A history of encounters: Part 1

Apartment block

I went to primary school with a girl who knew a lot about things. She told us a story about a guy who lived in her apartment block. This guy would sit on his bed with the door wide open, wearing just a towel. There was something else about a girl who wore roller skates sitting on his knee.


There was another girl in primary school who told us a story about a bunch of cousins who coaxed her into doing something she didn’t want to do. One cousin kept watch to make sure the adults weren’t coming. The girl was crying as she told us this story. She was sitting on the concrete steps that led up to the school library.


I play around with the word ‘dishonest’. I cut the word up and place the emphasis in the wrong place. DISH----on-est, instead of Dis-HON-est. I try to convince myself the word has no meaning, because if I can do that, my lies seem less significant.


I didn’t want to kiss the boy I had been assigned to kiss. I can’t remember his name. But he had a square head, mousey-brown hair and dull, dough-like features. He came to class one day saying his Mum had done his homework. The teacher laughed. The teacher and his Mum were friends. I think they played tennis together.

Doughy Part 2

I didn’t want to kiss Dough Boy. I wanted to kiss the American boy who’d been hit by a car and had no friends. The American boy had blonde hair and a limp. I kissed the boy I didn’t want to kiss, but by that stage no one was paying attention because all the popular couples had kissed already. So, I needn’t have kissed him at all.

Some of the popular couples continued to kiss, long after the game was over. They seemed to get pleasure from this strange act, or at least they pretended to.


The girl who knew a lot about things got busted graffitiing the boys’ toilets. She was banned from the school Christmas picnic. While the rest of went to the pool, she sat at her desk, with the overhead fan blowing hot air around, and the supervising teacher eating lunch from a brown paper bag.

Lost things

Perhaps something bad happened, and I’ve forgotten. Or perhaps nothing happened, and I’ve forgotten. That’s the gift – and the frustration – of memory. We forget the insignificant things because they don’t matter. We bury the significant things because they do.

Rolling around

In the latter years of high school, I rolled around in the grass with boys who were drunk. I imagined they were women. I imagined I was a man. I imagined they were men, and I was a man. Afterwards, I’d walk home in the dark, carrying my shoes.


At Infants’ School, all students were required to participate in Square Dancing. An old man in a cowboy hat called out instructions from the stage. Swing your partner. Doh-see-doh. As my social standing was quite low, I was assigned the least popular boy. His name was Mark and his hands were always sticky.

The girl who knew a lot about things

The girl in primary school who knew a lot about things was talking about condoms one day. I said, “What’s a condom?” She smiled and said, “Oh, it’s this white thing you put over your head.” And she made this gesture, as if she was pulling something down over her face. For a while there I thought there was a close connection between condoms and the Ku Klux Klan.

Which one is it?

I play around with the words ‘apart’ and ‘a part.’ Sometimes when people say they want to be a part, they display behaviors which indicate they want to be apart. It can be quite confusing.

You’re going to have to do it one day

During the early years of high school, I went to a party at this girl’s house. I was sitting on a trampoline with a couple of other girls. One of them had just kissed a boy around the side of the house. She asked me if I was going to. I said probably not. She said, “You’re going to have to do it one day.” I had never thought of it like that: as something I had to do; like wearing a bra, moving out of home, getting a job. I thought I had all the time in the world to avoid kissing boys.

Something to say

I have something to say. Hang on. No. I’ve forgotten what it was. So, it seems reasonable to look out the window and watch the scenery. It moves fast and smooth, like a reel of film.

I'm trying not to look at my phone because it’s taking up so much of my time. It’s like this now. We have relationships with machines, when we once had relationships with bags and shoes and blankets.

We pass over the river and I hope to see something alive. Something bright and clear. But it’s just the same old boring wall. A weed as tall as a man. Nobody bothers to cut him down. Those shrubs are like women; dumpy, squat and selfish.

I'm thinking of a story I could write. That story he told me about the glow worms in the tin. When they camped by the moors. I think he might have been in love then. That’s not what he said. I just assumed by the look on his face. But it’s not really my story.

I must have a story of my own. I can’t think of one.

There’s a vine growing up the wall. Shiny, rubber leaves. It’s hard to tell what’s real anymore. It’s all barbed wire and plastic bags. Tired graffiti and those bushes with pink flowers. Pretty pink flowers. But they’re not native. And they’re choking all the ideas that once blossomed freely.

Who belongs here anyway? I go through these phases where I feel like I’m just floating across the surface. Nothing touches the edges. I eat and eat and eat and eat but never feel full.

Concrete blocks. We’re protecting ourselves now. We know all their tricks. We’re walling ourselves in.

We get to the building with the reflective windows, and I remember the dream I had. About that woman who wanted me to say sorry, or was it thank you? She’s carved out a space in my psyche. She lives in a cave in my soul. And when I feel all the life draining out of me, like lukewarm water draining from a bath, she gets out something needle sharp and silver and pokes me with it. Because she wants me to remember more. Wants me to remember everything about those times when I was so big I was invisible. I sat outside. My mouth shut like a door.

They’d left me by then. Dumped me like a cat. Cat and cut. Cut and run.

There was another woman once. She had a watch with a fogged-up face. When I asked her to tell me the time she held the instrument up to my ear.

What should we worry about now? Take your pick. It’s not as if we’re short of potential catastrophes. There’s only so much you can do and, even then, I get trapped by the thoughts that bubble up like fish. The thoughts that choke on plastic. All the things we throw out.

I’m trying to live a tiny, tight life now. I’m saving words. I’m hoarding them for winter. I’m pickling sentences and putting them in jars and storing them on shelves in a bunker beneath the ground. And then, when it’s time, I’ll tell you what I wanted to say. I’ll make you a feast.

The landscape rolls by. Rolling, rolling. Like a river. Like a reel of film.

Things that happened

Tic Tac

I knew this girl once. She was allergic to grass. She always had a box of Tic-Tacs in the pocket of her school uniform. I asked her for a Tic-Tac one day. She said, 'They're not Tic-Tacs. They're tablets. I got them from my doctor because I'm sick." Her parents were young and good-looking. They lived in a house carved into a hill.

The real estate agent

I had this cat once. I liked him because he was my cat but, from an objective standpoint, he was generally quite unlikeable. He slinked around the house with this look on his face - like he had an answer for everything. If he'd been human he would have been a real estate agent. But he wasn't. He was a cat.

Eating watermelon in Bali

I knew this woman once. She worked in the same office as me. She wore loose flowery dresses and sandals. She told me I was going to go blind because I worked too hard. She went on holiday to Bali. When she came back, her hair was plaited in thin braids and decorated with multi-coloured pieces of string. She stood beside my desk and sighed, "I wish I was back in Bali. Reading my book and eating watermelon."

Making friends

I knew this guy once. He talked to strangers as if he knew them. He would go up to them as if they were long-lost confidants. It wasn't a joke. He just thought that was how people made friends.


I had this dream once. I was in a parachute drifting down towards a river. It wasn't until I was a few metres from the surface that I noticed the grey shadows. Sharks. I woke up just before I hit the water. I looked up 'Sharks' in my Dreams Book. It said I needed to be more cautious. I now tend to dream about crocodiles.

The strange things that happen to you in your sleep

I knew this woman once. She gave me a book about interpreting dreams. She wrote a note in the front of the book that said, "I'm giving you this so you can understand all the strange things that happen to you in your sleep."


I once had a pair of shoes. They were olive green. I became attached to them in the same way one might become attached to a small stray dog. When I looked down at them I would smile. When the soles of these shoes started to fall off, I stopped wearing them. They retired to my cupboard. When I noticed them in there - my beloved shoes - I felt guilty. As if I had forsaken an old friend.

The 1980s

I knew this woman once. I told her I was gay and she said, "I never thought you were gay. I just thought you were weird." It was the 1980s. People said shit like that.

There's more to the story

I knew this woman once. She was married with two children. She got drunk at this party and held my hands on the dancefloor. She whispered into my ear, "I think you're fabulous." I realised then that there was something more to the story.

Preparing a bath

I lived in this house once. The bath was in a concrete outhouse in the garden. A giant water heater sat above the tub, fixed to the wall. To heat up the water, you needed to light the water heater manually. We never had any matches so I lit pieces of paper on the stove, then carried them carefully to the outhouse. Sometimes the flame would go out and I'd have to start all over again.


I read this book once. It said that it's getting harder and harder to find a quiet corner in the world. A place not dominated by the sounds of industry or traffic, music or people. (Sometimes the world is so quiet I wonder if I've gone deaf).


I had this job once. It involved cold-calling people and asking them to do surveys about topics such as chewing gum, alcohol consumption and air freshener. ("And, when you do eat gum, how many pellets do you typically put in your mouth at one time?") I did two shifts and never went back. I suspected there were more important things I could be doing with my time.

In Praise of Tiny

Lately I have pondering the worthiness of all things Tiny. After all, the world has no shortage of Big Things. If you go to the airport and sit around for a while (and what else is there to do at an airport I ask you; apart from eating your fill of Big donuts that come in Big boxes) you’re bound to spot some mighty big planes. Those planes are big. It’s a wonder they ever get off the ground.

Other examples of Big Things: Ayers Rock; most professional basketball players; semi-trailers; Western Australia; any type of drink purchased in the US of A (they are a thirsty people, it would seem); and Bunnings.

I would like to sing the praises of the Tiny right now (in a soft, barely audible, tiny voice). For example:

·         those little red spiders that like to crawl across the page when you reading and barely fit into the circumference of a full stop (the Tiny-lovers amongst us will agree that shutting your page on the tiny spider is seriously poor form);

·         the goods with which you furnish your doll’s house (I recently discovered a doll’s house for a doll’s house – now that’s what you call Tiny);

·         babies’ toes, baby socks, baby singlets, babies’ ears and all things baby (apart from baby elephants, perhaps);

·         Lego people; and

·         the middle toe of my partner’s right foot (named ‘Premature Toe’ and which, every time I see it, I want to wrap in a little shawl and tuck into a Tiny bed. She finds it all a tiny bit disturbing).

Why would I sing the praises of the Tiny? Why should I? Am I a (tiny) bit mad? Perhaps, but seriously, what would we have to melt our hearts if not for the tiny? How empty would our lives be without the bonding that occurs when two women spot a pair of pink sequined baby Converse shoes? These are the touching, tiny moments that define us.

Speaking of mother – she is also tiny (4 foot nothing, to be exact).

Let us sing the praises of such tiny people:

·         they can sleep comfortably on couches;

·         they have tiny hands that can make tiny things much more easily than those who have Big hands with Big sausage fingers; and

·         they can crawl into small spaces that others cannot (which comes in handy when there is an earthquake and the building you’re in falls down on top of you and leaves only the tiniest of spaces to survive within).

I don’t believe my mother has ever been in the latter situation but if she was, the fact that she is 4 foot tall – and has the proportions of an elf – would no doubt be highly beneficial. She is also the only person I know who likes sleeping on couches. She thinks couches are seriously luxurious. And if that’s not a tiny bit sweet, I don’t know what is.

Tiny things remind us that life doesn’t always have to be big. They remind us that quantity does not equal quality. That what we overlook is often just as, if not more beautiful than the Big things that stare us in the face and force us to admire them.

Why can’t those big things just tone it down? Why can’t they just go and hang out together in Big Land for a while and let us get on with the business of admiring the Tiny?

Let us call on our Governments to put an immediate stop on all Big Projects and focus on the Tiny. Instead of another Big Banana, the people of Australia want a Tiny Cherry. They want a Tiny Cherry made of stone, spray painted red, placed atop of a tiny plinth and accompanied by a tiny sign that praises the beauty of all things Tiny.

Tiny lovers from across the world would come to admire our Tiny Cherry and have their photos taken beside it. Tiny little people (I think they’re called children) could sell tiny souvenirs that would boost our economy in the most tiniest of ways.

So put your glasses on and search around your chair for something Tiny. Take a moment to admire said Tiny thing, sing a tiny song and take a tiny little bow.