The year starts scared. It starts in Adelaide. After months of applications and rejections in Melbourne, I flee back to my parent’s house. The year starts with me saying I won’t come back: Adelaide is a soft place to crumple. I wander their garden and eat snow peas off the bush. I wander down rivers with my dogs. I swim (flounder) in the ocean in borrowed bathers. I ride a borrowed bike through the streets. I feel very far away from everyone, including myself.
Then a phone call comes. It says “there’s a job if you want it. It is in Melbourne and you will have to be a brave, badass grown up lady.” And I say “yes”. And I go back to Melbourne. And the year is as full of bravery and badassery as I can make it.
Photo by Sarah Walker
Outside our dark wood room, a line is forming: 55 people, speaking Spanish. Someone has brought a Venezuelan flag. Others have dressed in the national colours. Behind the wooden doors in the hot, carpeted dark of our tiny theatre, the comedian is warming up as only a Venezuelan would: by teaching his theatre tech to salsa. Our nightly ritual of laughter, loud music, nerves and perhaps a touch of homesickness.
A woman is shaking, screaming into a microphone. She wears a cape and trails red wool like menstrual blood from her underpants. She is tangled in her mic cable in such a way that I just want to run up on stage and explain to her proper cabling technique. (Has she never heard of Under Over?) On either side of her stand the silhouettes of soldiers with heads bowed. They are illuminated by a rainbow chase sequence and the words ‘Lest We Forget’ arch above the tiny stage.
An older woman comes around with a tray of vegetarian spring rolls. She wears earplugs and a glazed smile that seems to say, “I hate this but these people must be fed.”
The raffle is drawn. The prize is a basket containing spam, party poppers, medicinal tea, halal chicken stock and grass jelly. I don’t win. The woman screams on.
4/ some messages i received during my brief foray into the world of okcupid:
- Hi there! You seem lovely and the robots apparently feel we won’t re-enact the thunderdome upon meeting, so I thought I’d say hello😀
- Hello fellow cool person on OkCupid. Nobody around me seems awake at this hour (understandably). I’ve watched a bunch of movies tonight that have me too depressed to sleep, so I’m stuck browsing this site – occasionally consulting with my cat on my matches whenever she wanders into my room. We both agree you seem all right and are mathematically probably not my enemy.
- You rock! Let’s gets married
- Hi, I’m looking for a relationship where the lady gets to see others and I remain faithful. If that appeals please let me know.
- Fancy meeting you here. Inundating yourself in the lower end of the human evolutionary spectrum and the inevitable associated six-pack pics?
- If you search against your black and white photo it slams you right there. I give a lot of energy to see how real a person is. If I want to talk to fictional and characters, I can look from within. So when I truly want connect, I confirm they are not a spook.
- don’t judge I was really drunk and it was with a couple and the guy actually got pretty territorial about her pussy, so I tried ass… but I am not a small guy, maybe only the head went inside, she jumped up ran to the toilet and never came out, it was awkward, so I left…
- do you think we’ll go on a date? Or just see each other at rehearsal?
- … and here I was thinking we got along so well! Take care Fleur, all the best x
5/ a girl in a manic up swing talks faster than i can listen
She tells me about her ex boyfriend:
“He had ‘lost soul’ tattooed on his eyelids and stars on his dick.”
It is such a majestic sentence and she is so overwhelming that I decide the night can’t be topped and I leave.
6/ things i learnt this year include:
- How to wash my hair with baking soda and vinegar.
- What ‘Shark Week’ means. (I was disappointed that it wasn’t an elongated American holiday celebrating sharks and all the contributions they have made to society.)
- The difference between an electronic musician and a DJ.
- How to syringe cough medicine down my dog’s throat.
- What my natural hair colour is now.
- That I have a grey hair.
- My nephew’s name.
January 12th: This photo arrives in my inbox.
I carry it with me all year. This was the year of Felix. Of waiting for Felix to be here and safe.
Boxing Day 2015: For the very first time, we watch Felix sit up all by himself. He sways back and forwards and then slowly, slowly he topples to the right, drooling all the way.
8/ my 2015 resolutions:
- Direct a play of my choosing. (Exit Everything)
- Don’t complain about theatre as much as in 2014. (Turns out it is much easier when you are getting paid.)
- Don’t post any old modelling photos or use them as profiles. (Nailed it.)
- Spend less money on my hair. (Which was easy.)
- Wear less make up. (Which was terrifying.)
9/ my proudest moments: one of three
Opening night of Kindness, by Bridget Mackey. Having followed that play through from her very initial idea, seeing it fully realised on stage makes me I cry in the dark. I reach back behind me and squeeze her hand as the audience applauds.
10/ some numbers:
- 74: the number of theatre productions I saw.
- 12: the number of theatre productions I paid to see.
- 454: the number of actors I saw in productions.
- 252: the number of actors that were women.
- 52: the number of actors of colour.
- 13: how many play readings I saw.
- 15: how many productions or readings I worked on.
- 10: how many scripts I assessed.
- 272: how many nights I slept without medication. (I beat last year’s record – 103 – by May 17th this year.)
- 55: the most nights I managed in a row.
- 79: how many yoga classes I’ve been to since I joined my studio in June.
- 12: how many OkCupid dates I went on.
- 5: how many people I kissed.
- 1: how many people whose hand I held as we slept.
11/ a question mark
“What are you thinking?”
I have a moment to decide how to answer. I decide to be brave, foolish, drunk and love-struck.
“I’m thinking we probably should stop going on these dates.
Or we could just make out.”
He says “hmm, interesting – ” or something similarly terrifying but in that moment, the playwright of the night, Declan Greene, appears. (Of course he does, for Declan must interrupt the hetero-normative, both on stage and off.) For five minutes we say words about theatre, his process, the immense complexity of his play and I am so proud and excited for him but all the while a question mark hang in the air over my head. The hyphen that sliced that response in two has lodged itself somewhere in my oesophagus.
Then Declan is gone, and the two of us make sounds like “hmm” and “so” and “yeah”. We walk. We walk away from the opening night dizziness and into the dark and yes, it is raining a little, just enough to make my hair ridiculous and my jumper smell of wet dog. We stop on Grant Street.
We say some words with our mouths. We smile with our mouths. It is the smile of two brave people who are about to kiss in the rain.
12/ an actual conversation i had:
“It is perfect but… I don’t think – “
“How much do you have?”
“He’s done the maths. It turns out, essentially nothing.”
“Well, how about this: I’ll give you the space for a cut of ticket sales. We’ll take 30, you take 70, plus whatever you get from the bar.”
“That is… amazing! But we still need a set… We don’t even have money for that.”
“What do you need?”
“The first act doesn’t need much but the second act is in a post-apocalyptic cave or something.”
“We’ll I’ve got a post-apocalyptic bunker in the basement. Some students built it for a film shoot. If you promise to get rid of it at the end, you can use that. Would that do?”
That was John Paul, giving The City They Burned a second Melbourne season.
13/ my proudest moments: two of three.
Sarah Walker reading at Women of Letters, blowing everyone away, making a room laugh and cry in turns. And there’s me not being even a tiny bit surprised by her amazingness (we’ve known each other a long time) but feeling so, so achingly proud to know and love that woman.
Yoga by the Murray.
In an effort to escape the fluorescent bulbs of our hotel room, he has filled the place with tea candles. The balcony doors are open. The tiny flames wriggle in the breeze. Mosquitoes vibrate against the fly screen. Out there in the darkening world, the river flows past us, giant and oblivious.
18/ driving down the freeway at night:
“We thought we could stay close with our Christian friends and just not be Christian with them. But in the end, we lost practically all of them.”
Behind us, the dogs are snoring.
I say “thank you”. I thank my father and my absent mother for the choice they made. I tell him I’m so glad to have grown up the way that I did.
“I think about it a lot; the choice you made. I think you were both so brave.”
And they were. We travel on, down a golden river of tungsten light.
15/ motion sickness
Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ feature leaves me with Tralfamadorian motion sickness: a sense of swinging between many different presents, haphazardly.
Up pops an alert and I am transported to a day on which my grandmother is still a part of my life. A day when I cut her nails and tease her for sleeping with a bag of old corks in her bed because she’s heard they help cramps. I take photos of flowers I’ve cut from her garden and I watch the news beside her and roll my eyes every time she calls Gillard ‘That Woman’.
Like someone in a dream, I cannot yell “The train is coming!”, “It’s behind you!” or “Time’s almost up!” The days tick by for Past Fleur and Past Flo. Days spent trying to stop her from eating so much chocolate and trying to stop her from waiting at her front gate for the taxi when she could just as easily wait inside. And then the days run out. Then miraculously begin again because time is no longer linear. Flo and Fleur, a year younger, begin their last year once more, moving obliviously towards oblivion.
16/ my resolutions for 2016:
- To find what it is that I need in each project or job to do it joyously. Follow my joy. Work with joy. Articulate that joy.
- Glorify balance rather than overwork.
- Love courageously.
- Go to yoga 180 times.
Sitting in the car outside of the pharmacy, I take my painkillers and cry.
18/ my proudest moments: number three
When I see what Emma Valente and co. did with my stage direction: ‘Maisy falls back on the bed. Stars come out on the covers and glitter across the stage. The two bodies seem to float in space. Galaxies collapse and are built in the creases of their arms and the softness of their bellies.’
Photo by David Sheehy.
On the other side of the world, a little girl is telling us about Space. She works her way through the planets with a useful fact about each one (“it has rings”, “it is very small”, “it has a volcano but the volcano is sleeping”). Once we pass Pluto we learn that comets are “sparkly” and that then there is the Milky Way.
“What’s the Milky Way?”
“It’s our galaxy.”
“What’s a galaxy?”
“It’s all sparkly and all together.”
“Do you tell your baby brother about space?”
“No. He’s too little to understand space.”
So am I, I think. Perhaps you have to be the right amount of little and big to be sure you know what a galaxy is. Perhaps Almost Four is the perfect age for understanding space.
Photo by David Kilpatrick
20/ a word
It has been years since I used the word ‘boyfriend’. I am more comfortable with unfinished sentences and vague hand gestures.
Once, back in 2013, I said, “the guy I’m dating” in front of The Guy I Was Dating and he hissed, “we’re not dating”. We stopped doing whatever it was we were doing not long after that.
Which makes it seem like I was uncomfortable without definitions. Like I’ve spent four years longing for clarity. And I haven’t. I’ve spent four years longing to feel ready for clarity. And now I am.
‘Boyfriend’ still feels foreign. It feels italicised. Like an invitation for questions. Like it isn’t mine to use. Like I might be accused of mispronunciation, or cultural appropriation. It is so outside of me.
And yet, as anxious and unsure as I am every time the word leaves my mouth, I am so proud to be saying it. So proud to declare with those syllables that I care for someone and they care for me. That we can make out pretty much any time and hold hands in the dark of theatres. I say those two syllables with terror in my eyes and an increased heart rate. I say them ready to be corrected, rejected and neglected and yet I am not. I am smiled at, hugged, kissed, affirmed, celebrated. This is the year of complete sentences.