You wear daisy chains in your long blonde hair and choreograph dances to Joan Jett. You run your fingers over the spines in your parents’ bookshelves and imagine the font spells your name. No man is as special as your Daddy. Your world is golden.
You’re congratulated for smoking by the tough girls in the toilet block, though the menthol makes you reel. You skip school for the first time and take the hour long train ride into the city to see “Desperately Seeking Susan” at the cinema. You long for a life as bohemian as Susan’s, and wonder if your feet will ever find New York. At Christmas your neighbourhood holds hands and sways in a circle to Band-Aid’s “Feed the World.” Your hope is exhilarating.
You learn to drink black coffee and smoke Gauloise in a medieval city where you see your first snowfall. You finish your last year of high school in French and write your diary in the dialect of Brussels. You’re totally, brutally alone. You pretend the demons dancing at the corners of your eyes are only shadows. You know what’s coming.
You take fourteen anti-psychotic pills in the hospital where you live. Your hands shake so much the words wander up and down the page and sometimes, you can’t remember writing them. The clothes are all white but you see splashes of crimson against your eyes whenever you blink. You hear your doctors contemplate shock treatment, and you feel a thrill amongst the terror. The demons no longer hide from you. They take you by the hand, and your feet barely touch the ground. You lead the dance.
You speak three languages yet can’t put a sentence together in any of them. Each time footsteps travel past your window you crouch under the sill, shaking, until they pass. You score your morphine from the Lord Street punks and watch your bruises spread. You have green hair and a lip ring, and Hole’s first album installed on your stereo. You pull your hair out by the roots, roll it into little balls, and line them up on your windowsill. You wish the voices spoke French.
You take Irish classes at night school and tremble when people sit next to you, but the smell of new books is delicious, and you breathe it in deep. You realise with wonder that the sickness hasn’t rotted your intellect, and your fists begin to unclench. You throw yourself into feminist punk and teach yourself drums to 7 Year Bitch and Bikini Kill. You have a fake name in the massage parlour where you work, and learn dark lessons about men. You’re down to five pills a day.
You pour out words of snakes and Nietzsche, tattoos and Medusa, tequila and Berlin until your wrists ache. You get 99% for Linguistics at university and berate yourself mercilessly for that missing 1%. The zines you write for only have a print run of 200,but you drink champagne when they sell out. You remember the art of seduction, and buy your first red lipstick.
Europe calls again and you wrap up your life in Australia. You are wildly in love and dance in the dirt under Merri Bridge to a gypsy band. He teaches you bass to Nashville Pussy and pins blankets to the windows to block out the cameras when your voices awake. He writes songs about you, and you listen to them as the plane takes off. You cry, but the solitude is secretly intoxicating.
You know where you belong. Your Melbourne flat is filled with Flemish dictionaries and Art Nouveau prints. You have pagan tattoos, a linguistic degree, and a honey martini named after you. Your lover broke you this year, but you turned to acupuncture instead of morphine. You buy your first stilettos, four inches high and fire engine red. You can’t quite strut in them yet, but you will.
You’re down to three pills a day.
The world breaks everyone, and many are strong at the broken places.
I hid this for a long time. Mostly because I sent it off to a publisher, but also because it’s without a doubt my most personal piece on RB. It was accepted by the publisher and a while ago I read it aloud at the book launch. Lisa Jewell, ytsumner and Luckyvegetable said my voice didn’t tremble at all. I think they were being kind.
After all, when you read your diary out to a room full of strangers, you’re allowed to shake a bit.