It’s one of those comfortable wet nights where you can wear shorts and a loose singlet and be wandering up and down dark, winding stairs to the kitchen for water and not be cold or feel less-bright somehow. The gurgling in the gutter tells me it’s wet out, but there’s no tapping of water on glass. A symphony as droplets meet the new leaves of that old tree and pervasive boredom, is more than enough evidence to support that it’s been raining all day though. Briefly between internet banking and something equally ordinary this afternoon, I’d paused to look out the window. I thought that I’d never seen rain fall so vertically before.
It’s been a busy few weeks, with committee meetings and work, not to mention tying up some loose ends with research. There are moments that stand out:
(1) Sunset in Fitzroy with Catrina, fresh from the plane after her sister’s engagement in Taiwan. The light strikes the curls of a beautiful woman walking past the window of the restaurant and her beautiful boyfriend. We’re at the intersection of Rose Street, where Simon and I had once stood talking to a drunk pirate at noon on a Saturday, having gone to the artist’s market just before. Strange, how I’d been there just a few days before with Nancy and George and their friends after an entire year of not setting foot on Brunswick street. The world looked like it was on fire. Briefly I thought of saffron, and okra.
(2) A postcard from Guatemala, and I’m excited. Jenny writes, I hope this reaches you. Don’t have much faith in the postal system here.
(3) Candy leans over the table of the dodgiest Chinese restaurant on Londsale Street, and says, “We’re so similar. Sometimes I think we do things that we don’t necessarily want to do because we feel forced somehow.”
Friday is the most beautiful day you can imagine. Spring, green, bright, and nearly thirty degrees. I have coffee with a classmate in the park opposite the hospital, and get lifted off into the realm of spare time. I’m supposed to meet Candy again but she’s still in bed when I call early afternoon. I decide to go to the art gallery. I’d been meaning to go since March, when the European masters series was on. Instead I’d passed it on the tram back from the Alfred weekly, watching the end date draw nearer and nearer for the closing of the exhibition until one day it was all gone. I never got off and went in.
A friend once told me that these days, for some reason, the more tired and lonely she gets the more she wants to spend time by herself. The same week, when discussing places we one day wanted to go with Been, I’d found myself saying that I wanted to go to all the great and silent places of the world.
In the quietness of the NGV, I’m struck by a kind of longing.
A photography exhibition is on with photographs of New York and London and Melbourne and Rome on display: Steichen, Atget, Gursky. In a next door space there are large, almost panoramic views of Los Angeles in infinite white space. I’d never wanted to go somewhere more. Down one storey there is an entire display solely dedicated to lace and, having all the time in the world, I read all the placards carefully and now know roughly how to tell the difference between bobbin lace, machine lace, needle lace and chemical lace by looking at something.
The third floor, houses the contemporary art section and a lot of the chairs that I used to see in the classroom of my Graphics and Design class in high school were there. It’s strange. The many times I’d actually been to the National Gallery of Victoria, I’d never actually been to the third level. Before this I hadn’t even realised it existed.
Somehow I walk into a dark room with only one single object in it. It is a ladder, suspended in nothing, lit up and glowing and changing colour. All the hair on my arm stand on end. It feels like a hand is stroking up my neck. I walk up to it. It seems to emit an infiniteness. When I look down at its base I see it going on forever. I look up, and see it climbs forever. Nobody else was in the room. It is ages before I could move again. Later I find someone’s blog post about the piece: ‘Tender are the Stairs to Heaven is an installation by Yayoi Kusama. I saw this work in January at the NGV in Melbourne. [..] It was during the heat wave and I hadn’t slept for a week. I wanted to cry.' [link].
Seeing the fixture, I wondered if it was really just the great and silent places in myself that I was longing for.
I’ve not seen weather this crazy for a while. Howling winds, rain, hail, the sky clear one minute and black the next. I was woken up at 1am and couldn’t sleep again for the battering at my window — how unlucky to have the head of the bed there.
Instead I spent the night reading. Again. Like I’d done the previous day, just drifting in and out of sleep and ‘White Teeth’ (Zadie Smith), a promise to a friend a long time ago that I’d only half kept then. As in, I promised a friend that I’d read this book but I got halfway in but couldn’t go on for some reason. Back then the narrative had seemed too confusing, a tangle of words. It was too busy in my head as it was, without cramming this mass of thought in. It took me a single day to get through (when I wasn’t sleeping), and in the end it reminded me of the high school English class girls. Back then all prose had variations of the same greater voice — the voice of our English teacher. An English teacher who changed lives, I swear.
Last night in the storm, I read Murakami. Actually, it’s funny — I’d started ‘Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End Of The World’ a long time ago, but I couldn’t remember where. Was it while waiting for a plane at the airport? Was it a library book in New Zealand last summer that I had to return early, because of my flight back to Melbourne? I found myself thinking about it all year.
A book with that kind of staying power deserved to be bought. When Catrina and I came across it at Borders last night, it seemed like a sign. Usually Borders only ever stocked 'Norwegian Wood', 'The Wind-up Bird Chronicles' or 'Kafka By The Shore’.
Around dawn, the birds started waking. It amazed me they could sing in such howling winds. So brave. I wondered where they were hiding.
It had taken me a day and a half to recover from the weeks leading up the handing in of my thesis. Due to a fairly hefty saga involving an old man, and an unshakeable belief in antioxidants (and possibly some corruption by drug company backing), my original project fell through in late June and I had to start again in July on something different, but still Thalassaemia related. The time had gone so fast, lost in late nights and times when I wasn’t quite certain if I was asleep or awake, adjusting graphs and tables and forcing myself to write my thoughts down instead of just thinking them in my head.
Thesis-writing is, in theory, not a hard task. Translating tasks to time, however, seems to require a vortex. Something that would easily have taken you 1 hour, you spend the entire day doing — and not because you’re slacking off. I spent all day adjusting graphs for some reason. In fact, I spent 4 days adjusting graphs. Graphs that I’d already drawn up. I don’t understand why it took so long in the end, but somehow it did.
Two (unrelated) things from this past week:
1. People are terrifying in a way that I’d never previously believed.
2. I have been a pretty awful human being this year.
I’m not going to explain either.
Big thank you to Dhanushi, Adil, Ginnie and Catrina for being the most amazing people in the world, and helping me with everything this week. Not that they read this, but I owe them big time for this period of my life. BIG TIME.
For a while now I’ve been thinking (almost deliriously, during the times I’ve not slept for working) of home. The concrete garden, those carefully spaced lemon trees that never bear fruit, the iron cockerel in the shade, climbing vines, lavendar. It’s always summer in my memory, because I only go there during summer.
Time to plan a trip home!
Looking forward to the last of the year falling away, and watching friends graduate :)
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how I think it is with us. It’s a shame, because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever.”—Tommy D, from ‘Never Let Me Go’ — Kazuuo Ishiguro (via ayespy)
Just today I made an unpleasant discovery — that when I’m tired, everything takes on a sheen of familiarity. This came as I was walking through the shelves at Borders, going up one and down the other aimlessly, picking up calendars and diaries and putting them down, reading chapters of random books, or things that I’d wished I had more time for. Somehow, tired, it felt like home in a way home didn’t.
The familiarity is a detriment, professionally. I once got told off in third year when a surgical fellow had stopped mid-presentation to the team, to look at me as I sat leaning on a ward desk swinging my legs and tell me that I made myself comfortable rather quickly. Except we were a casual team, and it wasn’t done said in a harsh way (I’d been with the same people on about three different rotations through the year). Perhaps I’d been lucky then.
It seems I haven’t stopped though: after a long day or a deadline, I begin to slouch at meetings, giggle inappropriately, get lazy with communication, do embarrassing things like press my forehead to the back of an empty lift and sigh, completely unaware that someone has just gotten on the next floor down (an uncomfortable lift ride the rest of the way).
Does anyone else do this?
Last week, before things started to get hectic and I lost my year’s worth of work momentarily through a harddrive malfunction a week out from the deadline, I read ‘Never Let Me Go' by Ichiguro in one go. I hadn't slept for a while before that, with Ginnie and I crammed into her little office at Prince Henry's pulling all nighters for our drafts. She'd bought a pillow and sleeping bag and napped on top of a work table around 3 or 4. I don't think I would have picked up a retro-spective book if not for that — I don't like the reliving of memories much in literature for some reason. Perhaps I just dislike remembering.
I love the way that two people could be in love so matter-of-factly. Nothing except Ruth’s talk at the end could have hinted it in the book, other than that one week when they’d momentarily broken up and a fellow schoolmate had said that Kathy would be the natural successor and she’d gotten confused. But they’d known each other all their lives. Those talks about the world, the teachers, the unassuming things, the drawings.
Everything, in fact, in this book is matter-of-fact. They don’t struggle against their fate much. They are resigned. Even Ruth, at the end — you’d think she’d rebel somehow (although perhaps she did in her own way, with Madame’s address).
Depending on what kind of person you are, you will either think this is heroic, or stupid. Perhaps it’s saying what kind of life experiences you’ve had, too, and how much control you personally have over things that happen to you.
:) Won’t tell you what side of the fence I’m sitting on. I’m sure you can guess though. Perhaps when I was younger I would have thought differently. I thought a lot of different things then, with great certainty.