You’d think it would be more beautiful.
You’d think it would be more beautiful considering it’s full of trades people. But it’s not. It is not art. It’s a love letter to 70s bureaucracy. Most of the buildings look like outdated banks or government buildings. Others look like Amazon packing stations about to be abandoned due to inefficiency. It’s all brick and concrete and sad vinyl seating.
But in this forgotten space between two buildings just short enough to have a little sun in the morning, the trees have matured beautifully. Their placement seems sporadic and varied in species and I enjoy it. I sit at a little picnic table, and eat breakfast, drink a coffee, and get things done. It feels settled here. Sitting at my picnic table, among the sporadic trees. Watching the birds, and typing away, chipping into my thoughts. I’m trying to think new things, ask questions while I have the time.
This little escapee course is a time of great thought. There is little else to do, because this course wasn’t designed for me. I was at high school less than two months ago, and the course is designed for people rekindling their education twenty, thirty years down the track. And time, suddenly, is not of the essence.
We’re standing at the kitchen bench, and I am telling someone who loves me that I don’t think that I’m going to be finishing school. She tells me what she thinks. And I start off well in the explanation that I believe the situation requires, but I descend into half remembered sayings and convoluted metaphors. Somewhere I begin a phrase, and she narrows her eyes at me, and suddenly I can hardly see above the counter for how young I am.
“Do not speak in clichés to me.”
And I recede like the tide going out, because I am easily hurt. I have started to hear her in my ears when I write. Do not speak in clichés to me. Do not speak in clichés to me. It’s a small bit of the map.
Cringila Train Station is like a non-place, and I read magazine articles aloud to myself. There are the reeds and the traffic and after a while a deafening silence. There is nothing kind here. There is no vending machine, none of the electronic timetables, not even a station guard. There is just the highway and the steelworks and a train station for workers that are no longer there. I want to be somewhere that is somewhere. There’s bus stop is less than ten feet away but none of the buses are going anywhere. So I sit with the mandarin I had stuffed in my pocket, and wait for any train going north.
The wind bites through my jacket, I read about stoicism and octopuses, and I try to untether the past from the future. I’m stuck in this bubble of cause and effect, mismatching catalysts to results, and trying to realize that the past is all tucked away. I’ve started to view my life as a series of cardboard boxes. The ones in front of me are empty, the ones behind are full of the debris that I have loved and discarded from my person.
But I still haven’t found a place for my schoolbooks. I don’t know what to do with them, because I spent so much of my own money on them and now they are useless in their red folder that I bought to inspire me. And I love that person that started out this school year full of determination about a borrowed dream. Not because she was delusional, but because she was determined, and willing. So my schoolbooks sit on my table and I look at them every night.
And I’m horrified by their presence in my bedroom, but too loyal to throw them out.
The safest image I can imagine is a Saturday morning and my dad making a list. We used to do our shopping for the week on Saturdays and he would make a list with his coffee. I remember how he would wear his sunglasses in bed because the sun was coming for him. I remember the smell of coffee even though I didn’t know it was the coffee then, and I can see him making his list. I can envision the lists within the list for the vegetables and dairy, the yellow paper and his work pen; the white sheets, the morning sun, coming in during the ad breaks in the cartoons.
They’ve since changed the position of the bed, so he doesn’t have to wear his sunglasses. And we don’t do our shopping on Saturdays and he doesn’t make a list and I don’t watch cartoons. And suddenly I feel like an old woman, horrified by society in the checkout line. It’s not that there’s no safety now and coffee and Saturday mornings still exist and they charm me. But it’s hard to hold two thoughts in your head and even harder to feel safe in two places at once.
There were activists in Newtown today and they spoke to us like a military operation. They split us up, and asked us huge questions we couldn’t possibly have answers to. What are your thoughts on the Russian Revolution? Are you a liberal? Have you ever read anything on Marx? We are scruffy teenagers on a day out. It’s nearly raining. We’re trying to find somewhere to eat that won’t cost us three hours of work at our dingy minimum wage jobs. And the activists are asking for our thoughts are on modern day capitalism in the current political climate.
They’ve got their shoulders squared like they’re ready for a fight, and they’re ready and willing to pry our email addresses from our cold dead fingers. The man who talks to me talks to me like he’s trying to sell me something. There is nothing that I can give him. There is no moral response I can give him that would make him feel satisfied parting from this conversation. He can’t sell me something I’ve already got. But we converse anyway, and each not knowing anything more than what we did already. There can be no debate.
We part ways like debris briefly getting caught in a branch along the river before getting pulled away by the current. We leave like children. We eat cheap Mexican food and drift in and out of op shops and factory outlets and I think about that young man. I wonder where he’s from, I wonder if he’s getting paid, I wonder who taught him this, I wonder who it was that gave him those talking points. And I think I will chase him up on his offer to talk more about it at their conferences and events. Because I don’t know enough to debate, and maybe I would like to.