Booze, love, fancy photos and short stories about Generation End

THERE IS NO TIME FOR GRIEF

Old photo of Ariel on bed - there is no time for griefI hadn’t slept in two days. I got to work at ten in the morning, drove home at about three in the afternoon. I drove to Vail’s home, parked on her driveway. I watched her house for a while before giving her a call. No one answered her phone, so I called the receptionist.

“Hello?”

“Hi.”

“Dean?”

“Who else would it be?”

The receptionist went quiet for a second. “I deleted your number.”

“I need to see you.”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

“I’m driving over now.”

The receptionist and her new husband rented a small house in Underwood. She let me in, poured me some Coke. We looked at each other for a while.

She smiled slightly. “If my husband comes home early, he’s going to literally chop your cock off.”

“You know I thought you would’ve gained a lot of weight, but you look okay.”

“Why are you here?”

“Someone died.”

“Who?”

“A friend.”

She tucked some hair behind her ear. We spoke about a few things that weren’t that important until I finally walked over to the baby she held in her arms. I touched his hand, smiled. The baby was a tiny fucker. He had a lot of hair and his eyes – I envied his eyes: they were relaxed, they were happy, they were calm. Still smiling, I picked up the baby so that he was safely positioned above my head. He chuckled.

“You better not piss on my face.”

I lowered the baby, and it grabbed my finger with both of its fat hands. I couldn’t stop smiling at him. How could something like this just get created out of thin air? He’s going to grow up and become a boy, and then a man, and then he’s going to win at a few things and fuck up a few times and one day he’s going to be much more relevant than I am and one day he’s going to drive; one day he’s going to fly and one day he’ll start making other human beings and one day, well, he’s going to die.

How do I deal with grief? I make fun of other people. I take sleeping pills. I watch downloaded TV shows. I hide my grief in a corner somewhere, and once in a while it comes out in my writing. But the truth is there’s no time for grief. There’s time to fuck up, but there’s no time for grief. Time is free, but it’s not everywhere anymore – it’s rapidly running out. I placed my hand on the baby’s face.

I gave the baby back to the receptionist; she cuddled him and tapped his nose. The baby made a little noise. The receptionist looked up at me and told me a funny story about him; I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember laughing.

The receptionist and I just looked at each other for a while, not saying anything. Eventually, she opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. I headed back to my car and drove home, had some red wine, looked at a few photos on my phone, scrolled up and down my Facebook newsfeed, stared at the ceiling.



EVERYTHING ALWAYS ENDS UP IN YOUR BATHROOM

Girl on couch red

Life has been stupid lately. I was hired by the luxury car dealership to be their copywriter/designer/marketing person/driver, and as I happily accepted their offer and happily accepted their stable pay slips everything else outside my working life began to deteriorate: I wrote less, I saw friends less, I boxed less, I woke up at five in the morning every day and slept at nine in the evening every day. I became the type of person I never wanted to become. But the money was amazing, and for the first time in a long time it was actually present in my life. Who the hell doesn’t like money?

It was also time to end whatever I was doing with Jamie. There were plenty of things I was growing to greatly dislike about Jamie. Her hair. The way she constantly ate. Her healthy drug addiction. Her face. Once, she sent me a video of her drunk and dirty dancing with a female friend, but it just didn’t look right. So I planned to end things once and for all the day after we went to her friend’s house warming.

“You’ll really get along with her crowd,” Jamie said as we drove there. “They’re all artist types. Your kind of people.”

The house warming was up north. The house was a big house, an old house, and every room smelt like their ugly dog: this big grey thing that fucked everything it looked at.

“You know what?” I asked Jamie. “Dogs hump everything but I never see them come. When do they come?”

After a bit of walking around, Jamie introduced me to her friend, Amy. Amy was wearing a bikini made out of garbage bags and staples. The words FUCK RU$$IA were painted again and again all over her legs. I looked at her, and then at Jamie. “I bet you guys are best friends because your names rhyme.”

“You’re absolutely right,” Amy said without smiling.

With the exception of Amy and a guy in a Hawaiian shirt, everyone else in that party wore extremely tight jeans, thick-rimmed glasses and either a piercing on their nose or multiple piercings on their ears, or both. Most of them were freelance graphic designers, freelance web designers, freelance copywriters, baristas, interns, drama students or painters who haven’t painted anything yet.  The guy in the Hawaiian shirt turned out to be a writer.

“So I hear you’re a writer, too,” he said.

“Sometimes I think I am.”

“You should read my book,” he said. “It’s about these two characters trapped on an island. I’m going to submit it for a Vogel award.”

“Really?”

“Yeah I presented it at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival last year. It’s just gripping, you know? Well, more shocking than gripping, because you see the breaking of innocence. These two characters, they’re this innocent older couple, married a few years, just wanting to have a vacation in an exotic island they saw advertised online. But then, the horrors that happen to them… as I was telling my friends in my writer’s meetup… it’s quite a literary experience. Because every assumption you, the reader, will have, will be broken.”

“I’ll be sure to Google you.”

“I have a copy of the book over there,” he said, “you know, if you want to buy it now.”

“I don’t have money,” I said. “But I’ll look you up.”

“Jamie told me you had money.”

“Jamie’s a liar.”

You’re a liar,” he hissed before walking off.

“Hey.”

I turned around. It was Amy. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Let me show you something,” she said, her eyes wide. She was high. She brought me to her bathroom, which was crammed with about four other people. She opened her mouth and showed me her tongue, which had a pill on it, and kissed me before grabbing a bottle of beer and pouring its contents down my throat. She kissed me again, grabbed another pill, pulled her garbage bag bottoms down, and forced it up her anus. Her eyes fluttered; she smiled.

She placed another pill on my index finger. “Your turn.”

“What is it?” I looked around at the four other people in her bathroom: one was passed out, two were making out, one was just wide-eyed, staring at me, smiling, drooling.

“All that matters is that you swallow one, and push the other one up yourself. It’s like, so much better than meditating.”

I did it, and then I smiled at Amy, and she smiled back at me, and I told her that I’m going to be afraid to sniff my finger or scratch my eye for the entire night. She ignored me and began telling me about Buddhism. About veganism. About capitalism. About how we need to change our ways. About this book called The China Study. She squeezed my balls, and I screamed, and then she laughed. She took my hand and guided me to her bedroom and we drank things, lots and lots of things, and then we took turns with her fancy looking bong, and then we argued about something I no longer remember – all I remember was that the argument quickly became a horrific one. I began to strangle her, and then she began to strangle me, and as our faces turned red and as our eyes began bulging we both let go and laughed. I ran to the bathroom and washed my hands and then got the fuck out of there. I saw Jamie on the way out and I gave her the finger and told her that I hated her before running – sprinting – out of the house. I saw my car and I ran on top of it, and I kept running. I wanted to run home. I knew it would take days to run home, but I wanted to run home. I was so happy. I texted some people. I hadn’t been that happy in months, years, ever. I looked up, at how clear things were and decided, then and there, that I wanted to be a fireman, because firemen got the girls. I sat down, crossed my legs, and began listening to something by Buddy DeFranco, whoever the hell he was. For some reason Jamie was behind me again, and her eyeliner was just so pretty and so perfect, and we were in her bathroom and she was giggling and beautiful warm water was running down both of us. I was also giggling. I asked her if I pissed my pants and she said Yes, you prick! You pissed all over me. I told her that she was my best friend, and that I loved her and that I wanted to impregnate her, twice. She was turning transparent. She pulled out the razor blade she used to shave her legs and began shaving my pubic hairs, and I told her not to, but she did, and I kissed her, and then I suddenly died and I saw blood everywhere and Jamie screamed, but then I came back to life! I came back to life! I woke up to my phone buzzing.

Everything was dark. I fumbled around and eventually managed to pick it up – my head was spinning and everything was throbbing, and I could barely make out what the person was saying so I kept asking them, “What?” until I was finally able to comprehend a tiny piece of it: the person, a sobbing young girl, kept saying again and again and again, “Ariel is dead. She killed herself, we need some money to pay for…” and everything shrank, and the darkness of the room kind of crumbled and gave way to even more darkness, and I yelled and I cried and Jamie asked me what was wrong and I kept yelling and screaming until I fell back to sleep.



VALENTINE’S DAY LETTER

Valentines Day letter in the futureWell, picture this. The year is like, two thousand fifty or three thousand fifty or whatever, and the world is still the same old bullshit that it is. There are still cars that go on the road, and like, your bedroom, the one at the far corner of the house, is still a mess. It still has that strange smell and we’d still go there three to four times a week and have sex on the floor or on your bed or whatever, and afterwards I’d cover my eyes from the sunlight coming into your window and complain about the heat and you’d sort of laugh and you’d sort of not laugh, and you’d tell me to shut up and stop complaining and I’d slap your arm, and then you’d like, run to the bathroom to clean up and I’d be left behind to stare at your wall: the hanging masks, that framed picture of that old guy with a camera, the scribble you made when you were young. Whenever this happens I will only ever think about one of these four things: that I’m bored of you, that I’m crazy about you, that you need to clean your room, that the sun is too bright.

You still picturing this? You still picturing me? In the future, this future of ours (yes, that’s right: not your future, not mine – OURS – stop thinking that it’s all just about you and YOUR problems. It’s selfish to just think about yourself, did you fucking know that? Seriously, I don’t get you sometimes), I’ll be driving home from work every day at about six in the evening, and it’ll be a twenty minute drive, and you’re only finding out about this now, but I like to listen to really depressing music while I drive. I’ll listen to girls crying about love, I’ll listen to boys crying about love, I’ll listen to lyrics like, “I hurt myself today,” and, “I will follow you into the dark,” and, “he raped me in the chalet lines”. In the future, I’ll be bald like Natalie Portman. Actually, no I won’t: my hair will be a little curlier, my lashes a bit longer, my thighs so much thinner. Sometimes I just hate you. I really, really hate you. I often fantasise about strangling you against the bathroom sink, both of us nude, your hands just flailing wildly, bottles and toothbrushes falling onto the floor, my smile, your smile, your blood under my fingernails, your funeral, everyone’s tears, my tears, rain – no, maybe sunshine; me, hugging my pillow, crying, missing you and calling my best friends to tell them that I feel empty inside.

You know I don’t think things will be that different in the future. There’ll still be jealousy, there’ll still be love, there’ll still be some kind of Valentine’s Day. There’ll still be people who give value to the world, there’ll still be people who don’t. I don’t think we give much value to the world. I mean, like, your job, my job, what are they worth in the grand scheme of things? You once asked me if what I was doing was even that important, and you don’t know this, but it really got me thinking, and thinking, and thinking. This sounds corny, and I hate to admit this, but I feel lonely most of the time. Even when I’m with people, and even when I’m with you. I know I should be grateful for everything that I have. I know I should. You know, there will be a day in the future when I’ll find you just sitting there, or maybe lying there, and you’ll have this gentle smile, this gentle, gentle smile, and I’ll kneel next to you and touch your face and you’ll look up at me. For a very, very brief second, you’ll look concerned, but then you’ll smile again, and then I’ll smile, and I’ll tell you that you can keep me forever.

Imagine like, the year six thousand. Will we be ghosts? Will we be angels, or souls, or animals? Will I be able to meet you again, and again, and again? What kind of girl will I be to you if you were rich? What kind of girl will I be to you if I was in a wheelchair? Will I still think about cheating on you, will I lie to you as often as I do now? I wonder if the girls in movies ever wished they were real. I wonder if life didn’t have to continue once we told each other that we loved each other – that we could just die satisfied in knowing that someone loves us. Because sometimes life just feels like a movie with way too many sequels. It could’ve ended happily so many times already, you know? There’s just too much time for too many more mistakes.       

Imagine, like, the year two thousand and seventy. We’ll both be really old, and you’ll have dementia or something and I’ll always pee myself whenever a nurse touches my arm. At night, at the retirement village, I’ll creep into your room and just look at you in disgust and in love and in awe and in fear and in sadness, and I’ll kiss your forehead, and I’ll cry. I’ll always cry, no matter what. I’ll hold your hand. I’ll whisper about the kids you no longer remember, and I’ll whisper good night and ask you why you didn’t just let me kill you when we were young, and I’ll imagine my life spent differently, with another man, with two men, with many men, and I’ll whisper that I love you, and then I’ll slowly walk back to my room with my hands touching my chest.



JUDE RETURNS FROM AFRICA

The sun - Jude returns from AfricaJude returned from Africa on Wednesday. Nothing about him seemed that different, except that maybe he’d lost a little weight and his eye bags were deeper; he tried to hide some of it with foundation.

“I saw a video online of twins making out,” Jude said after putting his drink down. “Like actual, biological twins. I mean the idea is hot and shit, but seeing it in reality almost killed my boner.”

“How was Africa?” I asked him.

“Good,” he said. “How’s your life?”

“Okay,” I said. “I mean, it’s–”

“I spent fourteen hours just wanking yesterday,” he said, pumping his fist up and down. “And I didn’t go once. I’m so bored.”

“I wish I had fourteen hours to jerk off.”

“Of course you have fourteen hours.” He pointed at my eyes. “Look at your eye bags. You’re still not sleeping, are you?”

“At least I’m not trying to hide mine with makeup.”

“I spent fuckin’ hours trying to hide my eye bags.” He looked irritated. “You’re just bullshitting me, right?”

“I can see all the foundation on your face. It’s thick and disgusting.”

“Fuck you.”

I returned his BMW keys to him after we had a few more drinks. “Thanks for lending me your car all this time.”

“You better have cleaned it,” he said.

I said nothing.

We drove to Sunnybank, had some ramen in silence, then drove to the city. I spent an hour watching Jude approach random women to ask them if they’d hook up with him for a hundred bucks. Eventually, a girl said yes. She was maybe nineteen years old. One side of her head was shaved and she had the words, “FRIENDZ! FAMILY! FUN!” tattooed on her right bicep. Her teeth were a little crooked and she had a tiny belly and she had an annoying way of saying how “redundant” everything was. But she looked like someone who still cared about things, like maybe books or podcasts or something.

We went back to Jude’s BMW and parked at Kangaroo Point, at this place that overlooked the river. I sat in the driver’s seat, playing with my phone as they sat in the back, kissing each other and mumbling things. Eventually, Jude told me to turn around and start filming them with his phone.

“Are you zooming in on my cock?” he hissed. “Make sure to zoom in on my cock.”

She strangled him for a while, and then he strangled her, and then she strangled him again. They both looked like they were going to die each time. At the end of it all he slapped her, and then she thanked him and slapped him, hard, across the face. Afterwards Jude went out for a smoke, and the girl and I sat in silence for a moment, just watching Jude, cigarette in one hand, iPhone in the other.

“Sorry, but are you a vegan?” She asked me.

“No, why?”

“Just asking. My friend’s a vegan, that’s all.”

“You know what year I’d like to be in again?” I asked her.

“Two thousand and five?”

I turned around and faced her, surprised. “How did you guess that?”

She shrugged. “You just seem like that kind of guy.”

“Like that kind of guy?”

“I don’t like answering multiple questions in a row. It just seems, like, redundant.”

“This car smells now. You guys fucked up the smell.”

She then told me about the movie Her, about how it has some of the best quotes in a movie she’d heard in a long time. She told me that one of her favourite quotes had something to do with the fact that we have short lives, and it’ll be unfortunate if we denied ourselves a little joy. Then she told me about her mum, how she used to do ballet even if she had fat legs.

Jude returned and gave her eighty dollars and we dropped her off to a bus stop and drove, drove, drove. We parked in front of my place and we spoke and laughed about a lot of things, and as seven in the morning approached he told me that he had to go and have morning coffee with his father.

 

***

 

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AMBITIOUS KIDS

Girl in bed with mobile phoneI was in a bad mood about something and I found myself sitting at the RE with two guys and two girls. One guy was working, the other guy was unemployed. The two girls were studying at uni or design college or something. None of them were smokers.

“So?” One of the guys, the fat one, asked everyone.

“So what?” One of the girls giggled.

“Who wants to be rich?”

“I think we all want to be rich.” I shrugged. “The hell’s your point?”

“You know, like, I’m sick of how corporations operate,” the unemployed guy said. “I’m sick of how we have to work for people, you know? And in the end we get nothing while they get to sleep in beds of money. Plus, no matter how much work we do for a company, they won’t even remember us when we leave. And that’s not if they make us redundant beforehand.”

“You’re absolutely right,” one of the girls said after putting down her phone. “I don’t even know why I’m studying. It’s not like we’ll be using what we learn in real life anyway.”

The other girl nodded. “Do you know how many of my sister’s ex-classmates are still unemployed? They graduated a year ago.”

“You know what?” The fat guy asked everyone. “Why don’t we fucking start a business?”

The other guy nodded. “We should,” he said, looking around at all of us. “Us five. We’ve all got our talents. We totally should. It’s time that we make a difference.”

“Steve Jobs started in the garage.”

“I don’t want to start in a garage,” one of the girls complained. “There’s five of us, we can all chip in for some place a bit nicer than that.”

“Yup,” one of the guys agreed.

“What kind of business shall we do?” One of the girls asked. “My aunt, she–”

“We need to do something that’s important,” the fat guy said. His beard was moist from his beer. “Something that’ll change the world, but will make us lots of money at the same time. Something that will make us passive income, so after we build it, we don’t have to put much work into it after it’s all set up. It has to be online. We need to revolutionise the internet.”

“How about something to do with memes?”

“I know a guy who’s really good at making memes. He has this meme Facebook page that has like, five hundred thousand followers on it because he just keeps spamming it with funny memes about banking. Some company offered him thirty thousand dollars for it but he wants to build his followers up even more so he can sell it for like, a hundred thousand dollars.”

“This friend of a friend of mine,” one of the girls, the one who was sober, said, “he started this website full of just these terms that everyone searches for on Google, and he just filled it with these memes and put Google ads in there and now he makes like ten thousand a day from Google ads. Then he like gets people’s email addresses, puts them in a database, and sells those email addresses for thousands of dollars each. It’s fuckin’ easy money. Then all you have to do is put that money into real estate and bitcoin and you’re set for life.”

“That’s awesome,” one of the guys said, leaning forward. “I’m actually really interested in selling databases to bigger marketing companies.”

“This is exciting,” squealed one of the girls.

“It sure is.”

“When shall we have a meeting?”

“How about tomorrow?”

“I’m busy tomorrow,” the drunk girl said.

“Yeah, me too.”

“Day after?”

“I’ll have to ask what my boyfriend says first.”

“Yeah, and actually, maybe I should get some real world experience by working for someone for a few years, you know? Then, like, once I’ve been hands on in a corporation, I’ll be able to know more about what works and what doesn’t. Plus, I need to pay my rent.”

“This is scary,” the fat guy said. “And I’m tired.”

“Shall we just organise the first meeting over Facebook?”

“Okay,” the girl said. “But I promised Zoe I won’t use Facebook until uni starts again.”

“How about someone just text us and we go from there?”

“Hey did any of you guys happen to watch Catching Fire?”

“Jennifer Lawrence is hot.”

“Really? I don’t think she is. She cried throughout the whole movie, too.”

Vail picked me up, drunk, at about midnight. She parked outside her home and we walked inside and went upstairs to her bedroom. I looked around. Her room always surprised me, no matter how many times I’d been there before: it was huge.

She pulled out something that was wrapped in fancy looking wrapping paper. “I know this is late, but Merry Christmas, Dean.”

I opened it. It was a book: Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. The same book that Ariel kept trying to get me to read.

“Thanks?” I flicked through it.

She hugged me quickly before pulling away. “Maybe this year, you’ll be able to afford a decent meal. I want you to start learning how to make money, Dean.”

“What is it with everyone and money nowadays?”

“Nowadays? Money’s always been important. Anyway, where’s my present?”

I pulled something out of my pocket and gave it to her. She looked at it and smiled before punching me. “A twenty dollar JB Hi Fi gift voucher?”

“You can buy a CD with it or something.”

“You still buy CDs?” She kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks, Dean.”

We walked to her balcony and she poured us both wine and we spoke and spoke and spoke and didn’t shut up. Halfway through our conversation my iPhone vibrated. I pulled it out of my pocket: it was Jamie. I looked at her name on my screen for a moment, just glowing there, before putting my phone away.  “You know in my book,” I told Vail, “I wrote a story just about you.”

Vail smiled. “I know.”

She then told me about her recent breakup and how she didn’t want another boyfriend for another fifteen hundred years. She told me about how she was thinking of starting an online business, maybe about organic recipes or something, or maybe even something about Google ads, and that her dad was going to help her with some startup money. She said she wanted to make some good passive income from it, whatever the business was. We drank some more and spoke some more, and when we both started dozing off we stood up and walked inside. She took her clothes off and just stared at me, and I stared back. We both laughed. She said good night and I slept on the couch right in front of her bed.



SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS

Black and white Christmas treeI was alone again, just sitting there in Queen Street Mall, and it was a few days before Christmas, and for some reason I was thinking about Eva when this guy – scrawny, tall, dressed like a stereotypical homeless person, kind of held his right hand like a T-Rex would – circled around in front of me before stopping to ask me, “What the fuck are you looking at?”

“Certainly not you.”

“Why the fuck not, cunt?”

“Why should I?”

“You think you’re funny, cunt?”

“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.”

“I’m gonna fuck your fuckin’ mouth!” He muttered something else and walked off. I checked my mobile phone, glancing up once in a while to see if he’d return. He did.

“Hey you know what?” he asked me.

“What is it?”

“Scientists invented this microscopic gadget that attaches to sperm. They control the gadget, which controls the sperm, which is then implanted into sick people. Using remotes to control the microscopic gadget, they maneuver the sperm around inside the person, like a boat, and then find what needs to be fixed. Then the microscopic gadget fixes the person.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. Google it.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Do it, cunt.”

The guy walked away, and so did I. I walked to Myer, where I said I’d meet Jamie. She looked tired. We looked around at everything that was on sale. She told me that because she has an Awards Card, she can buy things with her points. She bought a cream-coloured bra, a Jamie Oliver book. She bought me a belt. I bought her an electric eggbeater. She said thanks, and we hovered over to the perfume section and she spent an hour trying on different perfumes and asking me if I liked them. In the end she bought nothing, and she thought it was funny that she bought nothing. We walked through Queen Street mall, occasionally commenting about the giant statues that were placed all over the place just for Christmas.



JUDE AND ARIEL IN MY DREAM

confetti in blue dream - short story

There’s a rumour that’s going on about the world. That it’s ending. That food is running out, that resources are running out. There’s a rumour that the government, which is more than happy to spy on people but begins arresting them if anyone reveals any of its secrets, will one day control every single thing, even our thoughts, if they aren’t already. There’s a rumour of meteors coming, of demons rising out of the earth, of aliens raping young men. There’s a rumour about the sun exploding and wars getting worse and people being racist and people being bored and people being greedy and people eventually blowing each other up until all we have left is an entire island of shit.  But none of that matters. The only thing I’ve really been caring about is where I’m going to get my money from.

I was accepted for government assistance, and the money they gave me was much more than I made while doing freelance work or from selling my books. But it didn’t feel right. I had to regularly apply for jobs, no matter what the industry and distance from home. I had to regularly drive Jude’s car to Inala and line up with a bunch of other people and meet with someone and talk about what I’d been doing with myself and if I’d been applying for jobs properly. I didn’t want to tell them anything. I didn’t want to rely on the government for money.

One morning I called Centrelink, asked them to stop sending me assistance money (they said “okay” right away) and headed to the casino. I tried to imitate what my friends did while gambling and lost about four hundred dollars. I went to the library, updated Generation End, sent some short stories to arts magazines, looked up job ads and then covered my head and slept for a while. I had this dream about Ariel and Jude, and in the dream they were flying around and Jude was naked and his eggplant shaped (and coloured) penis was massive and he was giving me the finger. Ariel was crying and so was I.

“Are you angry at me?” I asked her.

“I’ll always be angry at you, Dean. I’ll always, like, resent you.”

She hovered right in front of my eyes and held my cheeks and we almost kissed, and I watched her eyes, her battered, bruised and swollen eyes, and her pupils were glittering; pushing her warm forehead against mine, she whispered something softly, tenderly, caringly: she told me that there are things that I should still love about myself, that there are things, although miniscule, that she still loves about me, and that I should have at least one thing to show for in this world, at least one fucking thing. I told her that she was beautiful and that I was sorry. She kissed my forehead and bruised it and I woke up thinking that I pissed my pants in public.

I drove to Kangaroo Point, went for a jog and stopped and stared at the river before spitting on it. I drove to a university and found my favourite shower and showered with a bar of soap I kept in a plastic bag; afterwards I sat on a bench and watched the students for a while, waiting for something dramatic or significant to happen. When nothing happened, I drove to a luxury car dealership with my resume and asked for the marketing manager. “Listen,” I told him. “I saw your ad and thought I’d apply in person.”

“Can you do press releases?” he asked me. He was a big guy.

“Yeah.”

“Social media?”

“Yeah,” I smiled.

“Events?”

“Sure.”

“CSS and PHP?” he asked.

“Yup.”

“Media buying?”

“Yeah sure, media buying is great. Did it heaps last year.”

“SEO?”

“Did SEO this morning.”

“Dealer Socket?”

“All the time.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You’re lying about a lot of these.”

“Well, isn’t everyone a liar in their own right?”

“No,” he said. “The people I work with are generally honest, hard working people.”

“I’ll get you a coffee,” I said. “Want a coffee? Shit, please. I’m a hard worker and I can write like hell and I’m desperate. Exploit my desperation!”

He said he was too busy for coffee, but he took my resume and smiled and said he might call me again because of my sense of humour, but just maybe. I left the dealership, did the same thing to three other businesses.  I drove to Jamie’s home and we watched DVDs (This is The End, American Psycho, Notebook) and I didn’t tell her that I’d been sleeping in Jude’s BMW for the past few weeks. She put her hand on my lap, and I looked at her, and she looked at me, and I opened my mouth but decided to close it again, and she sighed, and I drank double the amount of wine that she did.

 

***

NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, recently received a #1 and #2 ranking on Amazon’s Kindle store. GET A COPY.



A SHORT STORY, JUST FOR YOU

Girl smiling - A free short story by Dean Blake - Generation EndI’ve been flicking through some of my old stuff lately. Here’s a short story I wrote a few years ago, which I thought I’d share with you:

 

The easiest part about it was that she didn’t love him. They didn’t meet in a bar. They met at a party, through friends of friends and they shook hands and introduced themselves and talked crap. He wasn’t that good looking but to be honest, neither was she. Nonetheless he thought she was different; nonetheless she liked his smile.

Their first kiss was in his car.

“You taste like cherry!” he said.

“You taste like… um… I don’t know?” She said.

Here are some of the things she did for him: clean his room, lecture him about his car, buy him a few shirts, recommend getting a watch, organise a surprise party for him, encourage him to work harder, befriend his parents, buy him perfume, go on the pill. Here are some of the things he did for her: buy her jewellery, buy her perfume, turn her car seat pink, change his hair style, lessen his swearing, take her on a holiday, smile at her parents, learn to cook, make her cry (in a good, romantic sort of way), buy her an iPod, think about her.

Here are some of the things they argued about: friends, best friends, alcohol, tattoos, sex, drugs, piercings, clubbing, spending, boys and girls, good looking boys and girls, sports, television, yelling, too much arguing, winter, Facebook, Simpsons, parties, lying, China, Mexico, Germans, parents, jealousy, forgetting to call, not having enough time to call, running out of phone credit to call, calling for too long, not putting effort into calling, not calling when one of them needed each other the most, being cheap with calls, calling too often, running out of batteries to call, not having enough time for each other, apologising too much, complaining about calls, Britney Spears.

There was a lot of crying. There was a lot of, “Yeah but is that what you want?” There was a lot of, “I keep telling you but you never listen!” There was a lot of, “I’m sorry. Don’t go.” There was a lot of, “I really didn’t know!” There was a lot of, “I love you.”

Here is what she did after the breakup: text her best friend and then immediately get a call from her best friend.

Here is what he said after the breakup: Fuck!

The beautiful part about this story is that you’re the reader. You’re not the girl, you’re not the boy. You’re sitting on your arse and you’re reading this and you’re (maybe) being entertained by this, and you’ll have your brief opinion and life will go on. The beautiful part about this story is that you’re an optimist and you have better things to do, your own life to worry about, something besides relationships to worry about. You know they’ll move on and one day, even if the damage and the hurt will still exist, they’ll learn to hide it, drink it off, sing it off, cry it off, dance it off. The beautiful part about this story is that none of it is true.

 

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NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, is now available on paperback. Check it out here.



HOW TO LOSE SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT

Cathedral in Melbourne - how to lose someone you care about storySome people move forward in life, some people get worse. Some people, like me, are trapped in a cycle between both. I’d get a job, get a woman, and then I’d lose that job, and then I’d lose that woman, and then I’d get a new job and a new woman all over again. In between all of this I’d get older, not wealthier, not wiser, just older…

The rest of my Melbourne trip with Ariel went peacefully – we ate and we drank coffee and we met a few people. Before leaving we went into a cathedral and sat at the back and Ariel knelt down and cried and I didn’t ask her why. After about an hour of crying she told me that God punishes those He loves and we stood up and walked into a McDonald’s and quietly talked about how were going to end things, and how we shouldn’t talk to each other for a few weeks to move on as quickly and practically as possible. I begged her to get out of her job as soon as possible and I promised that one day, when I grew some damn balls, I’d find a way to help her and her aunt and her cousins. She said nothing. We flew back to Brisbane, and at her train stop she smiled and embraced me and wiped her eyes and said, “Goodbye.” I watched her leave: her legs, her hair, her earrings, her purse, her suitcase, the way her arse moved. I hated her and I wanted her and I didn’t know what to do.

I hopped off at the city and went to the library and found a computer and found a number for Centrelink. I called the number and spoke to someone for about an hour regarding government assistance – they told me to sign up for something online and organised a time for me to meet them to see how they can help me, to see how much money they felt I deserved. I then applied for a few jobs online, feeling sick each time I did. I printed a few resumes and, forcing a smile, walked to a few cafés and handed them in. I walked to South Bank, stared at the Ferris Wheel, walked back to the city. I looked into a few bars but didn’t walk inside of them.

I sat on a bench, doing nothing for a while. I texted a few people to see if they were free and most of them, the ones I actually kind of wanted to see, said no. I finally decided to call an ex-girlfriend who now lives in the east side or something.

“How are you?” I asked her.

“I’ve gained weight.”

“Who hasn’t?”

“I can name a few people.”

“I’m sure you’ve still got great legs,” I said.

“You wouldn’t say that when you see me.”

“Yeah well you know what? It kind of makes me feel good to know that you’ve gained weight.”

She didn’t laugh. “Fuck you.”

We spoke a little longer. She told me about how insecure she always felt, how she found herself stuttering when she met strangers, especially men, and how she thought people rarely noticed her, and if they did, they’d talk about her and laugh at her and think she was ugly. She cried a little and I asked her what the hell was wrong with girls these days, that they were always crying about something, that I would totally do her if I saw her again. She finally laughed.

I told her about Ariel and about this other girl I met at a shop that I’d hang out with once in a while. She told me about this date she went on with this guy she met online, about how at the end of the night the guy asked if she wanted to see the tip of his dick. She said, “Sure, okay.”

I asked her what she wanted to do in life, who she wanted to become, what she wanted to be proud of. She told me that she wanted a good job, a nice family, a nice home, to get along with her partner’s parents, to have nice pets, to have a nice school for her kids. I told her that I wasn’t sure what I wanted, that all I knew is that it would involve money, lots of money, and lots of hours of sleep, and lots of peace, and lots of certainty.

She invited me over. I said, “Okay,” and I drove to her home and she was right: she’d gained a shitload of weight. We had some tea and argued about something and ended up yelling at each other. She threw her empty teacup directly at me and it hit my arm and it fell to the ground, unbroken. I picked it up and threw it at her and she leapt – literally leapt, like in the movies – out of the way and it shattered against a cupboard. She called me The Worst. I laughed and said that I didn’t aim for her, anyway. I walked over to her and tried to pick her up but she was too heavy. I laughed again. She stood up and just glared at me and told me that I nearly killed her and I told her not to fucking exaggerate. I asked her if she was wet and she said, “No, fuck no. What’s wrong with you?”

We resumed talking about our lives until we ran out of things to say: she yawned, I yawned, she checked the time on her mobile phone and told me that it was time for me to drive home. We hugged and kissed a little, and I told her that I’d made too many mistakes in my life, and she asked me, “Why can’t our hearts remain fragile?” and I walked to my car and I drove for probably three hours into goodness knows where.

 

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NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, is now available on paperback.

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Check it out here.

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A POINTLESS THEORY ABOUT LOVE

Ariel with bearThings weren’t going so well for Ariel and I so she flew us both to Melbourne for two days. We caught the SkyBus to our hotel and checked in and when we dropped our bags on the carpet we looked at each other and laughed for no reason; she said she was tired, but the day was never coming back again so we better make the most of it. I told her that days do happen again, that they happen again and again and again, that in fact I had the exact same Wednesday last week. She didn’t reply. I lay on the bed as she walked into the shower and just watched the ceiling for a while before sitting back up to stare at the TV.

We left the hotel, entered Little Collins Street, bought a few expensive pizzas.

“You know what I like about Melbourne?” she asked me.

“What?”

“The people,” she smiled.

“The hell you on about? We haven’t spoken to one person yet.”

We visited a few places I’d been to before: the library, a gallery, a tourist information centre, the QV building, Off Ya Tree, some side streets with graffiti, about a thousand Pie Faces; we met a busker who had a sign in front of him that said, JUST THE TIP, I SWEAR, and he told us that a feminist threatened him for an hour because the sign contained a joke about rape. We returned to the tourist information centre and considered booking a tour to see the penguins, but changed our mind. We went to a café: she ordered a cup of mocha and I ordered wine.

“Are you happy?” she asked me.

“Are you?”

“Right now, I’m happy.”

Like always, we spoke about our dreams. She told me about the properties she was going to have all over the world and I told her about the airplanes I was going to have. She told me that she wanted Gucci bags, Dolce & Gabbana bags, a room full of shoes. I told her that I wanted to like, build a school or something, for you know, for where the poor people live. She told me that she was going to buy a unit for her aunt and a bunch of units for her cousins. I told her about swimming with a ukulele in a large swimming pool, about a large bed, about stress-free sex, blue skies, dark skies, the sun going up and down and left and right, stars falling like thumbtacks and how in the future, when I walk into any store, I’ll no longer look at price tags. Then she told me about how her boss was still threatening her for only taking on a small number of clients because of me, that she used up a large portion of her savings for this trip. Her forehead creased, she slouched, she looked into her drink. I told her that she shouldn’t have flown us here. I also told her that I wasn’t working anymore. I said, “We just have to win the lotto and we can get out of this mess.” And she put her hand on mine and told me to never put my hope in easy money.

It was evening by the time we finished and there were buskers everywhere. They danced, they sang, they played the guitar. After eating at this Vietnamese restaurant that Bill Clinton had apparently once eaten in we went for a walk and found this crowded rooftop bar and ordered wine. “Congratulations, Dean,” Ariel said, raising her glass to me, and I asked, “Why?” and she said, “For publishing your first book. I’m so proud of you.” We drank some more, but by ten we were no longer in the mood. We stumbled back to the hotel room. I threw her on the bed and took her shoes off. I took off mine. I lay next to her and we looked at each other. I was tired and the wine had made me drowsy. She asked me if I still had the bear and the ring she gave me, and I told her that I did. “My bear is in my purse and I’m wearing my ring. Where did you place yours?” When I didn’t reply she asked me if I was seeing other girls now to get back at her for everything she was doing with her clients and I told her that I wasn’t. A tear fell out of her eye. She pushed my hand away, pulled a tissue out of her purse. She wiped her eyes. “We’re going to have to end this,” she mumbled. “What?” was all I could ask her before eventually closing my eyes and falling asleep to dream about something I no longer remember. The bear was in my room. The ring was in my pocket.

 

***

 

NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, is now available on Amazon.

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Check it out here.

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A FAT OLD MAN AND MY NEW BOOK SURFACE CHILDREN

party photo - generation endI finally finished my book the other day, and to celebrate I called Ariel and told her to help me experience a really fucked up evening. She refused, so we yelled at each other for a while until I finally hung up and called this guy I met at a writer’s festival once, this guy who takes poetry way too seriously.

“Listen,” I said before realising that I didn’t know what the hell to say next. He just stood at the other end of the line, completely silent, waiting for me to speak. I ended up saying this: “Like, where are you?”

“Why, do you want to meet up?”

I pursed my lips, tapped on my phone. “I guess?”

I met him in the Valley with a bunch of his other friends. They all looked kind of odd, but then I guess I also looked kind of odd. Sooner or later we started drinking and sooner or later the guy was telling me all about his life: he worked in a telephone shop, he had no pets, he liked to listen to poetry with his eyes closed, he liked to gel his hair every five hours. But I didn’t care. All I wanted that evening was something interesting.

I told him that it’d been a long time since I’d been in contact with someone who has direct access to drugs and I told him that he looked and sounded like someone who has direct access to drugs. He laughed, told his friends about it, laughed again, took a few more sips of his drink. He pulled something out of his wallet and, smiling, placed it in my mouth. Within what felt like five minutes this happened: we danced, a girl pissed her pants, I bumped into Vail, we tried speed, I bumped into Jamie, we watched this fat old man pop ecstasy into this guy’s arse, we ate burgers at McDonald’s, I told everyone that I was happy.

I caught a cab to the bar where Ariel was and sprinted upstairs and watched her from a distance. She was with this tall guy and they were laughing; she was playing with her necklace. She spotted me – I jumped up and down and quickly ran outside.

“Dean!”

“What?” We were outside now. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. She was wearing what she was wearing when I first met her.

“You can’t afford to see me but you can afford to get drunk.”

“You cost more than money,” I said.

She wiped her eye. “I’ve missed you.”

I scratched my arm. “I’ve missed you too.”

She looked me over. “You look stuffed. What’s wrong with you? Look at your hair.” She laughed. “What’s wrong with your eyes?”

I shrugged. “I just finished my book.”

“Congratulations, honey.”

“Who was that guy?”

She glanced left and right before taking a few steps towards me. “I can meet you tomorrow and you don’t need to pay.”

“I don’t want to see you,” I said.

“I’m meeting you tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to see you.”

“I’m meeting you tomorrow.”

I gave her the finger and ran to a cab and headed to the Valley. The guy, the guy who takes poetry too seriously, was now in deep conversation with the fat old man from earlier. I don’t know what they were talking about, but something I said really pissed the old man off and he started pushing me against a wall. “You cunt!” he kept yelling. “You cunt!” Some bouncers came and I found myself in a cab with Vail. There was a bit of sweat on her face and I lifted her arm up and asked her about all the stamp marks that were on her wrist. She said something, and I said something, and she laughed and she looked at my lips, and she texted someone, and we both stopped talking. The cab dropped me home first, which was fine with me.
***

 

GREAT NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, is now available on Amazon. It is by far the greatest piece of work I have ever written.

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Check it out here.

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Surface Children - a book of short stories by Dean Blake



HOW TO WRITE A BOOK AND NOT GET PUBLISHED

Rejection letter - Generation End

When I remember myself and when I remember my life it will all be portrayed in black and white. It won’t be in HD or 3D and it’ll be lower than low budget; the screen quality will be a little fuzzy and sometimes you’ll have to bang the screen to see it properly. A lot of the scenes, the scenes that weren’t really integral to the plot anyway, will be edited out. But they’ll still leave some repetitive bits and pieces in there to make it look kind of indie, like the scenes of me driving for hours, or the scenes of me just staring at the ceiling, or the scenes of me chucking a shit.

I’ve written about four or five novels, all unpublished and all repeatedly rejected by publishers and literary agents. For money, I’ve taken up a whole range of jobs.  I’ve delivered pizzas. I’ve worked in a butcher shop, a sushi shop, a noodle shop; I’ve worked as a copywriter for a major corporation. I hated them all.

Someone, I forgot who, once told me to keep writing books even if no one’s reading them. There’s a lot about what I do that I don’t often tell you about. In between all of my moments of love and loss and all that other shit are hours and hours of me sitting in front of a laptop, typing, or hours and hours of me writing things on napkins while I’m out, or several evenings when I tell people I can’t join them because I have to stay home to write or edit or work on a cover letter for a literary agent. Although I write about a lot of depressing things, I have to remain optimistic. Heartache may serve as fantastic fertiliser for good work, but all artists need optimism, no matter how unattractive it may be – our lives literally depend on it. Surface Children is the first “book” I’ll be publishing on my own. I know I keep saying this, but it’s almost done.

Anyway I only had one source of income and I fucked it up. I lost my only client – the two women who were paying me good money to write for them every week. Apparently I’d been missing all of my deadlines and had been drunkenly texting one of them, the one with the bigger ears, at four in the morning too often. They fired me via email.

“Ariel?”

“Yeah?”

“Did I wake you up?”

“You did,” she said softly. She was quiet for a while and I pictured her lying there with her eyes still closed. Eventually: “What time is it?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“Are you still coming by the bar tonight?”

I looked downwards, at me knee. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll see you tonight.”

I picked my car keys up and drove to a shopping centre. I walked to an ATM and checked my account balance: there wasn’t much left. I just stared at the screen, at the numbers and the pixels, until someone behind me cleared their throat. I withdrew three hundred dollars to pay for Ariel for the evening and sat down in the food court somewhere and did nothing.

“Hey, stranger.”

I looked up. It was the girl from the clothing store, Jamie. “Hey.”

She looked at the empty table in front of me. “Having fun not eating lunch?”

“You can join me if you want.”

“My break’s nearly over,” she said, but sat down in front of me anyway. “You look sad.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“You’re not working today?”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t think I’m cut for work. I don’t like people baiting me with money to dictate how I spend the rest of my life.”

“You’re going to have to support a family with that mindset one day.”

I didn’t reply.

“You should start your own business,” she said finally.

“Want to have a drink with me?”

She looked at her watch. “Come get me at five? We can like, drink then.”

I drove to some kind of RSL club, went to the pokies and lost ten dollars. I went to the bar and ordered a house red, followed by a whiskey dry, followed by another house red. I drove home, went online and looked at job listings. I closed the window and went to the Centrelink website and started writing an application for income support but closed the window again. I read a book, threw it against the wall, picked it up, threw it against the wall again. I fell asleep, woke up and drove to the shopping centre and picked Jamie up at five forty. We drove, slowly, to some place near the city that she heard about. We had dinner, we had lots of drinks. In the parking lot she told me that she was going to pass out soon, and I turned my phone off, and, while looking outside my windscreen, she said, “It’s funny. It’s funny how, like, you can only see the stars when it’s dark outside,” and I put a sleeping pill in her mouth before taking one for myself and we both fell asleep in my car.

 

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SOME NEWS: I’ve almost completed editing my book of short stories, Surface Children. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe now to receive three free stories and be one of the first to find out of its release.



HER FACE WAS DRAWN WITH CHARCOAL

Ariel - generation end

I want a lot of things. I want a big black car. I want a bunch of money. I want to feel postmodern, relevant, sleepy. I want to eat the stuff that makes the clouds. I want to fuck the moonlight.

I want to forget a whole lot of things. But there are also a few bits and pieces of my life that I want to remember forever. Like this time when Ariel and I booked a motel for a night. It was a shitty motel and there were stains on the sheets and we just lay there, staring at the ceiling in silence. Once in a while we’d talk about people in our lives, or once in a while we’d watch videos on YouTube from my mobile phone, or once in a while we’d glance at the window outside, or once in a while she’d turn to me and ask with slight dread, “What’s going to happen to me?” and I’d feel sick inside, so I’d tell her a joke, any joke I could come up with. She walked to her battered pink purse and pulled out two small teddy bears and two rings. “I bought these for you,” she said, and gave me one of the bears and one of the rings. Trying not to appear too affected by it, I looked them over (the ring had LOVE ME, OK? engraved into it) and said thanks and mumbled that it’d been a while since a woman had given me anything, and for some reason she cried and eventually fell asleep with her mouth open, and I kissed her forehead and as she slept I began texting a girl I met in a clothing store.

Ariel frequently reassured me that she was a person, that she was real. She had dreams. She dreams. She could feel it when I pinched her and she could feel it when I insulted her. She looked better without makeup, but only if I didn’t see her in the morning. Once, she took me to a church in the city, this big but quiet cathedral that had five or so people in it. She pointed at the altar and told me to look at it and then slapped my arm and told me to stop looking at it because I was staring at it for too long. She told me to bow my head and pray, to ask for things I’d never asked for before. She always talked about wanting to be wealthy but never bought expensive things. She loved McDonald’s and would always laugh as she threw fries at me. She rarely finished her food. She read books. She listened to James Blake. Her teeth were unusually perfect. Her lipstick was unusually perfect. When she’d drink she’d often lie to me, or get some girl to call me up and pretend that it was her. She told me to keep going to the gym.

One evening she said this: “Listen, if things between you and me, if they don’t pan out… I want you to keep working. But work smart. Work at being happy. Stop reading such depressing books. Help people. Forget about all the short term stuff. We’re in a rut, a really bad rut, but one day, if we just keep working, the success will snowball. I truly believe in it. Invest, okay? Can you promise me you’ll invest?”

Ariel’s business partner’s threats were getting worse – he even began raising the interest on her debts. She told me the only way for neither of us to go broke or get harmed was for her to take on one or two “old friends” again. One of these old friends was a teacher, just like her first boyfriend. He’d been texting her repeatedly and begging her to meet him again. When she finally agreed, he took her to Movie World, which was perfect, because she’d never been there before. This guy, this teacher, he was tall and thin and had a horrible childhood and wore glasses that never looked even on his face. He loved books, he’d been to India, he’d been to Kazakhstan. He had rough yet gentle hands. He liked to wear perfume and he smiled a lot even if he was often lonely, and, while with her in the very bar that I first met her, he drew her face with charcoal and told her that he’d never hurt her, no matter how she treated him or what decisions she wanted to make in life.

 

 

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SOME NEWS: I’ve almost completed editing my book of short stories, Surface Children. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe now to receive three free stories and be one of the first to find out of its release.



ARIEL’S AUNTIE

Generation End - Ariel's aunt - TV set

I wonder what it’d be like to be popular. Are popular people happy? How long do they spend on the phone? How much do they spend on birthday presents? How many friends do they have on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Vine and whatever the hell else is out there?

As I approach my late twenties I’ve come to realise that the number of people I can actually call my friends have decreased significantly: all I really have left are Jude, Ariel and sometimes Vail. Since Jude was somewhere in Africa and Vail was I don’t know where, I found myself spending a lot more time and money on Ariel, who was starting to look more and more tired and unhappy as the weeks went by.

“My business partner’s not happy, Dean,” she said. “Ever since I committed to you I’m not bringing in new business anymore. Don’t you get it? I still have to pay him back. You don’t understand the kind of pressure he’s putting on me.”

“Let’s drive to the Coast,” I said, trying to cheer her the hell up. “I have Jude’s Audi and we can go shoot some rifles at the shooting range.”

“The Coast? My aunt lives there. Hey, why don’t we visit her instead?”

“Hey, why don’t we go to the bloody shooting range?”

Ariel kept quiet.

Ariel’s aunt’s home was small and incredibly clean. It smelt like Windex. Ariel and her parents hadn’t spoken in years (“I hope they lose their legs!”) so to her, her aunt and her aunt’s kids were the only real family she had left. Her aunt had a strange looking face and was married to this guy who flew off to Japan and hadn’t returned or made contact with her in eight years. She had five kids, all daughters, all roughly the same age except for one, who was studying Marketing in university. Ariel gave her aunt the majority of her income.

“What’s your favourite song, Dean? What’s your favourite song?” Her aunt kept asking me again and again, even if I told her I didn’t have one. At some point one of her daughters walked to a large stereo near the TV and put Kanye West’s Black Skinhead on and everyone squealed and even if they screamed at her to shut it up, they all stepped up and danced in front of me like mad women. It was the strangest sight I’d seen in my life – I should’ve filmed it. Ariel’s aunt then brought out plates of bacon and eggs and party pies and an esky filled with beer and we all ate and we all drank and we all sort of laughed around.

It would’ve been a good day if Ariel’s aunt didn’t start asking me for money afterwards. “Look, I fed you and entertained you. You’re going to have to pay up.”

“What? Are you kiddng?”

“Does it look like I’m joking?”

“How much?”

“Four hundred.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I have a million kids to feed. You think this is easy for me to ask you this?”

We argued and argued until we started screaming and swearing at each other. “I’M NOT GIVING YOU MY MONEY.”

“FINE, FORGET FOUR HUNDRED. ONE HUNDRED. ONE HUNDRED IS ALL I’M ASKING FOR, YOU GREEDY FUCKING PIG. ONE HUNDRED IS NOTHING TO YOU. FUCK YOU.”

“ONE HUNDRED IS EVERYTHING TO ME. I’M A WRITER, DIDN’T I TELL YOU A THOUSAND TIMES?”

I threw two fifties at her and called her names. Ariel cried and told us both to shut up and pulled me away.

We went outside. Ariel and I looked at each other for a while, saying nothing, until she pushed me. “Don’t you ever speak to my aunt like that.”

“Didn’t you hear what just happened?”

“I know.” Tears kept coming down her eyes. “It was wrong of her, but you’re a man, Dean, you’re supposed to be patient.” She pushed me a few more times, telling me how wrong I was until I eventually pushed her back. She fell backwards onto the ground and looked up at me, shocked.

“You pushed me!”

“Don’t exaggerate. It was a light push. Don’t fucking exaggerate!”

“How dare you, Dean?”

I pointed at her. “If she’s broke or whatever, that’s fine. I would’ve been happy to help but the way she asked was rude.”

“You pushed me!” Ariel wept even louder. “You pushed me to the ground!”

“Don’t do that crying shit. Why do girls always do that crying shit? Stop crying!” She didn’t stop crying, so I repeated myself: “Stop crying!”

She didn’t respond. I glared at her for a while until finally deciding to sit down next to her. She hid her face under her arms and kept shaking. I looked at her, at her arms and her hair and said nothing. Eventually, she looked up at me, her eyes all red and swollen, and laughed. I laughed too.

I stayed outside as she said goodbye to her aunt and cousins. We drove back to Brisbane: on the drive she told me about her dreams, about wanting kids, about how she hopes God still loves her. I told her that I was sorry. I dropped her off at the city, gave her three hundred for the day and drove home, drank some water, drank some wine, stared at a page of a book but didn’t read any of it, browsed through my mobile phone contacts, stared at the ceiling in the dark. All of a sudden, I felt afraid. I felt the need to skip tomorrow. I took two pills and fell asleep.

 

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SOME NEWS: I’ve almost completed editing my book of short stories, Surface Children. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe now to receive three free stories and be one of the first to find out of its release.



JUDE GOES TO AFRICA

Jude goes to Africa

While everything else with Ariel was going on a lot was also going on with Jude, who, as the days went by, became more and more of a prick.

“You know sometimes I wish I was someone else,” he said while driving us to some party in the west. “But then sometimes I don’t. Shit, I don’t know.” He pulled something out of his glove compartment and threw it on my lap.

I looked it over. It was a book by Paul Theroux. “Dark Star Safari?”

“I’m going to Africa. I want to fuck girls in Africa.”

I flicked through the book before putting it down. “What the hell are you going to do in Africa?”

“I just told you.”

After going on a bit more about Africa and why he had to go there Jude began telling me stories about his life, about a new girl named Megan, about a paintball session over the weekend that I “totally should’ve went to,” about this poor looking but probably extremely rich German guy he met in Eagle Street. He couldn’t tell whether the German guy was joking or not when he said that he believed in UFOs and aliens: apparently he saw a small UFO about the size of his bed in his backyard last year – it just hovered there for a good ten minutes before flying off forever. As Jude kept talking about UFOs and whatever the hell else he was talking about I began thinking about other things, things I don’t really remember or cared much about until I received a message from Ariel asking me how my day was. She said that she wanted to take things “a tiny bit more seriously” with me and stop having her drinks with other men. She didn’t mind if she’d lose a whole lot of money from it, she just wanted to spend more time with me. I looked out of the window and asked Jude something about the German guy and he said, “I don’t know, I think, like, Korea or some shit.”

We arrived at the party. I’d been drinking almost every other night with Ariel and was kind of over the whole thing but I ended up drinking anyway. It wasn’t that much of a party: I was in the wrong crowd; no one laughed at my jokes and nothing clicked. Everything looked expensive. After about an hour or so of mindless drinking I walked around, irritated for some reason, and found Jude sitting against a wall, red-faced and slouched, ignoring a girl who was laughing and trying to pull him up.

“Why are we even here?” I asked him. “We barely know anyone. Let’s go.”

“I’m going to Africa!”

“What, like right now?”

“Why not right now?”

“It’s midnight.”

“He’s drunk,” I told the girl.

“I’m not fucking drunk,” Jude said from his spot on the wall. “I’m going to Africa.”

I left the two of them and took a bottle of some kind of beer and walked outside of the party, to the front lawn, at a spot behind a tree. I leant there, just drinking the beer for as long as humanly possible…

Jude was a wreck by the time I headed back inside. He was stumbling around, yelling at girls to shut up and listen to his story about the German guy he met at Eagle Street. “UFOs are real, UFOs are real, you bitch! I’m going to Africa.”

“Let’s go,” I told Jude.

“Fuck off.”

I shrugged and walked off, found some finger food and discretely downed three shots of Black Label. I came back to Jude, who was dancing by himself to no music.

“Let’s go,” I told him again.

Instead of replying, Jude punched my chest and laughed. It was a stupid, cowardly punch. But it hurt.

“You cunt,” I winced. I took a swing at him and missed. He laughed some more, so I grabbed him by the throat and pulled him down to the ground and began strangling the hell out of him. A girl screamed and we were quickly pulled apart.

Jude kept laughing. He pulled away from a guy who was holding him back and walked to me, breathless, his keys in his hand. “Want to go now?”

“Yeah, alright.”

The drive was a long one: Jude was drunk and rambling; I feared for my life about a thousand times in a row. After a while I realised that he wasn’t driving me home – he was driving to the airport.

“Listen, Dean. You keep my car while I’m gone.”

Jude wasn’t joking. He was actually going to Africa – he’d bought a ticket and everything. We arrived at the international airport and parked. The sun was rising and everything was damp. We exited Jude’s car; he opened the boot and pulled out his luggage. We stumbled to the terminal in silence, and once in a while Jude would giggle and mutter something I didn’t understand.

I watched Jude check in before we both headed to a table in front of Red Rooster and sat there, looking at each other for a while, not saying anything.

“Why are you going to Africa?”

“Why not?”

I played around with my iPhone for no reason whatsoever. I looked back at Jude. “I’ve nearly finished my book.”

“No one cares.”

“I do,” I said.

“If you don’t make any money out of it, I’m going to kill you.”

“You punch like shit, you know that?”

Jude pressed his fingers into his forehead and, eyes closed, moved them up and down, up and down. “I wonder if there ever was a time when I was innocent.”

“I don’t think there was.”

“There must’ve been. It’s just that… I was a really good little kid. I don’t know why, but somewhere along the line I became an enormous dick. I’m bored. I’m lonely. I don’t fit in much anymore.”

I crossed my arms on the table and sleepily hid my head behind them for a while. “When you’re here, I get to be the more behaved one out of the both of us, but if you leave, like…”

“I saw this girl the other day,” Jude said. “She was wearing these really short shorts and a loose, short shirt. She almost looked naked. What killed me was that she had a great body, great legs, a cute face, the nicest fucking hair. She looked like walking sex, and I thought about how she could get any man she wanted. Even guys in any kind of committed relationship would consider cheating if she smiled and touched their arms.” Jude paused, texted someone on his iPhone before concluding with this: “I want to fuck her, every single day, until her brain just explodes.”

That was the last real thing Jude told me. We both stood up and he gave me his keys. I didn’t ask him where in Africa he was going, if he was meeting anyone, if he’d be there long. I just assumed that he’d call me a week later, asking me to pick him up. We did a brief hug and I watched him take the escalator down into immigration.

The drive home was a boring blur. The sun was out; it was hot for winter; everything was littered with traffic and red lights; The National kept playing from the CD player. I parked in front of one of the cafés Ariel and I usually go to after drinking. I looked at it for a while before driving home to take some Hypnodorm and fall asleep.



THE PIMP I’LL NEVER SEE

The Pimp I'll Never See - Generation EndAriel was a lot of things. She was smart and she was ambitious and she was the most jealous person I’d ever met.

“I know this is unfair, but if I see you with a girlfriend I will shove my fist down her throat and kill her.”

Some part of me actually wanted to see it happen.

When we first met, Ariel was “dating” about six or seven other guys a week. But according to her, she’d only ever been in one real relationship.

“I dated him way before I started doing what I’m doing now,” she told me one evening as we sat in front of the River. “He was my first real boyfriend.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true,” she insisted. “He was a school teacher. I liked him because he was ugly. He had these thick glasses and this weirdly shaped head and he never knew how to fix his hair properly. I don’t like good looking men. Good looking men have been spoilt all their lives. They’ve never had to work hard to gain the respect of others – they’re too used to people wanting their attention, you know?” She put her hand on my face. “That’s why I like you.”

“You just made me hate myself,” I said.

She laughed. “You have to believe me, honey. If I ever overhear someone say that they think you’re good looking, I’m kicking you out of my life.” Her laugh faded, and, picking some imaginary lint from her skirt, she continued: “he’s married now, I think. I still think about him sometimes.”

“If he were to come here tonight and ask you to be with him again, what will you do?”

“I’ll say yes. But that’s never going to happen.”

I didn’t ask her how they broke up. Instead, I took her hand in mine and like always, we left the bar and walked around, laughing about things, talking about things, feeling each other up. We walked into a club, Mustang, I think, and I sat somewhere and I watched her dance as she looked only at me.

We were drunk and it was five in the morning when she told me her secret:

“I’m not doing this alone.”

“What?”

“I like you. I really, really like you. And I don’t want to charge you money when we meet anymore. I’m not supposed to tell people, but I’ve got a partner in this.”

“What?” I asked again.

“The guy, the one who introduced me to this business… He gave me a place to stay rent free, and he introduced me to his friends for a fee. I get a small percentage of what guys pay me, but most of what I make goes to paying him back. He’s a pretty scary guy and I can’t just run away, but he’s been good to me, so I don’t mind.”

I didn’t know what to say. I was drunk and confused.

“It’s really not that bad.” She placed her hand on my lap. “He teaches me a lot about business and investing, so when I finally pay him back I’ll be making so much more. I’m going to start a real estate company once I have enough money. Isn’t that good? Aren’t you happy for me?”

As we ate breakfast she told me how most of her days were like: she’d drink all night, wake up, vomit for a little bit, run for an hour or so, eat as much healthy food as she can, read books on investment and real estate, get ready for another evening. I paid her, and we went to Dymocks and she walked to the counter and bought something and came back and handed it to me: it was a Bible. We argued about it for a while until she forced it into my hands. She told me that because I’m a writer I might appreciate the book of Ecclesiastes, which supposedly contains the most poetic passages in the Bible. She showed me this:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

We kissed and said goodbye. I tried to sleep during the bus ride home, but I couldn’t. I told the bus driver to stop and I ran out and vomited while running towards a shopping centre.

 

**

SOME NEWS: We Fall Asleep So Early is now available for your iPhone, iPad and iWhateverelse. Click here for more info on my works.

 



PAYING ARIEL A VISIT

Paying Ariel a Visit generation end

In my lonely times I think about life a lot. I think about that moment when I’ll stand under the sun ten years from now, and then that moment when I’ll stand under the sun thirty years from now, and then that moment when I’ll stand under the sun fifty years from now. I wonder if the stupid little things I’m doing now will snowball and completely screw my life up in the long run. I wonder if the stupid little things I’m doing now will snowball and help me eventually become a better man. What the hell is a ‘better’ man, anyway?

I told myself it was stupid but I did it anyway: I met Ariel again at the same bar. She was wearing a lot of silver jewellery as usual, and this time, she had some kind of blue top on.

“So you missed me?” she smiled at me as I handed her a hundred dollars.

“Has your rate always been a hundred dollars?”

“A hundred to hang out in the evening, three hundred for an entire day until the evening, and four hundred for a whole day and whole evening.”

“Do you ever give discounts? Promo days?” I asked her.

“No. I never break my rules, no matter how attached I get to a man.”

“How about group discounts?”

“Very funny.”

“You sound like a prostitute right now,” I said.

“I ought to slap you. But I won’t.”

Ariel left school at year ten. To pay her bills, she found a job at a bakery, and one day a customer told her about this network marketing company that sold cleaning products. She was blown away with its promise of helping her earn thousands of dollars a month in passive income, but she never really succeeded in it. She then tried an online business, but then failed at that too. One day one of her friends said that he knew a bunch of lonely guys who’d pay her lots of money just to hang out with her, and she shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”

I was drunk by the time she read my palm. She ran her finger along one line and grinned. “It says here that you have no money.”

“Why the hell do fortune tellers keep saying that?”

“Because it’s true?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Whatever. Let’s go have a coffee or something.”

She looked around. “I’m not allowed to tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

She said nothing, so I picked her up and ran outside of the bar with her. She screamed and laughed and slapped my back all the way to a café in the middle of Queen Street.

“What’s your favourite colour?” She asked me when we finally settled down.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? You have to know these things.”

“You don’t have to know these things,” I said.

“And you need to know your purpose in life.”

“I’ve never known anyone who actually knew their purpose in life,” I said. “Who could just stick by it and like, know for sure that that was it.”

“I do,” she said.

“I don’t believe you.”

“We need to know our purpose. We need to know about God and the spirit and we need to know which signs to read, or else we’ll just be scrambling around, looking for things that make us temporarily happy. Don’t you believe in God, or some kind of higher power?”

“Listen,” I said, “With these other guys, these other guys who pay you… do you kiss them, too?”

“I never go all the way,” was all she said.

“I’m sure someone would’ve forced you.”

“They’ve never succeeded.”

“One day, they might.”

“Most of the guys I meet are fragile behind closed doors. They’re scared and just want to be looked after. This one guy hired the Versace hotel for us and we just lay next to each other and talked about life and he cried.” She touched my arm sympathetically. “Is Mr. Dean worried about me?”

“There are other ways of making money.”

“Says the guy with no money,” she smirked.

“Shut up.”

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you happy?”

“I’m trying to be.”

I looked at Ariel closely, under the light for the first time. She had soft eyes and a nice smile. No wonder men were addicted to her. But I also realised something about her top: it was slightly frayed. Her jewellery, which was exactly the same as what she wore the other night, was scratched all over.

“I used to judge the type of person I am now.”

“I like you,” she said. “Can we meet again?”

“You’re robbing me.”

“I know,” she smiled.



BUYING LOVE AND HAPPINESS

buying love and happiness - generation end
On the surface, things were getting better. My vision was improving, and thanks to the pills, I could sleep a lot easier. On some days I’d wake up, write for a few hours, take a pill or two, and then sleep a dreamless sleep all over again – it was perfect.

I also found decent freelance work: two women in their forties wanted some regular marketing material written up for a medical business they were launching and for some reason thought I’d be the right person for the job.

“How much do you want?” They asked me.

“Like, four hundred a week?”

They glanced at each other before looking back at me. “Sure.”

It wasn’t much, but it was money. The first thing I spent my new money on was resuming my boxing training sessions. The next thing I spent my money on was Jude, who’d pretty much been driving me around while I was blind for the past few weeks and paying for most of my drinks.

In the evening I shouted him a meal and dessert and in return he took me to a bar and introduced me to a ‘good friend’ of his, Ariel.

“This is Ariel,” he said.

“I’m Ariel,” she said.

“You’re Ariel,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said. “I’m Ariel.”

“What, like the font?” I asked her.

“No, like the name.”

Ariel was petite and her skin was a strange sort of white, a glassy sort of white. She was wearing a short skirt and stockings and some sort of top I can’t describe. For her accessories, she wore a pair of those silver dangly earrings and a silver necklace and a small, silver watch – I couldn’t tell if what she was wearing was extremely expensive, or extremely cheap.

The three of us spoke and laughed for a while before Jude had to leave.

“Listen,” Jude said into my ear. “You’re going to have to pay her a hundred bucks.”

“What?”

“She’s not a prostitute. She just hangs out with you, and if she likes you, she does all kind of crazy shit with you for money.”

“That sounds like she’s a prostitute.”

“She’s an entrepreneur, Dean. She’s inspirational. She doesn’t have real friends. She doesn’t have a pimp or anything – she just uses that money and invests it. Isn’t that inspiring?”

“I’m going with you.”

“No you’re not.”

I could’ve followed Jude home anyway but I didn’t – I was curious, I stayed. I asked Ariel a lot of questions and she answered me with a lot of answers. She talked about her dog, she talked about how she loved Game of Thrones, she talked about how she hated her parents who kicked her out at twelve, she talked about Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, she talked about TED talks, she talked about this guy who wanted to take her home to London and introduce her to his parents and marry her and how she said no and how he cried and swore at her and called her a cunt slut.

“A cunt slut?”

“A cunt slut.”

She was twenty one years old. We exited the bar and walked from the City to the Valley to Teneriffe to the River, and all throughout this she held my hand and spoke to me as if she’d known me for years. We stood in front of the river in the cruel cold, and she shivered and we kissed.

“You’ve been living in Brisbane for a long time, haven’t you?”

“I have,” I said.

“Don’t you think it’s strange?”

“What’s strange?”

“How we can live in the same city our entire lives and not ever get bored?”

“I get bored.”

“Then why don’t you leave?”

I said nothing.

“I don’t know what Jude told you,” she said, “but I don’t really have sex with men. It’s actually been years since I’ve slept with anyone.”

“You just take their money for your company?”

“Yeah.”

“Why do you do that?”

“Because they keep paying me.”

I rubbed my hands to warm them from the cold. “I guess if all you have left is love, then you might as well try to sell it.”

She smiled. “The thing is, I’m not lacking in anything. I have plenty of love and money, and if I work at it hard enough, I’ll make even more love and money.”

“Your life is all set.”

“Well, I guess I’m missing a few things.”

“Like what?”

“I wouldn’t mind falling in love once in a while,” she said.

“Once in a while?”

It was too cold, so we decided to go home. I let her take the first cab, and before she left and kissed me on the cheek I paid her a hundred dollars, plus another thirty for her ride home. I caught the next cab home and didn’t reply to the cab driver when he wanted to start a conversation with me. I paid him, entered my room and lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling for an hour or so. What the hell is life all about? What if we had a purpose, but that purpose was completely wrong? I ask myself these questions a lot, and my answers have never remained the same. I took two pills, turned my light off and lay back on my bed. I suddenly remembered the receptionist, and then Vail and then Eva and all of those other girls who’ve entered my life and left it. I wondered what they would’ve done if I asked them for a hundred dollars every time we went out. They probably would’ve ripped my balls off. My phone vibrated and, smiling, I looked at it sleepily – it was a message from Ariel.



LETTER FROM HEARTBREAK

Dry trees in the distance - generationend.com

… and I know it’s been a while, but I thought I’d write to you about everything in the world. I want you to know that I’m doing fine and that once in a while I read the work you send me, those poems and stories and things, and I want you to know that I’m proud of you. I mean, I don’t get most of it, but that’s the point, right? I’m sure that one day, you will have that book and one day I will see your book in the bookstores. But in the meantime, just keep it as a hobby, can you promise that? Is everything okay? Do you have a proper job now? What are you doing for money? How’s everyone else, do you still keep in touch with them? How about XXXXX? I know you’ve asked me thousands of questions and I can’t answer them all but I want you to know that I’m doing fine, that sometimes I go to the beach and that yes, I’m doing fine. I remember this time (you probably don’t, especially with the way things are now between us), when we all went to the beach. You were there with the girls and some of your friends and I was so confused, but I liked to see you smile and have fun. Remember that. Remember that I always wanted you to smile and have fun.

Things are interesting here. Sometimes things are shitty and I see two different skies. Sometimes the clouds just won’t stay put. Once I was walking barefoot on the highway and I thought the whole world was going to light me on fire, which was fucking crazy. I walked to the edge of something last night, and I was with a friend of mine, and we just stood by its ledge and looked at what was in front of us. I mean, there won’t be much to look at for most people, but for me, what I was looking at, I can’t describe it. I don’t know. It was a pile of bricks, a pile of dead rubbish, and everything was dark and it smelt like piss and I just screamed at it like an arsehole. Why would I yell like that, you know? It confused the shit out of my friend and it confused the shit out of me. I’ve always wondered why you’ve never written about me. I know I haven’t read everything you’ve done and it’s my fault, but from what I’ve read it’s like you’ve deliberately avoided mentioning me at all. It’s as if all your words have been constructed for the sole purpose of stepping around me. Or maybe I’m just thinking too highly of myself. I suppose it’s my fault.

Why won’t the world always do as we say? Remember how you used to ask me that? I’ve had many years to think about it, and I guess the world has the right to be tough, you know? Maybe something happened to the world before we came around, something that hurt it. And because of its past hurts it’s a bit of a prick to people, to the environment, to everything, shocking them when times are good and shocking them when times are shitty. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I guess I’m trying to say I wish I’d done things differently, I’d done things better, you know? My friend says I can still make things better starting from now on but I don’t know, can I really? Can I really get out of what I’ve gotten myself into? I know you’ll never get where I’m coming from and I know that you hate me, just know that I’m sorry for the way things came about and I hope you’re well.

I wish I had a story to tell you of my own. Maybe an adventure story, or a love story. Or one of those fucking space alien revenge things. But I’ve never been that creative. Well, here’s a story… I had a dream the other night about this girl. Her hair was red and purple and shit, and she was with this other guy, this younger Indian guy, and they were drinking tea next to a mountain and all of a sudden, there was an explosion inside the TV they were watching. Everything was shaking but they continued drinking the tea. The scary part about the dream was that I wasn’t there, that those two people in the dream were people I’d never met or ever seen. I wish I could’ve taken a photo of them and shown them to people I know or maybe people you know and asked who they were. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that dream. Actually, maybe I will. Who gives a shit who they were? This isn’t a very good story, is it?

It’s hot where I am now, and I’m always sweating. It’s not easy where I am, and a lot of the time I find it hard to deal with people. But I’ve been taking a lot of photos of the places I’ve been to and the new friends I’ve met. I hope I can show them to you some day, but I don’t even know when that will be. I don’t even know if you’ll receive this. I wish I was there, and I wish, when all is over, when heaven is here, I’ll be able to laugh with you and your friends at the beach again.

I…



WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU’RE BLIND AND PEOPLE COME OVER FOR A DRINK

What happens when youre blind and perverts come over for a drink - Generation End

It’d been about a week since my PRK laser eye surgery and things had improved: I could walk around with my eyes open and when things were good, objects in the distance looked clearer and crisper than when I used to wear contact lenses. I’d also become slightly addicted to the sleeping pills they gave me, Hypnodorm – it was much better than alcohol; I’d take one and I’d be able to fall into a deep sleep, an uninterrupted sleep, a dreamless sleep, a sleep that I hadn’t had in a long, long time, and it was bliss: I could ignore the world for a few good hours and wake up knowing that another day was successfully over.

“OPEN UP, DEAN, OPEN UP!” I woke up and opened the door and there was Jude and six other friends of ours – three guys and three girls – all excited to see me again and all already a bit drunk. One of the guys, James, ran into my toilet as soon as entering and vomited sushi all over the place. He came out about twenty minutes later and said, “Don’t worry, man, I cleaned it all up, I cleaned it all up.” As that happened everyone else rushed to my table and set up a number of glasses and shot glasses and Greygoose and Southern Comfort and some beer and a bottle of red something and a white bottle of something and Sprite and Coke and that’s about it. “You know I can’t drink yet, right? Because of my meds?” I said to everyone but they ignored me and handed me a shot glass.

What happened next was what happens in every drink up: a guy and a girl snuck off into a room and didn’t come back out, a girl became horribly depressed and anti-social and walked off somewhere and no one followed her, a guy kept yelling, “I’M HUNGRY LET’S GO GET SOME FOOD”, a girl kept giggling and flirting while letting us grope her all over, a bunch of people puked; and as this all escalated what started off as laughter and dancing evolved into a lot of slurring and slow talking, which then evolved into people breaking off into smaller groups, which then evolved into someone sleeping and some people talking quietly amongst themselves and someone constantly asking, “You sure you’re alright to drive home?”

It was seven in the morning and we were still awake and I needed to go for an eye check up. My vision wasn’t reliable yet so one of the girls, the one who became anti-social earlier, ended up driving me. We were both dizzy and tired, and once in a while I’d catch her closing her eyes and drifting off into a sidewalk or into another car. We chuckled. After my eye check up we parked at a restaurant in Paddington that was closed, and, sitting there in the sunny parking lot not knowing what to do, we spoke about life for a while, and once we were sick of talking about life we browsed by the stores scattered around Paddington, and once we were sick of browsing by the stores scattered around Paddington we drove off to meet a friend of hers who gave me more Hypnodorm for free even if I offered her money.

We went to DFO where she bought ten dollar shoes; we had lunch; she drove me home. “Do you have cocaine?” she asked me as she parked her car. I said no, and she hugged me and I said thanks for the lift and she handed me a music CD of a group called Ou Est Le Swimming Pool and said goodbye. I was exhausted. I walked inside and looked at the mirror, but not at my reflection: I looked for something above me, to the right; I don’t know why, but it looked strange and dark and frightening. I closed my eyes and opened them and the thing, the horrible thing – it was still there. I walked to my room and put the CD on the floor. I sat on the edge of my bed, which now smelt like sweat and vagina. I thought about nothing for a while, texted a few people. I lay down, took a pill, smiled and went to sleep.

 

***

Some extra news: I’ve published two teaser short stories in lead up to my book, Surface Children. You can view the short stories here.



PART TWO.

Laser Eye Loneliness - part 2 - generationend.com

Time is something you don’t necessarily have to hold on to. I don’t know why, but that evening, last year, when you walked out of the third party we’d been to that week with your stupid friends who didn’t understand us – who didn’t understand me – I couldn’t help but feel hollow – is hollow a feeling? I know I’ve met hurt and anger and happy and glad and all of those others guys before – but hollow? Where does hollow belong? As soon as you left, as soon as the ‘hollow’ came my pleasure in being social and any reason for me to smile and nod and make new friends vanished for good. I stood there in the lonely dark corner of the party and I looked around and I leant on a wall and I fumbled with nothing in my pocket and I thought of excuses to leave and I thought of time; the time it took to call someone, the time it took for a war to end, the time it took for a car to start, the time it took for an evening to rest and an evening to start and for us to die and for us to live all over again. But I stayed, and I stayed, and I stayed, and people came and went and I drank and eventually forgot about you and actually had a good time. As two in the morning came along and as this guy I met some time ago slung against my shoulder and told me how drunk he was I looked out of the balcony of the house on the hill we were in, past the passed out couple on the lawn and past the fences and into the complete black canvas outside. When had it become so completely dark? Were vampires real? Would I be awake in time for breakfast? What am I happy about? What am I sad about?

The second day after my PRK laser eye surgery wasn’t much better. It still hurt whenever I opened my eyes, which was annoying because I missed writing. I wasn’t allowed to participate in any sort of physical activity and everyone was either at work or out having fun. I spent most of the day taking pills, putting on eye drops and listening to the TV shows on my laptop.

Jude came by later in the evening. “You smell,” was all he said about me before telling me about his life: he spent the weekend at some hotel room with his new girlfriend and a bunch of other friends, and the week before that he worked a lot, and he drank a lot, and he smoked a lot, and he went to the gym a lot, and he also tried this new place in the Valley that apparently had lots of alright not-too-slutty looking girls.

“I hate not being able to do anything,” I told him.

“You should be lucky,” he said. “You know how many people are looking for excuses to do nothing? Doing nothing is fantastic. It’s what we all work hard for: to do nothing when we’re old and irrelevant.”

“Your wisdom never ceases to impress me.”

“I want you to try something.” Jude put something in my hand. “At the Coast, right, we rolled up old weed and crushed Panadol and tea leaves and smoked it up.”

“I’m not trying this.”

“Try it.”

I played with it with my fingers. “Have you tried it yet?”

“Of course,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”

We went outside and I lit it and tried it and nearly vomited. Jude laughed and said he’d never tried it before. I tried to punch him but missed, causing him to laugh even more. He took it off me and finished it off, coughing hard and saying how terrible it was each time he took a puff.

“How’s your book going?” He asked me.

“Slowly.” I sighed. “Even when I wasn’t blind. I want people to learn from it, I want people to read it and see the world differently afterwards, you know? To make changes. But I feel like I have nothing much to teach.”

“Listen,” Jude said, “as your really good friend, just write whatever the hell as quickly as possible and put it out there and sell it. Even outsource a writer from Philippines or Mumbai or South Africa or some bullshit to finish it for you – did you know that you can do that? That you can outsource your shit? I know you want to be artistic and pure and shit, but you can’t. You can’t do that. Your fucking Generation End blog or whatever, I mean, you’re getting all these readers but you don’t even have ads. How stupid can you be? You blew ninety percent of your savings to make yourself blind, you’re paying all these bills, and you go out and you party and you’re wasting it all away to the point where one day you’ll tell me that you’re homeless… you’re a man, Dean, a man, not a loser – men don’t do this to themselves. I’ve seen you be poor for the entire time I’ve known you and you’re going nowhere. Vail and I are moving higher in this world and you’re in exactly the same state as when we met you. Just finish it; who cares about the quality? You’ve written manuscripts before, right? I mean, where are they now? How have they helped you improve your life? You’re taking way too long. You’re single and you live alone and you’re jobless. Like, at least get a job or something, because your situation is just depressing, and no one is telling you this, but they pity you. I pity you. Get a job. Do something to make you money. This writing is getting you nowhere.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever cried one night after receiving laser eye surgery before, but it’s painful. I squeezed my fingers against my palms. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t. Nothing would come out. I couldn’t explain why I needed to do what I needed to do; I couldn’t even explain it to myself. We both said nothing.

“I’m thinking of running away,” Jude eventually muttered.

“What do you mean, run away? You don’t live with your dad anymore. You just gave me a huge lecture.”

“I mean from Brisbane. From this place. From my commitments. I want to see different things. I want to have sex with an African girl – in Africa. I don’t know. I’m bored.”

“Do it,” I said. I would’ve been glad to see him go.

“I mean it, Dean.”

“Why?”

Jude shrugged. “I have a few hundred thousand dollars saved in one of my accounts, just getting shit all interest. I might as well spend it on changing my life.” My eyes were closed but I knew he was thinking hard. Eventually, he stood up. He patted my shoulder and said, “I’ll visit you again,” just like Vail did. He made me a glass of water before saying that he had to go now because he had to meet his girlfriend for coffee at Milton and then perhaps have anal sex with her at her parents’ place afterwards if she wasn’t feeling so damn up herself.



LASER EYE LONELINESS

laser eye loneliness - Generation End

I had this dream once of becoming a successful writer. I’d be smoking a cigarette on top of a pile of money and every day, I’d buy some girl with nice legs a brand new car. Everyone would buy my books: lonely people would buy my books, the downtrodden would buy my books, bored middle-aged housewives would buy my books, high brow people with ‘a passion for the arts’ would buy my books, angsty but introverted teens would buy my books, prostitutes would buy my books, that dick from high school would buy my books – everyone would buy my books, and everyone would be happy because everyone was in my dream, and in my dream I’d be smoking a cigarette on top of a pile of money.

That dream never happened and I was still jobless. I had savings left so I decided to spend most of it on getting laser eye surgery to fix my shitty eyesight. They gave me valium before the surgery, which was great. The surgeon then had me lie down and look upwards towards a light. I watched with eyes wide open as he used something to scrape the outer layer of my eyes into a pile before using a machine to laser them; I could smell my eyes burn.

Everything was a blur once the valium kicked in. Apparently, after the operation, I loudly told everyone in the room how friendly the nurses were while walking around with my hips thrusting forward. I don’t remember the trip home.

Vail visited me in the evening.

“You look insane,” she said, sitting next to me. She smelt good. Like fruit.

“I can’t see,” I replied with my eyes closed. My eyes were hurting. “I can’t do anything for a few weeks.”

“Wow.” I heard her rummaging through my things. “Look at all these pills. We could sell these to some people I know.”

“Totally.” They gave me Nurofen for the pain, Endone for severe pain, Pramin for nausea and Hypnodorm for insomnia.

Vail put her hand inside my shorts and the both of us went quiet for a while.

“How have you been?” I eventually asked her.

“Good and shit, good and shit. The usual. A girlfriend of mine got punched by her boyfriend. Right across the face.”

“Do I know her?”

“I don’t think so,” she said.

“Is she hot?”

“She’s not bad.”

“How’s she doing?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I haven’t texted her yet. I think she works at Dotti. She’s lucky to have him anyway, he’s normally a really chilled guy. She can just be like, a real cold bitch sometimes. Especially to men. I think she deserved it.”

I didn’t say anything.

“How long are you going to be like this for?” she asked me. “It’s night time and you’re wearing sunglasses.”

“I’ve been told it may take a week, or even months before my vision will improve. There’s also a chance that nothing will happen at all.”

“Months? That’s a long time.”

“My brother bought me dinner,” I said. “People wished me luck.”

“That’s sweet of them. If you need help with anything, just call me.”

“I can’t see the text on my phone,” I said.

Vail giggled, pulling her hand out of my shorts. “You’ll figure out a way to call me.” She stood up, walked to the bathroom, washed her hands then sat back down next to me. “I heard about your night at the casino.”

“And?”

“I’m so glad I didn’t join you.”

“You weren’t invited.”

Vail slapped my arm. “How much money do you have left?”

“Enough to pay the rent and eat for a few more months.”

“You better find work again, Dean.”

“I hate working. For people, especially.”

“Who doesn’t? But that’s growing up.”

“Can’t a publisher just publish my manuscript?”

“No, they can’t. Have you even been submitting to publishers?”

“Not lately. I’m tired of rejection letters.”

“Well, there you go.” Vail reached for something in my bag. She pulled out a pill and placed it in my mouth.

“What the hell did you just make me swallow?”

“That’s usually a question I ask.” She kissed my cheek. “I just gave you a sleeping pill.”

Vail’s iPhone vibrated – she quickly texted something back.

“I take it you have to go.”

“I’ll be here again soon, okay? Maybe… I’ll let you know.” She put her hand on my face before walking off and closing the door behind her.

As I lay there on my couch I felt terribly alone. I know I had people in my life, people who cared, but there was still something missing. There was still something missing – I sounded like a Hollywood cliché. I suppose loneliness has always been there with me, standing in the background like some weird looking friend I’ve always been ashamed of. It lingers there like a creep, waiting for me to do something stupid so that I can run back into its arms in tears. I took my sunglasses off, wiped them clean. I then sticky taped these things over my eyes, these plastic shields that I was supposed to wear before I slept. I squinted in the dark. It hurt whenever I’d keep my eyes open for too long, but I hated just sitting there. I stood up and stumbled around, found a cigar Jude once gave me and cut it and lit it and smoked it. I played some music and muttered to myself about the things I thought about in life before falling asleep.

 

 

(For those who are curious, I had two options when signing up for laser eye surgery. The first option I was given was to get Lasik surgery, which involved cutting my eyes to create ‘flaps’ in each cornea, lasering what was underneath the flaps and then repositioning them back together. Since I did boxing once in a while I was advised that there was a rare possibility that someone could hit an eye and dislodge one of the flaps.

That didn’t sound too promising so I opted for PRK laser eye surgery. I chose this option because it didn’t provide the risk of any of my ‘flaps’ being dislodged, and also because the way they described the procedure sounded exciting: they’d remove the outer layer of my eyes completely with alcohol or with a plastic blade before lasering the outer surface; then, I’d have to wait for a period of time before they’d heal completely again.)

 

 



WE’RE ALL SLAVES TO SOMETHING

We're all slaves to something - generationend.com

I know I’ve been writing about women a lot lately but my story with Natasha is a story I just had to finish. You see, Natasha and I met again a few more times: we had dinner once in a while, we went to an event once in a while, we texted once in a while.

“You know what I’ve wanted to do lately?” she asked me as she finished off a meal one evening.

“What?”

“Weed. I’ve never had weed. I’ve never even had a cigarette. I’ve been too tame when it comes to drugs, and I think it’s time I started doing more. I dated my ex-boyfriend for eight years, and we were like, good together and everything, but I’ve been living, like, way too innocently.”

“Weed’s underrated.” I pushed my plate away. “You know what’s better than weed?”

“What?”

“Heroin.”

“Whatever,” she said, giggling. “But now that you mention it, I actually had a cousin who was addicted to heroin. She came over one night with a tourniquet and all of this other stuff. I was twelve years old and I watched her get high. And she just sat there, injecting herself, watching me back.”

“Must have been the highlight of your childhood.”

“It totally was. I took a photo of her doing it with my parents’ camera. Then she killed herself a month later. What’s the worst thing you’ve done when it comes to drugs?”

“What?”

“What’s the worst thing you’ve done when it comes to drugs?”

“Oh you know nothing much,” I shrugged. “Anyway let’s go for a drive.”

We ended up at the casino, where I put twenty bucks on a game of black jack and completely lost.

“The key is to watch what everyone’s doing.” Natasha watched what people were doing and confidently put a chip on someone’s cards. She lost.

After losing a few more times we headed for the bar. We talked to each other for a while until Natasha recognised a couple in the distance and walked up to them. I sat there, watching them talk: the way they spoke, their body language – there was something suspicious about it all. The guy leant into Natasha with a serious expression on his face, nodding once in a while, making an occasional comment while glancing up at me; it was as if Natasha was offering a business proposal that he was very keen on listening to. It was only until later that the couple smiled. But it wasn’t a friendly smile. It was the kind of smile Jude likes to make when we’re out and he’s looking at a girl in the distance, thinking that she’s looking back at him too.

Natasha returned about twenty minutes later. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“I’m drunk now.”

Natasha nodded at the couple in the distance. “See that woman over there?”

“The ugly one?”

“She’s a transvestite.”

“Okay. And?”

“I just wanted to make sure you’re fine with that. I see that couple around here a lot. They’re game to have a foursome with us. You’ve never been with a tranny before right?”

I put my glass of whiskey down. “What the hell are you on about?”

“I said they want to have a foursome with us. I mean, if you’re down with that. I’ve been with them before and they’re clean and they don’t hit you or anything dodgy like that.”

I looked at the couple before looking back at Natasha. I’m a writer. I should experience more things.

Natasha slapped my arm. “Oh my gosh, look at that look on your face! You didn’t think I was serious did you? They’re old high school friends. Far out, Dean. First, you wanted to watch snuff films with me and now this? You want a foursome? I told you I only like you as a friend!”

“I didn’t say shit!”

“But would you consider it?”

“Of course not.”

“Well,” she said, “you better change your mind because they’re coming now.”

Natasha wasn’t kidding. The couple arrived and introduced themselves to me. They seemed friendly enough but they eventually brought up the foursome, and when I’d change the subject they’d bring it up all over again. I was afraid but some part of me was curious to see how far they’d actually go. Plus I wanted to see Natasha naked.

We had one more drink before the guy brought us all upstairs to the room he checked into. It was a plain room: there was a TV and a few chairs and a kettle and a bed. Ever since high school I’ve been in countless situations where I’d think: I thought this only happens in the movies. This was one of those situations.

But then all of a sudden I had an image of myself as a grandfather, telling my grandchildren about my wonderful youth and deliberately censoring out the time I hooked up with a guy, a well-dressed transvestite and a girl I met online – all in one evening.

“Yeah you know what guys, I can’t do this.”

“What?” Natasha looked angry. “You can’t back out now and leave me here.”

“Well, come with me if you want.”

“Don’t fucking back out, Dean,” she said, looking irritated before calming herself and saying: “It’s fine. You’re fine. It’ll be fine. Don’t embarrass me like this.”

“Yeah I don’t think I can do this. Do you want to go?”

“You’re doing this.” She placed her hands on my hips and stood in front of the doorway. “It’s too late, you’re doing this. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it seems. You’ll be fine. Don’t be scared.”

“Listen, I’m going!” I pulled her hands away but she put them back on.

I pushed past her, but she grabbed my arm tightly. “You coward, Dean, you dirty coward! You think you’re so smooth and so high and mighty but you’re lonely and sad and you have no future. You better fucking stay or I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!

I shoved her hard and she fell on her back. She winced. The other couple just stood there, eyeing each other without saying anything.

Natasha slowly stood up and gave me a pained, frightening look. Her face was completely red. Then she said something I didn’t understand: “We’re all slaves to something, Dean.”

“Whatever, psycho. I’m going, and it’s up to you if you want to go with me.” Natasha said nothing. I looked at the couple. “Sorry to lead you on, guys. Feel free to add me on Facebook or something.”

I drove home alone. I wanted to speed home dramatically, but there were way too many red lights. Instead I repeatedly changed the radio station, thinking about my life and thinking about what I should do about the past and what I should do about the future and what I should do about all the mess in between. I remember listening to a seminar by a motivational speaker once who said that no matter what situation we’re in, our world comes down to how we see it. While I waited for a light to turn green I figured that I could see my situation as either one of two things: depressing or funny. So I decided that from then on, it would be depressingly funny.

 



A BAD CASE OF INSIGNIFICANCE

Generation End - the girl named Come Here

I had a thing with a girl once. Her name was Come Here. I met her at a car park, and I met her again at a party and I met her for the last time on her uncle’s kitchen floor. There was nothing wrong with her but there was nothing that right either. Her face curved strangely and she swayed like madness: only a few men loved her, but she fell in love with every man she’d meet. “Why can’t you be a werewolf?” she asked me from the bonnet of my car. “When the moon comes out you can like, tear me apart and eat my tits out.” Every time I’d see her, I’d see her through a window, or a windscreen, or through some sad, rising smoke…

She believed that we were both suffering from a bad case of insignificance. We had no money and we both pretended that we did. Her hair wasn’t wavy or long; it was strange and it had no spirit and she spent hours of her life trying to make it better. But it never did get better. She wore black gloves and would always ask me to strangle her, and when I wasn’t forceful enough, she’d slap me. “Don’t you dare write about me,” she said when I showed her my work for the first and last time. “Don’t you write one of those clichéd stories about me, about how you’re a lowly writer who met some eccentric and mysterious woman who smokes and doesn’t care about life. I don’t smoke and I do care about life and I’m not mysterious at all. Seriously.”

“You know what pisses me off about time?” I asked her. “It only lets us experience it once, yet it lasts forever. I’m not gonna get these seconds back, and I’m spending them with you. You better feel special.” She didn’t say anything. She didn’t get that I was joking. Or maybe she did get my joke but didn’t find it funny. She picked my hand up and ran her finger around its lines; she began to say something, but then changed her mind.

There was one evening, when I was feeling particularly desperate and lonely, where I told her that I sort of loved her. She remained quiet before saying that I hadn’t contacted her in months, and that I should buy flowers before saying such a ridiculous thing. Although I’d never seen her cry before, I had a feeling that she cried quite often. I believe that one day, there will be a beautiful painting of her on some wealthy stranger’s wall.

The last time we met, the buildings outside had multiplied, and the night lights and the day lights and the grasping lights and the screaming lights were rapidly spreading across the horizon like some kind of electric flame; the room was hot and the floor was bumpy, and I gazed at her as she gazed at her uncle’s kitchen ceiling with a strange smile on her face.



ONLINE DATING

Generation End - Online Dating and Steve Carell

I’d always been suspicious of online dating. To me, online dating was one of those things you secretly did when you’ve completely run out of people to try and impress. Sort of like the first school dance you go to, when you go in expecting you can get anyone you want. When you realise you can’t, you start to lower your standards, little by little, until you finally resort to staring creepily at the strange looking kids in the dark shadows of the dance hall…

But I had a friend who loved online dating and he seemed to be doing okay. “Dean,” he kept saying, “you’ve got nothing to lose. Sign up to OkCupid. Online dating is a great thing, man. Write one message and just spam it out to every girl there. A few of them will reply, I guarantee you. I’m having my fourth date next week.”

I signed up to OkCupid. I changed my age, my name and put in a profile photo so vague that people wouldn’t be able to tell if I was male, female or something else completely. I then searched for girls who were the right age and lived in Brisbane and spammed the shit out of them.

A few weeks later I ended up having coffee with Natasha. She was half Korean half Scottish or something and, strangely enough, looked even better than she did in her photos.

“So,” she started. “Tell me about yourself.”

“No.”

“No?” she giggled.

This was what I found out about her: she loves Haruki Murakami, she works for a university, her best friend cross dresses, she likes wearing black, she’s single because her long time ex-boyfriend cheated on her and she has a dog named Sunlight. We walked all over the place until we reached a bench in South Bank and sat down. “You’re really cool, Dean,” she said, “but I’m just looking for good friends right now.”

“Yeah, me too,” I lied.

“Well, to be honest, the guys I’m actually attracted to are guys who look like Steve Carell.”

“Steve Carell? That old guy from The 40 Year Old Virgin and The Office?”

“Yup,” she said. “I like calm looking middle-aged men.”

“Fuck, fair enough.”

“I’m sorry.” She looked over at the distance. “Hey, my car is over there. Want to come to my place?”

“Sure.”

Her car was a battered pink Toyota with an expensive-looking GPS system inside. We sped to her place and ended up in her room. She pointed at a chair. “Sit there.”

“Okay.” I sat down.

We stared at each other for a while, her standing up and me sitting down. Eventually she said: “Have you heard of snuff films before?”

“They’re like, old school pornos right?”

“No, silly,” she laughed. “They’re films made for people who get off on people who have sex and then get murdered, possibly even tortured in between.”

I wondered what the hell she was getting at. “What the hell are you getting at?”

She bit her bottom lip. “Want to watch one together? I downloaded this really nasty one about tribal people and German soldiers the other night. I heard it’s great.”

I have nothing to lose. I’m a writer. I need to experience new things. I glanced at her car keys on her tabletop, then at her door. “Sure.”

“You sure you want to watch it?”

I hesitated, then: “Why not?”

“You sure? Some people in the film get… dismembered… and there’s a lot of screaming.”

“It’ll be tough,” I said. “But I’ll manage. It’s just a movie.”

“My friend told me that it could be real…”

“It can’t be real,” I said.

“It could be.”

“It can’t be,” I assured myself.

She glanced at my crotch, then back up at me. “Would you mind if I… touch myself during it?”

“No, no, that’s all fine.”

“You sure?”

I coughed a little. “Yeah, yeah, I said that’s fine.”

She rushed up to me and slapped my arm. “I can’t believe you’d be fine with that!”

“What? What do you mean?”

“You think I’m some kind of weirdo who’d be into snuff films and play with myself with some fucking stranger?”

“Well I don’t know,” I shrugged. “You look kind of goth.”

“Goth?”

“Yeah, goth.”

“You’re such a dick.”

We stared at each other for a while until she sighed and sat down on the edge of her bed. We ended up watching The 40 Year Old Virgin, drinking a lot of whiskey, talking about poor people, falling asleep in separate rooms.



FLOODS AFTER AUSTRALIA DAY

Generation End: Sea Foam Flood After Australia Day

 

I woke up in an apartment near the city with bad breath and that’s about it.

“Morning,” she said.

I sat up. “Morning.”

“Morning,” he said.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” the other she said, covering herself with a pillow.

“Morning.”

I rubbed my eyes and checked my phone. “Did I sleep talk last night?”

Michelle cooked breakfast, which was cereal and milk. We ate it on the balcony while looking down at the wet everything.

“Tim’s place was completely flooded.”

It was still raining but it was humid. I looked back inside the dark apartment. “I wonder when you guys will get electricity and water back.”

“I heard we won’t see the real damage until Monday.”

Saturday night was like the horror movies. Stairs and no elevators; dark hallways with no lights; an alarm system that wouldn’t turn off; rustling noises in the distance. They spent the whole day pumping water out of the underground parking lot, and every time I’d pass it I’d see a new set of people staring at the scene in awe.

“I reckon meteors are next.”

“Check this.” We huddled around Michelle’s phone, which showed people from Sunshine Coast playing around with sea foam. Apparently, the sea foam was formed from the wildness of the seas. The whole place looked like a giant bubble bath. The sea foam wobbled like jelly with bits and pieces floating into the air. People giggled around it and jumped inside it and took photos. A baby laughed in the background.

 

-

Original image from smh.com.au.



HAPPY NEW YEAR AND AN UPDATE ON MY BOOK OF SHORT STORIES

New Year Fireworks - Generation End

As I stumbled around Jude’s pebbled driveway at the end of the 2012 countdown and as some guy kept playing “Love Will Tear Us Apart Again” from his iPhone 5 I thought this: it feels exactly the same as last year.

2012 ended too quickly. I wasted a shitload of time but still managed to be productive during some of it. I began writing a book of short stories and was even able to type out a few thousand words. For now, I’m naming it Surface Children. I’ve written a handful of stories so far and I’m only happy with two of them. One story is about an angry pregnant girl; another story is about Los Angeles Angie; another story is about Siem Reap; another story is about some guy who steals a girl from some other guy; one story is about Eva, another is about Jude, another is about Vail.

Anyway enough about that. The rest of the party ended without a bang. There was no vomiting girl and there was no crying guy and there was no argument. There were, however, a bunch of people hunched over their iPhones, texting other people or writing on their Facebook walls.

I asked a few friends what their New Year resolutions were. All of them said they didn’t have any, because whenever they set goals for themselves, they never ended up doing them. That had me thinking: what makes up a fulfilled life?

As I headed for my car, I wondered what 2013 had in store for me. Maybe it’ll be a good year. Maybe it’ll be an amazing year. Maybe there’ll be no dramas. Maybe no jobs will be lost. Maybe there’ll be no more recession. Maybe there’ll be nothing to protest about. Maybe there’ll be no more shootings or natural disasters or celebrity deaths or abusive drunk people on the street. Maybe all questions will be answered. Maybe every writer in the world will wake up one day and realise that they have nothing to write about anymore.



WHAT WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS

Evil Santa Claus Generation End

 

“I want three naked girls and a huge bed to use them on,” Jude said with a cigar in his mouth.

Vail rolled her eyes and dealt the next round of cards. “That’s disgusting.”

You’re disgusting,” he snapped.

We were in Victor’s or Samuel’s or Michael’s or Whatever His Name’s house playing poker.

I looked at my cards and then looked at the flop. “For Christmas, I want to win this game tonight. I could really do with the money.”

“You’re always so poor, Dean,” Jude said. “Stop being so fucking poor.”

Wendy, one of the girls there, sighed. “I fold. For Christmas, I want a business class trip to Japan. Actually, a business class trip anywhere would be great. I just want to get away from work.”

Some guy in the kitchen yelled out to us. “Guess what Ross got his girlfriend for Christmas.”

“What?”

“Placemats.”

Vail didn’t get it. “What’s wrong with placemats? She might’ve just really needed placemats.”

“It was a shit present, Vail. She was really upset about it.”

“Anyway,” I faced Vail. “What do you really really want for Christmas?”

“A boyfriend.”

Jude laughed. “Don’t you already have like, four boyfriends right now?”

“Shut up,” she slapped his arm. “I want a man who can take care of me until the day I die. A tall, semi-wealthy guy who has a safe and secure accounting job.”

“This year was a fucked up year,” Jude said. “This life has been a fucked up life. I can’t believe I’ve had sex with you before.”

“First world problems,” I said. “They’re terrible.”

Wendy took a drink of wine. “I’d like, hate to be a Muslim or be one of those African kids right now. Have you like, seen Homeland?”

“I wish everyone celebrated Christmas. It’s just so fun.”

“I can’t stand Christmas. Everything is so fake and our mailbox is always cluttered with junk mail.”

“I don’t care about that. I like the feeling of Christmas. I’d love to be in New York right now, ice skating in that famous ice skating place. What’s it called again?”

“Did you hear about what happened to those school kids?”

“Yeah, oh my gosh, that was like, so sad.”

“I don’t get why people need guns.”

“I don’t get why I keep losing. Fuck!”

“I’m just glad the world didn’t end. I still have an exam to finish.”

“Like, when do you think the world will actually end?”

Other wishes included a JB Hi-Fi gift voucher, a bigger penis, the complete Twilight book set, an iPad Mini, a Rolex, smaller arms, bigger arms, a thousand bucks. Christmas in Brisbane isn’t like Christmas in the movies. It’s hot and humid and people keep complaining about how it’s hot and humid and everyone walks around wearing as little as possible. For Christmas I gave Jude a small bag of marijuana; I gave Vail a DVD of a movie she really wanted to watch again: Mean Girls. The game went on for another hour or so and by some Christmas miracle I won: thirty two dollars in gold coins.

 



THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE COOLER THAN YOU

Stereosonic 2012 Generation End

There’s this family friend of mine who has always been better than me. We’re the same age but he’s taller, better looking, more athletic, more successful. He was always the one who easily found a job; he was always the one with cooler looking friends and even better looking girlfriends. I sort of stopped talking to him when we were twenty, when he moved to Melbourne for a job that offered him ninety thousand dollars a year plus commission. I was sort of relieved to never see him again.

One day he called me. “Hey, bro, I’m back in Brisbane. Let’s catch up.”

I drove to his apartment at Kangaroo Point and it looked exactly as I predicted it would look: it was amazing and modern and it was overlooking the river and it was the largest apartment I’d seen in my life.

“I pay over a thousand dollars a week for this,” he said.

“I hope something bad happens to you one day,” I replied.

We sat down and had a few beers and talked about our lives: he told me about his trip to Bangkok with his friends, he told me about his trip to Mexico with his girlfriend, he told me about his road trip around Germany, he told me about his soccer game, he told me about this new protein powder I should totally buy, he told me about the new Mini he bought. I told him about how I recently lost my job.

“That sucks bro, that sucks.”

He showed me his German sound system and played some Skrillex. He then went to his room and came back out to show me this tiny, baggy singlet he bought from General Pants.

He dangled it in front of me. “I wore this to Stereosonic. Did you go to Stereosonic?”

“I didn’t go to Stereosonic.”

“You missed out.” He showed me his Stereosonic photos on Facebook with his large Mac monitor. They were mainly photos of him with his guy friends with their arms around each other while grinning at the camera. They all had big chests and short shorts and loose singlets and large sunglasses and slightly spiky hair, and once in a while they’d be joined by girls who also had big chests and wore short shorts and loose singlets and large sunglasses. They all had fake tans.

He made me have a drink of his protein shake before we headed out to the Bowery, where he bought us both some whiskey.

“You know the protein I use in my protein shakes?” He asked me while texting someone else.

“Yeah?”

“It’s only ninety bucks for a large sack of it. I like it because it has no flavour. You want some?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess so.”

“Alright, I’ll buy you some. Look at your arms. They need more muscle. And as I told you, you need to start eating better snacks. Have more almonds and tuna.”

We then bought some wine and then some beer and then some more wine. I kept ordering drinks for him; I wanted him to become as drunk as he’d ever been.

“What did you want to be when you were a kid?” I asked him.

“Married,” he said.

“I wanted to be Spiderman,” I said.

“You know, in Melbourne, when I first started working there, I used to go clubbing all the time. My manager was an absolute druggo. We’d go out every second evening and snort or take pills and just have these fucking intense nights and rock up to work the next morning, completely knackered. I had all this money, and I was spending it like no tomorrow but to be honest, it was the best money I’d spent in my life. It was the first time I spent money without actually feeling guilty about it, it was like I was actually using money for what it was originally meant for, which was like, to have fun.

“Anyway one night, we were pretty high and one of my manager’s friends was in this complete Spiderman costume. Mask and everything. Like, he never removed the costume. He just wore it the entire night, and no one seemed to care except me.”

I kept looking at my friend, thinking that he’d continue the story. But he didn’t. “Then what the hell happened?”

“I’m over all of that,” he said, completely ignoring my question. “Sometimes I can’t believe it.” He smiled contently. “Here I am in Brisbane, having an easy night out with an old friend and drinking whiskey.”

“You’re drinking wine now.”

“Here I am, drinking wine.”

Soon after, a girl approached him. She smiled and said something into his ear and he smiled and said something back. She slapped his arm playfully and continued to speak into his ear. Placing her hand on his shoulder, she pointed towards some girls in the distance, and he nodded, and she hurried off.

My friend turned to me. “Some girls are joining us soon.”

“Who are they?”

He shrugged.

“I’ve lived my entire life thinking that it was the guy who had to approach the girl.”

“Really?” was all he said.

They arrived. The girl who approached him was incredibly attractive. She looked so attractive that her other friends, who I may have called pretty in any other occasion, looked like glum little shadows. Did I also look like a glum little shadow?

The night escalated into laughter and terrible dancing and wild drinking (I made sure that my friend was having twice more than I was). We moved from the Bowery to Ric’s to Cloudland to somewhere else, to somewhere else, and then to somewhere else. I couldn’t believe it – my friend was a machine. He had so much alcohol yet looked like he was in complete control. The women stood around him, swirling around him like a tornado of vultures, ready to have their turn. I looked at him with my drunken shame and drunken envy and drunken intensity: I needed to vomit, but before I did I had to embarrass him somehow. Things had been too easy for him. I had to be a good friend and humble him that one tiny bit.

“This is for your own good, you fucker!” I rushed up to him and pulled his pants down, underwear and all.

Everyone gasped, especially me. We all looked at it in fear and awe and everything else; we were hypnotised: the bastard had the largest penis anyone had ever seen.



WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’VE LOST YOUR JOB

Floating and time travelling - Generation End

I’d lost the girl and I’d lost the job. What was next?

I started the next morning with a throbbing head; I drank four glasses of water, brushed my teeth, changed my shirt and drove across the universe to reach a McDonald’s. I ordered a McChicken and sat in a quiet spot with nobody around and texted people, asking them how their days were and not mentioning that I would soon have no money again.

My goals were much simpler when I was a kid: watch TV, eat some food, sleep. Because I got decent grades in primary school I somehow believed that life would become easy because of it. I’d go to university and graduate with stellar grades, become a doctor, get into an orgy or two, get married, earn millions. But somewhere along the way I fucked up.

I drove aimlessly around Brisbane for a few more hours until I arrived at The End (it’s not just me being a clever writer – the bar is actually called The End). Vail was there in her tight top and loose skirt, and she smiled when she saw me. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while but I told her everything that had happened and after it all she said, “Honey, that’s shit.”

“I live in a world where I’m not good enough.”

“Everyone lives in a world where they’re not good enough.”

“I guess I should send out more manuscripts again,” I said. “Try and actually get published.”

“Have you ever travelled through time?” Vail asked me.

“Have you had a lot of alcohol?” I asked her back.

“I’m serious,” she said.

“No, I can’t say I have. I haven’t travelled through time.”

“You have, Dean. You’re always travelling through time. You travelled through time as you drove here and you’re probably doing it now.” She leant forward and put her hands on mine. I flinched slightly, but let her hands stay there. Her hands were as smooth as I remembered but her nail polish looked a little battered. “All you have to do is think of the past and you’re there. Just think about the future and you’re there. Do you get it?”

“That’s not time travelling,” I said. “That’s just me thinking, it’s my imagination.”

“Isn’t life just a bunch of our thoughts and opinions? You are what you think you are. I am what you think I am, and I’m what the bartender chick sees I am, and I’m what I think I am. If you think about going back to ten years ago, then you actually are going back to ten years ago.”

“That’s interesting and slightly stupid, kid,” I said, “but what’s the moral of the story?”

Vail drank a cocktail and I drank whiskey. She was a good friend who I once loved, a friend who I travelled with, a friend who I once kissed against a wall of someone’s home, a friend whose panties I once tore off from right under her skirt (I had to pay her back). Her phone buzzed and she smiled as she read the message, and as she texted that person back I looked around the bar, then I looked outside the bar, then I floated about fifteen metres high and travelled through time and arrived at a year where people were generally happy. They had nice hair and nice teeth and great job benefits and a great outlook on life. They all woke up early in the morning to go jogging and stay fit; they wore silver jumpsuits with emblems of peace; they had no hair and outside the walls of their cities were burly dark-skinned giants who all also had nice hair and nice teeth and also had great outlooks on life. I was no longer in my twenties – I was about a hundred years old and my mind had settled. I breathed slowly, contently, and I sighed my last sigh of relief as the sun sort of rose a little too early behind no clouds in the distance.



BAD NEWS AFTER THE MELBOURNE CUP

Looking up and hoping from a deep dark hole

In the morning my manager called me into the boardroom. I was about to tell him some joke about the other day when I noticed that the company’s legal advisor was sitting there with him, looking at me with a strange sombre expression on his face.

“Listen,” my manager said. “You’ve been really valuable to us these past few months, and it’s been a very painful decision for all of us, but we have to let you go.”

“What?”

“This, of course, is by no means a measure of your performance.”

That’s strange, I thought to myself. I’m late for work every day.

They then told me about how the company is undergoing a restructuring and about how every industry is suffering at the moment. Because of that, my role in the company has been made redundant.

“We just let go of Blake.”

“Senior Designer Blake?”

“He wasn’t very happy when I told him the news over the phone, especially when his wife is no longer working,” my manager said. Blake had been working there for about eight years and was home sick that day. “He didn’t take it very well.”

“This doesn’t seem right.”

“It was a pleasure working with you, Dean.” My manager shook my hand and rushed out of the boardroom.

“Is this really happening?” The legal guy showed me a piece of paper detailing how much money they were going to give me. He shook my hand and told me to call him if I had any issues with what was presented, because I probably wasn’t in the right mind to concentrate properly. He then followed me to my desk where he stood behind me, making sure that I packed up and left as quickly as possible.

“Can I at least email a goodbye to the rest of the team?”

“We’ve completely blocked your email account so you can’t do anything.”

I walked to my car in silence. How could something like that end so quickly? This kind of thing was always in the news, but it was never really real until it happened to me. And then I thought: how did it come to this? How did I let myself depend on a job? All of a sudden I missed her and hoped that she’d never find out. I placed my lonely box of things in the boot, cried, then headed to the gym. I worked out for three hours straight while thinking about what to cook for dinner.



ZOMBIES IN ADELAIDE

Zombies in Adelaide - Generation End

When I was a kid I knew this guy who’d eat his eyelashes. He loved to show off about it too. He’d pluck them out in front of everyone and suck them straight out of his fingers. He was this skinny guy, lanky with long hair. He was strange and nobody really liked him. I wonder what happened to him. Maybe he became a writer.

Anyway I went to Adelaide for two days with Jude, who was there for work.

“Do you want to go anywhere that’s not in the casino?” I asked him.

Jude ignored me. He was playing poker and he’d won about fifteen thousand dollars. I headed out of the casino and walked around the city: it was quiet, it was cooler than Brisbane and there were pubs all over the place. I found an antiquarian bookstore filled with some pretty interesting books – I was impressed. I walked around some more until I found a park with a river running through it.

This guy in a suit walked up to me and asked, “Do you think turtles go to heaven?”

“No,” I said.

I kept walking along the water, past a university of some sort, past the zoo, past a lot of things until I saw a cat sitting by itself and I became sad and tired.

It was evening by the time I decided to return to the casino, and on my way back I found a bunch of people dressed like zombies. They limped along the footpaths and grunted, politely walking where uniformed police officers directed them to go. There were hundreds of them.

“AHHHH!” one of them screamed at me. “FUCKIN’ BRAINS.”

I watched them for a while before eventually returning to the casino. Jude was drinking by the bar. He looked glum. “I’m down to two thousand dollars profit.”

We sat around for a while, drinking (Jude had whiskey and I had Coke) and talking about life. There was a “Carousel of Dreams” carnival theme going on that night, and in one section of the casino was a palm reader who read people’s palms for free. She was a hearty looking lady with wild hair and lots of big rings. She took my hand and ran a finger along its lines.

“You have no money,” she said. She then ran her fingers along my hand some more. “You have a deep imagination. You keep a lot to yourself, and you seem to enjoy keeping it all bottled up inside. Problem is, your imagination is like this constant internal explosion, and if you don’t find some outlet to get your thoughts out and into the world, you’ll pop like a balloon.

“Maybe you think no one will understand you?” She looked at me, smiled, and kept going. “This imagination of yours has been leading you down a dark path, and it seems as though at some point in your life you’ve decided not to continue down that path. But your decision doesn’t seem wholehearted, and – see this line here? It’s not very deep. My advice is to find an outlet and to not let whatever is inside you steer you into a place that’s not good for anyone.”

Jude and I laughed at that and returned to the bar and continued drinking. We befriended this stranger named Jefferson. He looked like he was in his forties. He told us about this time when he was sixteen, when he got this girl pregnant. He tried to force her to get an abortion, but she refused. So he punched her stomach, repeatedly, hoping that it would do something. The baby still came, and, afraid of both their parents, they drove to Sydney with tattoos of rings on their fingers and began a secret life, a secret world. He grew to love her and he grew to love the baby. They were happy for a while, but they both knew that there was something wrong with him. Eventually, his girlfriend left him. He told us he’d never cried so hard, but he understood, and he let her keep the baby and everything they had. He was lost for years, but he eventually married the love of his life.

“So what’s the moral of the story?” Jude asked.

“There’s no moral,” he said. “It’s just my story. It’s just what happened.”

We kept drinking, we kept talking about life.



IF YOU’RE SINGLE AND YOU KNOW IT CLAP YOUR HANDS

When youre single and you know it clap your hands

In the end there are good things about being single and there are shitty things about being single. When I’m single I have more freedom but less goodnight kisses; when I’m with someone I’m happier more often, but I’m always cautious, always fearful of a looming pain or a stupid mistake.

Anyway after the breakup and the receptionist I was well and truly single. If I wasn’t at the gym, all I did after work was go home and cook some egg whites and drink some water and watch a documentary on YouTube. That’s all I did, that’s all I really wanted to do. I stopped working on my book of short stories. I stopped remembering the promise I made to myself and Jude at the start of this year. I stopped remembering a lot of things, and for some reason it was all okay.

After a few weeks a friend of a friend messaged me that she was in the library and that she was bored. “Come over,” I said.

She came over with two bottles of Vodka and I took her to the backyard. We sat cross legged on a table, poured two shot glasses, and, for the first time in a million years, I drank something that wasn’t a glass of water or a protein shake.

“How’s your boyfriend?” I asked Kate.

“I don’t know,” she said. She then told me some long story about him that I didn’t listen to. I took two more shots.

“How’re your books? How’s your writing? Dean?” She bent forward and looked at me quizzically. “You look totally different from when I first met you.”

“I really don’t know,” I said.

“You don’t know what?”

I shrugged. We drank some more.

“I read your blog. All you troubles – they’re always about some girl. Maybe you should start writing about something with more depth. Like Syria or something.”

We both laughed at that. Loudly. I don’t know why. I looked at her, cross legged, her cheeks slightly pink. “So,” I said, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be rich,” she said immediately.

“And how the hell are you going to do that?”

“I’m going to own a business,” she smiled. “Or I’ll invest in stocks or something. Or I’ll fuck a bunch of rich dudes.”

“I used to have a few shares.”I looked at one of the bottles of Vodka. It was empty. “Now they’re somewhere lost in space.”

“I want to drink more.” I found a bottle of cheap wine from my room and we took turns taking drinks from it.

“Take your top off,” I told her. She said no. She asked me if I’d ever pee in her mouth and, tears in my eyes, I yelled, “Not now! Not now!”

We drank more and more. I thought, Should I really write about Syria? We kissed quickly before she vomited all over the ground. I gave her a glass of water, watched her vomit more. Her vomiting didn’t seem to end so I dragged her inside, repeatedly saying “Aren’t you glad I didn’t pee?” while she puked all over the place. Eventually she stopped. I placed her on my couch. I put a glass of water next to her, watched her a little longer, and went to bed.



LETTER FROM THE RECEPTIONIST TO SAY GOODBYE

Letter from the receptionist to say goodbye

I know I’ve never written to you before. You know I’m not a writer. I could be a lot of things (and you would’ve realised that firsthand, hehe) but I’m definitely not a writer.

How are you? How have you been? I know I asked you this the last time I saw you but no one ever says how they truly are. Actually, if you think about it, does anyone really know how they are? They may say certain things and they may feel certain things, but I think our minds and our hearts are in denial all the time, and whatever words come out of our mouths are merely strange afterthoughts of the truth. But anyway, I guess if someone were to ask me, “How are you?” my response would always be different depending on the day. Sometimes I’ll say I’m miserable, sometimes I’ll say I’m happy. Or maybe I’ll say I’m stupid. Or I’ll be lazy and just say I’m fine, thanks!

Remember when I used to always want a baby? I made sure that every time we’d be together and every time we’d talk on the phone, I’d talk about how much I wanted a kid and how beautiful they are in hope that eventually you’d tell me, “Fuck it, let’s get married and screw and screw and have ten billion kids.” Hahaha. I think it was partly to do with my friend’s daughter. She was the cutest thing in the world and I was jealous. I pictured us in a family together. You’d be doing something crazy to make money and I’d just be nodding and taking care of the ten billion babies.

I’ve changed a lot since our breakup. I no longer talk about kids. Maybe, one day, in the deep future, I’d consider it. But right now I have other things to think about, things that I desperately wish I could tell you, but I know with our situation we both simply have to let go. I can’t keep relying on you to tell me to be strong.

I have to tell you something, Dean. I’m not just in a relationship. I’m engaged now. I know it’s been fast. But it’s something that had to happen. And I know after we met that day I told you I missed you and that I wanted to see you again, and after telling you all of that I ignored all your calls and messages. I can’t do it. I’m sorry I’ve treated you this way but I can’t see you anymore, and my fiancé wouldn’t want us to call or speak to each other anymore either. I’d appreciate it if you respect this decision. Thanks, Dean.

It know it’s cruel and I’m sorry. I still remember the first time I met you at work: Kim and I looked at your ass as you walked away. For some reason I thought you were married. Remember when you cried to me over the phone? Or how about our first conversation, remember that? Remember how I told u I believe in spirits and ghosts? I still do and I always will. When I’m at my desk at work I’d sometimes feel a breath behind me, and since I do night shift now sometimes I’d hear strange things, like papers being shoved around and someone knocking on the toilet door. When I look at a mirror, I know something is behind me, looking over my shoulder and looking straight into my eyes. And I smile. Spirits can’t just not exist. We deny them, but I know they’re around and they’re either watching us or ignoring us. I believe spirits had something to do with our love. They moulded us together but realised it was bullshit, or they became bored, or they had a quarrel about our fate or they fell into some trouble and hid in the deep dark parts of the world. Part of you is still inside my heart, but it’s a love that no longer has anything to do with romance. The spirits took that part away and left something less significant… but much more important. Do you know what I mean? You don’t, do you?

I don’t know if I’ll bump into you again, Dean, but I know you’ll make things work out for the better.

PS. I sent you a drawing.



CIGARETTES AND CHOCOLATE DICK

Cigarettes and chocolate dick - Generation End

I woke up one day and realised that things were terrible. I walked to the kitchen, smoked and called in sick. I ate an apple before heading to my car and driving off to Nowhere. I’d never driven around in the nine o’clock morning before; not in that way, anyway. Things were so bright and damp and the people in their cars, although still slightly in a morning daze, looked different from the zombies I’d see driving home at midnight, or at two in the morning, or at four in the morning.

Eventually I drove to where the receptionist worked.

“Dean?”

“Receptionist.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m outside your work.”

“You’re lying.”

“Shut up.”

She came out and it was great to see her. She was wearing some kind of blue dress and she had a purple scarf around her neck. She’d gained weight, but she still looked good. We walked to a café nearby and I watched her eat lunch and she asked me about life and I asked her about hers. I mentioned a girl who no longer loved me; she mentioned a guy she loved from the bottom of her heart.

“You’re wearing a polo shirt,” she said, killing a cigarette into an ashtray. “You look like a wanker.”

“Speaking of wanking, remember when…”

We started talking dirty. It was loud and it was disgusting but we didn’t care. Cunts and cocks came out as easily as pots and pans. We hissed about erupting chocolate penises and giant vagina lakes. I couldn’t explain it but every dirty word imaginable just puked out of our pores and into the public: I’d never been so happy.

I paid the bill and we walked back to her office building and we hugged awkwardly. She showed me a photo of her new man. She told me that she wished she never left me, but then didn’t say what she was going to do about it. We said goodbye. I went to the gym, ran on the treadmill and watched the wall in front of me move up and down for twenty minutes.



THE END OF A RELATIONSHIP AND THE BEGINNING OF NOTHING

She left me and I didn’t know what to do. After it happened I bought a meat pie, sat down, stared at a wall. I walked back home and searched for a book I could relate to but found nothing. I thought about drinking myself to freedom, but I had no money and wasn’t in the mood.

“Why does this always happen?” I cried to Vail over the phone.

There was a meat company looking for a copywriter and I called them and the guy on the other end of the line asked me what the hell I wanted and I told him that I wanted a bloody job. The guy asked me a bunch of questions and I lied a number of times, and after even more interviews and even more lies I had a job writing marketing material for a meat company. They paid me early, so I used what I made to pay Jude back for everything he’d given me. I sold all the shares I’d bought while with her and paid back half of my credit card. I signed up to the gym. During my lunch break I’d work on my book of short stories, and in the evening I’d run on the treadmill or learn boxing until I felt like passing out. There was some part of me telling me to relax, to drink, to go on a holiday, to focus purely on my writing, to find more women, to masturbate until my penis exploded, but I ignored it. In my car I’d put my speakers on full volume. I didn’t answer my phone and at night time, when I’d finally get home, I’d lie on my bed and try to read a book and after not being able to concentrate I’d stare at the ceiling until I’d fall asleep and wake up again at six to go to work and laugh at my manager’s jokes and make more money.

 



A CAR IN MARS WHILE ANGUS STONE SINGS JONI MITCHELL

The days with Candy became cold mornings and sunny afternoons and lots of wine and a fight once in a while, an agreement once in a while. We planned to watch the Mars landing together so I drove to the building where she worked, and as I entered her office she immediately showed me everything: the thesis she wrote for her Ph.D., the textbook she was writing, a portrait of her drawn by a man who once loved her, a large tray of biscuits, boxes of spare clothes, an ab workout machine.

She took my hand and showed me her work computer. “This is where I use Facebook.”

“Your life looks fun.” I flicked through her iTunes as we waited for the Mars landing to load on her browser. “The Twilight Soundtrack. The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Soundtrack. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 Soundtrack.” I looked up at her. “Are you a fan of Twilight, by any chance?”

Candy laughed. “Now what’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, except that I can’t respect you anymore.”

She placed her hand on mine and moved the mouse to Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine. “I love this song,” she said. “It’s so romantic. Let’s make this our song.”

We listened to it for a while, saying nothing. “I don’t understand the lyrics.”

“It’s not always about the words. Life can be about other things too, like tune,” she said. “How about this one? You know Angus Stone, right? He did a cover of this Joni Mitchell song.”

Joni Mitchell?”

“Yes, Dean, Joni Mitchell.” She double-clicked on a new song called River.

“Angus always sounds so sad,” I said.

“Your writing always sounds so sad.”

The music played in the background as the video of the Mars landing finally loaded on screen. Candy sat next to me as we watched a room full of people in blue shirts waiting tensely as some guy stated the progress of the landing. Each of his reports beamed good news: a woman nodded, some people smiled, a guy who looked like an overweight Matthew McConaughey pointed at a computer excitedly, a bald guy hissed YES! YES! Eventually, the commentator yelled TOUCH DOWN and everyone cheered. Everyone stood up excitedly, ready for an orgy.

Candy smiled. “Can you believe that Curiosity travelled over five hundred kilometres to get to Mars? Can you believe that we can create technology that could reach that far?”

“No,” I said.

“Well, they did. They did it. And here we are, watching it all unfold.”

“Are there no other planets that are closer to us?”

“I guess not,” she said.

She unrolled a small mattress on the ground and we lay on it, staring at the ceiling, saying nothing for a while. I stood up, took my jacket off and placed it over the both of us. She patted my leg. “How many girlfriends have you had?”

“Official girlfriends?”

“Official and unofficial.”

I thought about blurting out a random number but changed my mind. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You keep saying things don’t matter,” she said. “Your past matters a lot to me.”

“Why? Why does it matter what I’ve done in the past? Our past decisions don’t always reflect who we are.”

She picked my hand up and inspected it. “They do, Dean. You’re just too young to realise it.”

“Here we go again with your youth bullshit.”

“I just,” she started, “I just haven’t lived the kind of life you… I want a simple life, Dean. A house. A guy who can support me when times are tough. A Mercedes-Benz.”

“I’m not even going to comment on that.”

“There was this guy at the dinner last night. He sat at my table,” she said. “He emailed me today. He’s a director from Price Waterhouse. He’s going to lecture here, too, and wants to meet for lunch and get some advice.”

“Okay,” I said.

“I don’t know if I should meet him.”

“Why not?”

She thought about something before shrugging. We both kept looking up at the ceiling.

 



THE THINGS GUYS DO FOR GIRLS WITH GREAT LEGS

I’d completely changed after a few months with Candy. My black shirts had been replaced with white and light blue polo shirts. My shaggy hair had become clean cut. My once exploding bookshelf now had a neat pile of books she insisted I read: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, One up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch.

I was a different person. I slouched a lot less and consumed a lot less and pretended I was a much more positive, outgoing person. We’d have expensive dinners with her expensive friends with expensive diamond rings, and I’d tilt my head back and pretend to laugh at their expensive jokes. Do you know how we don’t act like ourselves on the first date? I was exactly like that, except on overdrive – every single day. I was constantly correcting myself, I was constantly self aware; I spoke to her as if I wasn’t in complete strange infatuation and in complete strange lust with everything she did, I spoke to her as if I wasn’t afraid that if I changed even slightly, her beauty, her intelligence, her personality, her wild hands and her wild lips and her wild legs – it’d all shit itself away and I’d be left grasping in a familiar darkness for an idea of what we once were.

How much would you change for someone you’re infatuated with? How much would you spend on someone you want to repeatedly sleep with? How much would you hide?

But there were great moments. She’d teach me how to cook a dish like beef stew or salmon linguini or something with chicken in it and after we’d eat it all we’d sit at some place and just drink wine and have something on in the stereo in the background and talk about things and laugh about things that didn’t matter too much.

“You’re young.” She held my cheek. “I don’t know, you’re too young. Am I wrong?”

“You’re a damn paedophile.”

She giggled. “I have a list,” she said. “A list of everything I need for the man I want to marry.”

“You’re looking to get married?”

“I’m twenty nine in a few months, Dean. My vagina’s far exceeded its peak.”

“So?”

“You don’t understand,” she said. “I’m looking to settle–”

“I’m all you need, trust me.”

She slapped my arm. “That’s the corniest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“Can’t you just be happy with the way things are?”

“Your room,” she shrugged, looking around. “It’s so messy.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“It’s got to do with a lot in my life. You don’t get it.”

I leant in close to her. “I’m crazy about you.” I exhaled. “It’s screwed up.”

She sighed and lowered her head. “I’m crazy about you too.”

There she was, Candy. Candy who liked buying things from group buying websites. Candy who had a Ph.D. in her office. Candy who watched the stock market. Candy who hated the students she taught, Candy with her mature thoughts and her classy hair, Candy who stood confident and neat on a pedestal I made out of matchsticks. It was dark then and her lips smelt like wine. In the deep distance my ashtray was as empty as the street outside. I fell asleep and dreamt of nothing, and it was six in the morning when she woke me up and told me that she had to drive to work.



UNCLE BILLY’S FUNERAL

The funeral on Friday was for Uncle Billy. I was never that close to him, but I knew this: he smoked a lot and joked a lot and got into a lot of fights. When we were kids he used to tell us about all the nonsense he’d get up to when he used to work at the sea. Once, he told my then twelve-year-old brother about this time when he slept with an African woman for the first time; he told him about her thick pubic hairs, about how they were so much thicker than the other women he’d slept with.

The last time I saw him alive was in an aged care home. He couldn’t speak or walk properly; the strength he once had had gone. He threatened to punch his sister before falling asleep.

We watched them bury Uncle Billy at Mount Gravatt Cemetery, where he was placed between several other buried bodies. He was in a suit and his hands were cold and his eyes were closed and I had a feeling that he was still alive and thinking about something. His wife placed a sports jacket on his chest before they lowered him. People took photos. People cried. People fidgeted around, making sure they weren’t stepping on anyone else’s grave. I looked around: right next to us was a small mound of dirt. On that mound were a few flowers, a letter, a bottle of beer.

Everyone then gathered around for drinks and scones. I ate about four. There were people from everywhere, people I hadn’t seen in a decade. People joked around, people asked other people about where their families are now, people embraced. In the corner was Uncle Billy’s sister, wiping her eyes while people would take turns placing their arms around her shoulders and telling her things about life they seemed to know everything about.

I walked outside and looked at the view. The place was grassy, hilly; the air was fresh, the view was beautiful. I then went back inside and planned where to have dinner with my friends.

 



CRAZY RACHEL AND HER CRAZY TITS

Thanks to my good friend Karen for this watercolour. Click here view her deviantART page.

 

Until this year, I never really pictured myself as some kid’s dad. How the hell was I supposed to take care of someone when I couldn’t even take care of myself?

Rachel called me at regular intervals, telling me that I’d cursed her with some baby and some disease. I’d sit there, listening her to cry and tell me how her life was over and how much of an irresponsible dick I was. “DON’T DENY ANY OF THIS, DEAN. YOU’RE TAKING FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY PREGNANCY WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.”

Then she asked me for money, and then more money, and then more money. In the end I stopped answering her calls.

Everything went well for about a week until I made the mistake of reading one of her messages. It said this: I’M KILLING MYSELF AND I’M KILLING THE BABY.

I sped to her place and rushed inside to find a group of thirty-something-year-olds watching Avatar on Blu-ray. They all looked up at me with suspicious looks on their faces.

“She’s in her room,” one of them said to me.

“Good luck, mate,” someone else said.

I nodded at the thirty-somethings before opening the door. Rachel was in there, sitting on her table with an angry expression on her face, texting someone. There were a few opened bottles of wine next to her bed. She was wearing jeans and she was completely topless. I’d forgotten how big her breasts were.

She put her phone down and looked up at me. “Hi, Dean.”

“Where the hell’s your top? Are you high?”

“Where’s my money? You promised you’d send me money.”

“I didn’t promise you shit,” I said. “And I thought you were killing yourself. All you’re doing is texting and being topless.”

She picked something up and threw it at me. “You did this to me! You gave me this baby! You have to fucking take responsibility.”

“I did this to you?” I couldn’t believe her. “From what I recall, we both had sex with each other!”

She cried. “YOU’RE A DICK! I HAVE HERPES AND YOU DON’T FUCKING CARE!”

“AND I DON’T HAVE HERPES AND I BARELY KNOW YOU!”

“I WISH I’D NEVER MET YOU!”

“AND I WISH I’D NEVER MET YOU!

“You piece of shit, you better not get cheap on me and not pay for this!” She kept crying. I was about to give in and comfort her until I realised something: the only things that looked big on her upper body were her breasts. Her stomach was almost flat.

“You’re not pregnant!”

For a moment, her wailing stopped. “So what if I’m not?”

“SO WHAT? YOU TOLD ME YOU WERE!”

She cried harder and threw even more things at me. I swore and threw a few things back at her. Things were breaking all over the place.

A lady walked in. “What’s going on in here?”

I pointed at Rachel. “She’s not pregnant!”

The lady laughed and walked back out.

“You owe me a thousand bucks, Rachel.”

“No I don’t. Don’t you see I’m the victim here?”

“Fuck you,” I said, and left it at that. I looked at Rachel for what I hoped would be my last time and walked out of her room, then out of her house. Nobody followed me.

On the drive home I thought: this actually isn’t the worst situation I’d ever been in.



DEER IN BRISBANE CITY

It was the weekend and it was the evening and Candy and I were in a restaurant in Eagle Street Pier called Jellyfish. It was a seafood restaurant by the Brisbane River and it was one of those restaurants that people like me never really deserve to be in: I didn’t look as old as most of the patrons and I certainly couldn’t afford it. It was a miracle for me to be there, but it was all worth it – Candy dressed up for the evening and she looked good. Mesmerising, even; I don’t think I’d ever been as attracted to anyone as I had been with her. What did I do? Why was she in my life? Jude told me to never compliment a good looking girl on her looks, so I didn’t. I kept quiet and let the world continue without giving it a hint of what I was thinking.

“I like it when you wear button up clothes,” she said. “I don’t like it when you wear your shirts.”

“And why the hell is that?”

“They make you look young. I don’t want you to look young.” She pulled out her camera. “Here. I’ll take a photo of you. You can use it for your writer photos. Turn to your side. You have a great side profile.”

We then talked about other things in life. She told me about a friend of hers that was wealthy, and about another friend of hers that was wealthy, and about another friend of hers that was wealthy. She seemed to have a lot of wealthy friends.

We left the restaurant and walked along the Brisbane River before heading back to my car and driving off.

Candy asked: “What’s on your mind, Dean? You seem distracted.”

Well, I wanted to say, there’s this girl who I met in Melbourne who says I’m the father of her child. But I said nothing.

By the road we saw a deer. I slowed my car down and we both looked at it. Candy giggled, leant out of her window and took a photo. The deer was big and it took its time crossing the road. We then drove further in silence, only to find two more of them. I stopped the car completely this time, and Candy and I stepped out and watched them – they didn’t watch us back. Another car on the other side of the road also stopped, and the passengers leant out of their windows and stared at the creatures as intently as Candy and I did. We sat back in my car and I put my hand on Candy’s cheek and kissed her for the first time.



WHO ELSE DID RACHEL SLEEP WITH?

 

I was being accused of two very horrifying things. Before I could completely deny the second thing, I had to somehow find a way to talk myself the hell out of the first.

Me: I didn’t make you pregnant. Listen, shut up, listen: I didn’t make you pregnant.

Rachel:  (Doesn’t seem convinced. She keeps crying.)

Me: Did you sleep with anyone besides me?

Rachel: When?

Me: In Melbourne. And any time after that leading up to now.

Rachel: Well, there was the Swedish guy.

Me: The Swedish guy?

Rachel: The Swedish guy. I met him one night. He had a really hot scarf. But we used protection. And we were sort of friends from years back. But he was the only other guy.

Me: Are you sure?

Rachel: Well, I really didn’t want to tell you this, but there was Jude.

Me: Jude? When the hell was that?

Rachel: I don’t remember. But it was also in Melbourne. I’m sorry.

Me: Don’t be. I guess. But Jude? Seriously?

Rachel: We were drunk.

Me: That’s the most unique excuse I’ve ever heard anyone say.

Rachel: It’s not an excuse, Dean. Also, come to think of it, when I went to Sydney, there was also someone else.

Me: Who?

Rachel: My ex.

Me: That’s like, three other guys.

Rachel: There was also one more. My friend’s ex. But please don’t tell anyone else that.

Me: That’s like, four other guys.

Rachel: Well, he pulled out halfway. So can you really call that sex?

Me: It depends on whose choice it was to pull out halfway: was it yours or his?

Rachel: I think it was, like, his.

Me: Are you sure?

Rachel: Not really.

Me: I’m counting him as a suspect.

Rachel: But it’s you. I know it’s you. You got me pregnant.

Me: It’s not me. You don’t have proof.

Rachel: You don’t have proof that it isn’t you either.

Me: You can’t just go around telling guys that they got you pregnant.

Rachel: Yes I can because I’m sure it’s you.

Me: How many months are you?

Rachel: About three to four.

Me: It can’t be me. This is too much. I don’t even know you. Look at you, you’re not even fat!

Rachel: You think it’s too much for you? How about me? You think it’s nothing for me? Fuck you.

We kept talking for a while and she kept crying. I told her that I took a blood test recently and that I was clean. She kept crying anyway (“I have herpes, Dean. It’s with me for the rest of my life!”). She took my number down and left and I walked to the hotel restroom. It was a fancy restroom, a well maintained restroom. What kind of dad would I be? What kind of kid would the kid be? Do children of herpes mothers also have herpes? And do their kids then have herpes? I walked into a cubicle and sat down on the seat. Herpes. I looked at my penis several times over before calling Candy. She told me about her day, about how she hated giving lectures and about how she hated her students. I smiled. I told her something vague about the wedding, something about the food. I told her that I missed her, hung up, walked out of the cubicle and washed my hands. I fixed my suit in front of the mirror before heading back out to find more alcohol.



FOREIGNERS IN A CHINESE WEDDING BANQUET

Jude and I were invited to a friend’s Chinese wedding and the first thing I made was a mistake: I didn’t bring any money to give to the new couple. I didn’t even bring an impressive gift. I brought a box of two small wooden dolls I’d made for Eva once that I’d never ended up giving, two little dolls holding each other’s hands. In each other’s pockets were two short stories that you needed to squint to read.

“You idiot, you’re also supposed to bring money to help cover the expenses. I brought three hundred bucks.”

“Well I don’t have three hundred bucks,” I said.

Jude sighed and pulled a hundred out of his present and gave it to me. “Put this shit inside my spare red envelope thing.” He pulled out a scrunched envelope from his pocket. It was thin and red and there were golden characters written all over it. I did what he said. I was drunk.

The party was grand. It was in a large ballroom in a large hotel and there were about two hundred, very well dressed attendees. Food kept coming, glorious food, food prepared in ways I’d never imagined. As we ate, various photos of the couple were projected onto one of the walls. They weren’t just normal photos, either. They were professional, dramaticised photos of the couple taken all over the place: there was one of them leaping for joy in a park, there was a photo taken of them staring into each other’s eyes in front of a waterfall, there was a photo of the groom romantically carrying our friend while standing out of a bed of sunflowers, there was a photo of our friend happily being piggybacked across King George Square. A large, expensive-looking book of all these photos was also available for everyone to look at in front of the ballroom. And then the groom sang a song, and then there were games, and then everyone had to toast the new couple: everyone raised their wine glasses towards them and yelled “AHHH” nonstop for what felt like five minutes. Everything was hazy, so I drank even more.

It was a good evening until I bumped into the half-Hungarian something girl I met from Melbourne (blog post here).  She sort of smiled. “I’m so glad I bumped into you again. This must be a sign.” We talked and joked around for a while until she grabbed my arm and brought me somewhere.

“Remember in Melbourne when we, you know, you know?”

I laughed. “No I don’t know.”

“You do, you wanker. When I asked you if you had a… condom… and you said you didn’t, and we still…”

In that instant I suddenly stopped being drunk. “Why? Hang on, what’s your name again?”

“I’m Rachel, and you better remember it because,” she looked left and right before hissing: “I’m pregnant.”

“Just wait.” I looked at her. “Now just wait. Just… wait.”

This was when she cried. “And I have an STD. You gave me an STD. You’ve ruined my fucking life!”



THE BEGINNING OF A RELATIONSHIP

I picked up Candy one afternoon and we drove to a Japanese-style restaurant in Sunnybank called 7-8 or something. It was a restaurant I’d been to before: it was affordable, the food was good; there were picture frames filled with photos of strangers all over the walls.

It was the first time I’d seen Candy in the daylight. Her skin was abnormally white and her lips looked great; she looked young for her age, but there was something in her face that demanded the world out of everything it laid its eyes on. I was crazy about her.

She kept asking me annoying questions, as if she was testing me for something.

“So, how important is religion to you?”

“Are you the faithful type?”

“Your ex, why did you break up? And the one before her?”

“What do you want to be in five years? Do you own a home yet? When do you plan on owning a home?”

We finished and instead of driving her home we walked to a park nearby. The sun had come down by then and everything in the world was quiet.

“It’s so romantic,” she smiled.

“What’s romantic?”

“This park,” she said. “Walking hand in hand. Watching the stars.”

I looked around. “I bet people do drugs here at night.”

We found a bench and sat down and she rested her head on my lap. She was thinking of something and smiling.

“I learnt how to make chocolate soufflé,” I said for no reason.

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“I like chocolate.” She kept smiling.

“Your breasts,” I said. “They’re huge!”

She nodded, completely agreeing with me. “They are. They’re pretty good.” She then covered them with her arm.



HOW I WROTE A LOVE STORY

Some time ago I wrote a “fictional” love story, which you can download for free if you subscribe here.

If you’ve read it, then you would’ve noticed the blurry images behind the text. Although some of those images are stock images, the majority of them are photoshopped images of pictures I took myself.

This is a picture of an old love who I’ve rarely written about. We were parked somewhere in broad daylight and she was lying on my lap (with her clothes on) and I took a photo of her.

She liked a lot of things, like drinking and dancing and Anne Hathaway. I was a terrible boyfriend to her and, while not crying, she broke up with me on Christmas Eve.

I took this photo when I was on top of some kind of mountain and intoxicated. At least I think I took this photo. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t take this photo.

Here’s a picture of Vail. She was lying on my bed and reading A Clockwork Orange while I was writing something. I turned around, looked her over, told her that she had nice legs and took this photo.

I took this photo in a club in Melbourne while drunk and heartbroken over the receptionist. It’s a photo of a friend holding a glass of whiskey on top of a glowing box. Clubs love glowing boxes.

This is a photo of the receptionist, who I was horribly in love with for too long. It was her birthday and we were in a hotel and she looked up at me while holding a Polaroid camera I bought for her. I took a photo of her with my phone.

The rest of the images are stock images. The story itself was inspired from a lot of things: moments in friends’ lives, moments in my life: a close friend who was beaten up by her boyfriend; being young while watching sex scenes from movies like Jerry Maguire with a girl who was even younger than I was; threatening to throw something, and then throwing something, at a girl named Madison and her daring me to punch her; finding out that Eva was happily with someone else; realising, while laughing with friends about how they took turns with a chubby girl in her bedroom, how screwed up and real the world can become once you leave childhood; a friend’s lesbian friend becoming pregnant; losing love; watching a video of a woman being stoned to death while a number of onlookers recorded it with their mobile phones; kissing two or three girls in a bar; the repetition of mistakes; the repetition of the same drink; the repetition of friendships; the repetition of relationships; the repetition of a lot of things; and, I suppose, that after all of this, the secret hope that everything that ever happened and will happen in my life will cinematically dissolve into some sort of Hollywood Happy Ending.



A DATE WITH AN OLDER WOMAN

If you’ve been to Teneriffe before, then you would’ve seen the River and the trees. You would’ve seen the semi-expensive lofts and the semi-expensive restaurants and the bars and the people with the skinny jeans and The London Club, and Salon, and Mizu, and the quiet lack of traffic at night.

We were in a restaurant in Teneriffe and we’d been eating for a while when Candy suddenly looked at me. “You’re so young.”

“I know,” I said. “Jealous?”

She smiled at this. “Honesty: what do you think?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I used to think that honesty was important when it comes to relationships.” She cleared her throat, wiped her mouth with her napkin and continued: “But all it seems to do is hurt people.”

“Again,” I said. “What are you talking about?”

She giggled. “I mean, like, for instance, when I tell a partner that I’m out with another guy, or if I tell a partner that I think he’s gaining weight, or if I tell a partner… I don’t know, something honest, I find that all this honesty seems to do is offend them or turn them away from me.”

“We all hate the truth. But honesty is something that needs to happen.”

“Does it really? I know it has its place, but is it something that always needs to happen?”

“I find that women also hate the truth, yet they complain when they don’t get it. In the end I figured it’s all about delivery. Honesty works if you deliver it well,” I said. “Anyway: New York, the islands of Greece or Ipswich: if you could go to any of these places, where would you go?”

“Ipswich.”

“You’re the most honest person I’ve ever met.”

We finished and headed to Claret House and had a few drinks and we spoke about our past relationships (for some reason she kept wanting to talk about past relationships), and as we had more drinks we befriended some strangers and we befriended the friendly owners.  But the only thing I really wanted to do was kiss her.

“Let’s go for a walk.”

We walked through some buildings and found the Brisbane River. It was tremendously quiet. For a few minutes we simply looked at it, at the little dots that reflected from it in the darkness.

“I like this.”

“You like what?”

“Just this quiet.”

We stopped looking at the River and walked further down the walkway; she kept telling me things that I couldn’t be bothered listening to. “I want to kiss you,” I finally said.

“No,” she said. “You can’t.”

“Okay.”

“Not yet, at least.”

I smiled.

We walked to my car, holding hands.



THE SKINNY GIRL IN THE POOL PARTY

The annoying part about the pool party on Thursday was that there was no pool. I was tricked. It was a party in some guy’s house in Carseldine and in it were about four hipsters, three bogans, five goths and about thirty well dressed twenty-somethings.

Two people stood out. The first person was this really loud guy who kept slapping women from behind; they all let him do it because he was bald and big and had a tattoo of a dead person on one of his arms. “YOU WATCH THIS,” he kept saying, “I’LL SLAP ‘EM ALL IN THE ARSE BY THE END OF THIS EVENING.”

The second person was this girl who was skinny and tired looking. Her eyes were as large as her eye bags and she wore a faded black jacket on top of a shirt that was so small it exposed her belly button. “Are you in for it?” she kept asking me, her eyes wide and blank. “Are you in for it?”

“The hell do you want?”

She led me to this room with three other skinny girls, all also tired looking. One was being felt up by a guy in a large Tupac shirt. One was shooting up. One was just staring at me and grinning. “Look, kid, it’s reality!” She giggled, covering her mouth gently as she did so.

I quickly got the hell out of there but the skinny girl rushed after me, trying to pull me back in. “I’ll suck you I’ll suck you just let me just give me fucking something-” All of a sudden, she let out a loud scream. “AHHH!”

I turned around to see the big guy standing behind her, grinning in all of his big perverted glory: he had slapped her arse, hard. She was completely still, eyes wide, colour completely gone.

The big guy then went after me – I tried to run but he grabbed my arm and bent me over and slapped me right in front of a group of people.

He laughed. “I DIDN’T SAY I ONLY SLAPPED BIRDS, DID I?”

I lunged towards him and completely missed. “I hate this place!” I said as I stood up and rushed out of the party.



HIGH SCHOOL ALL OVER AGAIN

I kept failing with Candy until I decided to actually call her. “She’s into finance and all that, right?” Jude asked me beforehand. “Immediately ask her something about the stock market. Don’t say, ‘Hi, how are you,’ or anything boring like that. Just immediately start talking about the Telstra shares or some shit. And when she starts talking about them, just keep saying, ‘I see.’ Then, when you’ve finally gotten her hooked, tell her you know ‘a great place’ and invite her to it.”

I didn’t believe him but I did it anyway.

“Hello?”

“What do you think about Telstra shares?”

“I’d rather buy into OneSteel,” she said. “My friend, I had dinner with him the other day… he’s a director there and apparently the future looks promising for them.”

“I see…”

“How about banks?” She continued. “Have you thought about buying into banks? If you were, and you’re patient enough to hold onto them for a little while, I’d say buy into ANZ. At least when shares are being sold for nineteen.”

“I see…”

From there we somehow began talking about her family, about where she came from, about her handsome dog that was almost her size. I then told her about all the problems in my life and she was somehow entertained by all of them.

A few hours went by and the world hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t spoken to someone on the phone like that in a long time – it was like I was in high school all over again.

“Listen,” I said. “Are you busy this Friday?”

“No, why?”

“Let’s have dinner or something.” I bit my lip, then: “I know a great place.”

“Oh, really? Sounds good!”

I didn’t know a great place. Talking about the stock market, organising restaurant dates – I was placing myself in a different universe. I wasn’t exactly being myself, but I was willing to bend who I was for the sake of attracting even a milligram of her attention. And I guess, for some time, Candy also changed part of herself in order to put up with someone like me.



CHASING CANDY ON EASTER

At first, nothing worked with Candy. Funny texts didn’t work. Funny Facebook messages didn’t work. She’d be interested for a moment but then stop responding. Maybe she was too smart for me. Maybe I wasn’t that funny.

I’d never chased someone with a PhD before and something about it scared me. The more I thought about her and her accomplishments, the more awkward and tense I became whenever we spoke. One evening, after much dread, I finally decided to ask her to go to some jazz event with me.

“Sorry I’d love to, but I’m lecturing that evening.”

“How about another evening?”

Silence.

I saw her again at an Easter dinner by the Eagle Street Pier. She was sitting with a bunch of girls, laughing about something, probably about how attractive and successful they were. I found a spare spot right next to her and sat down.

“Hi,” I said. I’d been drinking.

“Hi.”

I noticed her camera on the table, picked it up and took a photo of her. I smiled but she didn’t.

She grabbed it back from me. “What are you doing?”

I looked around: everyone was staring straight at us, at me. “Fuck!” I stood up and stumbled away.



Under Construction

Generation End is under construction.

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