Mint Cornetto

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Adelaide, Australia. 2017.

Music plays out of the car speakers, crackly and sweet. I like this song. Dad ripped this to a CD for me when I asked him to. Mum opens the driver’s door and sits back down in the car, switching off the radio. She hands me a Cornetto and I curl my lip.
“This is mint.”
“It’s all they had.”
“I hate mint.”
She sighs then leans back in her chair, placing her own ice-cream against her cheek. There’s a bruise there the same colour as my favourite jacket. I’m bored.
“I want to go outside.”
“Not now.”
“I want to go for a swim.”
“I said no.”
I sigh as loud as I can then lean forward, resting my elbows on the dash. I can see in front of us where the car park ends and the sand continues before giving way to sea. It’s so dark out there. The sea and the sky are the same colour and all I can see is black. I yawn.
“Can we go home?”
“Not right now.”
“When?”
“Not for a while. We’re going to stay at Aunty Grace’s.”
“That’s ages away.”
“I need you to be good for me okay?”
“I want to go home.”
Mum turns the radio back on.
“Try to get some sleep.”
She shuts her eyes and pulls her jacket around her shoulders. The radio is quiet and behind it I can hear waves crashing. A wind blows and makes the car shake. Suddenly I want to turn the radio up a little louder.
A woman is singing a song I recognise. One of the old songs my parents would listen to before they stopped listening to songs. I sing to it under my breath and unwrap my ice-cream.
Mint is sticky on my fingers and mum is snoring when her phone rings. It’s dad so I answer it.
“Hey dad.”
“Where’s your mum?”
“She’s asleep.”
Mum stirs. I watch her eyes open.
“Tell me where you are sweetheart.”
“We’re at the bea-”
“No!”
I’m pushed back as mum leaps across the car. Her shoulder knocks my head against the side window and I yelp as she rips the phone from my grip. She throws it to the backseat then turns to me with eyes red.
“What did you do? What did you say?”
I’m holding the back of my head. It hurts and the pain is pushing against the front of my face. I’m not listening. I’m crying. Quiet at first and now louder. I screw my eyes shut and hope for everything to stop.
I recoil as arms curl around my middle but relax when they pull me in tight. Hands go up my neck and cradle the back of my head. I let my face fall into mum’s chest.
“I’m sorry baby.”
“I want to go home.”
Hands stroke my hair. The radio is playing a song I don’t know and behind it I can hear waves rising and falling.

Goodbyes Are Hard

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Washignton D.C., U.S.A. 2017.

It was time. Finally.
Shaking hands grip my bicep and without looking up from my phone I pull my arm away. My gum has lost its flavour which sucks.
“This sucks.” I say.
His hands move from my arm to my waist, pulling tight. The feather tucked in his hair tickles my nose and I try not to sneeze. My chest feels damp and it’s now I realise he’s crying. I put my phone back in my pocket and pat his head.
“I’ll miss you.”
“It’s only a month.”
“Forty days.”
“Whatever.”
He pulls his head from my chest but leaves his arm around my waist. I sneak my phone back out of my pocket and pretend I can’t hear his sniffling. A mechanical voice plays from speakers above us.
“Unattended baggage will be incinerated.”
Sweaty fingers slip through mine and stick there like butter on toast. I distract myself with the news. Some politician has been filmed rubbing his wang against Uluru and he looks furious when a reporter asks if it’s because he’s a bigot. He bemoans that there’s no decency left in the world and I’m poked with the pointy end of the feather.
“Stop.”
“I want you to take this. For good fortune.”
“It looks diseased.”
“Just take it.”
I sigh and shove it in my shirt pocket. Two pilots walk by in jackets with gold trim and matching flamboyant chains. Their company logo is emblazoned on each of their foreheads.
When they’re across the gangway and inside the plane a voice calls passengers forward for boarding. He’s crying again and before I can stop him he kisses me. I keep perfectly still until he pulls away.
He hesitates before leaving to join the queue. I smile thinly and wave hoping he can take a hint. Instead he reaches up to his left ear, shuts his eyes and grips his earlobe. He pulls and without resistance his ear comes off in his fist.
Blood spurts from the side of his head, splashing a lady in the face as she runs past. She doesn’t stop.
With red stained hands he offers me his ear.
“Take it.”
I roll my eyes. He’s always doing stuff like this. I snatch the ear from his hand and mumble thanks.
“So we can talk.”
“Yep.”
“Because it’s my ear.”
“I get it.”
He smiles and I wave. This time he understands because at last he walks away. I watch him stumble down the ramp to the gangway, looking over his shoulder back at me. Blood pours from his skull.
I wait until he is inside the plane and out of sight before spitting out my gum, wrapping it in his bloody ear and throwing both straight into the trash. I take the feather out of my shirt pocket. Instead of doing the same I roll it between my fingers, watching it twist in the air. I put it back.
With headphones in and no music playing, I make my exit.
Finally.

over and over and

this place is not mine
this place where my mind
is kept
it pushes me through the walls and windows of other places
where minds are kept
over and over
I do the same thing again
over and over
I do the same thing again

I open doors and run inside
houses that aren’t mine
I break plates
kick holes in walls
and run out again

this neighbourhood is full of holes

face up against bitumen
and a car is heading my way
I see feet against gravel
a crowd watching me
I can hear them chanting
chanting

if I want to be saved
I only have to say
if I want to be okay
I only have to say

‘help me’

nothing ties me to the floor
the sun is hot
I am not stuck
I just need to see
see if maybe
this place is destroyed
this place that isn’t mine
where my mind
is
I can find something else that is

and maybe I can stop
doing the same thing

over and over
over and over

you crouch down next to me
stroke a hair back across my ear and say
that’s not how this works

I shut my eyes
tyres roar
over and over

Worth.

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New York, U.S.A. 2017. (Artist credit below)

His phone was dead and the dirt and rubble didn’t allow sunlight to reach him. How long had he been down here? Something hard and cold was impaled through his side and it was difficult to breathe. The ground above and below had him pinned looking down so his face was in the dirt and he couldn’t move.

He couldn’t move.

How long had he been down here?

He knew if he didn’t starve first he would bleed to death. Rock and broken glass was bunched up around his face, neck, ribs, stomach. His lungs and stomach were coated in a thick layer of dust, every inhale turning his insides into mud. Dust and dirt and rocks and glass. He was dissolving into the rubble from the inside out.
He was cold. He couldn’t think. He was cold. He couldn’t move. He had to do something.
He couldn’t think.
He was told in situations like this humans were supposed to gain some sort of inner magical strength. In the face of certain death his survival instincts were going to kick in more potent then ever before. Adrenaline would pump. Muscles would strain. An unstoppable force would fill him and destroy an immovable object.
But he had tried.
He had strained.
And he was still trapped.
He shouldn’t have been shocked. Getting out from underneath an entire office building was always going to be difficult and the earthquake had been thorough. He tried to remember how many floors were above his own when the building collapsed. Maybe if he knew he could figure out how deeply he was buried.
But he couldn’t. Think. Do. Move.
Blood from a cut on his forehead pooled at the sides of his eyes. Now that he had stopped crying the blood had hardened making his face tight. He struggled to keep his eyes open.
He never imagined much of a future but what he had hoped for was far better than this.
He shut his eyes.

Then.

A shift above him.

There was a grinding sound as rock moved against rock and he felt dust fall against his cheek. He opened his eyes and watched cracks of light split the darkness above him, gasping when moving rubble grazed his nose. The light that dripped through cracks now poured. Temporary blindness from the sudden light gave way to tears and then to a dust-choked,
“Thank god.”
Lifting his head was ecstasy. He couldn’t keep the grin from his face as he looked up, squinting as his pupils contracted and adjusted to what was in front of him. He could see a floodlight pointing down at him from far away. It was bright enough that he couldn’t see past it, couldn’t see the sky. At least not yet. And that was okay. Soon. He was safe, he was-
“Good evening.”
A black shape moved and blocked the light. His pupils widened. With the light behind the figure he couldn’t make out the features of who it was that was in front of him. He could make out shoulders, a neck and a head but that was it.
A silhouette.
He didn’t mind. He was safe, he was-
“Do you prefer sir or madam or other?”
He laughed, then groaned.
“You can call me whatever you want.”
“Sir or madam or other?”
He laughed, quieter.
“Sir is fine.”
The silhouette turned and pulled a transparent clipboard out from behind their back. On the surface of the clipboard swirled different colours. He watched dark purples and bright greens shift and change, mixing and separating seemingly at random. He could make out letters and numbers briefly but they disappeared as soon as they came. Whatever they were he didn’t care. He only wanted to know one thing.
“Can you get me out?”
“Yes.”
The silhouette ran a finger over the glass. Colours moved and he watched as two brighter swirls darkened and spun a little tighter.
“Perfect, let’s do it.”
“Depends.”
“Depends on what?”
The silhouette cleared its throat.
“How would you describe yourself in ten words or less?”
“What?”
“How would you describe yourself in ten words or less?”
His smile froze then fell.
“I don’t understand.”
“Do you have a family? Any children?”
“No I don’t. Please I think I’m badly hurt.”
“Age?”
“Twenty-seven.”
“And would you describe yourself as lower, middle or upper class?”
He stared at the silhouette, confused. He searched for a pair of eyes or a mouth, something to understand but he couldn’t see either. Black fingers spun across the board and colours spun with them.
“I don’t know. I’m losing a lot of blood.”
“Let me simplify that. What is your yearly income?”
“I-I’m on casual rates. I’m not sure. What is this?”
The silhouette made another mark against the clipboard. The colours respond, pooling to the corners of the screen. Their spinning slows.
“I need a hospital.”
“Where did you go to school?”
“What?”
“Where did you go to school?”
“What do you mean?”
“Was it a public or private institution?”
“What is this for?”
The silhouette tapped the centre of the board. His neck was hurting from looking upwards and for a moment he lets his head drop back to the dirt. When he lifted his head back he gasped as the movement shot pain up his side.
“What is your sex?”
“Get me out.”
“Answer the question. We don’t have much time.”
“Please.”
“Answer the question.”
“Male.”
“Gender?”
“Male?”
“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. How would you describe your sexual orientation?”
“Please I need help. I think I’m dying.”
“Sir, the faster you answer the questions the sooner we can decide what we need to do.”
“We need to get me out of here.”
“Not until you answer these questions. We must determine your worth.”
“My worth?”
“How much society needs you sir.”
His chest tightened. He felt nauseous.
“Can we proceed?”
“I’m dying.”
“Can we proceed?”
“Get me the fuck out of here.”
Fingers tapped against the glass of the clipboard. Colour swirled and tightened.
“Are you religious? Muslim? Buddhist? Atheist?”
“Does it matter?”
“That’s up to you sir. Hot tip, the Pope has tweeted that he is ‘Praying for all the Catholics in the area’ which could boost your average.”
“My average what?”
The silhouette sighed.
“We can’t keep going over this. I have other people to save.”
“You’re not saving anyone at the moment.”
“Pro-life or pro-choice?”
He was crying again.
“Liberal or labour?”
“I don’t know. I don’t vote.”
The clipboard darkened.
He could feel himself slipping.
“Socialist or capitalist?”
“Whatever you want me to say I’ll say it. Just get me out of here please.”
His mind was foggy.
“Black or white?”
“Wh-white.”
The shadow paused and looked down before bringing out a torch and shining it in his eyes. It hurt.
“There is no point in lying sir, you’re only slowing things down.”
“I don’t. I don’t have long.”
“Where are your parents from?”
The silhouette’s voice was fading.
“What are your opinions on climate change?”
His eyes close.
“Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?”
His mouth falls open.
“A genocide occurs. Do you celebrate it?”
Spit dribbled out of his mouth and he could feel it. He could feel it drip warm over his lip. A singular blob slowly stretching as gravity forced it over the edge of his mouth and down towards his chin. He felt it cool and stick to his face, falling no further as it mixed with the dust in the air and became mud. Something shone in his face and his eyes opened.
“Sir we are almost done. Please watch this short video.”
His head droops forward. A hand lifts his head back up and his eyes meet the outstretched clipboard. An advertisement for the new half-chicken half-beef Maxi-Splosion burger from McDonalds plays.
“Sorry about this, it’ll be over in thirty seconds.”
The main video begins.

A crowd of protestors chant something unheard then scatter abruptly as a van plows through the centre of them. A woman is struck and she is seen spiralling through the air, crashing into the camera. Smash cut to a man with a swastika tied around his arm, shouting in the face of a person in a large grey hoody. The person in the hoody throws out a fist and knocks the Nazi to the floor.

The silhouette chuckles.
In the dirt he shuts his eyes.
Without an audience the video continues.

A politician stands at a press pedestal and flips off the camera. A house is on fire. A family can be seen on the top floor staring out the window. A crucifix stands in the front yard and the family waves it goodbye.
Smash cut and the whole world can be seen as if from space.
It is on fire.

The silhouette chuckles again.
“I love that. Now you have a choice of four answers to give in response to this clip. Do you either A. Comment below, outraged. B. Report the vid-Sir? Sir are you paying attention?”
The silhouette moves their hand from the man’s chin to his neck. He doesn’t react. The man’s head is dropped, slumping into the dirt. The silhouette makes a note and the clipboard goes black.
The rubble is replaced.

She didn’t know how long she had been down there. Her chest ached. She couldn’t feel anything below her stomach and she was scared. Something shifted above.
Dust fell.
Light broke through.
A shadow of a face loomed over her, a colourful screen swirling next to it.

“Good evening.”

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Too Much Has Already Been Written About Storms

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Adelaide, Australia. 2017.

It was a once in a ten year storm. Catastrophic. Never before seen, heard or imagined. That’s what the media told us. In our current climate it felt like we had one of these almost every other week but we didn’t care,
not tonight.
Tonight felt like something special.
I chucked on an old shirt and my roommate’s thongs and flagged down my friend as she drove past. On the way to the beach we listened to Violent Soho’s ‘Slow Wave’ and I watched the sky, waiting for it to break apart.
The beach is the best place to be in a storm. The only thing between you and the sky is flesh and blood. The danger is electrifying and real. We were going to live forever and this is how we showed the world that we weren’t lying when we said that.
Half a bottle of red with ‘Medium Strength’ written along the side gets passed around the group. It wasn’t enough to get drunk but that was fine. We were fucked already.
Faces were grinning. Fingers tapped against thighs. We giggled and tripped over our own feet. Everyone could feel that tonight was something different.

The whites of our eyes reflected back in each other’s mad stares.

We ran down the sand screaming and yelling like we didn’t have jobs anymore,
we didn’t have houses anymore,
we didn’t have our selves anymore.

Me and my best mate waded out together, further than anyone else. We went so far the horizon stopped existing. The sea joined the sky seamlessly and nothing but blackness lay in front of us. He said the water looked as if it never had end and we wondered how far we could walk until we drowned.
Someone behind us told us to look out for crabs and we told them to get fucked. When something touched my leg I screamed and we splashed back to safety.
The storm didn’t come. That night I left my window open and listened to Violent Soho quiet enough hoping when it came I could hear the rain.

Interstate-95

Georgia, U.S.A. 2017.

There is nothing in my mind that is worth repeating
nothing worth keeping
sky green
and ground in between.
Driving a circular highway
lined by things unseen
Keeping me safe
Keeping me sound
sky green and ground
in between.

Spending money because that’s what I’m told to do
Pretending I’m trying because that’s what I’m told to do
‘What’s your plans for next year?’
because you’re currently not enough.
Not enough to trust
that you’re trying enough.
Not enough to trust
with the future I’ve raised for you.
And it’s true.
I’m not.

Apples wrapped in plastic
pass us one from the back seat
as we drive this circular highway
surrounding either side of our minds.
Things unseen.
Things unsaid.
The apples are marked with a sticker saying ‘red’
like the messages in my head
that I send myself in my sleep.
Apples wrapped in plastic
because it’s easier to stay fresh
than it is to grow
easier to stay fresh
than it is to grow
excessive waste and stale taste
biting my tongue
as I talk in my sleep
about things I don’t
repeat.

sky green

and ground

in between

marked by exits on this highway
blocked by roadworks and signs on the wrong side of the road
that we drive by
that we keep driving by
keeping myself repeating
nothing worth

Cars/Do Me A Favour

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Adelaide, Australia. 2017.
Sitting in cars getting trapped in cars
I didn’t want you to drive me home

Tears on the steering wheel, 
dripping on the seat

Sitting in cars getting trapped in cars
Sitting at the bottom of the shower
Sitting over the drain and watching the water level rise
Water draining
mirrors your eyes
as we fight and scratch in cars at night.
Yelling about nothing and fighting for each other

trapped

in

cars.

Where breath marks grey walls against glass,
fog of madness of fear
there’s no intimacy here.
Just sitting in cars getting trapped in cars.
Sitting at the bar with your friends at night
Finish your beer,
fog of madness of fear.
Tuck the glass in your pocket and make your excuse
Place it on the floor
and put your foot through it.

Clean

broken

glass

Where breath marks grey walls
getting trapped in cars
I didn’t want you to drive me home

so

Do me a favour,
And break my nose

Remind me that I’ll never be alone
He says he doesn’t love me
I didn’t ask if he did
He says he doesn’t love me
I didn’t ask if he did
Remind me that I’ll never be alone
I’ll never be alone
I’ll never be alone
I’ll never be

Grey walls remain with bleeding fist marks dotted along its side
Sitting in cars getting trapped in cars

And I watched, and I waited till she was inside
Forcing a smile and waving goodbye.

‘Do Me A Favour’ – Arctic Monkeys