop being scared of losing everything, and start living.

So I took a job in a call centre – something the old me would never have done, because I was too anxious that the people sitting next to me would hear how useless I was at the job. I went out to nightclubs on my own and introduced myself to people. I wandered a lot. Had hair style changes, new piercings, new clothing… and while it felt exciting to create a new me, it felt like it was all happening to someone else.

It’s only through hindsight that I can see how close I came to actually losing everything, and to just how completely disconnected I was from reality, my emotions, and the idea of consequences.

When I listen to this song, I remember the smell of that apartment, how cold it was, how small, but wonderful it was. The way I heated it using the oven, because the idea of buying a heater to keep myself warm never once occurred to me. When Sid asked me, flat out, as he shivered that night of our one night stand, why I didn’t have a heater, I remember the sadness, the horror, as I realised I’d never considered it because mentally, I didn’t feel worthy of warmth.

Until that very moment, I’d had no idea just how much I had confused my numb, reckless, alcohol-induced Brave New Person, with simply shutting down and not coping.

People say that you drink to forget. The only time I remember Important Things, is when I’m drunk. But the next day, I can’t remember what I remembered, and I wonder how many secrets about myself and my past, that I discovered and lost, alone in that apartment, with this song the only witness?

I wonder what the walls heard, or who I spilled my secrets to at 4am on threadbare couches in darkened corners of dirty clubs and 24 hour pubs – There are strangers out there, walking around, who know things about me that I will never remember, and the shapes of their faces are little more than a faded blur of a whiskey soaked memory, and yet, they probably know me far more intimately than people who’ve known me for decades, because when the whiskey goes in, the walls come down, and I feel safe to be myself.

Until I become The Other Self, the one that’s too Too – too loud, too violent, too angry, too sad, too lost, too lonely, too desperate, too broken, too confused.

So now I’m a new Me. Again.

The walls are higher and thicker than they’ve ever been. Nobody gets through the generic How’s The Weather layer. I don’t know how to let them, without alcohol, and now I have new reasons to be more scared of the consequences of drinking than I ever had in the past. I have a child who doesn’t deserve to witness the demon inside me, or my punishment for who I apparently become.

This new me is a bit like the old me, in that I feel no connection. I have friends – those satellites who orbit my world, never getting inside, because I don’t know how to have friends and trust them. It’s easier to keep everyone at arm’s length, than to lose them, or have them leave you.

So now I find myself missing those days in that freezing apartment, where my whiskey words let me make the strongest connections to any friends I’ve ever had.

I wouldn’t trade what I have now for what I had then, but it sure would be nice to learn how to let go, and live.

Advertisements

It was an accident

“I killed a bee once” she said through lips twisted by that one eye she has closed to block out the sun.

“In a glass, I mean. Not like, from it stinging me”.

Her hands were hidden beneath her thighs, her legs swinging back and forth over the brown water flowing in the river beneath us. This old, rickety bridge was just where we went to once everyone found out what happened to her sister.

I looked at her, but remained silent, wondering whether this story would be the one that turned the key in the lock.

“It was buzzing around in the daisies and I’d just finished my drink. I just wondered how long it would last under the glass but I forgot about it. I got bored of watching after awhile, and then I just forgot, and then that afternoon, mum came in from the backyard carrying my glass”.

She was picking at a freckle on her knee, knowing it wasn’t going to come off.

“I went back out there and it was under the flower, just laying there. It didn’t move when I poked it, so I guess I killed it”.

She was staring at me again through that screwed up, sun-staring face of hers, waiting for me to say something. To connect the dots between this story and the question I’d asked her.

“So was it kind of the same deal with Ashley? Just something you did and then got bored and forgot about?” I asked.

She nodded, watching the brown water below us.

“You wanted to see how long she’d hold out, waiting for you to find her?”, I pushed.

She shook her head.

“She wanted to play, I wanted to not play. I got sick of her whinging. I told her to go hide and I’d find her. But I didn’t even look. I forgot she even existed once I told her to hide. I just.. I was busy. Stupid busy. Just chatting online and tumblr”.

Faster now. Her words weren’t flat and far away like they had been these past few months. They had feelings in them and I could almost taste the tears they carried.

“I got hungry. Like, hours later. Hours. The sun had moved so far. The house was dark on my side and I remember that I suddenly got real cold. Heartcold, not weather cold. I remembered her. And then I heard the silence. It was the silence of her not being in the house.”

The words hadn’t slowed as much as they had started to detach from her. I could feel my skin begin to prickle as she recounted the moment that the pure horror of her realisation began to walk up her spine.

“Four hours, Tristan”, she whispered.

“It was an accident”, I reminded her, watching teardrops bloom on the denim of her shorts. “You didn’t know she’d hidden there. You didn’t hear her in the shed. You didn’t know the coolroom had locked and you didn’t know she’d had an asthma attack”.

The silence stretched as we watched logs and leaves come and go beneath us. I didn’t know if she’d heard me.

After awhile, she looked up at the sky again, barely needing to screw her face up.

“The sun’s moved”, she observed in the sad voice she had been wearing since Ashley died.
She grabbed the rail and pulled herself up. “I’d better go”.

“See you tomorrow?”, I asked the back of her.

She shook her head, stopped at the end of the bridge.

“They don’t want to be here anymore. The house. The town. The sympathetic looks they get”.

“So.. what? You’re going? You’re moving? When?” I shouted in panic, taking a step towards her as she began to turn around to face me, hurt and fear clouding her face.

“Two days, if we can get packed. Mum doesn’t stop crying. She sits in the shed, outside the cool room. She won’t let removalists come in to do it for us. Dad’s stopped talking to me. To anyone that isn’t mum. Now the only thing that breaks the sobbing is mum’s crying and dad’s shh’ing”.

She was gripping the railing and I could feel the guilt radiating from her.

“Abby, it’s not your fault. It was a horrible accident. You know her asthma was bad. You didn’t do anything to her.”

“I didn’t do anything for her” she whispered. I didn’t know how to respond.

“They don’t say it, but they hate me just as much as they love me. I’ve killed pieces of all of them”. This time the words fell in ragged, drool-dripping heaves. Her eyes were pouring pain onto the worn boards of the footbridge. I was beside her in seconds, helping her to the ground.

“Have either of them spoken to you?” I asked, my arms wrapped around her as she shook. Inhuman sounds came from her throat.

“This is the first time you’ve spoken about any of this to me. Is it the first time you’ve spoken to anyone?” I asked, squeezing her, desperate to hold her, to love her.

More inhuman wailing. Guttural, choking, mournful cries so painted in pain that I felt my own tears dripping from my chin.

The sun moved a little closer to the hills as we sat on our bridge, grieving for Ashley, and for Abby. Eventually, her grief turned to exhaustion and her eyes began to stare into nothing.

“My mum misses you. I think it’s time you stayed over at mine again”, I said, guiding her to her feet. She followed, like a puppet, hearing nothing, seeing even less.

My mum was walking through the hallway when I opened the door. She took one look at me, at Abby, and her face crumbled. A surprised, hearthurt gasp broke from her chest and she took a couple of rushing steps toward us. Abby responded by throwing my arms off her and running to my mother, burying her face in her shoulder.

I walked around them to the kitchen, where I began to make cups of tea that neither of them would end up drinking. I phoned Abby’s parents to tell them where she was, but nobody picked up. I left a message, hoped they would check it.

Abby spent that night curled in my mother’s arms, their heads fused together, my mother’s caring whispers eliciting silent, healing tears from the girlfriend I lost the day her sister died.

The next morning at the breakfast table, as my mother fussed over bacon and eggs, Abby stretched her arm out, closing her hand over mine. She smiled, then, and her smile sparkled in her red, swollen eyes.

I smiled back, but inside me my heart swelled. Inside me, I wept with relief, and an overwhelming sense of love.

Too soon, this joy was broken by the flashing lights of a police car outside. Too soon, this sliver of peace that had settled on Abby was shattered by the Policeman asking Abby to confirm who she was. Too soon, did I once again hear the sound of inhuman wailing that had broken my heart as Abby was told her parents were dead. By their own hand.

I haven’t seen her in a long time. She hasn’t seen me in even longer. Abby doesn’t see anything anymore. She stares, but she doesn’t see. She doesn’t speak, listen, love, laugh, draw, write, cry or live at all – Abby sits in her hospital bed and stares.

Three years later, I still see that smile she gave me across the breakfast table, and I still whisper “it was an accident”.

She still doesn’t hear me.

Marketing the misguided

It hits with the panicky ferocity of that moment where the wave gets in your mouth, all salt and choking and dots in your eyes.
– That moment where your breath is wet and fatal and full of fish pee.

It feels like the seconds your fingertips spend digging into the ground, clutching at grass
just before your grip fails
and the sharp things dance in your feet

waiting for you

to plummet

.

And it’s in those seconds of suspension before your flesh hits the ground
and the crunching bones break beneath
a sky devoid of cloud.

That you realise
Your wings are purely ornamental

And you fell
for your own hype.