*read along with Oliver Mol…if you daaaaare*
Charlie was standing outside “Strange Circumstances”, a new club in Brisbane that had modelled itself on Melbourne’s “laneway culture”. He had not gone inside yet. He’d been standing under the club’s neon sign, something that was partially obscured by graffiti and, oddly, a t-shirt with the print: We’re Full, Fuck Off. Charlie, a bit drunk, had been staring at the sign and after a few seconds he thought: What? This thought was followed by a rationalisation, or an attempt at a rationalisation. He thought, maybe, the t-shirt and graffiti were filters, lenses to view the statement “Strange Circumstances”, some sort of literal Venn diagram. It made sense. He looked around. People were dressed in paisley shirts and black, skinny jeans. He had seen a blog or two. He knew how artists dressed. So this was an “installation”. This was art. But what was it saying? Charlie thought maybe the artist was arguing that “racism” showed its dirty colours–“graffiti”–under “strange circumstances”. He considered Cronulla. Cronulla was a little strange, he thought, if only because it was typical. Typically Australian. These were the thoughts–along with a voice he had swallowed, had sent down, down, down to his stomach, had tried to drown in Asahi except hadn’t entirely drowned in Asahi, that would occasionally resurface, scream, ‘DON’T MARRY THIS GIRL, DON’T MARRY THIS GIRL’–that ran through his head when Mavis came out and lit a cigarette.
Mavis had come to “Strange Circumstances” as part of an engagement party. A girl from her high school, Claudia, was getting married. She had made everyone wear name-tags. Mavis had kept checking her phone, checking Facebook, wondering if anyone had messaged her, not that she really wanted to be messaged, just reminded that there existed something greater, more significant than Claudia’s engagement party. She had put her phone away and thought about the hen’s party. It was going to be a disaster. Claudia, being very Christian, had said she didn’t want anything too “intense”. ‘No strippers, no Colombian marching powder, okay.’ So the group would not hire strippers, and while Mavis wasn’t sure, she had had a pretty good idea of what Colombian marching powder was, something she confirmed after finding ‘Marching Powder’ on Amazon for $5.78, with one of the comments saying, ‘Cocaine is a helluva drug.’ So, after much discussion, everyone had considered an afternoon of high tea overlooking the Brisbane River a much more amicable situation than dildos, sweaty firemen and handcuffs. A blonde lady had walked up to Mavis, had taken her by the arm, had leaned in and whispered, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve just secured the best high tea host this side of the river.’ The blonde lady had squealed and then had taken a breath to calm herself. Mavis had stared at her with a blank expression. The blonde lady left to tell someone else. Mavis had walked to the bar and had ordered a scotch and soda. Mavis had found herself wondering why she was even there. In truth, Claudia was hardly a friend, more of a high school acquaintance, the type of person who invited Mavis and the high school girls to concerts no-one really liked, to health retreats, to Love Actually screenings. She had nothing in common with these people. High school had finished ten years ago. She had downed her drink and ordered another. While Mavis found Claudia, the group, her old “social life” dull and pointless, she couldn’t bring herself to break free, to leave–on the one hand it would, she justified, be too traumatic for Claudia, though on the other, these people, she knew, had become part of her, like a growth, something unsightly, not quite a cancer but maybe a wart, which was problematic because you couldn’t just remove a wart, you couldn’t just scrape one away with a fingernail, they required instruments, a freezing machine, something like a procedure—or at the very least this was what Dr Phil had said in his segment titled “The Life Cleanse” when he had offered a twelve-step program for “de-cluttering ya’ll’s life”, which Mavis had watched briefly while waiting for the dentist, a general check-up, her first one in four years. When Claudia announced she was getting married, Mavis had been genuinely shocked. Her first thought: What? But then she had become hopeful. This could free her. Then a second thought: Who the hell is marrying Claudia? So Mavis had gone to “Strange Circumstances”. Still, this excitement hadn’t lasted long and as the group of high school girls had begun talking about investment properties, Bali and varying brands of coconut water, Mavis had walked upstairs and gone outside, lighting a Peter Stuyvesant cigarette under the club’s large, neon sign.
Charlie leant against the brick wall. He wanted to ask the doorman about the “We’re full, fuck off” t-shirt that hung above the neon sign but felt paralysed by the fear of not knowing what to say. The doorman was this young guy with surfy hair. His jeans were ripped and he sort of looked like a rock star. Charlie had remembered people like this in high school. He had watched them walk around with guitars even when they didn’t play guitar. He had remembered them at parties, always spiking their own punch, telling girls with large breasts and short skirts that things were ‘dope’. Charlie watched Mavis–he had not known her name, just read her name-tag–smoke her cigarette and, for the briefest moment, wondered what she looked like naked. This thought constricted his chest for half a second but then he breathed. He turned away, back towards the sign and checked his watch. Right about now, he imagined, Claudia’s eyes would begin darting around the function room, and the veins and muscles in her neck would tense while she spoke in short, sharp whispers to the party planner as if the whole thing were some god damn clichéd Hollywood movie. He sighed and began thinking in clichés, things like, ‘Your destiny is through this door, all you have to do is open it,’ and, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ These thoughts depressed him.
To be continued Wednesday 27 February.