Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The beginning of the one way conversation Part One



It's 12 pm in a suburban Tasmanian shopping centre. I have left behind the woes of office life and a flashing orange Instant message that may or may not be important to step into the bewilderness. 1ne of the local businesses has an angry sign about centre management affixed to his window, and all I notice about it is the shoddy way it's taped to the window, as if his impotently angry hands couldn't wait to put the message up, shabby or otherwise. I peer in the window and he's handing over a pen to a customer to sign his petition. Something about air conditioning. His cheeks are puce and crimson in alternate angry streaks. The customer drops the magic word to describe just what he thinks of centre management. All together now, it's the most wonderful time of the year...

Its 3hree days before Xmas and the centre is frothing with activity. I've acquired a neck injury, a sign of rapid aging. It went off like a shotgun my neck, right in the middle of the day. On a green bench sit 2wo middle class university students in matching school leaver’s tops. One of them is talking rapidly and preciously about whether the protagonist in a particular novel is "fascinating or trite". The girl in the conversation is staring ahead blankly, as if she's heard the conversation a million times before or maybe as if she can turn the next table into ashes simply by staring a hole through it. I'm walking with a purpose I notice. I'm very self conscious today. Every gesture is for some reason bothering me, as if I've become an awkwardly strung puppet in a giant play I didn't sign up for. What is with my walk? When did I start walking like this...

Xmas is not my favourite time of year. I've already regaled most of our casual workers with what has almost become a Seinfeldesque rehearsed piece of conversational fluff about how tedious Xmas dinner has become when people ask me every year how work is. To be honest, it's so rehearsed, it's almost ready for the stage, and I even pause for laughter round the photocopier. Truthfully, if that's not a sign of middle class ennui...

Xmas, so says a gaudy neon pink sign stuck with Blu Tac to 1ne of the store windows, is for the children. Sadly for me, my Dad has taped over 1ne of my Xmas mornings as a child with an old repeated episode of the Vicar Of Dibley. Tragically for me, the last vestiges of any evidence I may have been a free spirited innocent cherub have been erased and replaced by the formulaic scripted comedy of Richard Curtis and someone liners from the bloke who played Trigger on Only Fools and Horses. Those years now only exist in anecdote and whimsy, exaggeration and memories that coated in sentiment. My Dad has chosen to mostly remember the anecdotes that end with me looking foolish. That is his right as a parent. I have to peer through the veneer of Scottish cynicism to find true sentiment and affection. My own Xmas card in my hands will soon possess, in my own handwriting, a heartfelt and jocular plea to tell me who my real parents are, part of a long running family joke about me being a long last member of the Packer clan. My Mum usually ripostes with some remark about how they'd have sent my back by now. Yes, I was born this way, so any VHS based evidence of a sickly sweet family gathered around the Xmas tree learning would clearly have been staged nonsense for Grandma, and best taped over by a Trigger joke, since it would bear no relation at all to my memories, and how they have come to form the person standing drinking Red Bull before this storebound Santa at this particular hour...

"Do you believe in magic!" yells an emaciated sickly looking woman in skin tight green elf pants. She pumps her fist in the air like a bewildered out of place rock star as a single faint trace of mascara rolls down her cheek, and holds out her megaphone to her audience of bored looking children and . The rain on a tin roof emulating small round of applause that reverberates around the shopping centre suggests our shoppers not only don't believe in magic, they don't even believe in it enough to drown out the faint hum of a corporate CD chain store's Mariah Carey CD. She doesn't care - her enthusiasm for Xmas isn't shared by the sleepy looking store Santa who woozily huffs and forces his red jowls into a forced smile as a small child with cherubic features affixes himself to Santa's knee to aim for the only things important in a child’s life. I envy his simplistic view that life can any only get better if he acquires a particular item or possession. And yet, not only 5ive minutes later is the cherubic angelic child fizzing in strange anger about not getting a Samboys chip, but I'm forced to ponder just how emotionally mature I am when there's only one thing in my life that makes any sense, even when my thoughts are being Careyed at a suddenly noxious level...

I return to work. I'm humming a public domain carol. There's a crazy man standing on the steps of the centre. He's hitting himself in the head and talking about knocking his haircut into shape. His carer - not as I sometimes say, his "handler" - is patiently waiting for this fixation to stop. I feel no connection to my fellow man at all these days. Everywhere I look, I feel tired. I've stopped making sense in my conversation, and no one is making sense in return to me. Truly, I feel as though everything around me is a crazed one way conversation. If I speak to someone, I feel as though my words are meaningless, bouncing off and falling to the floor in a slow agonizing motion that I can see. In return, people talking to me are mere disturbances, interruptions into a private obsession that can never be truly explained. The crazy man is quiet now, but smiling the demented smile of those about to stab. My simplistic life begins again when I re-enter my work place, spin another one of my tedious anecdotes, receive in return a mild response of fake laughter, smooth my suit down and receive on Instant Messenger a comment from the only person in my life that makes any sense to me, truly the ship through the fog, if that ship was Tasmanian and the fog was a series of small children running into my shins and making me feel every bit of my world weary age...

Her name was BJ, and she was going to save me from all this...

6 comments:

Marshall Stacks said...

well I certainly hope BJ did cause you to save yourself from all that.
fluorescent lighting has the same effect on me - supermarkets subvert synaptics.
Also I hope you had a good remedial massage therapist work your neck over. worth the money.
Yrs truly, FreedNeckPain Sufferer,
Craggy island.

G said...

Welcome back, even if it winds up being for only a brief spell.

Kath Lockett said...

And did she, Miles? After all, you're telling us about Christmas and it's May now.

Is BJ the one?

Welcome back, by the way!

Miles McClagan said...

Hi everyone, nice to be back!

Long story....

Incidentally, my neck cracked back into place all on it's own. It was such a bizarre old man injury...

It's all part of a longer BJ story, we shall see where the intervening months took Miles. I've had a lot of time to think put it that way!

Baino said...

Hey Miley. why do I get the feeling that the use of past tense for Ms BJ is going to end badly? Good to have you back though.

Miles McClagan said...

It's nice to be back!

My neck actually cracked back into place...very weird. First time it went off like a gunshot knocked it out, second time was weird...

As for BJ, well, we'll let the story unfold...