Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Can I have a Blow Job?

My Melbourne boyfriend had been to Paris and loved Paris but hadn't studied the language, so learnt it on the fly. Before long he was speaking the language of the street, learning verlan from the guys from the banlieue on the basketball courts, babytalk from our daughter, expressions from me that I hadn't yet mastered. I admired his courage - from the moment we hit Paris together he built his own world and thus language in French. People loved him for this, warmed by his ability to not be shy about standing naked inside something new. 

A friend reminded me of a moment yesterday that I have to write down. We were at Le Petit Fer à Cheval in the Marais for dinner with our daughter and friends visiting from LA. It was one of the older waiters that had been there forever taking our order. We asked for steaks, salads, wine and an Orangina for Kiki. At the last moment, my now Melbourne husband, wanted a straw for her. 

'Oh, et est-ce que je peux avoir un pipe?' he asked the waiter in his polite voice.

'Non,' responded the waiter with good humour and a firm voice, turning and walking away. 

My husband had mixed up the word for 'straw' (paille) with 'blow job' (pipe).

I can see why he thought it might be pipe - hollow, etc. 

But I never stopped laughing.  

Monday, May 20, 2019

Throwing an Eye

I've spent about 10 years living in France and 20 years speaking the language and there are still things I just can't quite say. The first is 'nice to meet you'. It's a cultural thing. Yesterday at a friends apéro I met two new people, they were nice, and when it came time to leave I wanted to say something a little more than goodbye but a little less than enchanted to have met you. I fumbled in French as usual, then settled, as i have begun to, on saying it in English. The sentiment simply doesn't translate in French. They don't say offhand things like that - if it's truly nice to have met you, you have to say, ravished or enchanted to have met you. Otherwise you simply say goodbye. I physically can't do that. 

The other day I almost jumped for joy in a clothes shop when I overheard a man respond to the shop girl's 'Can I help you?' I have never figured out how to say 'I'm just looking'. I will stammer something too-long out, like 'Thank you, I, I'm... looking... I don't, thanks... only...' and recently I got so tired of trying to find the nuance I would simply, rudely state, 'No thank-you.' Then there was the man. He said, 'Non merci, je jette un coup d'oeil.' Of course! 'I'm just having a glance/ a look / a browse.' Or literally, 'I'm throwing a little bit of an eye.' I almost leapt for joy. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Is Magic Real?

It started a few weeks ago. 'Mama? Is magic real?'

'Yes,' I said too quickly and instantly felt guilty. 'You're magic,' I continued. 'So it must be real.'

'No,' she said, sitting up in the bath. 'I mean real magic.'

'Like what?' Please don't ask about the tooth fairy. Please don't ask about Santa.

'Like the magic witches do.'

'Well,' I floundered. 'I'm not sure that there's real magic. There's energy. Like - if you think things. Like - when you walk into a room and you can feel someone has just been there. There are fields. Nothing is sure...'

Who am I to say whether magic is real or not? At our friend's wedding a close magic guy joined three friends' rings together - POUF!, then put them in Matt's hand and got him to close and open it - POUF! They were unjoined. 'Magic!' I shouted, and believed it. David Copperfield made the statue of liberty disappear. Once I had a lucky penny on an unbreakable cord around my wrist that disappeared the moment I got an au pair job in Paris. The cord was unbroken, the penny simply gone. POUF! 

She didn't bring up magic for a few days. Her bottom right tooth wobbled.

Then, after lights were out: 'Mum? Is the Switch Witch real?'

I had overheard one of her friends recently talking about a witch who comes in the night and turns your toys to rocks.

'No,' I said. 'Definitely not.'

To my surprise she started to cry.

'Why, did you want her to be real? She's mean!'

'You leave out stones in the night and she turns them into lollies!'

'No,' I gritted my teeth. 'That's just the parents doing that.'

'Then what about the tooth fairy?'

Fuckfuckfuck. 'She's real,' I said. Didn't think. Fuck!

'What about other witches?' she asked.

'Which witches? The ones that fly through the sky on broomsticks?'


'No, they're not real,' I said, thinking this would console her.

She started to cry. Really cry.

'What, did you think there were really witches flying around out there right now on broomsticks? 

She nodded and kept crying a heartbroken cry.

'You want there to be?'

More nods.

'I don't understand love, why are you crying so hard?'

She just kept crying, like someone had died.

'Well,' I said finally, 'There are witches. Not ones that fly around in the sky. Ones that live on the ground and dress up in cool clothes and put on lots of makeup and do spells and stuff.'

She stopped crying a bit.

'I have a friend called Kate. In the day she works in a call centre. Then at night she is a witch and she has witchy friends and they get dressed up and do spells and all kinds of things together.' This was true. In 1999. But still, true. Kate also had this amazing eye that swelled right up in its socket when she was drunk.

'Can I be a witch? I think I have powers.'

'Of course you can.'

This consoled her, for a few days. The tooth came out and the tooth fairy came without so much as a query.

But then this weekend, the witch was back. At my cousin's 40th there were helium balloons attached to the floor with little weights.

She tapped me on the thigh. 

'What is it love?' I bent down with my wine glass.

'This is the best day of my LIFE!'

'Really? Why?'

'I am magic. Look!'

Focussing all her energy into her little fingertips pointed towards the balloon, she began to vibrate all over.

'Rise!' she commanded. The balloon didn't rise. 'Lower!' she said. The balloon didn't lower. She focused harder. The balloon swayed a little in time with her movement.

'Wow!' I said.

'I can't WAIT to tell dad,' she said with a serious tone.

The next day she mixed a potion. 'I'm going to go through the mirror in the loungeroom, and enter Lollyland,' she said. 'For this. I need feather of bird. Leaf of tree. And, one lolly. I must drink the potion. Is this acceptable?'

'I don't know how I feel about you drinking feather of bird. The pigeons out there are pretty manky. Can you just dip your fingers in it?'

She nodded and went about collecting the objects. 

A few hours later, in the lounge room, I couldn't look. 

I put the clothes in the dryer to block out her sobs for a moment while I gathered my thoughts. Am I a terrible mother to let her go on believing? Do I have the right to burst her bubble? Is it my responsibility to break it? 

I gathered her sobbing, crumpled body in my arms. 

'It didn't work!'

'I know sweetie. But did you think it would work first go? No witch's spell works first time.' Fuck, what are you saying? 'You have to practise the witchy arts. They take time and skill.'

'I just so wanted to go to Lollyland!'

'Why did you want to go to Lollyland so much?'

'To eat some lollies!'

'Well I have some in the cupboard. Let's just eat those and watch Spy Kids 2. Then you can practise again later.'

The time is coming. Oh, yes, it's near. But I refuse to be the one to tell her magic isn't real. That David Copperfield just moved his audience slightly to the left. Because what about the penny? What about so many things?

I refuse to even believe it. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Loving things that don't love you back

I never expected to love Fluffball. She was brought to me by a five year-old's desire for a pet and my own desire to feel less guilty about not offering the five year-old a sibling. I thought I was bringing home something reasonably cute that would hop around the backyard a bit, eat grass and die a sweet, rapid death. Perfect. I was a good parent. She got to see how annoying pets were and I could temporarily appease the swampy feeling of denying her a lifelong companion with a ball of white fluff that required no meat in a can, no walks and no episiotomy - just some fresh hay and a bit of chopped greens and whatever. The occasional picking up of a poopoo pellet that had hitched a ride from the litter tray to the kitchen floor on the fluff of her inner thighs. 

I expected nothing of Fluffball. But perhaps not surprisingly I instantly wanted more. Nothing more alluring than someone who gives you nothing. It was impossible that she couldn't love me - at least a bit - over time. They say bunnies don't learn, but she was toilet-trained. Surely I could love-train her. Dogs love. Cats love. Things with fur love. Mice? Well. Fluffball didn't love. Her indifference was insufferable. She didn't like hugs - well, she didn't like being picked up, and once in your arms would immediately freeze, her heart beating so fast it was impossible to declare that she was loving it. Now, sometimes, her heart rate slows right down and you can convince yourself she is content. But that is as far as you get. And each day, no matter how much she has enjoyed the hug, go to reach out for her and she's off like lightning, bounding behind the loquat tree, or rabbit-punching your hand if you get too close. 

Today I realised I feel much the same way about Fluffball as I do about this blog - and the irony/mysticism of how the physical incarnation of its mascot came to live eight years later in my backyard/house has not been lost on me. That same white bunny on the postcard from the Pompidou library, contemplating itself in a candle-lit mirror, right now nibbling at a cable beneath my feet. Finnish artist Pekka Jylhä's rabbit is taxidermied, and though mine is quite alive and has floppy ears rather than pointy-uppy ones, it shares exactly the same capacities for affection and contemplation. Zero and much. I often see Fluffball's white body, dwarfed by the grass around her, staring up at the moon in the afternoon sky. 

She came to me. That wondering, existentially-challenged bunny. Via parenthood, my daughter's own mind, via a last-minute move to a house with a backyard in Australia. I had no say in it. She just arrived.

And I've noticed that she and the blog are teaching me the same lesson. I think it's about giving love to things that don't love you back. The purpose of the blog was always to be an empty space for me to pour ideas into without looking for a response. A space to love without expecting love in return. A place to speak without trying to please anyone else, or fit a format. 

It was hard at first - with both bunnies. I spent days trying to woo Fluffball with grass, parsley, exotic bunny treats. Months trying to get her to enjoy the cuddles, to leap up on my lap as I wrote, to enjoy my company. Just as at first I became obsessed with the statistics on the blog - was anyone reading? Were they liking it? Was there any point to it?

With Fluffball, I stopped trying for a while. After all - as my husband reminded me - she's a bunny. She is ok with leftover celery, with crummy grains, with a litter tray that wasn't regularly cleaned. She didn't need love. She just needed basic survival.

I tried to pull away. I became more and more remote from Fluffball until I stopped giving her any love, treating her like the regular animal she is. Grains. Water. Leaves. Vegetables. Tray. Worm treatment. Outside. Inside. Scoot! And I noticed something. She seemed fine. But it got me down. 

After a few weeks I was really, really down. Looking after Fluffball was like making your bed. What's the point? But when you do it, there is a difference. Only in you. Nobody sees your bed. You're just going to get back in it. But it somehow makes you feel better (I have only recently discovered), especially when you smooth it down and arrange the pillows. It was the same with Fluffball. SHE didn't notice my level of love and care. But I noticed. Loving her was like loving myself. And the more I gave her despite her ignorance, the more my own love and respect for myself increased. Ah, I heard a voice in my head say. Zen. I could love just as hard and full with or without her. It felt good to just feed Fluffball, and keep her life clean and tidy, though it had no point. The feeling got better and better. She never changed, one bit. 

Now I try like crazy to make Fluffball happy. I cut her the loveliest vegetables. Clean her tray daily. Pat and cuddle her mortified body and tell her in French how much I love her (she speaks and understands French, though she speaks and understands nothing.) By giving nothing she makes me more me. Which sounds selfish, but I don't care. She doesn't care how I feel, so why should I care if I am an arrogant asshole who sees only herself when she looks into the eyes of a bunny rabbit. But I do feel like I'm looking into something vast when I look into Fluffball's empty eyes. They are empty, but they're not. They're full of my longing, and my love, and in some way she is receiving it, but maybe she's not. Love is present. That's all I know. 

And who knows, she might be receiving it. 

But again, that's not the point. 

The point is, it's there. 


Same with this blog. I don't know what it is for or why I do it, but it feels good when I do. And the more I tend to it, the better I feel. And like Fluffball's vast, empty eyes tell me, the point is there is no point. 

Pekka Jylhä 'Tear Dryer' 2003

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Moth

I haven't been writing on this blog because every spare moment I have to write I have been working on Blue. I wonder what it will be like one day to be no longer working on Blue and to write something else, or even, to do something else, like make a collage or something. Or write a blog post, like this. Perhaps many. Perhaps I will finally start writing short stories and send them off to journals and stuff, and have them published and feel better about myself. Maybe I'll win a prize and feel exceptionally good about myself. Perhaps I will never ever want to write again and choose instead to do cartwheels out the back in these moments of unclutter, when I have my mind to myself, and can choose what I want to do with it.

I made a pact, a decade ago, to not allow myself to do anything else until this book was finished. I always ignore my own pacts, but this one has remained stiff, give or take a few blog posts and even a few applications for grants i'll never get. You're not supposed to say things like that - don't block yourself from receiving things like that - but I know I won't get them and I know that's right because I don't deserve them. But that doesn't make my book wrong, perhaps that even makes it right. I am blabbering. You should never read this.

Last night I had a dream that I was on this short beach and there was a murderer inside this building in which I was, and I was a waitress who kept leaving mess everywhere. The murderer was coming. There is always a murderer coming in my dreams. Outside on the short beach the tide went way out leaving giant octupuses - octopi - stranded on the sand. There was also a shark, who was the murderer, and he was coming, and we were all doomed. But being stranded amongst the octopi the shark had no way of getting to us. I struggled to identify him amongst the heaving piles rubbery flesh and tentacles, but I knew he was there. Eventually the octopi disappeared, as did the shark, and inside, in our waiter suits, there was a very big mess. But who is going to clean up the beach? I cried. Who is going to clean up the beach?

I am going to finish this book, I promise (myself). The Moth keeps coming back into it, though i try to flick it away. Why does a Moth insist on being part of this book? I am obsessed with Moths now, yesterday I almost missed my train stop for being engrossed in a book of entomology. Did you know Nabokov was an entomologist? 

Not many people believe in the 'moon' theory - that moths fly into lightbulbs because their self-tracking toward the moon becomes disoriented. Most entomologists believe they simply find the light irresistible - they can't pull themselves away. 

Emmet Gowin

Monday, October 16, 2017

Figuring it out

One thing that’s come up for me in the last week is this idea of knowing nothing, and figuring it out. there is this paragraph in the new knaussgard book i can’t stop thinking about:

Red and green.
They mean nothing to you, but to me those two colours contain so much, something within them exerts a powerful pull, and i think this is one of the reasons why I have become a writer, for a feel that pull so strongly, and i know that it’s important, but i lack the words to express it, and therefore I don’t know what it is. I have tried, and i have capitulated. My capitulation is the books i have published.

Something about the not knowing. In the blue book story, i have always struggled with not knowing why the frenchman went psycho, what changed, what changed in me, what was going on during that whole period. and i have thought i needed to know, to write the book. but that is why i write, to try to understand. same with the accident. why did it i happen? did i do it? how did i survive? and this question the other day from that interesting artist woman georgie: did the lift actually stop? there is a whole book in just trying to figure that out. there is a whole book in blue trying to figure out what happened to mum, and why my path took the shape it did. i don’t know what white is trying to figure out but that’s ok.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Let it be shit, and die

Let it be shit

I can’t stand it any more.
It has to be out of me.
And it’s going to be shit and everyone I know is going to hate it and know just how very shit I am
And I don’t even give a shit
I don’t give a shit any more
I don’t care any more that I don’t know enough, haven’t read enough am so much shittier than all the rest and will contribute to the larger canon of shit that will die and be forgotten like all the other shit
And it will reek and I will be despised and everyone will say – how could you do that, and not even make it good – not at least cover yourself by making it good – YOU CALL THAT ART? I am the worst writer that ever lived and it is an awful shame, such a shame, all those lost years for that great big pile of shit
I will revel in the shitness of it and add to the pile of it until the shit-mound becomes so great the whole world will know how shit I am and come to shit on the pile with their own shit (which will be so much better than mine)
Shit, come on, shit arrive, shit get here – I want you more than I want to not be shit – now, please, just let me be shit, and let it not just be inside myself (selfish shit).

Shit be gone. Shit be me. Shit be every day for the rest of my life. Shit be enjoyed.