The Big Issue : Edition 439
34 THE BIG ISSUE 16 -- 29 AUG 2013 Eventually my sister comes around. "You look like shit," she says, giving me a surly hug. She puts the kettle on and starts opening curtains and cupboards. Somehow she fnds it scribbled on the butt of a paper cup -- the one about the black dog and the blonde woman on the tram. She frowns and says maybe it's as simple as thinking happy thoughts. She bosses me into the shower and tells me I have to go to work tomorrow. She also instructs me to write some happy poems, for fuck's sake. I don't need the shower. All I do is shower. But I do need a happy poem. As hot water cascades over my tender eyelids I realise the only thing I miss about the outside is the cafe girl's daily haiku. The next morning I step out onto the frigid street. My eyes dart furtively. I'm an intruder in the world of living, breathing people. I concentrate on putting one shiny, black shoe in front of the other, and I notice myself moving in the direction of the tram stop. Her freshly pressed words greet me with a warm touch. my grandmother's ring throws off a small galaxy I feel like dancing In my mind I'm dancing with her. We're at my sister's wedding. We're both laughing at each other's crazy dance moves. I kiss her bare shoulder. It's a fantasy that I don't often allow myself. On the tram, I write: early morning tram a nice thick coating of germs on every surface Not happy. on my way to work the rhythmic metallic sounds induce nausea Still not happy. I don't like this seat it feels exposed we rattle past the Melbourne Anarchists' Club it's probably warm inside how do I join up? Huh! I broke the rules. Fuck you, fve seven fve. I almost smile for the frst time in days, pleased with my petty rebellion. I text this one to my sister. She texts back: "Hey PJ, good work. 'It's probably warm inside.' I detect some positive energy returning. Love you xxx." It irritates me slightly that she has ignored both my defance and my persisting doldrums, but I think I might feel a bit better in spite of myself. I still can't stomach work today. I get off the tram in the city and walk rigidly to Flinders Street Station where I test my nerves by catching a random train to the outer fringes and back again. Two hours later I write another haiku: train ride like a balm I can see people's backyards their clothes lines and souls I think I'm improving. I contemplate dropping this fragment into her tip jar, but I walk straight past the red door to the comforting shelter of my apartment, which turns out to be cold, lonely and stale. I open up the windows and chill the leather couch to brittleness. Then I close everything up again, crank up the heating, and browse every lost dog on the internet until it’s fnally late enough to go to bed. My sister thinks a dog would be good for me. I like dogs, but I think I work too much. Early the next morning I crouch in front of the red door, peel away a corner of cling wrap from around the freshly delivered Herald Sun and insert my spidery note under the plastic flm. I reread the words about her grandmother’s ring, still there from yesterday, and I know my imagination will be dancing with her all day, watching her twirl and then holding her to me when the music slows. At work I pass the morning avoiding people and choking on a terrifying backlog of emails. At midday I mutter something unintelligible to my PA and take the stairs down to the street. I step onto the footpath disoriented. I wonder if I'm delirious. I'm searching for something to give her tomorrow. The city is bleak, but there are patches of light if you look for them. My eyes fnd pigeons huddled in pairs on high ledges. I walk. The bright colours of Chinatown attract me: red, green and gold. The air sizzles with pungent smells and, beyond the glass and lobster tanks, people are sharing plates heaped high. Their faces are animated as they talk, slurp and chew. Without thinking, I walk into a restaurant. I order kung pao chicken and fsh-favoured eggplant. “No, no, too much food," the matronly proprietor warns me, standing over me like a tiger, but I order both dishes anyway. I eat hungrily around the crumpled chilli slices. My tongue tingles and my lips burn. In between mouthfuls I scrawl lines of poetry on a serviette. I have not a worry in the world. As I walk back to my I BECOME GOOD AT NOTICING THE BEAUTIFUL FRAGMENTS THAT OTHER PEOPLE MISS. THERE ARE ALWAYS BIRDS NESTING IN STRANGE HOLLOWS IN THE CITY, AND MONGREL DOGS TIED UP OUTSIDE THE SUPERMARKET...AND YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND A FEW STARS PERSISTING AGAINST THE CITY LIGHTS.