Saturday, November 28, 2015

Check Out

I always said that the last time I partied was in the basement bar of a Brisbane hostel in 2008. We chewed on sugary pink frost and danced among crowds that were familiar, yet eroding each night. We kissed strangers and posed for photographs, mouths wide, arms intertwined. We staggered through the night streets together because he promised that he would show me the most beautiful grand piano in the city. It was in the foyer of a 5-star hotel and when he found the front door was locked, he used a credit card to disengage the latch. It was about 4am when a concierge interrupted his playing and we were asked to leave.

Living and working in a London hostel, I've continued to use that metaphor of the constantly eroding social scene. We have this communal consciousness of our timelines which overlap. At reception, there is a vast collage of photographs, portraits of people we don't recognise, at parties we never attended. They wear bedsheets as togas and hold cans of beer aloft, as if they have won some sort of trophy. We remark on this wall each day and how this place must have held so much significance to them, but now the memory exists as a complete abstraction to us.

This morning, I said goodbye to one of my closest friends and work colleagues here, my other Swedish friend, Malin. Last night, we talked about how we had hoped and wished that these links would be preserved, a Facebook message would be exchanged every so often, a meeting would be arranged in a New York bakery. We agreed that we couldn't know the legacy of this time. We couldn't rely on the idea of enduring friendships that go on to exist well beyond this place. For the sake of my heart though, I imagine it will all last forever.

I write in the knowledge that I will soon need to say goodbye to the most important person here. We try to take advantage of our last nights together. We reconvene each night in the kitchen to drink mugs of cold milk together. He accompanies me on my Epiphone Dot while I sing Tom Petty, Ricky Nelson and George Harrison songs. We rarely venture into the cold London night, but when we do we remark on how odd it is that we have never been on the tube or the bus together.

When Malin decided to leave, she told me how the hostel had become a shrine to memories of an earlier time. Each space seemed to be full of stories of consequence, everywhere represented a connection with someone who had left. She predicted a similar sense of loss and association would occur for me, when what happened seems to overshadow any hope for a future connection. I keep on asking those who have decided to leave whether I will ever really know when it is time to go. They assured me that the desire to go becomes so apparent that it is overwhelming. Obsessive dreams of home seem to overtake anything London has to offer.

I try to take advantage of the moments I have left here, all the while thinking of how I can manage that inevitable, but no less immense sense of loss. There's a part of me that feels that I will stay here and mourn for them forever.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Ricardo would sit across from me when everything was quiet and dark. Everyone in the kitchen had stopped creating their messes, everyone in the lounge room had abandoned their epic film. He would ask me questions about love, lust and attachment, pausing to listen to my theories and then clarifying his own view. There would never be any embarrassment between us, we would merely attempt to describe an irrational attitude.

I would tell him things that I only ever clarified in morning pages, how the great lovers reflect certain passions like music, writing or creative projects, all things that continue to exist within myself. It's a moment that rang out, that second he asked me, "But doesn't it make you angry that they still occupy so much of your heart?" I felt such relief when I responded, "But they don't. They don't occupy any part of me any more."

I don't know when they left me, but I think I accepted that it was absurd to grieve, it was foolish to yearn when the present moment opened up so many more possibilities. They still exist in the ether though, as remorseless yet cowardly ghosts in stories. They are one dimensional figures with detailed and finite tastes and persuasions. I make careless declarations, "Of course I still love them, I will always love them... it's just that I've grown committed to those friends who stay, those who ultimately choose to be with me."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I developed an endearing type of affinity with Sophia. She was a hilarious Swedish girl who frequently crept into our darkened shared room to fetch something out of her overweight silver suitcase. Her creeping was both careful and thoughtful, ultimately intended to minimise any disruption to the eternally sleeping hostel workers. She would then invariably shriek upon seeing me, staring and standing motionless in the middle of the room. 

On her last night, she expressed a desire to have a tattoo to honour the end of her year in London. Foley calibrated his DIY tattoo machine on the desk at reception: buzzing, pausing and closely examining its stainless steel components. I was aghast when he got out the black Indian ink, I shrieked: "You cannot be serious, what the fuck!" I couldn't disguise my disapproval, it was a pale echo of my mother's violent anti-tattoo sentiment. I cited the prospect of pain, ugliness and hepatitis. They told me to get a grip.

Sophia went on to tell us what she wanted, showing us the design on her iPhone. It featured two upper peaks of a triangle aligned in parallel. It was the footprint of a Native American bird, its relevance was ultimately connected with the legacy of her grandfather. We looked at her right ankle to determine its size and placement. It was at that point when Sophia suggested I draw the design. Foley handed me a black ball point pen and I wildly wailed in opposition. I knew they were playing on my steadfast opposition to it, which makes it all the more puzzling why I finally relented. 

I crouched down closely and tentatively marked out a sequence of dots near her Achilles' Heel. The first few attempts were rubbed out with saliva, the design being too small or painfully placed. Once the dots were in place, I carefully drew the four lines. The right slope was slightly imperfect but it was meant to have this plaintive, hand-drawn quality. Once the design was confirmed, they relocated to the lounge. I got my phone out to take photos to send to our other Swedish friend, Malin. Sophia advised: "Just don't send the photos to my mother."

I couldn't watch closely as Foley pressed the buzzing double needles to her skin and the black ink dribbled over her ankle. I made myself useful and fetched some tissues to mop up excess ink from the ottoman. It was over in a few moments, which is just as well because she described the sensation as feeling "like knives". She wrapped some Glad Wrap over her now-throbbing, embossed skin. My vitriolic opposition to the tattoo seemed to soften when I saw how pleased she was. As Foley packed up his gear, I said to him: "You made your friend happy tonight."

What moved me more than anything was how she described the newfound significance of the design: "It means so much that it was done here, in this place and that Eleanor drew it and Foley tattooed it..."  Not much has changed in regards to my feelings about tattoos, but I feel moved that I became a part of the narrative of that symbol for her, a sign which is a conduit to an important time and place. It seems like hardly a fair exchange, but I keep the remains of her gold OPI nailpolish on my fingernails in honour of her. She's been gone a few weeks now and so they remain like flecks of precious gold leaf. 

It doesn't seem so long that she was still here, carefully creeping in the darkness.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Le Point Ephémère was a trendy venue in an unlikely locale. It was situated in a lofty bunker on the edge of a darkened canal in North-East Paris. We couldn't find it initially, I breathlessly stopped to ask a local for directions in broken French. His hand gestures indicated that it was à la gauche and I rushed on ahead, scraping out a merci! as I skipped towards what looked like an abandoned canteen in the middle distance. We stumbled down the slope and the muffled music became more convincing. Hurry, hurry! I shouted behind me. Andrew and Louise staggered on like zombies, exhausted from the first day of our continental adventure. We had walked what seemed like the entire breadth of the city, imbibing le musée de la vie romantique, Colette and Shakespeare & Co. We were all dead by 8pm, but that was the exact time we were meant to be at Le Point Ephémère, waiting for Eugene McGuinness to come on stage.

It was entirely my idea and Louise completely understood how much it meant to me. She knew how I cultivate these types of daydreams and she knew how invested I got in this idea of us in that crowd, dancing to Fonz and Lion, carrying on to songs that for me, have only ever existed in my room. However, as we all lay supine over our maroon-coloured beds, it was clear Louise was very ill, indeed. She ached but continued to convince me wearily: We will go, Elle. We will go soon... The idea of it became increasingly implausible when at 8.30pm, Andrew went across the road to the local supermarché to buy supplies for dinner. He'd seemed to have gone for something like 45 minutes and by the time we had actually left the hotel, it was getting closer to 10pm.

We waded past the punters and approached the door of the bandroom. It was heavy, locked and glazed with a dried honey-like substance. I pushed repeatedly and peered through the glass which had been obscured with internalised chicken wire. The room was filled with misshapen silhouettes and magneta-coloured stage lights. I pressed my ear to the door and heard Eugene announce his last song, the crowd wildly cheered and whistled. I couldn't determine whether it was the exhaustion, the disappointment or perhaps a deft combination of the two, but I cried. I cried hard. I retreated to the sticky, bathroom stalls which were defaced accented profanities and curled up into a seated fetal position for several minutes. When I emerged, I found Andrew in the emptying bandroom. He was talking to a guy on stage who was winding up a heavy lead around his arm. He admitted to me, I was trying to get you a setlist...

It was an excessive reaction on my part, one that certainly felt excessive as we ambled back towards the underground in silence. I walked slowly behind them this time, tears streamed down my face. As we approached our hotel, Louise asked to stop at a nearby bar to sit alone and write. I didn't need any retrospect to understand what had just happened. I knew that my tantrum had ruined what had been a completely euphoric day. However, when I would come to reflect on the incident later, the moral of the story became abundantly clear: I should have gone alone. I knew that my desire to have them with me was not so much to do with this fantasy I've cultivated of musical friendship, it has to do with a fear of true independence. I understand the limitations of my own independence and those limitations seem to be ingrained in me. I don't do certain things alone because I fear that something will happen to me.

Months later, I sifted through the tickets, receipts and other debris from our adventure together. Among the misshapen artefacts, I found that two light purple tickets that were unfamiliar to the eye. They were tickets, someone else's tickets to Eugene McGuinness at Le Point Ephémère that Andrew had picked up from the bandroom, without my knowledge. I let out a large wail in love and in guilt, knowing how my tantrum must have affected Andrew in particular. I stuck the tickets in a hardcover O-CHECK scrapbook, among hundreds of other photographs, ribbons and postcards. It's a beautiful document, one that would stand as the ideal propaganda piece as it glorifies every aspect of that adventure together. I love it, but when I flick through it, I sense the ongoing sense of grief and loneliness. I didn't wish to endure any of it alone, but I suppose due the nature of it, there was no other way to convey what it was like.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


I have always derived personal satisfaction in this idea that I'm sympathetic to the male plight. I never really identified why I've always been like this, but perhaps it's safe to say that there was always comfort in the thought that I was privy to "insider knowledge" and ultimately, I was treated as an equal. I was gifted with a kind of honesty that would only ever be reserved for another man.

I took pride in the way I cultivated honest friendships with men, both single and taken. My brothers educated me in the ways of Mystery Method and I began to easily identify pick up artists during sober nights out in Melbourne. I was told about the endlessly frustrating mechanics of the dreaded friendzone, fully conscious that I had committed the same crime: I had relegated several suitors to the land of no action.

Why did I put guys in the friendzone? Simply put, I was afraid to be forthright. I never had the courage to say no.

I would later try to overcome my relationship reluctance, based upon this idea that I didn't want to be like "those other bitches". Taking down the walls of the friendzone meant that I entered into relationships that I wasn't particularly ready for. I became cold and unfathomably frigid. I knew that my desire to be a more palatable kind of woman backfired and approaching 30, I still struggle with that ability to effectively manage their feelings and my comfort.

I've maintained a healthy interest in the friendzone, particularly since society's recent sympathy shift away from the lovelorn male. Perhaps it was a discussion that came about with the astounding popularity of the Tumblr, The Nice Guys of OKCupid. The revelation is simple, yet compelling: "Your right to be angry with womankind is invalidated because being nice to a girl does not automatically mean you are entitled to have sex with her."

I like to recall the sentiment of one nameless woman from my Tumblr feed, "I happen to think that my friendship is a pretty special thing. It shouldn't be some consolation prize when a man doesn't get what he wants." It's a comforting idea that I continually return to. Growing up, I thought that the existence of the friendzone suggested that my body was more valuable than my mind. Perhaps this is why I have such a strong desire to solely exist as a brain in a jar.

Yet I continue to indulge in these honest discussions with men and usually I'm the one to volunteer an adept summary of the whole situation: "So, what you're saying is that you want her to put out or get out." I'm sure it doesn't sound like it, but I believe that I operate in this perverse role of undercover feminist. I don't admonish their behaviour, I don't go after these guys with a burning cross and a pick-axe. I simply listen and take it all in.

I convince myself that there is a certain power in doing this. I believe I am powerful because they're not saying this to me.