Man this took me ages to write. Day after day my boyfriend asked me ‘what are you gonna do to day’, and I’d say ‘just go to work then… keep working on that Scum thing I guess. I don’t think it’s gonna work. I don’t think I’m sad enough’.
And he’d be putting on his jeans while I sit on the bed with my arms wrapped around his thigh, cheek again his smooth humid skin and he’d ask ‘are you not allowed to write about happy stuff?’
Yeah I’m allowed but how boring. How gauche. I only know how to write to cut out parts of me that hurt. The kind of writing that feels like screaming. That feels like hitting. The kind of writing that makes people either roll their eyes or cry. Girls about my age would come up to me after readings and say something like ‘I’ve had those feelings. I’ve felt like that. You’ve said what I’ve felt.’ My writing is as close to a pure expression of feelings as I can get. Even when I write about music it is rarely critical or analytical. Here is some things I felt while listening to this record. Here is abstraction and vagueness and vibe.
That was the only thing that made me interesting – expressing dark embarrassing shit without shame. But every day there’s 100 girls talking about how they wanna be loved or wanna get fucked or wanna die and all I want is to do karaoke on Tuesdays and drink beers with you and between 2 – 40 of our friends. I wanted to write stuff like Sarah Mary Chadwick’s music. Something to wallow in like when I lay around listening to her record for 5 hours, thinking about boys while she sang about death. Her writing is borne of tragedy and resilience; mine is borne of garden-variety anxiety, self-hate, self-obsession.
Where does good art come from?
Maybe it’s the heat. The lethargy that comes from waking up after a night of sweating, drowsy and drained, one arm slung across your back. Blowing soft kisses across your neck.
How different it all feels than huddling in basements and bedrooms at four am, chain smoking, teeth chattering despite the cold sweats on our faces and amphetamine heat running through our limbs. The too-loud jokes the too-harsh shit talk the cracking necks and knuckles the leaning forward on dirty couches with jittery legs.
How pointless it seems to agonise over that time I woke up in his bed having forgotten to put moisturiser on when I went to bed, with the skin of my face flaking off like baby power, cracks running through the corners of a mouth so soft and inviting the night before.
To try and imagine what I looked like singing Live It Up by Mental As Anything, slopping gin and tonic all over myself as I flung my arms and hips about as caricature of fun messed-up sexiness to wring some shame out of a fun moment because if I’m not a drunk girl who am I?
Or to remember what it felt like to stand heads close, leaning over a CD rack, with him giving me that slack, hungry kinda look that made me wet and worried. What it felt like to feel eyes run over my stomach dancing on a table with 6 drunk dudes, knowing how the bottom of my were breasts revealed when I put my arms over my head.
There are parts that I want to cut out, but not cause they hurt, but cuz they’re something that I can’t share with you. You can’t know the pressure of his big, broad body on yours, rough hands rough lips searching for something with eyes squeezed shut.
I can tell you how crazy I went trying to pretend to be cool, screaming crying down the phone to my friend while saying ‘nah that’s cool’ to the second blow-off text in a row. But I can’t make you feel it, because it’s all so far away now, looking at your small, thoughtful, sullen face. Who can remember anything when you look at me out of the corner of your eye and smile like you’re trying not to but can’t help it?
Losing your edge isn’t all comfort and benign optimism though. That energising anxiety gets replaced by the gentle buzzing fear that when we stop doing things that hurt we’ll stop feeling anything. That a gentle, warm kind of happiness will never replace the hot rush of doing something risky. We party without desperation, we get fucked up out of joy, we take drugs cuz they’re around and not cuz we’re scared of being the only ones who haven’t. Sometimes we have early ones two nights in a row. We start exercising and going to psychologists. We write dull memoir.
Madeleine Laing is a bookseller and non-fiction writer from Brisbane. She is the co-editor of music blog whothehell.net, has been published on Scum Mag and The Lifted Brow online, and is a regular contributor to Broadsheet Brisbane and Strine Whine. She writes about food and cooking on goodfoob.com. In 2016 she released a zine about food and sex called Eat Shit/Get Fucked.