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7 day song challenge, day #1: See You On a Dark Night

TW: sexual assault

As a kid I was lucky enough to grow up in a suburb where I always felt safe walking at night. My friends and I used to go on night adventures all the time as teens, haunting school playgrounds and netball courts and the random patches of forest that grew in between houses. We would cast spells, gossip, sometimes drink. Walking home, usually around 2 or 3 in the morning, I would have to split off from the group and head down this long stretch of poorly lit road, and then through the twisting backstreets of suburbia to my parents’ house. And I enjoyed those walks; there were always bats about, and I had space and time to think before the sun came up and day-to-day life began again.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

A year before I moved to Brunswick, which is where I live in now, a woman was killed. She was abducted while walking home from a night out with friends, from a pub I’d spent many nights at during university. She’d only been a couple of twisting backstreets away from where she lived. Backstreets I’d covered many times in between friends’ houses and tram stops, often walking for much longer than I needed to because I was poor, and couldn’t afford money for a taxi, but also because I wanted to. One of the newspapers marked out her route on a map and when I saw it my insides froze up; I’d walked that way before.

I don’t know if I was actually any safer in my old suburb that I am in my new one. Perhaps that tough, glittering, teenage-girl-feeling of untouchability kept me safe somehow, shimmering like a mirage, there but not really. Now, when I’m faced with the possibility of having to walk home alone at night, I don’t look forward to the space and time, to the bats or the lights. I don’t feel free.
I feel trapped.
I weigh up the options.
I could get a taxi (that’s $12 minimum), or an uber (a little less).
I could call and hope that my partner’s awake so that he can come meet me at the tram stop.
I could walk with my keys in between my fingers, and my phone to my ear, making imaginary conversations with myself, hoping it doesn’t ring.
I could, I could, I could…

The night doesn’t belong to me anymore. And I hate that.

I loved this song first for the way it sounds alone. It’s catchy. The vocals are haunting, but playful. I love the way Grimes samples in this track, the sounds she chooses, not quite fitting together, but in a way that makes you listen harder. I’m always surprised at finding new sounds creeping through every time I hear this song. It reminds me of a patch of forest at night.

But when I heard what the song was really about, it became my anthem. What she does with this song is nothing short of genius. She is taking something incredibly painful (her own sexual assault) and turning it around to face the perpetrator. By weaving that pain into something upbeat, something poppy and fun, something that she has since built a career in music on, she is taking all the power away from her attacker.  And I love that

And so on nights when I have to walk with my keys between my fingers, I chant these words in my head. It doesn’t make me feel untouchable, or even safe. But it makes me feel like I am gathering some of that power back.

See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night
See you on a dark night.

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High Anxiety: I’ve Got Mail

Right now, there is an email sitting in my inbox. Seeing it there makes my. It’s not from a lover (or a hater), not from my mother, or someone I’m specifically trying to avoid because I said something that made her mad, or he said something that made me hate him a little bit. The email is from my thesis supervisor. It will be a small email, quite short I think, because she is busy and has other students to tend to. I haven’t opened it yet. But I can read the beginning … “my main suggestion would be”

My body takes up the tension like a sponge. Would be what? To just scrap the whole thing and start again? To just be better? To just give up? I am too proud for this, and my pride makes me anxious.

Deep breaths.

It’s just an email. It’s just words. Just pixels on a screen. Word are my friends, and so are pixels. No, words and I are more than friends. We go way back, back to when my father gave me my first note book and pen and told me I could write whatever I wanted in it. That was the root of it, the feeling I had when he gave me that book, when he gave me that freedom to create. It is the root of why I am still writing, of why I am am doing this stupid thesis in the first place.

But I am the worst with emails. I have deleted emails from people who have hurt me, and are trying to apologize. I’ve deleted emails from people who I’ve hurt, and cannot bear to read how and why. It is a sick coiling in my gut, to read those first few words, and only those, to scroll through the possibilities of what they could mean, and settle on the worst one. It is cowardly to obliterate their carefully thought out lines, and the time they have spent crafting them. Now they are just floating through space, unread, like unseen stars, and even the thought of that makes the bile bubble up.

Maybe I’ll walk to the Blackheart and Sparrow, buy myself one of those nice imported beers, the ones they keep up the back, and cost the same as a whole bottle of wine. Maybe I’ll take it home, maybe I’ll sit at my desk, maybe I’ll take a long sip before I open that email.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I think. Maybe this is just a chamomile tea situation.

Maybe.

Deep breaths.

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Leaving House

Day #1 of Packing: Cycling Loss

Today it’s First Aid Kit on repeat. Thoughts crashing in on themselves lie waves as I remove clothes from draws and pictures from walls and myself from this place piece by piece. Today it’s just straight up loss.

39 degrees in the house and I feel like I’m going through some sort of baptism of fire. This does the trick, a little bit, because it reminds me that our new apartment is brick and will have better insulation.
I listen to sad songs by girls with great harmonies and every now and then I have to lie down for a little while. I suppose I could distract myself by listening to a podcast but this time I really want to feel all my feelings, the good ones and the ones that hurt.

It is important to feel sad, to get to know how much you love a place while you still get to live there.

Day #2 or Packing: Goodbye Cat Friend.

I start sorting through my wardrobe but soon I have to stop because the thought of giving most of this away makes me start to sweat, and feel stupid. They are just shoes. They are just things. Except they are just not. All these things are tied to moments, specific ones; I’ll always remember going to see the John Butler trio playing at the Palais Theatre for the first time, but will I remember that it was the first time I’d worn high heeled platform sandlals and that I couldn’t walk properly because the ribbons kept coming undone and we almost missed the tram?
Is that even worth remembering? Or, if I make space in my wardrobe, will I also make space in my brain?Writing them down is no good because I can’t resist the urge to turn everything into a  story.

But this is how you get through it, by writing,. by making. The only way to heal your pain is to art your way through it.

Cat Friend comes up to our porch looking for a pat and some food and my heart can’t take his little scratched up nose. After sitting for a while in front of the empty bowl, he settles down to sleep on the front step, knowing that each time I wialk past the front door I’ll be reminded that I am abandoning him to some cold, hungry nights.

He is going to be okay. Just as I am going to be okay. He’s going to hunt the mice that will still live in our front garden just as I am going to hunt donuts from the homemade donuts shop that is on the same block as our new place.

Day #3 of Packing: Coming Around

We’ve packed our bookshelves up and taken the art off the walls and this makes me feel better, like we’re removing ourselves slowly, carefully, but totally. Each blank wall space makes this place feel a little less like home, and so a little easier to leave.

I watch the whole first season of broad city while wrapping mugs in the old clothes I’ve promised K. that I will give to the Salvation Army.  Their no-fucks-given attitude is like a warm hug and I am reminded that most people my age don’t have a backyard to put a hammock in.

I’m feeling okay. These moments will be what I call home for a while, but I know it won’t be long until I move on to make another set.  They wont go, only shift from moments to memories

Leaving House

I am useless and helpless. Everything is moving too quickly, I feel like I’m being wrenched out, like I’m holding onto the doorframe by my fingernails. I have no place to retreat, no safe space to plant my flag, to stop and take deep breath. He should know how I am suffering, but there is work to be done. My Dad calls me to see if we need help, and he can hear the tears in my voice, the depression sitting in my throat, coating my speech as I try to lift another box of books that is too heavy for me. My parents drive across town to come and help me lift those boxes and I feel a little better because they are there. They are my safe space, I have planted my flag in their hearts.

We pile things into cars and on the way to the new house I lie down in the backseat, my head resting on a stuffed toy Gorilla.

I know now, all I have to do to get back home is siay your number, or say your name three times under my breath, and wait for you to call. Sometimes I still wait for you to tell me it’s going to be okay.

Brunswick, Melbourne: Coming Home
Even though the space is smaller, I can finally actually breath. In fact,
I even like the closeness of the little brick huddle. Sharing a building feels like I’m part of something bigger, part of a community. Safe. Even the sounds you can hear in the kitchen of the people walking around upstairs helps to calm me. The floors are wood cool under my feet and we have ceiling fans and an electric oven.

Our first night in we walk to the bar one block over, and have beer and burgers and talk like we haven’t  in a long while. We drink tea on the couch like we used to in the old house and I can feel it coming on, I can feel it coming back to me.

Home isn’t all the stuff in those boxes, it isn’t the weatherboard walls or the garden gate or the stray cat showing up every evening at six. Home is the place that holds the time I get to spend with you.

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Growing Into (Grown Up)

I think that I am all grown up and blooming. I think that I am fledged fully, and ready to take womanhood head on. But even now I’m still growing up and out; I can feel my bones lengthen and the skin follow, stretching along to cover them up, to stop them from breaking through at the finger-tips. And if there is more space now, expanded and filled with more blood and more fat and more muscle, why do I feel things falling away? Why is it that I feel like I’m feeling less, even though there is more of me?

I was a teen ten years ago, thin skinned and thoughts thick with uncertainty, with desire to make noise and to remain unseen, invisible. And the joy was so easy to touch, and so easily taken away, sucked out like a vacuum and held from me until I found the conduit that might take me back; the book, the song, the laughter of a friend, the voice of a crush.

Now, everything is soft, and warm, things are good, and comfortable, and I love it, but where’s that vibrant kind of joy that used to be so easy to touch?

 I looked for it this past Saturday night, in the places I knew I had seen it before. I looked for it through the smoke, in the bright, pulsing lights, in the low hum of the loud bass. I looked for it, and I got worried because I was straining my atoms but I just couldn’t feel it. I think maybe it was because I hadn’t had enough to drink, and that I needed to open up my hands, (clenched) and my pores (closed) and let the music surge in and fill these new, heavy spaces and lighten them. I shook my body to try and stir something up, but it was all just a soft buzz, stirred and settled and pressing down on my receptors like a thick layer of cloud.

 On the Sunday, hungover and sensitive to touch, I lay in my hammock, beneath the oleandar tree; everything was stretched out beneath the sun, and I was writing. I was writing and I knew I was onto something good, because I could feel the familiar surge, the adrenaline that comes with the fast motion blooming of ink on paper, the insect click click click of my fingers on the keyboard. I could see the words, written on the waves of the corrugated tin shed wall, and I was so filled by what I had made with my mind and my hands that I could barely sit still; the hammock rocked as if it were tethered to the masts of a ship, charging through the seething sea.

I felt the joy moving in me, blooming like roses in time-lapse motion.

 

Is this it? Have I grown into a simpler bliss? I’ve always been skeptical of those people, the ones who fill my Facebook feed with demonstrations of their simple happiness, and that if only we all ate paelio and took more baths and stopped watching reality televsion, then happiness would come so easily, but. What if that’s the place that I’ve grown into? The life of growing my own vegetables and drinking tea instead of vodka sugar and writing, writing, writing. These are the things I want to sink into.

 I stretched my bare foot out to touch the the tip of the Aloe I had planted the morning before. The leaves are still thin, a young green not yet ready to practice healing. I remember looking not for joy, but for healing as a teenage girl; I was feeding on the world, devouring the gifts of books, of music, breaking things and running through the suburban darkness like a wild thing, uprooted.

But now, now I am making. I am building something of my own, I am creating a world! I am the one who is planting the flowers, and making the magic. I am still a girl, still growing, not up but into life. I am rooted, but I realise now, that I am not a flower, delicate and easily trampled. I am a girl,who is a garden. 

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Cycle Two, Week Eight: Sage

Soooo here we go, I know this is a bit of a cop out, but in my defense I did only write it a week ago. This is an excerpt from the collection of short stories/novel/novella maybe? I’m working on. Let me know what you think! (oh and LT, I did kind of steal the name of your other half btw :3 )

It has been calling out to us for eons, but I did not hear it on the night we checked in. The smell of the iron and the crack of the starlight across the ceiling of my room was enough to distract me from it; this curious, marvelous wasteland! I thought! Only humans would think to re create whole worlds, confine them to single rooms and plant them in the middle of the desert. And they were meant to be worlds of ours, too! It’s all a little kitsch really, but don’t get me wrong, I mean that as a compliment. The colour palate that they’ve used, in all the rooms, they’re just so deliciously vivid, most of the shades I do not recognise by name!

The Human Imagination! I’ll tell you what, you’ll never catch it apologizing for the shape and size of its desire; it’s the part of them that is the most like us, I think.

I chose my room to be this room, the Galaxy Room, because I liked the idea of living somewhere that is a little bit alien to all of us. M folk can move between the veils of all interconnected dimensions, manipulating chemistry, dissolving physics, but we are even further behind than H beans at conquering space travel. That’s what Rainbow Dash calls them, Human Beans. Clementine assigned her to the ‘Western Front’, but the Mechanical Animal machine they’ve got down there offended her so much she demanded to be removed. She’s living right next door to me now, in the Harijuku Room.

But anyway, what was I saying? Ah yes! Space Travel! Now that’s a thing I’d really like to sink my pointy pearly whites into. I want to get lost in the folds of that inky black cloak, the one you think is wrapped around the shoulders of your chosen God or Goddess. I want to bounce about from star to star, to follow the paths of the constellations! I’ve seen the maps of them, in a book I found in my night stand draw. I also found a small, oxblood leather bound tome, with the words HOLY BIBLE printed on the front in faded golden letters; I’m only two chapters into the ‘Old Testement’, and I have to say, I’m finding it a little repetitive. But the star maps! They are possibly some of the most beautiful maps I’ve ever seen! And I should know, because that’s what I used to do, back home.

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Cycle Two Week Eight: Space

Hey guys! I have chosen this weeks theme to be: Space! You can tackle this one any way you like; outerspace, space as place, as distance, as unit of measurement! Just pick an idea out of thin air and let your imagination go crazy!
You can even write about the tv show Spaced if you like! I really, really loved that show.

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Imaginary Taxidermy

Once it was done, it didn’t feel like such an unnatural thing to do to an imaginary friend. I mean people do it to their cats all the time. And cats only are only in your life for a short time, 15 years if you’re lucky. They do it to moose too, and deer, cutting them down like trees, without even so much as a “Hey how’s it going”. They mount their heads on walls of damask and velvet and thick wood panelling. People stand beneath them drinking spirits on rocks and smoking, saying things that don’t really mean anything to anyone, and they just have to be there, absorbing all the smells into their petrified hides, the sounds into their ears stopped up with stuffing, the sights into the orbs of glass eyes.

This makes me feel a little bad about Claude. She’s been a part of my life from my own “Day of Remembrance”; the oldest memory I still have  is of her blowing out the candles on my fifth birthday cake. I’m almost 25 now.
I didn’t choose her. If I’d had the chance to choose, she wouldn’t have been taller than me, she would have had blonde hair, not black as tar black, and she would have been a bit more into books. She would have been named after some sort of flower; Bluebell, or Daphne, or Rose, or maybe even something a little weirder, like Foxglove, or Witch Hazel. But Claude was not the kind of friend you invite into a safe, warm, childhood place. Claude was a force of nature, a spark thrown into my life from a fire burning in some distant (perhaps even parallel) universe, setting fire to the edges of what’s been mapped out for you from the moment you were born.
Her eyes flicker in firelight; glass buttons stolen from the sleeve of an old cardigan. Built up like Frankenstein’s Blythe Doll, she sits with those eyes facing south, and all of her limbs point straight down to the ground. The moon has carved out a hole in the black velvet of the universe, and it casts light upon her, witchy white light rendering her features paler, her black hair bordering on blue. She’s wearing one of my old doll dresses, the sleeveless sheath of dark green velvet with the lace collar, that she had admired so when she thought I wasn’t looking.

I hadn’t wanted to do it. But last week she came to my window, like she does every other witching hour, and said that she was going to leave me. She said that I was getting older, too old for her, and that she needed to go. To find the small sparks of another child’s imagination, and unearth them, like seeds.

“But what if I just don’t let it,” I said. “What if I just shut my mind off to everything, so that nothing gets out, and nothing gets in. We can just stay in the apartment, I can get my food delivered from the organic co-op. We can have slumber parties that last for days, or weeks, and I’ll sell all of my things that aren’t books on eBay so that we can pay the rent. I’ll write books about all the places that don’t exist. And I’ll write books about you!”
Claude had smiled, had swung her legs over the window sill, and had shaken her head so that her black tresses pooled around her like tendrils of smoke.
“It doesn’t work like that, sugar” she said, “It wouldn’t be fair. I arrived to nurture your own spark; it was the brightest, and the strongest that I had ever seen. And we sure did have some wild fun, didn’t we sugar? But now all of it is failing. The colours of your magic are fading, the outside grey is seeping into your mind. Maybe I wasn’t around enough. I’m sorry. I really am. But you’re growing up. And when you grow up, things start to become impossible. That’s no way for someone like me to live, and I’ll be damned before I get myself trapped like a relic in a realm of impossibilities.”

Her voice was thick with pity, and with sadness, and when she said those words, the G-word and the U-word that I have always hated, and have heard often, I felt the heat behind my eyes, the one that made everything seem all red and blurry. Early onset rage, Claude used to call it. “You already are damned,” I said to her.

And I suppose I could try to tell myself that I hadn’t meant to do it, that it had all been accidental, like the time I had accidentally petrified the neighbour’s cat because it scratched my hand. But in my heart I know it’s not true. Honestly, I am happy that Claude didn’t leave. The thought that she will never be able leave me again fills me with a comfort that I have never known. I don’t even mind that she can’t talk; it means I’ll get more work done. All she has to do is occupy that empty space beside me, the one at my writing desk. And if she really wants to speak, can speak through me.

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