Sunday, September 13, 2009

A short story about 1ne sided conversations and 21ne year old Milk Bars



I have in recent weeks become a victim of cloying mawkish nostalgia. As I've mentioned before I am terrible at small talk, but I am completely comfortable reciting random events and things from the 80tys in a haphazard fashion around bored 30ty somethings just to pass the time. The mere mention of Cut Price Sams or a Tick Tock biscut in the right hands is golden. I was at a party last night where, to be frank, discussing such matters became all that was keeping me sane, since I was deployed at the party in a numbers filling capacity and deprived briefly of football by a go nowhere conversation about office politics and staplers. I wondered if I would ever again go to a party where crazy things happened and alcohol was plentiful rather than the swirling breeze of conversational mediocrity enveloping the room. I ended up cornered by a guy called Tony who was in computer software who told me about his car, and his business trips. I was polite and amiable, but really my mind was elsewhere. Sadly Tony wasn't really interested in even the most basic of nostalgic conversational twists - be them biscuit related, flavoured milk related or even band related - and prattled on even after I had left, trapping the cutest girl at the party in his conversational web when she briefly left her friends for a moment to dip into punch. Since no one was looking I was able to slip out of the party early and join the smokers. Not that I was smoking, they just seemed much happier to be out there, and eventually I left, to wander in a manner which my Mum suggests will 1ne day get me beat up into Hobart to get a cab home. My taxi driver looked like a squashed Red Symons, and he wasn't interested in hearing about Cut Price Sams either. All he wanted to talk about was how poor radio stations were in Tasmania, and how he was going to report the plumbing van that cut him off earlier in the day to the police. I went to make my usual joke about Sting, but stopped myself, because not for the first time I had realised that whatever I said was irrelevant to the 1ne sided conversation I was trapped in, and resumed nodding and grunting when required, until I could slip inside my house, and yell at bored millionaires to kick a football a bit better...

Sarah - my girlfriend in Grade 2wo - and I only ever kissed twice in our crayon swapping and hand hold relationship. Oddly, 1nce was for charity, which made our relationship less like boyfriend and girlfriend and more like a dodgy stall at a fete. She does remain in my life the single best listener I ever knew, a thoughtful studious girl who would notice minute details in peoples mood and immediately empathise with them without saying a word. I on the other hand was an excitable and boisterous talker, often on surrealist tangents alternately too deep and too dumb for Grade 2wo, or any audience if I'm honest. Our break up - amiable, mutual, very basically she didn't ring me 1ne weekend and that was that - deprived me of someone to listen to me although to be fair, over a cheese sandwich under the caterpillar we still had the odd conversation, but she was helping a girl get over the theft of her Superman bag, so it was more like an appointment. Our final conversation was outside a milk bar in upper Burnie when she signed my bicentennial medal and wished me well in Scotland, which was nice of her because she had her own concerns. She wanted to go out with a guy with Brad - now Brad had gone from 1ne of my sworn enemies, after not inviting me to his birthday party in Prep, to a solid friend who had written a rather over long message on my medal of great merit, but slightly obsessive tone - and I was happy that in my absence, she had found someone. However, to my eternal discredit, I was more interested in my pack of footy cards than reciprocating her years of patient listening as she shared some nervousness about asking Brad out, something which in more mature years I feel disappointed in myself about, and we parted swiftly, her getting in her mothers Tarago, me cursing the lack of a Bryan Taylor to finish off my collection and heading off for a weekend that involved in a friends cupboard while his Dad came round with an axe to chop the Mother into little bits. Ah, if only I had someone to talk to about it...

As it happened, my own birthday party fell roughly around the time of our breakup. My Mum and Dad were usually both lame and fantastic in hosting these parties. They would, for me, ruin an excellent spread of saveloys and store bought cupcakes by playing a record that they used to embarrass me with. It was a vinyl record with my name inserted in the appropriate parts, sung by a space alien about how amazing it was to be 1ne year older. Sarah came to my party, and she was welcome to do so, since her expertise at Pin the Tail on the Donkey was admired as far away as Riana or Natone. She was polite and picked fitfully at the cupcakes, but didn't say much to be honest. Fitful picking at the cupcakes probably said a lot to be honest, but I was too busy trying to win an obviously rigged dancing competition. I got trapped in a conversation though with 1ne of the aunties, in that Tasmanian she isn't really your auntie but just call her that kind of way. She was quite an elegant lady, a chain smoker and cafe owner who often sat at the edge of parties with my Mum dissing whoever had the temerity to be arrogant or talk themselves up. She wanted to give me 5ive dollars in a card, but I had to earn that card by listening endlessly to her stories about cafes and how well she was doing. I'm sure there were easier to earn 5ive dollars than listening to someone ramble on, but at least it lead to a wonderful mutual private joke between me and Sarah that lasted the rest of the year, since whenever she was talking to someone I would walk past and say I hope there's 5ive dollars in this for you. I tried to explain this to the cute girl at the party last night in the hope that I wouldn't learn what RAM actually stood for and escaping the web of tedium, but it was in vain, for she was only interested in fitfully picking at the last remains of the mini pizzas and slumping in her chair looking for the exits. I concluded she was the kind of girl who would be too cool to dance, and I never want to end up with someone like that, and so I left her as quickly as I could, her expression unchanging and blank, as bland and plain as the topping on the mini pizza and our conversation just as unrewarding...

The cloying part - I certainly myself don't mind a chat about old life - has been that I have a friend who is now just sending me e-mails telling me modern life is rubbish and everything in the 80tys was fantastic. These e-mails come thick and fast and rubber stamped with surety that this is fact. I tend to reply with glib non commital answers and move on to other topics, because I certainly don't want to think my heyday is past - that the best I could achieve in life was my days playing with my He-Man figures and getting my hair ruffled by middle aged check out chicks at Cut Price Sams. I still sincerely hope that my best days are all in front of me, that some relevation in the future will make everything worthwhile and make sense. That I'll find a better listener than Sarah or a more perfect milk bar that 1ne in Upper Burnie. I've tried to decompress my life by throwing a whole heap of things out, I've tried to broaden my horizons recently, but I'm still restless and hopeful that good things are coming my way. My friend on the other hand might as well not be alive, spending her days napping and locked in the house drumming her fingers idly on the kitchen table waiting for her pre-fulfilled destiny as the communities crazy cat lady. I think, were I not averse to her gloom, I could be a better friend, that I could listen more and take her with me to parties of little consequence. 1nes that meander onward, and she might meet some1ne who shares her interest in computers and all would be good. Then I think that she would find something to complain about regadless, and slink back to bed for a mid afternoon nap, to have the most cloying mawkish dream imaginable about primary school and Penguin, 1ne that makes the most horrific of Hallmark films feel like they haven't hit their sugary quotient anywhere near enough...

I personally blame the Tick Tock biscuits for that dream...poison they are...

7 comments:

Baino said...

I'd like to think the good times are ahead as well but time ios running out frankly. Maybe we dwell on the past because our long term memory improves whilst I have trouble remembering what I did last weekend!

Miles McClagan said...

Last weekend...er...Collingwood beat Adelaide! That was...good? And...I had some toast? Not that exciting! Let me think about 1987 some more!

Evil Overlord said...

you have something against napping and catladyhood?

they are fine and worthy pastimes

!!!!!

(okay. fine. it can be a little boring sometimes, but if more of the bands i liked came here, i'd be sorted)

Miles McClagan said...

I love a good nap, and I'll be walking around in my slippers and housecoat when I'm older, it'd just be nice if my friend had a slightly loftier ambition, she's only mid 20tys!

Miles McClagan said...

Sorry, I meant early 30tys, I got my cat napping friends mixed up!

Miladysa said...

They're a'coming They're a'coming!

I remember those $5 cards and what we had to go through for them - my sufferings were for a 10 shilling note though! Those were the pre decimal days LOL

Miles McClagan said...

I'm not sure the accumulation of 5ive dollars was worth the hassle to be honest! It all went on ice creams and spiders...should just have got a paper round!