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Origins #27

13 Jan

I promised at the end of origins #26 that I’d give you some insight into how I grew up because it’ll become relevant to the story, so buckle your seatbelts, because my back story is so fully of Jerry Springer type shit that you probably won’t even believe it.

This one’s epic so don’t expect to get through it in one go…

My family

Like most people of my generation, I was born to a man and a woman. My mother had already had two daughters to her first husband before I arrived. They were 9 and 7 years old respectively when I showed up, and my little brother, also born to my father, would join us about a year and a half later.

So right off the bat, I’ve got two half sisters and a brother, but my father had already had a son to another woman, so I had another half brother. I only met him once though, so I don’t think of him as family.

I would eventually learn that when my mother was 19, she’d gotten pregnant to some handsome young foreigner who promptly skipped out on her, leaving her too embarrassed to admit the situation to her parents, and gaving that child up for adoption. So, technically speaking, I have another half brother out in the world.

But wait… there’s more!

My mother and father never married. In fact, my father was out of the picture before my brother was even born. My mother then found a man who already had 3 daughters of his own, and married him, making him my stepfather. His daughters were older than my sisters and lived with their mother, but technically this added 3 stepsisters to my already complex family.

Say what!?

So, technically I have 2 half sisters, 3 step sisters, 2 half brothers (one of whom I’ve never met and the other I only met once), and one full blood brother.

But when I talk about my family, I refer to my two half sisters as my sisters, and my full blood brother as my brother, and even though I called him ‘Dad’ most of my childhood, I refer to my stepfather as my stepfather, and only ever refer to my father as my father, neither of them ever get the title Dad these days.

The story begins

My sisters and their father

As I mentioned, my mother had her first son at the age of 19 but gave him up for adoption. That would have been back in 1968. Then in 1970 my mother met and married Les Harland, and they would go on to have my sisters, Erica in late 1970, and Kylie in 1972.

I don’t know when Les and my mother divorced, but I know that before that happened, Les molested both Erica and Kylie, and I know that he did this repeatedly. I also know he was a taxi driver with a gambling addiction, so what money he did make, burned through his pockets so quickly he might as well not have made any at all.

Sadly, I believe it was the gambling, not the sexual assault that caused the divorce. I’m not sure if my Mum knew of the abuse at the time but it became common knowledge in the family before the girls eventually moved out of home. Nothing was ever done about it and it drives me crazy.

My father, me, and my brother

I’m not sure how long my mother had to get by as a single parent of two young daughters, but I she must have known my father since at least 1978, because I was born in 1979. My father, Henry, was an alcoholic. I knew that since I was little, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I would learn that he was also violent and that he would sometimes come home drunk and climb into bed with my sisters, claiming it was all just a mistake the next day.

Come 1981, with my brother Alex still in her womb, my mother and father went their separate ways. I didn’t know anything about what caused the end of their relationship when I was a kid. All I knew was there was a time my father was around, and then he wasn’t around any more.

I was told repeatedly as a kid that because my parents were never married, making me a bastard. I think that’s why I always assumed I was the result of an accidental pregnancy.

My father didn’t disappear completely. He would visit us on Christmas and Easter and our birthdays. And then just on Christmas, and maybe our birthdays. And then maybe our birthdays. And then just text messages.

I know my father went bankrupt. I know he lost his drivers license for 10 years. I know I look a lot like him. I know he left behind his first son, and then he left my brother and I behind as well, and then he took up with a lady who already had two sons and was a father to them.

Love your neighbour

With my father gone and my mother with 3 children and one on the way, she had very little choice but to move into the cheapest place she could find. That would be a block of flats in one of the cheapest suburbs in Perth at the time.

Being the only parent, she had to work, which meant she had to rely on people to baby-sit. The problem was, my mother had moved to Perth from a small country town and didn’t really know many people, least of all in this new suburb, so she had to make friends with her neighbours and have them baby-sit us.

I would later learn that one of those neighbours who babysat us was imprisoned for molesting children.

The kids need a man in the house

My mother was of the opinion that children need a father, and I’m sure the idea of no being dependent on neighbours to baby-sit spurred her on too, so she made sure to find a man to play the role of father to her now 4 children. My mother married my stepfather, Des, in the early 80s, but I couldn’t tell you the year.

My first memory of Des, which might actually be my first ever memory, is of telling Des I’d race him to our new HomesWest (government) house.

I remember running my little legs off down the footpath. I remember that I beat him. I was about 4 years old and yet I outran a fully grown man. The fact that Des smoked at least a  pack of Winfield Blues every day probably had something to do with my victory.

Our new house was in a different part of that same, very poor suburb my Mum we had all been living in, but I remember being overwhelmed with excitement that we didn’t have to live in the flats any more.

Plenty of fish in the sea

So, how did my mother meet my stepfather? I didn’t find out until about 15 years later, but they actually met through a dating agency. Back in the day that was seen as a somewhat embarrassing thing, but my mother had four kids so I’m not surprised she went that path, but let me tell you why Des ended up going that route.

Des was mentally ill. I believe that was what caused his divorce from the mother of his daughters. Des had worked at a shoe factory for 30 years and had a mental breakdown along the way. I assume that either that caused the divorce, or that the divorce caused the breakdown.

Either way, he got a fortnightly needle in the bum to keep him in check, and he smoked all those cigarettes as a form of self medicating. He said they calmed him down. He’d sit there in a cloud of smoke lighting the next cigarette while he’s still smoking the current one, just to avoid the few seconds between them.

Us kids new that Des was sick, but we didn’t know exactly what that meant. We just knew he was ‘crazy’ and that he’d had electroshock therapy.

Like so many other parts of my life, it wasn’t until many years later that I’d find out the actual condition Des had. I remember very clearly reading the black typewritten text on the yellowed paper, it said “Schizophrenia”. If I hadn’t seen that document, I’m not sure I would have ever found out.

A big family in a little house

It was a three bedroom house so Mum and Des were in the master bedroom. Erica and Kylie were in one bedroom, and Alex and I in the other room.

We must have been there before I started pre-primary because I remember very distinctly one time Mum picked me up from Kindergarten to bring me home to that house…

As Mum took a right hand turn the door on my left swung open, not having been properly closed, and I rolled out of that open door. I don’t know if I was actually buckled into a seat belt or not but by caution or dumb luck I ended up tangled upside down in that brown, ratty, old, non self-tightening belt, dangling millimetres from the road. No harm, no foul, I suppose.

So if I was still in kindy, I was younger than 5, which means Alex was about 3, Kylie was about 12 and Erica was roughly 14. Until recently I remembered those early days very fondly. That would change as a result of the rest of what happens in the origins story.

It’s not like there weren’t bad times, I just didn’t think about them very often. I guess that was part of my technique of choosing to not care about things as a way to stop them affecting me.

Bad things

I’m not super keen to tell you the bad things, but I think it really helps explain a lot of why the rest of the origins story plays out the way it does.

For starters, I grew up around two girls who had been sexually abused, that in itself is a very bad thing. My sisters both struggled to cope with the fallout of being abused. Of course they struggled, they were little girls who had been violated and they wouldn’t have had the skills to properly process all the feelings that come with such a violation. They also weren’t taken to anyone to help them understand the situation, and worst of all, the perpetrator was never even arrested for his crimes. In fact, the police were never even informed that these crimes were committed.

Erica’s way of dealing with having been molested was to turn in on herself and become a very quiet, timid girl who just wanted to be alone as much as possible. Kylie went the other way. She became aggressive and loud and in-your-face, and she became quite violent.

Dealing with Kylie

Kylie, being 7 years older than me, had a significant height and weight advantage over me, and I’d been told I was never allowed to hit a girl, no matter what. That meant as futile as my defences might have been against someone so much older, I wasn’t even allowed to fight back. Unfortunately for me Kylie knew that too.

She used to torment me. She used to straight up torture me.

Kylie would learn all these martial arts moves and use them against me. She’d bend my arm behind my back and sit on me to hold me in place, then she’d punch me with one  knuckle pushed out to give me a “dead arm” or a “dead leg“, or one of each, or all four limbs at once, depending on her mood.

Then there were the pressure points, Chinese burns, the camel bites, the hair pulling, the ear twisting, the head locks, the good old fashioned kicks to any and every part of my body, but the biggest prize in Kylie’s eyes, was to get me right in the balls.

Logically I know there’s no shame in being Even though I know mathematically there should be no shame in that for me, it’s hard to ignore the fact that you were beaten by a girl, especially because Kylie would point that out to me while she was beating the shit out of me. She’d literally say things like “You’re getting beat up by a girl,” or “I’m just a girl, I can’t hurt a boy,” and my least favourite of all… “Are you gonna cry?” which would of course be said in repetition while she hit me over and over until the pain overwhelmed my tiny little body and eventually the tears would come out.

I hated the pain but what I hated more was someone forcing me to do what they wanted, and enjoying making me feel weak. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to fight back made it so much worse.

You might think that because Kylie tortured me that I didn’t care for her, but you’d be wrong. I loved her dearly. I hated that she hurt me, but because she was so smart she was fun to play games with and she was witty and funny and just fun to be around. Despite all the shit she put me through, she was probably my favourite sibling.

I loved her so much that seeing her accidentally run through a glass door and get all cut up left me so traumatised and upset that I urinated blood for a few days afterwards.

Dealing with Des

I knew Des was ‘crazy’ but I didn’t know what that meant, exactly, but I knew he’d act really weird sometimes and that I’d have no idea why. I’d say something that everyone else in the room understood to mean one thing, but Des would take it as a personal attack. Even as a little kid I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I’d try really hard to word things as inoffensively as possible, but he’d always find new ways to be offended by me.

Des was one of those people who claim to be Christian but never go to church and completely ignore the basic teachings of the bible. Regardless, he was quite focussed on God and Jesus and the devil.

One day, very early on when I was maybe 6, Des told me that he knew that Alex, my little brother was second coming of Jesus, and that I was the Antichrist. I didn’t even know what the Antichrist was. I had to ask the guy at the Church the rest of us actually did go to what it meant, and he just said “the devil”.

So Alex was all that is good, and I was all that is evil. That’s a hell of a thing to hear when you’re barely old enough to tie up your own shoes.

Another important thing about Des was the fact that he was almost completely illiterate, which meant that I was able to read more than him by about mid-way through year one (5/6 years old). Des hated that. When I would try to read my little golden books I loved so much, he’d accuse me of trying to rub it in that I was smarter than him.

And Des sure didn’t mind giving a hiding. Any chance he got he’d belt my scrawny little frame until I was a blubbering mess. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I was so sore that night. Sometimes it was a few nights later before I could get comfortable again.

When Des hit me, it was terrifying. Obviously getting smacked is going to be scary for a little kid, but Des would get this look in his eyes. They’d bulge out a bit and it was like an animal was attacking you. I don’t know how else to describe it but the scariest part of all was not knowing if he’d stop.

Sometimes he’d at least start out trying to be playful. He’d tickle me and I’d laugh, and then he’d keep tickling me for too long and I’d scream at him to stop, but he’d keep tickling me. He’d hold me down and keep tickling me and he’d ask “what, are you gonna cry?” “Are you a little cry baby?” And, big shock, a little kid will cry if you do that to them long enough.

He’d pull that whole “Are you gonna cry?” thing when it didn’t start out so playful as well. Sometimes he just wanted to prove that he was stronger than me, so he’d just hold me down and poke me, or just say mean shit to me, or keep smacking me, or whatever else would come to his mind, but it was always with the same goal… of making me cry.

Dealing with Des, part 2

Des was violent, and certainly that was something I disliked about him, but physical pain dissipates so quickly. The things that stick with a kid, or at least this kid, are the things people say, and Des just loved to tell me things.

He’d tell me that I was ugly. That I was a “slow learner” (that era’s equivalent to retard). He’d tell me I was useless, and selfish, and greedy, that I was weak, that I had a stupid smile, and that I dumb, that I was stupid, that I was too skinny, and worthless, and on and on.

A couple of his absolutely favourites were, “No girl will ever want you.” and “You’ll never keep a job.

It’s hard to know how often he said those things. I didn’t like to hear them so I tried very hard to not let them in, and I managed to forget about them for a very long time. When I was reminded that I was told all those sorts of things, it felt like I must have heard them every single day of my childhood, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been that frequently. I can assure you though, that it was a very, very regular occurrence for me to hear those sorts of things.

Dealing with Des, part 3

I was not Des’ only target. Des didn’t like Kylie much either. Kylie was smart and the older she got, the harder it became for anyone to make Kylie do anything she didn’t want to do.

Kylie was a straight A student in primary school but that all changed when she started high school. All of a sudden she wanted to be with the cool kids and she focused her attention on that instead of school. Her grades plummeted and her lack of respect for authority started to put her at odds with Des.

They were at each other constantly. They’d scream at each other, and swear, and sometimes Des would smack her and if he did Kylie would fight back.

Our little 3 bedroom HomesWest home wasn’t big enough for the two of ’em, and I bet the whole suburb could hear it. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that this battle escalated over time.

The peak of their battle happened while I was still quite young. I estimate Kylie being around 15 at the time, making me about 8.

I remember Des and Kylie yelling at each other. I remember looking at them while they screamed at each other. Kylie’s hair whipping about as she moved. Des’ eyes bulging in that way that always meant trouble. His white singlet yellowed from wear and from absorbing the smoke of innumerable cigarettes. The cheap, grey, dress pants and belt he always wore around the house even though he never went anywhere or did anything.

I remember his hands around her throat.

I remember her ripping at his fingers for all she was worth.

I remember the stance of a man in his 40s wringing the neck of a young teenage girl, with him the aggressor, leaning forward, and her the desperate, overpowered victim, in a pose of sheer terror.

I remember standing there in my pyjamas wanting desperately to do something, and I remember not being able to move. I couldn’t even make a noise.

I remember the moment he dropped her limp body and how it collapsed into the ground.

I remember believing my sister was dead.

It felt like hours went by.

And then she suddenly made this ungodly noise, this revolting, animalistic heave of inhalation. It might well have been the most awful noise I had ever heard, but to me it was the most beautiful sound that could ever exist, it was the sound of my sister coming back from the dead.

And do you know what happened next?

My mother told us all he didn’t mean it. My mother genuinely believed we could all just carry on living the way we had before.

That didn’t work so well for Des. He had another nervous breakdown. He went back to Greylands for about 6 weeks and got some more electroshock therapy.

Seeya later Kylie

Prize for the least surprising moment of this story goes to the fact that Kylie moved out almost immediately after Des tried to kill her. She went off to live with some friends and very quickly got in over her head with drugs and alcohol.

She met a man who somehow puts up with the chaos that she continues to generate even to this day and managed to have 4 children with him. The first was born when Kylie was 19.

Kylie accidentally killed their second child in her sleep by rolling onto him when he was just 11 days old. She told the rest of the world that her baby was a victim of SIDS. I didn’t find out the truth until 20 years after the fact.

Her other 3 children would go through a hectic upbringing surrounded by constant drug use and alcohol.

Seeya later Erica

Erica moved out within the same year as Kylie because she’d just finished year 12. She went off to live with my grandparents in a small country town. Erica had gotten progressively more religious as the years went on and the small town environment suited her well.

She would meet a man and have a child to him, only for the father of her child to disappear on her.

Due to her religion, Erica thought she should be able to forgive her father for molesting her, so when he came knocking looking for a place to live, having been kicked out by everyone else he knew, she took pity on him and let him move into her house with her and her young child.

I was very angry about it and made that well known, but people are going to do what they’re going to do.

It turned out that I was wrong about what would happen, but I was 100% right that letting that monster into her house was a terrible idea. See, as far as I know he didn’t touch Erica’s son, but he did leave his fucking cigarette lighter on the coffee table and leave Erica’s 5 year old son alone in the house with the cigarette lighter.

The house burned to the ground. Erica had no insurance.

I’m very thankful to say that the community rallied around Erica and her boy and they bought her a new house on the same block. I don’t tend to appreciate religion but I hope there’s a God out there who can reward those good people in the afterlife, and I hope there’s a devil to take care of Les Harland.

Where was my Mum in all this?

She was working.

Des got a disability pension but it all went on cigarettes. Just after he nearly killed Kylie he was smoking 100 cigarettes a day and his pension didn’t even cover his cigarettes at that point.

So my Mum had to work to cover all the bills, and holy shit did she ever work! She cleaned houses and was often gone for 12 or 14 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week. Once a week she’d round Alex and I up to go deliver newspapers and we’d use the $4 we each made to buy our Red Rooster for dinner.

If my Mum could pick up some work washing dishes, or cleaning an office, or anything like that, she’d take it on. Whatever she could do, she would do.

My Mum made sure we had enough money to get by. Now, if you ever saw how skinny us kids were you might disagree, but we none of us starved to death. Sure, the other kids made fun of the holes in my clothes, and they made fun of how long I went without hair cuts, and that you my toes poked out of my shoes, and that I had to wear clothes I’d long since outgrown, but I’m still here and you don’t get much for being fashionable in primary school anyway.

One more thing about Mum working. Des would sit on the front porch waiting all day for her to come home. He’d sit there and stare at the street desperately nervous that this would be the day she wouldn’t come home.

He was right

Kylie left us. Erica left us. Turned out it was only a matter of time before Mum left us.

I’d finished school and had my first job when my Mum finally pulled the pin. Believe it or not, I didn’t see it coming at all.

My Mum and Des had never had a good relationship. They’d scream at each other and throw shit at each other and occasionally a plate or a coffee cup would explode on a wall between phrases like “You don’t fucking love me you lying bitch!” and “I’ve been working all day and you haven’t even done the dishes!” and “I’ll leave! I’ll fucking leave! Don’t you test me!”

You’d think the writing was on the wall in amongst the shattered porcelain, but I genuinely didn’t see it coming because they’d had this horrible, co-dependent relationship for 16 years by the time it finally broke.

I have no problem with my mother leaving my stepfather. It was the right thing for her to do. I wish she’d done it earlier.

What I do have a problem with is how my Mum finished things up. She just didn’t come home.

She didn’t fucking warn me and it was days before I knew what had happened to her. That was pretty stressful but it only got worse when she finally did contact me because she told me she’d spoken to HomesWest, the government housing body who she rented the house through and told them she was moving out. You have to have a certain number of people staying in your house to qualify for HomesWest and with Mum gone, we didn’t qualify any more.

So not only did my parents just break-up and my Mum had gone missing for days, I was now due to be evicted, effectively scheduled to be homeless.

For fuck’s sake.

Seeya Grandad

It’s difficult to cram a whole life into a single post but this story just wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include my Grandfather.

I’ve told you about my father, the alcoholic bankrupt. I’ve told you about my sisters’ father, the child molesting gambling addict; and I’ve told you about my stepfather, the schizophrenic stepdaughter strangler and all round child abuser.

As far as male role models they left a lot to be desired, but that didn’t matter because I had my Grandfather.

When World War II broke out my Grandad was too young to go, so he lied about his age and went anyway. He was shot through the knee and captured and was a prisoner of war for five years. He eventually gets back to Australia and he goes home and starts a farm, and does alright with that farm too. Not bad for a bloke who can no longer bend his left leg!

And as the world progressed, so did he. When he bought a Datsun ute, all his mates had a go at him for buying a Japanese vehicle. He said, simply “The war is over. We need to move on.”

And for a man who’d been through so much and worked so damned hard and seen his daughter make such bad decisions with men, he was nothing but adoring of his grandchildren, regardless of how they came about. He was always ready to have a laugh and always had a joke to tell.

I don’t know if the other kids felt the same but he made me feel special every time I saw him. He called me a special nickname that nobody else in the world ever called me and he’d pick me up and put me on his shoulders like fathers do in the movies. He played cricket with us into his 70s!

I got the short straw with a lot of things, but I had a legend of a grandfather and I’ll be forever thankful for that.

But my Grandfather left us too.

It happened just after I found out my Mum had left Des and I found out I was staring down an upcoming homelessness. Des got a call at home from someone looking for my Mum to let her know her father had been rushed to a hospital in Perth.

Des relayed the message to me when I came home for  my break in my shift at the pizza store. I wanted to call the pizza store to cancel my shift so I could go to the hospital but Des wouldn’t let me use the phone. He told me that my grandfather was ok, that I’d be able to see him tomorrow, that I should let him get some rest.

I argued but I was going to need all the money I could get for when we were evicted and Des seemed so certain that my Grandad was alright and that it wasn’t urgent and I was due back at work and I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to work.

When I got home 4 or so hours later, Des told me my Grandfather had passed away while I was at work.

I was devastated.

A few days later I found that document with Des’s diagnosis that I mentioned earlier. That word Schizophrenia answered a lot of questions.

The leftovers

I didn’t talk much about Alex. He was a good kid but a bit socially awkward. I love him but I didn’t treated him very well. I wasn’t nearly as violent to him as Kylie was to me, but we had our fair share of tussles and I always won, except for the time he chased me AND GOT ME with a steaming hot iron.

After Mum left us, I moved in with friends. It was great fun but after a few years I went back to study and moved in with my Mum, my brother, his wife, and their newborn child.

About a year and a half into that Mum tells me that she’s buying a house and that her, my brother and my brother’s wife would be going thirds in the mortgage.

That meant… I had nowhere to live… again.

So I moved in with some people I’d met through my studies. One of them used to many drugs and slipped into a drug induced psychosis which lead him to believe I was trying to hook up with his pregnant girlfriend, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if he hadn’t studied Muay Thai Kickboxing for 15 years and collected all his rage into a fist and king hit me while I was cleaning up after one of his parties.

He knocked me out and fractured my skull in the process. I don’t know how or why I didn’t fall over while that happened but he guy who x-rayed my skull said I’m lucky I didn’t because I would have very likely died.

After that I started a small business, played in a few bands got involved with that girlfriend I was with for 6 years. Literally nothing happened in that 6 years except for me getting fat, working really hard, driving my car at the race track and finally getting my job at Everlong.

Now back to the actual story

I hope this was remotely interesting to read. I think it’s necessary information for what’s ahead in the origins story and I’ll refer back to this a lot to help things make sense as the story continues.

Hopefully you feel like you know me a little better. I wasn’t lying about the Jerry Springer shit, was I?!

Origins #26

12 Jan

When last I left you, I was explaining that I’d nearly drunk myself to death in the fallout of what happened with my boss’s daughter, Rene. The hangover lasted over a week and that gave me plenty of time to think about why I’d gotten so drunk, or more to the point, why what happened with Rene had affected me so intensely.

Suckerpunched

I didn’t think I was that into Rene before we hooked up, so why had her rejecting me hit me so hard?

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A big part of it was that I felt blindsided. I thought I’d handled a really weird situation about as well as I could have, and I thought I’d been gutsy to to have a go despite putting a lot at risk to do so. It felt like I’d been victim to a really weird bait and switch and I couldn’t figure out why anyone would do that, least of all Rene.

REEEEEJECTEDDDDDDD

rejected

I was so fucking confused.

It’s one thing to be rejected, but to be rejected by someone who days earlier was crying about you not being interested in them, and who then demanded you ask them out? It was a real head-fuck. On top of everything else I was dealing with, it really made me feel worthless.

With the bad comes the good, but with the good comes the bad

In the past, even all of that wouldn’t have been enough to knock me down.

I had developed this ability to not care about anything, to just keep going no matter what was happening. That had made me extremely resilient and that had been very useful for me, but about the time I broke up with my previous girlfriend (about a year and a half before), I’d realised that my ability to block everything out was not only protecting me from bad feelings, it was also blocking out all the good feelings, too, so if I ever wanted to experience real happiness I’d have to take off the armor, so to speak.

It had been a very scary thing for me to try to change my mindset and let my guard down. It had been a very difficult process to actually try and make that change, but over the course of a year and a half I had managed to start letting things in.

And that was all great. But I made the wrong choice about who to let in, and not having my guard up at that exact point in time might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

Broken trust

Try to follow my hokey little metaphor here…

I felt like I’d been doing my best to reduce the armor that I wore, that I’d progressively taken it off bit by bit and the only thing I still wore was the chest-plate, because that protects the most vulnerable part of me.

That night with Rene when she’d been crying, I felt like I was hurting her by keeping that last bit on, and I trusted her enough to take it off in order to help her stop hurting.

And then she stabbed me right in the heart. Right when I least suspected it.

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Et tu, Brutus?

When I already had all these other pains to deal with, and when I went out of my comfort zone to help her at my own risk, while we embraced, while I was exposed and vulnerable, someone I trusted shoved a knife into my back.

The pain from the knife was horrible, but I could deal with that. It was a close call, but I knew that would heal.

What was what was really hurting me was that feeling of having my trust broken, that feeling of being mislead, that feeling of being fooled.

And even that, I could deal with, if I could just understand why she’d acted that way.

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But why?

It just didn’t make any sense.

Feelings

So after all those years of blocking feelings this was a very intense way to be introduced to actually feeling the bad feelings that we all have to deal with from time to time.

I had already attempted to revert to my “just don’t feel it” approach but it was too late. The feelings were already out of the box and there was no way they were going back in that box.

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It’s a shame y’know, when you’re reacting to feelings, it’s so much harder to catch them and react to them appropriately. You want more than ever to be rational about everything and not react in the wrong way, but you’re too busy reacting in the wrong way to do so.

Or at least, that’s what it was like for me. And for me, the wrong way to react was to drink the majority of a bottle of Absinthe to try and dull the pain.

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Clearly that hadn’t worked out too well.

No sick days. Ever.

I mentioned that my hangover lasted a week. I felt like death warmed up that whole week, minus the warmed up part.

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Nonetheless I refused to miss a day of work.

At that point I’d worked at Everlong about two and a half years and had never taken a sick day. That’s just something I was taught growing up, it doesn’t matter how sick you feel, you push through it. It wasn’t just talk either, I would be sent to school no matter how sick I was, which is of course a bad idea for the other kids because everyone else sick too, but all that experience made me sturdy enough to push through the hangover from hell and keep my record of no sick days intact.

Speaking of what I went through growing up, and that skill I’d developed to block out feelings, that’s all going to become important to this story, so I’m going to give you all an in depth look into the back story of your narrator in the next origins post.

And then we’ll get back to Rene and that newcomer Mia I mentioned was about to join the mix.

 

Origins #25

26 May

Rene had sent through what effectively translated to “It’s not gonna happen. Leave me alone.”

I had conceded that I was out of options and that all I could do now was grit my teeth and try to get through a shitload of unexpected feelings while trying to cope with all the other shit I had going on.

Stress proof

People often get the impression that I’m unaffected by what’s happening in my life. My former manager Mike Monarch, once told me:

 “Nothing ever rattles you. You just keep going no matter what’s happening. It’s like you’re stress proof.”

I’d received many similar comments over the years. I appreciate that people saw me that way, but I had never thought it to be true. Things affect me just as badly as anyone else, but things still need to get done when you’re doing it rough, so I try to carry on and not react, which I suppose looks the same as not being affected.

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That’s the only way I knew to do things, so that’s what I was going to do.

Everyone’s a comedian

In the following week I tried to hunker down. I tried to distract myself. I tried to not feel anything by doing anything and everything else I could think of.

It wasn’t working.

Having had Rene demand I ask her out and then reject me with practically no explanation was hard enough, but everyone at work was still hassling me with jokes and teasing about her having stayed at my place. I tell you what, after the 47th “How’s Rene?” of the day, my patience would wear thin.

ok-fine

But I couldn’t snap at them because no one was allowed to know that we had hooked up, or that she had demanded I ask her out, or that she then told me we couldn’t go out, and that left me completely head-fucked. All they knew was it was fun to make jokes.

What’s reality got to do with it?

On top of that, the standard hassles from my manager Gus continued:

“I need this project finished tomorrow and this other project finished by Tuesday, and this is a new project that I want done by the end of the week and I need you to show Larry how to write the XML for those other projects, and there’s a bug causing the system to show the wrong name on the third page of the sign-up and that also affects the back-end in the participant surname somehow, I need that resolved immediately.” – Gus

“Listen, Gus, I’ve asked you to put things like this into an email because there’s no way I’ll remember all that. Also, there’s no way I can get that first project and second project done in less than a month, so there’s no way I can achieve those deadlines, let alone do all the other stuff you just listed.” – Me

“I thought you were supposed to be a good developer. A good developer would be able to keep up. Stop being so negative. Just get it done.” – Gus

“I’ll do as much as I can but I’m telling you right now, no one could get all that work done in such a short period of time.” – Me

“Stop wasting time arguing about it. Just do it.” – Gus

Gus always asked for the impossible. Even at my best I could never keep up with his nonsensical theories on how much work could be done in an hour, let alone a week.

do-it

I was doing my best not to think about Rene, but I’d run into her sister, or cop another joke about her, or see her name on a file, and I’d get distracted thinking about it. So not only was it already impossible to keep up with Gus’ ridiculous demands, I wasn’t even running on all 8 cylinders.

Cat, please exit bag

I’d nearly made it through another week but I didn’t think I could cope much longer.

After work I received a phone call from a former Everlong colleague, Bea. Bea had worked admin at Everlong for 7 years before quitting in frustration that they wouldn’t give her a shot in marketing. Bea had moved on not long after Gus had started, so she knew all about his bullshit, and she knew Rene fairly well too.

Bea and I had gotten really close in the time we worked together and I was stoked to hear from her. She told me how well she was doing in her new marketing job and how her manager there was praising her performance.

And then she told me she’d heard a rumour about me and Rene from some of the girls she used to work with.

I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I trusted Bea and desperately wanted to talk about the situation, but I’d promised not to. I asked her what she’d heard. She said that everyone was sure I was a total player and I’d had a one night stand with Rene and that’s why Tim Everlong was furious at me.

I told Bea that I’d tell her the truth, on the proviso that she not tell anyone else, and that nobody else knew anything, so if the word got out, I’d know she was the one who told. I made her promise.

dktpnky

I sat there at my kitchen counter in my shitty little apartment and told her exactly what had happened. The cool evening breeze rushed over me, hurrying its way between the open balcony door and the open front door as I relayed the tale.

Bea asked all the questions I’d been asking. All I could tell her was that I didn’t know why Rene had acted the way she had, or what was going to happen from there on out.

Two bags, one cat

As I hopped up to get a drink I turned and faced the open front door. There was Larry from work.

cat

He stammered out,

H-h-h-hey, are w-w-we still hang-hang-hanging out to-tonight?

I’d completely forgotten I’d made plans to watch The Jersey Shore with him that night. I had no idea how long he’d been standing there. I told Bea I had to go, hung up, and told Larry to come in.

He was flustered. Larry is the sort of guy who is flustered a lot anyway, but this was more than he standard jitter. He was properly nervous. He’d heard something that clued him into what had happened between me and Rene and he was clearly stressed out by that.

I asked him straight up, “What did you hear?”
“Nothing… I… didn’t… didn’t. Nothing. Nothing at all.”, he said, visibly shaking.

I told him it was ok. It wasn’t his fault he overheard.

Larry’s the sort of bloke that loves a bit of gossip and I knew he’d keep my secret because he thought I was some sort of superhero because I could talk to women without making it awkward. Oh, how wrong he was, hey?

Unlucky Larry

I went through and told Larry the whole ordeal. There was a lot of “what are you going to do?”, “What about Tim? Do you think he’ll fire you?”, “what about…”

nervous

I explained my plan to cop it on the chin and not let it affect me. I told him I was happy he knew because I’d been unable to talk about it until then, and I thought having someone who knew everyone involved and could see it from a less stressed-out perspective would help.

We yapped about it for hours while the queued episodes the Jersey Shore dribbled by with stories of drama that felt disturbingly relatable. Eventually Larry called it a night and I was left to deal with knowing that I’d  broken my promise.

r2qfh

I had very much needed to talk about it, but Larry probably wasn’t the right guy for the job. I’d become good friends with Larry and valued his opinion on things, but he was a very nervous guy and a lot of the points he had raised were the opposite of calming. Whatever I’d gained by letting the truth out, I’d lost to the new concerns Larry raised.

Denial will do the trick

Fucking drama. All that effort to avoid it and it had still found a way to detonate itself all over me. I was caked in it and there was sweet fuck all I could do about it. Except of course, to pretend it wasn’t happening.

no-prob

It was a foolproof plan. And it worked, for all of a day, that being the next day at work, but it was a Friday and maybe the glimmer of the weekend ahead had more to do with me getting through it than the THERE IS DEFINITELY NOTHING WRONG attitude I’d taken on.

im-fine

I’d gotten very quiet. I got through the usual Friday night after work drinks session almost completely silently by focussing mostly on stuffing my face with food and pouring beer in my mouth between bites. It was not an elegant solution, but it was working.

Before I left for the night, Larry reminded me that he was having a party at his place that Saturday.

What’s that, little fairy? You can help?

I spent the rest of that night and most of the following day in bed. I don’t think I slept at all. I remember staring little holes into my ceiling. I remember looking at my phone wondering when I would actually sleep. I remember not wanting to go to Larry’s party.

See, Australia’s greatest motorsport event, Bathurst was on the next day, and I always get up early to watch that, usually about 5:30am.

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But I had to go, because Larry didn’t have much luck with people showing up to his parties. There was a very real possibility that if I didn’t go, he might end up with nobody there at all. Plus, Larry’s place was barely two blocks away from mine so I really had no excuse.

I was happy to see that other people had showed up. The core group of the guys from work were already there when I arrived, which was great because they were all good for a laugh, and a laugh was exactly what I was in need of. Well, any distraction really, and therein lay the problem because there was a partygoer there I hadn’t anticipated… a little green fairy.

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Larry had heard my stories about enjoying the very fancy ritual of having an Absinthe and decided to buy an entire bottle of the most aggressive, high alcohol content Absinthe he could find.

Larry offered me some. I accepted. He couldn’t finish his and offered it to me. I accepted. His sister couldn’t finish hers, so she offered it to me. I accepted.

shots

It turned out very few attendees were willing to ignore the face-kicking nature of this super-charged Absinthe to get to its ever-so-pleasant mind numbing effects. But I was willing.

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I was very willing.

And as the bottle emptied, so did my mind.

I didn’t have any problems.

Everything was fine.

The more Absinthe I drank, the less static I could hear.

My mind was getting quiet.

All my thoughts were drifting away.

I was breaking free.

wine

What’s your poison?

I don’t remember anything after the third full glass of Absinthe I consumed. That little green fairy had deceived me. She wasn’t calming me down. She was trying to drown me. She was trying to poison me. She was trying to suck me into the darkness forever. She was trying to kill me.

I drank roughly 3/4 of that bottle of Absinthe and I’m fairly certain I gave myself alcohol poisoning in the process.

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The rest of this I only know based on what people later told me, or the evidence I discovered for myself…

Larry was so worried about me that he had someone drive me the two or so blocks home. Despite the short distance, I managed to vomit in their car, the first of several times for the evening.

grgl

 

I always loop my key chain around my belt loop to ensure I never lose them, but I had forgotten that somehow, and after I opened the front door to my shitty little apartment I apparently walked straight on with the key still in the lock, and fell face first when the slack of the chain came tight.

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Based on the evidence I found, instead of taking the now bent key out of the lock, I kicked my shoes off and climbed out of my jeans. Then I crawled onwards, leaving the front door wide open. My key left in the lock, with my jeans dangling off it via the chain.

No joke

I know this all sounds silly and funny now, but I’m not kidding around when I mentioned alcohol poisoning. I’ve drunk a LOT in my time. I’ve woken up with the sort of hangover that left me promising to never drink again, and then done that again the next day. I’ve been unable to get out of bed from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon, but I have never, ever felt anywhere near as bad as I did the morning after all that Absinthe.

That was the only time I have ever been worried I wouldn’t survive.

frg

To put it into perspective a light hangover lasts a morning, a regular hangover lasts a day, and a severe hangover lasts a weekend. It took me more than a week to recover from this one.

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I felt how this looks

I was physically, mentally, and emotionally destroyed.

So much for denial.

Full circle

And with that, we’re now back to Origins #1.

That’s not the end of the story. The drama only escalates from here. Things get more insane with Rene, and I’ll introduce you to Mia, who makes Rene appear rational by comparison. Dear lord, what a life I’ve lived.

Seeya next time.

Origins #24

25 May

At the end of the last post I was lamenting the fact that I’d sent Rene an email after getting a bit sentimental at my final ever Powderfinger show. I had a proper self-cringe going imagining just how lame and embarrassing that email must have been.

Well, I got a little curious if I still had access to that email and it turns out I found it! Here’s what I actually sent:

I think I’ve finally gotten to my point:  I want to know who you are without all the walls. I’m not in a rush. I’m not expecting anything. I’m not looking ahead. I’m looking at some free time I have on Sunday and thinking I’d enjoy that time more if I spent it with you, regardless of what we call that.

You don’t need to reply. I don’t expect you to change your mind and I’ll leave it be from here on out. I just had to say this. Don’t even know why.

Yep, still cringe worthy but not nearly as ridiculous as I would have thought.

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Considering the mental state I was in at that point in time, I almost give myself a pass. I wouldn’t have normally sent anything, but I wouldn’t normally have been in that situation to begin with.

I think most people would be stressed out enough with what happened with Rene, let alone with all the other shit I was already dealing with. Anyway, on with the story.

A new day cometh

I woke up the next morning and immediately knew it had been a bad decision to send that email. I also knew it was a fat lot of good coming to that conclusion after having sent it.

I avoided checking my emails for the majority of the day but I knew I’d eventually have to face the fallout, and finally checked my emails. There was a reply from Rene.

Fuck.

I didn’t want her to reply. I just wanted to tell her where my head was at. I was worried about making any missteps because I was worried about getting fired as a result, and I was  concerned that this might have been that misstep.

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Scared or not, I had to read her response. It read:

Of course I have to reply, and thank you for what you said.

The truth is I haven’t changed my mind. I know you’re not thinking beyond the present and have no expectations etc, but it’s never as simple as that – and I know myself too. That sounds so ambiguous and probably like a cop out, but it’s true and please just understand that.

I hope things are still cool.

I guess you can read things different ways depending on your state of mind but to me that was a fairly assertive, “It’s not gonna happen. Don’t bring this up again.

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But what was that “ambiguous cop out” bit about? That thing about “I know myself” was  a head-scratcher too. It struck me that Rene was very clearly avoiding explaining anything and just wanted me to leave it alone.

At that time I was equally interested in understanding why Rene had made such a quick about-face as I was in trying to get her to spend time with me and I had lost out on both of points with that response. What she had said only brought up more questions and further emphasized that, whatever the cause, we weren’t going to be getting together to discuss that, or anything else anytime soon.

Yeah umm, sorry.

Given what I perceived as a pretty sturdy and undeniable “Back off”, and the fact that I had been worried about losing my job before any of that chaos with Rene even started, I decided to retreat and try to figure everything out without Rene’s help.

When I say retreat, I mean it. I had already gone into almost complete submission mode when Rene had gotten all freaked out about our upcoming date and I intended to be as delicate as I could possibly be from here on out to make sure my job wasn’t further threatened.

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I have to explain something. I’m not good at bowing to people. I’m not a tip-toeing sort of person. It goes against my nature. I’m direct. I deal with things head on wherever possible. I find it more uncomfortable to dance around an issue than to just tackle it head on. But what choice did I have?

I responded in the least confrontational way I could think of.

Yeah umm, sorry.
Everything’s cool. I Just had a common sense failure after powderfinger got me feeling all sentimental.
Hopefully you can forget that happened or at least put it down to the absinthe I’d been drinking.

Stiff upper lip and all that

I had gone out on a limb at Rene’s request. I had been vulnerable at her request. She had  rejected me after demanding I ask her out. She had provided little in the way of explanation. What little explanation there was had proved more confusing than no explanation at all. Plus, I was sworn to secrecy so I could only speak about it with Rene. Except she didn’t want to talk about it all, which meant I couldn’t talk about it with anyone.

Still, I was more worried about what was going on in Rene’s head than my own. She’d mentioned dealing with an extremely difficult situation that had left her “nothing left to give”. I wanted to help but it was very clear that I wasn’t welcome in any of whatever was going on on her side.

As for me, it’s funny, I’d had a crush on Rene before all this had happened, but I didn’t think about her unless we were in the same place at the same time. I hadn’t intended to try and make anything happen with her, yet suddenly, there I was doing things I wouldn’t normally do. Those emails were a prime example. I didn’t understand what was happening on her side, or mine.

I felt embarrassed, exposed, rejected, humiliated and a host of other feelings that I didn’t even recognize, and the only person I was allowed to speak with about the situation was  clearly unwilling to do so.

I was out of options. All I could do was try to process it alone. I told myself that if I could hold out for a while, Rene would calm down and we’d talk it out then.

determinedornot

…”Hang in there baby” You said it kitty. “Copyright 1968?” Hmm, determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That’s kind of a  downer…

 

I knew that would be exceedingly difficult but that was what I was facing, so I resigned myself to fate. Stiff upper lip and all that.

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Next time

I’ll tell you about when the levy broke.

Origins #23

23 May

After yet another awkward moment with my boss’s daughter I was trying to ignore the bombardment of mockery from my colleagues regarding the fact that she’d spent the night at my place. I’d made it through the day, despite the surprise meeting, and had escaped the office at last.

I spent the rest of that day trying to figure out how to deal with my very complex situation. I had found myself between the proverbial rock and hard place and there was no obvious way out. Rene had asked me to keep the situation secret, so I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, which meant I had to put up with all this teasing despite currently trying to deal with being rejected by a girl who had literally demanded that I ask her out.

I really needed to talk to someone about it. Like, realllllly needed to, but I’d agreed not to. So I stared holes in the walls and ceiling hunting for a way to not get too stressed out about it all. Even though I was confident I’d figure it out, there was still emotion to it.

The scenario had hit me like a tonne of bricks. I was hurting very, very badly but I don’t think I was capable of understanding just how deeply I’d been cut. All I knew at that point was I wanted the situation to change as soon as possible. I don’t remember that night especially well, but I’m sure I didn’t sleep a wink.

Another day, another billion jokes about fucking the boss’s daughter

I trudged off to work again. I’d been knackered the day before but I had gone another night without sleep, so I was completely annihilated. And the jokes came my way all day long.

I tried to politely deny their insinuations as they come in from my colleagues in my little room. I tried to dissuade their innuendos as they came from colleagues from other rooms around the building. I tried to calm the tide as they started coming in via email from our head office. I couldn’t keep up with them. They came in faster than I could read them.

It was not an easy day.

I wasn’t sure how to cope with it, and I wanted Rene to at least see what I was dealing with, so I collated a few of the more ‘entertaining’ emails and forwarded them to her. Rene replied that it looked like everyone was having fun and that she wished she could get in there and fire a few responses back.

But… Powderfinger!

If you recall from earlier, my favourite band were doing a farewell tour before retiring. I had tickets to their show that night. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but there was no way in hell I’d miss that show.

Powderfinger always had the ability to articulate the world I’d been living in and convert what I’d been dealing with in my life into a form of music that resonated deeply in me.

I assume their music sounds dated to anyone listening for the first time so many year’s later, but they were hugely influential on me when I first heard them as a 16 year old kid in high school.

In a lot of ways Powderfinger played the role of providing a soundtrack to key events of my life. When I left school and started to work as a pizza delivery boy I would listen to Internationalist on loop for hours on end in my car. When I went back to study multimedia they’d be on high rotation on my clunky portable CD player and my very first mp3 player. They seemed to be at every major music festival so I’d often see them live and be ever amazed by their ability to grab a crowd by the ears and leave everyone smiling at the end.

I wasn’t alone in liking them. They were Australia’s biggest band for nearly a decade. They won all the awards an Aussie band can win and were heralded by critics and punters alike.

I was 31 at that point and I suppose their retirement shouldn’t have been as important to me as it was. Something I had always enjoyed was coming to an end. One more thing was being taken away from me. For reasons that I’ll explain a little later, I had always found those moments difficult.

Nevertheless, I could be sad about it later. I had one more chance to see them live with thousands of other die-hard fans, and that’s exactly what I was going to do.

Exhaustion? Bullshit! Grab us a drink

There was one solution for any and all problems where I grew up, and that was alcohol. I’d always thought that a very primitive approach to problem solving, but I was out of ideas and I wasn’t about to waste the last opportunity I had to see Powderfinger, so I met up with my friends for a drink before the show.

We found our way to some fancypants bar a very short walk from the venue and proceeded to do our very best impression of liquor consumption machines. It’s funny the way a quiet drink leads to a loud drink. In this case it lead us to the loudest of all drinks; a drink I had only recently become accustomed with in Europe… Absinthe.

Being a fancy pants bar, they not only had Absinthe, they did the whole ritual of  burning the sugar with the fancy spoon and everything.

 

You know there’s something wrong when the bar tender’s going to that level of complexity and all you’re thinking is “just get me the fucking alcohol, mate.”

A few more rounds (or ten) and it was time to go to the show! I might not have known exactly who or where I was but I was ready to have a good time.

HOLY SHIT. THEY’RE SINGING MY LIFE AT ME.

Powderfinger were known for writing songs that people related to. Even completely sober I related to those songs. Half full of absinthe, dealing with everything I was dealing with, the impact was amplified.

I mean, they started with this…

and then threw this in.

I’m sure you get the idea.

They played a bunch of brilliant songs. The crowd was loving it. The band was loving it, and letting us know it too. It was a big love-in. They even played that same stones track I’d heard them playing as I foolishly leaned in to try and kiss Rene only a few days prior.

It was as good a show as anyone could have asked for, and like many other things in my life at that point, it was coming to an end weather I liked it or not. The appropriateness of the moment was not missed by anyone as they finished a bittersweet night with thousands of people singing along to their most beloved, most bittersweet song.

And with that a present became past

The encore had been and gone. The second encore had been and gone. That was the last time I’ll ever feel the buzz of joy that always tingled its way through a packed crowd at a Powderfinger show.

It was over. The thousands of screaming fans begging for more couldn’t change that reality and eventually we rall ealised that and began the inch by inch shuffle to the exits.

I was forlorn. The nostalgia had drowned me. That moment in time summed up exactly how I was feeling about my life. Everything was on the verge of slipping away and there was nothing I could do about it.

What’s that you say, alcohol?

You think I should send Rene an email? Oh surely you jest, old friend. Now is hardly the time for such things!

Oh how I wish I had not listened to my old friend alcohol, but I didn’t recognise him hidden in that disguise as my new friend Absinthe. So after I got home from that very sentimental show, I sent Rene a very sentimental email.

I can assure you that if there is a way to convert a cringe directly into an email, I managed to do so that night. I don’t remember much of what I wrote, but I know it included the following concepts:

“You don’t need to reply to this.”

“I really don’t understand what happened.”

“I like you more when you let your guard down.”

“If you get your head around whatever you’re dealing with and want to hang out, I’ve got some free time Sunday”

Oh God, the shame! It’s so humiliating to think about the fact that I actually hit send on that. Fuck.

embarrased

Just one of many, many, many more cringey things to come though.

 

Next time…

Rene replies to the email she didn’t have to reply to and my sneaky little buddy Absinthe gives me a few days rest before he doing his level best to kill me.

Origins #22

17 Feb

Long time no origins speak, huh? If you have no idea what an Origins post is, check back to the previous one Origins #21, or try the Origins category for more details.

Anyway…

Despite waking up from an extremely confusing night with the boss’s daughter, which was supposed to help uncomplicate the fallout of the previous extremely confusing night with the boss’s daughter, but failed miserably to do so, I was somehow still feeling confident about my general situation.

A recap

To recap the situation I was somehow still feeling confident about:

maybe

I think that’s the guts of it up to this point.

Confident? WTF?

I don’t know. I don’t know why I was sure I could make it all work out fine, but I was.

I figured Rene would take a bit of time to chill out and when she had finally calmed down, we’d be able to talk it through properly, and if she was interested we could let things play out under the radar. If she was genuinely just not interested I figured she’d straight up say that and I’d just have to get over it. I’d had to deal with things like that enough times before that I knew it’d be fine.

I wasn’t too concerned about the fact that my software specialty, Flash was under attack. I thought Adobe would just start outputting to HTML5 and I’d be able to continue using the Flash IDE. If that sounds like rubbishy jargon talk, this is an attempt at a translation: I’ll keep designing buildings, the builders will just be using bricks instead of wood.

As for my new manager, he was incompetent and nobody who worked under him liked him. We’d all been there for years and he was terrible at his job, so I assumed it was only a matter of time until he was fired or, at the very least, taught how to do his job properly.

I wasn’t all that aware that I was on the verge of alcoholism at the time. I just thought I was letting off steam. I was aware it wasn’t the ideal behaviour but hey, I was dealing with a lot and I felt like it was reasonable to ease that with the odd drink(ing binge).

My boss, Tim Everlong was a good guy, he just didn’t realise that I had been trying to do right by his daughter. I understood his reaction but I was sure he’d see how respectfully I was treating her and recognise that I wasn’t using her for a night of bedtime antics while he was away, that I had been completely respectful of her and of him, and that I was still the good guy he’d known me to be before.

My car didn’t need heaps of work to get it back on the road and I had a friend who had been chomping at the bit to help me convert it into a faster, more fun car, so we’d get onto that and get her back on the road swiftly for sure!

So, really, what was there to worry about? Nothing! Right? …right?

No seriously, I was still confident things would work out

I get that it sounds ridiculous, but I had always tended towards being a confident person.

It’s not like I don’t get scared or that I don’t have insecurities, of course I do, but I’d proven to myself time and time again that I can resolve complicated and difficult situations. I’d learned that the trick was to talk the problems out with whoever was involved, figure out a way to resolve the situation, and bam! problem solved! No awkwardness, no drama, no confusion. Easy peasy!

confident

Another thing on my side with remaining confident was the fact that I always had this little fire inside me that says “It’ll be alright”, and up until this point, that little fire had always been right, so why would I doubt it now?

Enough catch-up, on with the story

I arrived at my place of work, Everlong, ready to face the day. I always got in early. I was usually the first one in so I’d use my key to open up, turn off the alarm and that’s exactly what happened this particular day.

My primary objective was to load up on caffeine to help overcome my lack of sleep, because I knew it was gonna be a long day. I grabbed my daily coke zero from the vending machine (because y’know, it’s got no sugar, so it’s totally healthy) and periodically poured its blackish goop into my face as the morning crawled onward.

Colleagues arrived at the office one by one. The office slowly filled with people. They hadn’t forgotten that Rene had spent the night at my place less than a week ago, and were relishing the opportunity to fire jokes about that at every opportunity, but none of them knew what I was really going through and I’d been sworn to secrecy so I couldn’t tell them anything.

No one had the slightest clue that I was currently trying to will my exhausted body and mind through another day of work after having spent the night alone with Rene again, this time to try make some sense out of what had happened between us and what that meant for the future.

Time for that meeting you didn’t know you were attending

It must have been around a five to nine when someone asked if I had everything I needed for the 9 O’clock meeting. The meeting was news to me.

what

I checked my calendar and saw no meetings listed. I asked around to make sure I was supposed to be going. Everyone agreed I was required, so I asked what it was about.

We were meeting with a local organisation that helps young men in need. Funny, I thought to myself, Rene’s been working with that organisation lately. My heart pounded until I realised Rene would have mentioned that she’d be coming in. No big deal then, I just had to get through a random meeting with no idea what it was for, what my role was, or with whom I’d specifically be meeting. Nothing new. Off we go.

Dun dun dunnnn

Someone said “Quick, they’re here”, so I jumped up from my desk, grabbed my notepad and pen and started walking to the office door being held open for me by my colleague. Having grabbed my stuff  in a hurry, I’d been clumsy and didn’t have a good grip. The pen had somehow ended up sitting between my right middle and ring fingers and the tip was pushing into my palm. I was trying to sort that out when I looked up to see… RENE! dunn dunn dunnnnn!!!!!

dun dun dun

I was really surprised. I guess I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. So there I was with my pen folded into my palm, my big notebook in my left hand making it useless to help untangle the other, and my boss’s daughter staring at me as I came through the office door.

No doubt I looked very surprised. My colleague noticed and thought it would be funny to pretend to introduce me to Rene. How fucking hilarious. huh

Rene played along and put her hand out for a handshake. Trying to avoid the awkwardness of explaining that my pen was lodged in my hand, I pushed my hand forward and gripped Rene’s fingers with my fingertips in an impressively awkward effort and somehow managed to drive the tip of my pen through the skin of my palm. Rene looked at me quizzically as I flinched. I mumbled the phrase “Nice to meet you” through gritted teeth and we wandered into the meeting room.

The meeting

I couldn’t tell you a single thing about what that meeting was about. A website, maybe? I spent the entire time trying not to let on that I was feeling super awkward. I wanted to look at Rene, but I didn’t want to look at her. I didn’t want to ignore her either, but I didn’t want to direct all my conversation towards her. I wanted everything to be fine, and for the meeting to end as soon as possible. I swear it lasted a month.

I’d catch Rene looking at me when we were all supposed to be looking at the projection screen, only for her to look away as soon as noticed. Then I’d be looking at her trying to figure out if she had actually been looking at me, and then she’d look up and I’d instinctively look away. I tried to act super relaxed, putting my hands behind my head and leaning back. Rene leaned her head on her hand in a “I’m totally relaxed about this situation too” maneuver. It was  ridiculous. We were in some shitty sit-com playing out all the hacky tropes of an awkward encounter.

Rene’s colleague apologized that he had to leave early. That left Rene, my colleague, and me. Rene and I started cracking little smiles at each other and my colleague yammered on, completely unaware of the weird little scene he was taking part in. My colleague eventually ran out of things to say and got up to leave.

I don’t remember exactly how Rene and I finished up that little surprise interaction but I do remember calling her out on not mentioning that she’d be at my office that day. “I thought it was next week”, she laughed.

After the meeting

People had already been giving me shit about Rene having spent the night at my place, but this new encounter had sparked everyone’s creative comedic juices and I had a slew of new emails full of mockery when I got back to my desk. Yay. Smile and nod.

rolly

At least the emails were silent and ignorable, unlike the generous helping of cheeky remarks thrown my way. You’d have thought it was a competition the way everyone was carrying on.

And yet, still confident

Even with all that silliness going on, the surprise meeting, everyone making jokes around the office, and everything else I was dealing with, I was still confident it would work out. I was in the right. I’d done the right thing the whole way through, so I was sure that “She’ll be right”, as we say in Australia.

 

Next time

The awkwardness is only just beginning. Come back and revel as I squirm at the hands of crazy bitches and massive douches.

Origins #21

15 Jul

After a very confusing night out with Rene in which she broke up with me but then conceded that it still seemed like we were going to get together. It had all built up to the moment that, while I sat in the passenger seat of her car on the way back, I was leaning in to kiss Rene.

So how did that turn out?

not-particularly-well

Know what I mean?

Rene leaned away and out of reach. Imagine Neo in the matrix but instead of bullets, he’s dodging kisses from guys, and instead of Neo, it’s my boss’s daughter.

dodge

Ahh! It’s the affection I was crying about not getting the other night!

She looked at me like she understood why I was going for it, but also like it was a bad call, which of course it absolutely was.

miley-awkward

Sooo… that just happened.

For me, it was a case of not leaving anything on the table. I wasn’t especially offended or upset that Rene had avoided my kiss. I had to have a crack at it, so I did, and it didn’t go my way. I was disappointed but at least I tried and I wouldn’t be left wondering what might have happened.

I was still very, very confused because Rene seemed to be saying one thing and meaning another and there appeared to be a serious disconnect between what she was saying she wanted and what she seemed to actually want, but I tried to kiss her and she pulled away, so I had to take that as a “No.”

I looked at Rene, my face full of confusion and disappointment. I understood that she didn’t want to kiss me right then, but not why she’d been so full-steam-ahead the other night and even admitted that it felt like we were going to get together only minutes before, and was still stopping anything happening between us.

Rene looked at me with an understanding, almost apologetic look and said, simply:

You can’t always get what you want.

That statement didn’t help much but, more confused than ever, I deflated back into that luxurious leather seat in my boss’s daughter’s BMW and an old Rolling Stones song rang out at full volume inside my head without disturbing the silence between Rene and I.

The traffic light gods saw my dilemma and kindly changed the light from red to green seconds later. I’d had enough of looking at Rene for the night. I directed my gaze at the massive tent which had housed the Powderfinger concert earlier in the night. I tried to read between the many and varied messages I thought I was getting, hoping to find something that felt like the truth.

Home again

The short trip back from the Bell Tower to my place has erased itself from my memory. I assume I stared out the passenger window and said nothing aside from offering the necessary directions. I don’t remember how we said goodbye but obviously no kissing was involved.

lights-fadeI do remember thinking that the whole night would have been a lot simpler if Rene had just come round to my place in the first place. That thought scratched its way through my head as I watched her BWM dissolve into the feint, red glow of  tail lights, and dissipate into the darkness.

Cringe City, here I come

After climbing the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment I kicked off my shoes and fell onto my bed. I was very, very confused. I know this will sound ridiculous, but I felt like Rene’s efforts to decline had all been what she thought she had to do, not what she wanted to do. Unfortunately however, there was enough conflicting evidence that I couldn’t get a solid read on the situation one way or the other.ross-cringe

And that’s when I started to set up shop in Cringe City. See, something I had previously been unfamiliar with started to happen. I started to do things which didn’t make good sense. My emotions told me to do something and, unlike my normal protocol of logically evaluating the outcome of my behaviour before acting, I caught myself actually doing the thing my emotions told me to do.

In that particular moment, my emotions were telling me to send Rene the following sms:

I think that moment in front of the bell tower really summed things up.

megacringe It’s very tough for me to accept it now that I’m looking back, but I didn’t just feel like sending that message, I actually sent it!

I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

I had to try to kiss you and you had to back out of it. Sums the whole thing up.

I didn’t even mean to send the first message. It happened outside of my control. I sure as hell didn’t expect a response because Rene would still have been driving home. I know that, at the time, I was trying to close out the situation and make sure we were on the same page ahead of running into Rene at the next work function, but I can’t even articulate  how intensely I’m cringing at the thought of sending that follow up message.

cringeI knew it was a ridiculous thing to do, even then, but my emotions had taken control of my fingers. I waited for Rene’s response. Y’know, the one that would explicitly confirm or deny my understanding of what the hell she’d been trying to get across to me throughout the night?

Now we play the waiting game

timeThe minute number on my phone changed from 9:48 to 9:49.

9:49 became 9:50.

9:50 became 9:51.

The screen on my iPhone 3G switched itself off.

“She’s driving, she probably doesn’t have the time to reply properly.” I supposed. “No point staring at your phone waiting around for her”

I switched my phone to silent and put it face down on my bedside table. I showered, brushed my teeth, and everything else I could remotely think to do before going to bed for the night. Eventually, all options exhausted, I turned off the light and returned to my empty, queen sized bed.

I didn’t want to check my phone but the near hour I’d spent trying to distract myself hadn’t worked very well.

I picked it up. Flipped it over. Pressed the home button. The screen lit up the room.

10:39

0 newThere was no new message. There was no missed call. There was no new email. Nothing.

“Maybe she’s been caught up in traffic on the way home. Best not to worry about it until the morning.” I told myself. I put my phone back, face-down on the bedside table.

I pulled my eyelids down and commenced the process of attempting to initiate sleep. You’d assume successfully doing something over 11,000 times would ensure your future success at will without even the slightest issue. The task of falling asleep, however, appears not to become any easier regardless of extensive previous practice.

Just go to fucking sleep already!

I tried everything I could to encourage the sandman to visit me. I did everything I could not to look at my phone. I failed on both counts.

“Maybe I missed it…”
1:27

0 new“I nodded off there for a bit, probably nearly time to get ready for work.”
1:39

0 new
“This is fucked.”

thinking-no-slee “Go to sleep already.”stimpy-nosleep“For fuck’s sake, just go to sleep”
1:54
“It’s nearly two in the morning ya fucking idiot, just go to fucking sleep.”

0 new“This is the worst pillow that has ever been made.”

pillow rage“I was wrong. THIS pillow is the worst pillow that has ever been made!”

pillow-fight2:02
“FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK”
“I nodded off there for a bit, probably nearly time to get ready for work.”
2:11

0 new“Is that a spider?”

0 new“Maybe she smacked my arse like a coach does to a player, like ‘Good job’. Don’t think about that shit. Just go to sleep.”
sleep-deprivation“Fuck my phone is bright.”

0 new“Of course there’s no new message. She’s asleep you idiot. Stop thinking about it.”
2:41
“I’m really tired now. Better stop thinking about it and get some sleep.”

0 new“‘I had to try to kiss you and you had to back out of it. Sums the whole thing up.’, that’s not so crazy. That’s what happened. Sure I shouldn’t have sent that but it’s not offensive or anything. It’s not like I could get fired over that. Or could I?…”can't sleep3:21
“SERIOUSLY??????? HOW AM I NOT ASLEEP YET???????!?!??!!??!?!!?!?!?”
3:39

insomnia

BRIIIIINGGGGG BRRIIIIIIIIIINGGGGG

“What the fuck is that noise!? Where am I? Who am I? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT FUCKING NOISE!!!!?!?!?!?!?!”I smashed my hand in the direction of the intrusive screaming noise. It was my phone.

“Oh yeah, I’m a human in my bed and was enjoying a magnificently deep sleep there until this mother fucking noise ruined it by waking me up.”

6:00

It was my alarm. Past me had set it to wake me up with plenty of time to prepare for another day at my awesome new job. Past me was a fucking moron.

6amPast me was so fucking stupid that he actually thought the “old phone” ringtone was a good choice for a sound to wake up to! Didn’t he know I’d had maybe 2 hours of sleep? Who the fuck did he think he was to wake me up?

As moronic as past me had been, present-time me was just as ridiculous, if not worse.

“Oh wait, any new messages?”

6:01

0 newMy phone was as devoid of messages as it had been all night.

“That message wasn’t even a question. Why would she reply to something that wasn’t a question? I was being silly to expect a response”

“You know what? She’ll come round. She’ll figure out whatever it is that’s so complicated, get over whatever bullshit she’s going through, and she’ll eventually come round.”

“Until she does, I’m just gonna focus on doing what I can for myself. First step, focus on my fitness.”

I got onto my bench press and worked out so hard my arms would ache for days, then showered up and headed off for work feeling good about myself.

I was confident that Rene was still interested. In spite of what she’d said, there’d been so much of a vibe telling me that she was, plus she’d literally agreed that we’d still get together. I was just gonna let her come back to me when she was ready and make sure that I was looking and feeling good when she did.

Yeah, that’s right

Yes, somehow, despite everything I was dealing with and how unbelievably confused and stressed out I was, even my lack of sleep couldn’t dampen my spirits. I was, for reasons that elude me today, feeling great that morning.

good timesI think back now and wonder “how that’s possible?” I’d just been smacked from pillar to post through a huge range of emotions and yet there I was, feeling good. Feeling confident! How the hell I managed that, I couldn’t tell you.

What I can tell you is that it wouldn’t last forever.

Next time…

Those emotion things start to rise up and the confusion starts getting the best of me.

Origins #20

12 Jul

After breaking up with me, Rene had promptly decided that giving me a smack on the arse was the appropriate course of action to take. After I wrestled with her trying to kiss her, she’d told me, “Don’t make this hard.” and I, more confused than ever was now sitting in the passenger seat of her little BMW as we trundled back from our non-date.

I had thought the situation was pretty straight forward until Rene had smacked me on the arse. I had thought she was just not attracted to me anymore for whatever reason, and while I thought that was a shitty thing to deal with, it was something I’d seen happen before, and something I could deal with.

When Rene smacked me on the arse and giggled her head off while I wrestled with her to kiss her, I had gotten a very, very different impression. It appeared that Rene was still very much attracted to me, and that she might possibly have been genuine about the ‘bad timing’ stuff. I had of course thought that was all a bunch of bullshit she’d been spouting because she didn’t know how to tell me she wasn’t interested, but it seemed remotely plausible after the surprise smack on the arse.

Small talk: Take 1

Anyway, her little BMW rolled on as we both peered out at the nearly empty streets. Not wanting to “Make this hard” and also wanting to avoid the awkward silence we’d been sitting in for the past minute or two, I tried to find a benign topic to fill the time discussing.

You must have worked really hard to afford this car. It’s amazing. The leather seats, all the technology, you must have been very proud to have earned it.

Ah… actually… it’s a company car. I didn’t pay anything for it.

Rene looked somewhat embarrassed upon providing the details.

Strike 1! But that was an interesting thing to learn. I’d been under the impression that Rene had worked hard to afford that car. I had seen her working at Tim Everlong’s businesses so long that I assumed she had made good money and bought it for herself as a reward. That little fact lodged in my head in just the same way as watching Rene choose not to wait for the pedestrians earlier in the night.

Small talk: Take 2

Does Laura know where you are tonight?

God NO! She thinks I’m out with friends! I had to lie to her! I NEVER lie to her!

Special circumstances, I guess.

Y’know, she asked me about you…

What about?

She asked me what you looked like under your clothes. She asked “Is he really fit? Is he cut?”

This was a revelation to me. Learning that Laura had wondered how I look naked had put a massive smile on my face, conversely, it had also stressed me the fuck out! Laura wasn’t supposed to know that anything happened between Rene and I. The momentary glow of flattery was quickly overrun by concern about dealing with Laura’s knowledge of events.

What? Wait! Why would she ask…? Hang on! Did you tell her that we…

No, no, no, no, nothing like that! When she asked I said “How would I know?” and she let it go. I hate lying to her. I tell her EVERYTHING. It’s going to kill me to keep this from her. You can’t tell anyone. Please, don’t tell anyone about this, ok?

“Thank fuck for that”, I thought to myself. At least Laura didn’t know anything. At least that was something.

Of course, Laura. I promised, I won’t tell anyone, and I won’t.

Rene was upset. “Dammit, I just called her by her sister’s name, didn’t I?”, I realised.

Sorry. You know I know your name, Rene. You know I know who you are. I just slipped because we were just talking about Laura, that’s all. Nothing more than that.

We’ll have to find a new Flash developer

Jesus, what a night.

That’s ok, but don’t do it again or we’ll have to find a new Flash developer.

Rene laughed at her own “joke” and I did that stupid thing where you automatically laugh when someone else is laughing. Then I registered what Rene had actually just said.

Wait! What?!

I’m only joking! haha! Oh my God the look on your face was priceless!

Oh. Right. Good one.

I mumbled the words, far from impressed with Rene’s joke.

The scenario itself was stressful enough without adding the anguish of contemplating Rene turning on me and getting me fired, which apparently was an option available to her. I hadn’t really considered that possibility. I had been worried about her father or her sister being upset with me and firing me, but I hadn’t considered that Rene could say the word and have me removed. Great.

I felt like a blind man in a minefield. Rene noticed that I didn’t take the joke very well.

You’re really cute when you’re angry.

Whatever.

Oh, don’t be like that, I was joking. But you are really cute.

She looked at me like we hadn’t just been through some weird sort of break up barely 20 minutes earlier. She was looking at me like she was properly interested in me. I don’t know exactly how to explain it but I knew she was into me and I knew she wanted something to happen between me and her.

You’re beautiful.

Rene blushed. I reached over and put my hand on her thigh. Her brow raised in surprise.

Don’t. Don’t make this hard. We can’t.

Yeah, you’ve said that. You’ve said all of that, but I still get the vibe that we’re going to get together.

Rene looked me in the eye and gave me a confirming, flirtatious smile.

I know.

Nearly 5 years have passed and I still remember that smile like she’s right in front of me. It’s carved into my memory. I can’t forget it, no matter how much I want to. Rene’s smile amplified the words she’d spoken. That smile said, “You’re right, and we both know it.”

It made no damned sense to come so close and then just turn and walk away before we’d given it a shot, especially when there was no denying we were interested in each other. I didn’t know what the hell else there was to do and I figured if Rene would just let it into her head that I was genuinely interested, she might not be so resistant to the idea of us spending some time together.

You’re one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met. You’re smart. You’re sexy. You’re not perfect, and you know it, and that only makes you more interesting. You’re an extraordinary person.

Yeah, I’m cringing pretty hard at that memory, but that’s what I said.

Rene had gone quiet. She was nearly crying again. She was shivering in her leather seat as she gripped tight onto that luxurious black leather steering wheel with its white stitching. She ushered out words as if she wanted to hold onto them at the same time as forcing them out.

That’s… the… That’s… the nicest… thing… anyone… has ever… said… to me.

I mean it, Rene.

Back to the bell tower

_belltower

This place, except, y’know, it was night time.

I’m not sure why we ended up back near the Bell Tower. It would have been shorter to go a different way. Whatever the reason, we were now traversing the same street on which I’d run into my friend Chico earlier that night. To my left was the venue at which Powderfinger, my favourite band, had played one of their last ever shows. A few stragglers were still milling around the mostly empty city streets.

The traffic light ahead had turned amber. Rene’s elegant and practical company car slowed to a stop as light turned red.

There was still music playing at the park to my left as the last of the punters wandered out. It had been annoying me that I hadn’t tried to kiss Rene when we were having our talk at the beach, even though I’d been overfull with that tasty burger. I was annoyed that it seemed like Rene wanted something to happen and was talking herself out of it.

Rene looked especially beautiful there in the wash of the orange and white street lights. She was looking straight at me, almost like she was daring me to do something. The words “Do it” rang out through my head. My internal monologue shouted, “IT’S NOW OR NEVER.”

I hadn’t yet decided to go but found I was already leaning in. I was going to kiss her, right there in front of the Bell Tower where this whole ridiculous evening had started.

Next time…

I’ll tell you how leaning in to kiss Rene played out.

Origins #19

10 Jul

My boss’s daughter had just complimented me on my forthrightness in warning her that I might burp while we discuss the fallout of us hooking up.

Here we go!

As much as I was worried about burping midway through, and that I had potentially risked my job by getting together with Rene, I was relieved that I was going to find out what was actually going through her head.

I can’t remember word for word, of course, but as best I can remember, the conversation started something like:

I know we’re supposed to talk but I don’t know where to start…

That’s ok, this doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just tell me what’s on your mind and we’ll go from there.

I struggle with things like this. I get choked up.

Rene struggled to get that last phrase out. She quivered as she pushed the words out it and her eyes were welling up. I reached over and put my hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eye.

It’s ok, Rene. We’re just talking. Everything’s alright.

I know, but, I just… I always fuck everything up.

You can’t fuck this up. Please don’t worry about that. Just tell me what’s stressing you out about it.

It’s all so complicated, y’know? I’ve been going through a really hard time lately. I just don’t know what I’m doing. It’s like everything I do is wrong. I don’t think I’m in a good headspace to start something serious. I feel like I have to be selfish right now to get myself back together.

What do you want out of this?

I dunno, I’m not really after anything serious. I just want to hang out with you and see what happens.

but, like, do you want a relationship?

I want to make it clear what I was thinking here, because I think it matters to the story. To me, a relationship in that context meant, do I want to spend time with Rene without seeing anyone else at the same time, and the answer to that was “yes”, but I sure as hell wasn’t ready to jump into anything serious. I was thinking we’d take it really cruisy and under cover, and see how things play out. Anyway, I replied…

Yeah. I mean, I wanna get to know you.

Rene was looking at me with an expression equal parts agony and joy.

I’m going through so much right now. I’ve got nothing left to give.

I didn’t think I was asking her to give me anything, so I was a bit confused, but she seemed to be struggling so much to get it all out that I didn’t want to press her on it.

If you didn’t work for my Dad, that’d be different but… and I’m still trying to get over… I don’t know how… it’s too much. It’s so complicated.

What the hell is so bloody complicated?

I wanted to know what was so complicated. I wanted to know what else was going on. I wanted to point out that I was the one who’d have to worry about her father’s reaction, not her. But I didn’t. I chose not to because Rene was struggling so badly to get the words out and it felt cruel to attempt to pry more information out of her.

I’m not after anything serious. I just want to get to know you better because I only ever see you at work things. I normally would have let it go when you sent that message through the other day, but I’m into you and it’s really rare for me to get feelings for someone, so I’m going out on a limb here. I think it’s worth trying.

You know I was with my ex for years right?

Yeah.

I’m more attracted to you than I ever was to her.

Rene’s eyes went a little extra wide at hearing that. I was trying to make it clear that I was genuinely interested in her. In hindsight I guess that was a pretty intense thing to say, especially considering how stressed out Rene seemed to be.

We can keep it casual. It doesn’t have to be super serious, I just don’t want to not even try. We can just hang out and have some fun together. Nobody needs to know, we can keep it quiet, we don’t even have to go out in public. We can just enjoy ourselves and figure it out from there.

Do you mean like, a purely physical thing? Just sex?

Friends with benefits?

I was pretty confused at how or why Rene had gotten the impression I just wanted a friends with benefits style relationship with her from what I said. I thought it was obvious that I meant I wanted to spend time getting to know each other properly before getting into anything serious, but I guess I worded it poorly and she’d gotten the completely wrong idea.

No, I mean pretty much the exact opposite.

I meant that I want to spend time with you without getting up to anything sexual for now, see how we get along and keep it as chilled out as we can until we know where we’re at.

Oh… Um… OK… But I thought…

Rene seemed taken off guard. Genuinely surprised by my response.

I don’t know what she was thinking but I was really astounded she didn’t realise that was the only option I could realistically suggest. It was the only way I could go out with Rene behind her father (my boss’s) back, without being horrendously disrespectful. I figured people might find out that we were hanging out and that the only way I could get away without getting fired if it got back to Tim Everlong was for it to be obvious that I wasn’t just using his daughter for sex, and was instead treating his daughter with the utmost respect.

Why does everything have to be so complicated?

Rene contemplated that out loud while looking at the ground. She looked extremely confused and I wanted to lean over and kiss her right there and then. It felt like an identical situation to when she was sitting on my couch and I’d kissed her for the first time.

I started to lean towards Rene but felt my belly grumble. I’d forgotten about that burp that had been trying to force its way up. The thought of belching into Rene’s mouth mid kiss-dive was more than enough for me to immediately give up on the idea.

I rebalanced myself on the grass sitting there as that huge moon dispersed reflected light into the Indian Ocean and considered the ridiculousness of my circumstances. There was really very little to do but ask.

Rene, are we gonna hang out?

Rene looked me in the eyes. Her lower lip quivered. Her eyes closed for a few seconds. Her head dropped a little and she looked back up at me.

No.

I won’t pretend that didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t exactly a big surprise. I was prepared for it but it was still somewhat deflating. I didn’t reply. I looked down away from Rene’s eyes, redirecting my eyes out over the ocean. I caught myself biting my lower lip and had a brief moment of “Holy shit, I might actually cry.”

Instead of crying I took in a deep breath and let out a long, slow sigh and looked back into Rene’s eyes.

It’s… It’s not you… It’s me, y’know?

I couldn’t believe she’d actually used that line. George Costanza came to mind immediately.

I was offended to hear it but I ignored it, figuring it must be a tough spot to be in and finding the right words would be difficult.

It’s such bad timing and I just don’t think I could be in a relationship right now.

It’s alright.

Life’s not like the movies

Rene was on the verge of tears at this point. It wasn’t an easy moment for me either but I’d switched into stoic, unimpressed mode.

It’s just not the right time… it’s just… life’s not like the movies.

I remember that statement very well, “Life’s not like the movies.” Even in that moment I wondered what possessed her to utter such a loaded statement.

I could. If I wanted to. If I really wanted to I would. I’d go for it if I really wanted to.

At this point it seemed like Rene wasn’t even talking to me anymore. I felt like I was a bystander while she was having an internal dialogue that was leaking out through her mouth. It felt like I shouldn’t be hearing those words, so I leaned over and put my hand on her shoulder.

It’s ok, Rene. I get it.

But I would. If I wanted to. Just not now. It’s the wrong time.

Rene pushed those words out between the tight gasps of breath of someone who is crying, even though her eyelashes were barely wet. Then she said something that seemed out of nowhere…

I don’t want to fuck this up.

It looked like she was about to break but was doing everything she could to hold it back. I was confused by the somewhat mixed sentiments I was hearing, but the overall vibe was that, regardless of whatever the reason was, we weren’t going to be hanging out.

I didn’t want to drag that moment on any longer.

I get it.

I squeezed Rene’s shoulder in an effort to communicate the sentiment physically. I felt her relax a little and watched her come back from the verge of tears as my words registered in her head.

I’d had a go and it didn’t pan out in my favour. I could deal with that. Like I said, I’d been prepared for that outcome and I intended to simply take it as a compliment that someone as impressive as Rene had been attracted to me at all.

She might as well have spat in my face

The tension seemed to disappear as Rene came back to being in control of her breathing. Then she said the worst thing she could have possibly said to me at that point in time…

Can we be friends?

She might as well have spat in my face.

Listen, I can handle someone not being interested in me, and I can handle someone not knowing how to tell me that but we all know that when someone says “can we be friends” they’re effectively saying “You are of no reproductive value but I will allow you to be near me in exchange for compliments and putting up with me whine about other guys”

Inside my head, little explosions started going off. Thoughts started burning through my brain at light speed, “Did she really just say ‘Can we be friends?’ That is so disgustingly and disrespectfully cliche. Go fuck yourself, Rene”

Those thoughts erupted inside my head but that’s where I kept them. I had to remind myself that while the situation was difficult for me, it was also difficult for Rene, and even though I have heard those words too many times in the past, Rene’s not to know that and it’s not her fault that she happened to say them.

I calmed myself down, tried to undo the scowl that had taken over my face. I shook my head while I said, simply:

No thanks.

I think I’d gotten the scowl off my face but I couldn’t get rid of the “are you fucking serious” eyebrow raise. Rene was obviously confused by my reaction. The way she looked back at me, you’d think I’d just told her “catfish dinosaur constellation is made of bat semen in the chocolate olfactory hereditary cardinal zeitgeist with goats milk.” or something.

But… wh… why not?

I don’t want to be friends, Rene. I’m not into it. I’m never going to be the guy that you talk with about other guys. That’s not me. I’m not that guy.

I would never do that to you!

I appreciate that, but we’re never going to be friends.

Oh… uhh… ok.. I guess.

In fairness, maybe Rene genuinely wanted to be friends but I spent far too much time in the friendzone as a teenager and I have since flat-out refused to be put there. That might not be very mature, nor an especially nice way to accept what is theoretically a nice offer, but Fuuuuuuuuckkkkk thattttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can’t be a good friend to someone you’re interested in anyway. It’s shitty scenario and I refuse to be a part of it.

I wasn’t rude in the way I responded to Rene about it, I was just straight forward. I didn’t say it in an aggressive or harsh way, I just told her in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be friends. As surprised as she was, she seemed to understand where I was coming from.

That’s that

At that point I figured we’d done all the talking we were going to do on the topic and figured it was better to get was no doubt going to be a stupidly awkward drive home over with.

I suggested that we’ve talked about what we came to talk about and that I had to be up for work, so we should head back. Rene, who seemed confused at my reactions in general, agreed with a nod despite her face still being stuck in “I’m not quite sure what just happened here” mode.

As we walked back to Rene’s car, I noticed she had a goofy smile on her face. She wasn’t saying anything but she was very clearly a long way from the near tear outburst of a few minutes before.

What the fuck was that?

As we arrived at Rene’s car I felt something hit my arse. Rene had just given me a smack on the bum!! She was giggling about it as she tried to scamper around the car to the driver’s side.

I had no idea what in the name of almighty fuck was going on. Why the fuck would someone who just broke up with me and tried to friend zone me smack me on the arse? I had no clue but a smack on the arse is a pretty suggestive thing so I grabbed Rene and pushed her down onto the bonnet of her car.

She giggled the whole time. She squirmed and wriggled and was clearly thoroughly enjoying the fact that I was holding her in place. Fortunately, the walk back to the car had jiggled that mega-burp I’d be dealing with around enough that I’d forgotten about it, and now, with Rene pinned down to the bonnet of her car, giggling after smacking my arse, I was free to go in for the kiss.

I leaned in to kiss her and she giggled and squirmed away. I tried again and she giggled even more but again squirmed out of the way. As I was in close to her face but not lined up correctly to kiss her, Rene said…

Don’t make this hard.

I was utterly confused and, not knowing exactly what to do, I tried again to kiss her.

Please don’t make this any harder.

I decided that was enough trying for me. I let Rene up and saw her face was flush and a huge smile across her face. I was confused as all shit. That last bit completely changed how I’d understood the conversation. I thought she’d just broken up with me using generic, lame, bullshit cliches.

We both got into Rene’s fancy little BMW and, still giggling, Rene began driving us back.

Next time

The ridiculous night continues and my brain becomes the equivalent of a grey matter pretzel…

Origins #18

1 Jul

I was in Rene’s car and we were heading South, out of the gridlocked city. Traffic was slow exiting the city as well and that left us with plenty of awkward silences as Rene concentrated on weaving her way through the swathe of brake lights towards South Perth.

lights blurI mentioned that I would have preferred to meet up in South Perth anyway because I could have walked there. Rene pointed out that she thought it was too close to my place, and was worried that people would see us. I pointed out the irony of that concept considering we’d just driven out of the most populous area in the state on one of the busiest days of the year and that I’d run into some mates on the way through.

South Perth?

The view of Perth from South Perth

The view of Perth from South Perth

We got to South Perth but there was no parking available anywhere. One thing I remember specifically about the few laps we did of South Perth while Rene hunted for parking was Rene droving straight through a crosswalk without waiting for the pedestrians to cross. It stood out to me because I always try to let people cross, even when it’s not a proper crosswalk. It’s 10 seconds out of my day, and I can spare 10 seconds to make the day easier on someone. I mean, there’s a law that says you have to let the people cross, too, but I’m big on courtesy regardless. I remember distinctly making a mental note on it and thinking that it was one of those things to look out for, like your date being rude to the waiter.

There was nowhere to park. I suggested going to my place but Rene was under the impression that someone would see her car there. I was a little worried about running into someone we knew but I hadn’t assumed people were spying on my property. It seemed a bit overboard to me but I was more concerned with the conversation than the location, so I shut up and let Rene decide our new destination.

Driving aimlessly?

Rene hadn’t decided where we were going yet, she just aimed south down the freeway. While Rene drove I relayed the story of her father leaving the entire office laughing at me by making it clear he knew we’d spent the night together. Rene laughed whole heartily at my re-enactment and, to my concern, dropped her head nearly all the way into her lap as she did so.

We trekked through various suburbs I had barely heard of and Rene knew well enough to take short-cuts through. Rene became fixated on showing me where a friend of hers lived. We did several laps of streets I didn’t care about looking for a house I wasn’t interested in seeing.

night-drivingThis area was very different to the government housing I’d grown up in. The suburb alone was enough to make me uncomfortable. The beautiful, ornate, double-story homes looked like the set of a TV show about imaginary rich people to me. I guess I knew those houses must exist but it had never occurred to me that I might know someone who lived in one.

Eventually Rene satisfied herself that she’d found the home she was looking for, or at least she was pretty sure. I told her it looked nice and smiled politely. We sat in awkward silence until Rene exclaimed, “We should go get a drink”, with the same enthusiasm most would reserve for announcing the discovery of 20kg of gold.

A drink

As we drove towards wherever Rene planned for us to get that drink, I noticed again that she wasn’t especially good at staying focused on the road or obeying the road rules. Nothing too terrible mind you, but it was enough that it triggered me to think how extremely awkward it would be if Rene had an accident bad enough that her car wouldn’t get her home. “Someone would have to pick us up and it’d look super suspicious that I was with her after spending the night with her”, I thought to myself.

scary driving

Despite my concerns, we made it safely to the bar just outside of Fremantle. I tried to pay but Rene fought me over it and grabbed us some fancy beers before we sat down in the seat Rene had carefully identified as the least visible to other people.

We chatted and laughed and were having so much fun that I had to remind myself that we weren’t on a date. I was even doing all those stupid things you do on a first date, like looking Rene in the eyes and noticing that they seemed to be a little crossed, and then enough time trying figure out if they were slightly crossed, or she was sitting so close to me that her eyes had to cross a little to look straight at me.

Rene seemed to be enjoying things as much as I was but was clearly worried that we might be seen. She kept asking if I thought anyone had seen us on the way there, or if I recognised anyone at the bar. I wasn’t worried about that. I was distracted by wanting to touch her. I remember leaning forward, realising it wasn’t a date, and returning my hand to my side of the table.

So hot. Want to touch.For all her concern over being seen, Rene was being plenty flirtatious and playful just the same. I don’t know exactly what we talked about but it sure wasn’t if we’d see each other or not. I only remember bits and pieces, like talking about the bands I’ve played in, and learning that Rene had played bass for a short period of time. I remember Rene trying to tell me about a particular French phrase she learned during her time there and that she said the phrase in an unadulterated Australian accent, which of course I teased her about. I would have teased her if she’d said it in perfect French too, because it we were having a good time talking pointless shit.

Despite all the bullshit leading up to it, we were having fun. It was like all the other crap was forgotten and we were just two people attracted to each other having a good time. It was exactly how I’d imagined things would be if we were to go out in the future. A bit of fun, under the radar. And it felt easy. It felt right to me.

A burger

With our bottles emptied, it was time to eat. We ordered take away from the gourmet burger joint next to the bar we’d been at because Rene wanted to eat them somewhere more private. We loaded into her car and drove onwards while the heat radiating from our burgers steamed up the windows and I complained that she again had refused to even let me pay for my own burger.

15 minutes later Rene found her way to the beach she had in mind. We parked up and wandered a few minutes down to a nice spot. We sat with our legs dangling off a cliff wall overlooking the sands the beach, barely illuminated as the moon hung low and bright, as the Indian ocean swallowed it in her waves.

The burgers were huge. Seriously, they were massive! And mine was damned good. It was so good that I forgot the complexities of the evening as my taste buds pumped happy chemicals into my brain informing me of the magnificent mixture of pineapple and chicken and bacon and fancy sauces and whatever else was in that glorious burger.homer burgerNext thing I knew my burger was gone and my belly was aching from being overly full. I had chosen poorly. I had demolished that burger and had been so fixated on how good it tasted that I’d not considered the potential outcome of forcing something the size of my head into my stomach in a very short period of time.

Burger. Gone.I was bursting at the seams and could tell that my rapid eating had triggered a burp so epic that there was every chance the Bureau of Meteorology would have to name it after it triggered a local cyclone.

In addition to this, there seemed to be half a burger on my face and between my teeth and a distinct lack of napkins or beverages to help resolve this less than ideal state.

Seriously? Right now?

Can't talk. Eating.

As luck would have it, that exact moment, as I sat there with a burp that threatens to blow my burger covered face off, was when Rene had finally plucked up the courage to initiate our ‘talk’.

So I guess we should talk about what we’re supposed to be talking about?

Yeah… Let’s do that… But… just so you know, I get that this is serious and probably not easy for you, but I ate that burger way too fast so it’s possible I’m going to burp in the middle of this conversation, and I’m really, really sorry if that happens.

After I said that, Rene got a huge smile on her face and did one of those little laughs that only shows up as quiet exhales through your nose and said:

You know, that’s one of the things I really like about you. You do and say whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s really refreshing.

Next time

That’s enough for now. Next time I’ll tell you how our talk went.

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