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A Shitty Thing to Write About

6 Jun

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It was a bus shelter empanada that made me break that bathroom in Cartagena.

Three hours before consuming it, I was in a seedy cantina with my new friend, Atlanta: an ex-army medic and survivor of the Fort Hood massacre. Atlanta’s PTSD had pushed him to the north east of Colombia where he volunteered at an isolated jungle hostel, periodically returning to civilisation to replenish his stocks of rum and cocaine. It was on one of these trips that we met, striking up a conversation as he urinated on a police car—the sort of introduction you can only have in Cartagena. After an evening of mayhem and laughter, he decided to smuggle me back to the Sierra Nevada, too.

We found a bus shelter hidden in a laneway that, for reasons unknown, was still selling tickets in the middle of the night. We asked the emaciated Morlock behind the counter for two on the early bird bus to Buritaca.

“And,” I added as an afterthought, “one of those empanadas.”

“I wouldn’t eat that,” Atlanta said, eyeing my Colombian surrogate midnight kebab.

He had a point: it’d been baking under a heat lamp like George Hamilton for the better part of the millennium, and the hands that plucked it from the cage were varnished with grime. Nevertheless, I took a bite. It was basically Whiskas in shortcrust pastry; and while a reasonable person might think, ‘Yuk, if I wanted to eat something crusty and fishy, I could just track down Lindsay Lohan and have a gnaw on her’, I was too stubborn to admit that he was right. So I forced it down with the vigour of a dickhead.

Back at the hostel, I clambered into my bunk, set an alarm for quarter past dawn, and dropped into sleep.

My stomach woke me before the alarm could. Apparently the piscine abomination I’d just consumed was so fetid that my body’s only option was to violently expel it. Right. Fucking. Now.

I vaulted off the bunk with an athleticism that I don’t possess and spent the next hour trudging to the bathroom and back until I gave up and lay on the floor, my head resting on the tiles, breathing shallowly through my mouth like a pregnant kelpie. I was okay with this—what little pride I had was lost when vomit had leaked through my fingers when I didn’t make it off the bunk in time.

And, on a side note, I’d like to apologise to the girl in bunk number seven. If you send me the dry-cleaning bill, I’ll reimburse you.

At about 3:45a.m., my belly gave the sort of ominous rumble that tells you to find a toilet, trash receptacle, or tin-can of sorts. Exhausted, but desperate, I grasped the side of the sink, intending to use it to lift my turgid carcass from the floor. As I pulled myself up, the basin came out from the wall, separated from the porcelain column it rested on, tottered elegantly in midair for a moment or two, and then crashed to the ground like Newton’s apple.

So—to recap—I was trapped in a bathroom wearing a Peter Alexander singlet in fetching, vomit-fleck yellow, and men’s Target-brand boxer shorts with an erroneous, easy access crotch panel. Half-digested Nemo could be found in my hair. My hands clutched part of a sink with the remainder scattered in shards around me, and, to be honest, I probably smelt like a sex crime.

My stomach rumbled.

Oh, and I still needed to go.

The remainder of the basin dropped from my fingers.

 

Shortly later, I snuck to the reception for confession.

The night porter was sitting at the desk, his feet crossed at the ankles, a block of chocolate resting on his belly. He was engrossed in his laptop, which was playing pornography. He jumped when I approached him, dropping his chocolate (which is a nice euphemism for what I’d just been up to myself, really), adjusting his glasses and offering an uncertain, “Hola?”

I attempted to explain in manic Spanglish, trying to highlight the fact that I hadn’t intended on smashing the bathroom like Keith Richards on crack, but an empanada (“Which might have been cat food. You know, el gatto.”) caused me to vigorously evacuate everything from my system which had, inadvertently, caused me to break the bathroom.

Perdon?”

“I’m not on drugs you know,” I babbled. “Honestly.” For some reason it was very important to me that he know this. “I mean, I know it’s Colombia but I’m not.” I blinked, my anxious eyes jittering across his face. “I promise. But the bathroom is—”

From the desk, the naked woman on the laptop let out a moan. We both glanced at it. With one hand he slammed the lid.

“—completely fucked.” I finished.

He explained that his English was not very good, and even if he spoke fluently, he’d struggle to cohere the nonsense that I was hurling at him, so I should just shut the fuck up and show him whatever the hell I was ranting about.

To paraphrase.

I led him to the bathroom, head bowed like a war widow. He looked in. Coughed. Crossed himself.

I glanced up.

The toilet hadn’t flushed properly.

Fuck.

“The other bathroom,” he began, a smirk on his lips. “She is okay?”

I frowned. “I guess so.”

He locked the door. “Then use other bathroom tonight.”

That was it?

Wait—that was it?

He just shut the fucking door? I could have done that! In fact, why didn’t I just do that?

“They fix in morning. Now it’s late. You sleep.” He laid a paw on my shoulder and, remembering the porn, I tried not to think of where it had been.

“You need something else?” he asked.

“Do you have any Gastro Stop?”

He frowned. “I don’t know what this is.”

“How about a cork?”

“Goodnight, miss.”

 

The following morning, Atlanta was in hysterics. “I told you not to eat that shit!” he crowed.

“Be kind to me,” I mewled.

Dehydration had pulled my eyeballs into my skull and the soles of my feet were laced with micro-cuts from the porcelain. Brittle and wan, I was shaking like a dild—

…um, like a…llama. With Parkinson’s. Yeah.

I’d run late for the bus, too. Which was total bullshit. Colombians operate on ‘Colombian time’: a vague assemblage of moments distinguished by phrases such as ‘mas tarde’ and the idiom ‘ahorita’, which, to Colombians, means ‘Nowish…ish.’ It’s impossible to be behind schedule when even a nebulously binding reference to time is abstract. This bus driver was apparently a German expat because Atlanta had to bribe him to wait for my leaky arse.

“You want drugs?”

I peered at him through knock-off Raybans. “You think cocaine fixes everything.”

“I’m not sharing that. I mean these,” he fossicked in his pockets, dropping loose tobacco, receipts, lint, and lighters on my lap before presenting a battered pill packet.

I turned it over. “Codeína?”

He nodded.

“You want me to take,” I squinted at the packet, “sixty milligrams of codeine for food poisoning?” In a distant part of my brain, my nurse training came online. “I don’t think it’s indicated for that.”

“Codeine causes constipation,” he began with forced patience.

It’s true, codeine can turn chia seeds into concrete…and we had eight hours before we reached Buritaca…

“If nothing else, it’ll help you sleep. Keep the pack,” he grinned. “I’ve got shitloads.”

That pill packet would resurface a year later on a bus in Nepal.

 

My gorgeous sister and I had travelled through there in January and—aside from a slightly rapey overnight train, a pair of sunglasses landing with a squelch in a squat toilet, and a clutch of hysterical pilgrims that nearly swallowed my blanket-wielding sibling whole—we’d navigated it without incident. I even swam through crap and corpses in the Ganges, managing to emerge free from sin and dysentery. So when I kissed my sister goodbye in Pokhara, feeling bulletproof, I did what any cocky tourist would do: I gave salmonella prevention the middle finger and ate a discounted hamburger.

The following day, when the rancid meat was somewhere in my jejunum, I boarded a bus to Kathmandu, fragile and cranky. Initially, my ire was blamed on the obnoxious Americans behind me: the ones comparing the selfies they’d taken with malnourished, haunted, but tentatively hopeful Cambodian orphans on their recent poverty-porn world tour. At the first rest stop—with six hours left on a bathroomless bus—I sprinted off to abuse a roadside toilet. It then became as clear as the second line on a pregnancy test that I was screwed.

Buying a bottle of water, I downed the Colombian codeine along with a handful of Gastro-Stop, hoping to calcify the evil that was incubating within me. It worked and six Gastro-Stops later, I was in Kathmandu.

I disembarked into chaos, knowing that my hostel was somewhere, unsure of where, but trusting HostelWorld’s claim that it was a $3 cab ride away. The first two taxi drivers didn’t know where somewhere was, but could get me everywhere else for $5. I declined, and since they didn’t want to go nowhere, they followed me around until I tersely said that I wouldn’t be going anywhere with them.

The third driver didn’t speak English, but nodded with the sort of earnestness that I find charming. I showed him the address on my iPhone—a move which proved to be as useful as a bathroom door around Oscar Pistorius—he couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t pinpoint where Samjhana Street was in the melee before me. We drove through crowds, sporadically stopping to ask random strangers for directions, my iPhone proffered like pocket-sized oracle. In three Gastro-Stops we found it. I checked in, went upstairs to my room, and passed out on the stained futon.

I awoke just before midnight in a batten-down-the-hatches state that can best be described as ‘gastrointestinal Armageddon’. Throwing open my door, I bolted downstairs to the dingy washrooms. This became my first evening in Kathmandu: a veritable red, white and green kaleidoscope of bad decisions punctuated by a shitty staircase. In desperation, I took my entire stash of Gastro-Stop, something that may have caused mild delirium because I recall kicking open the toilet door at one point and swaggering to the bowl like John Wayne after an enema, snarling, “Hello again, you old bastard. Remember me?”

Even though I’d booked the hostel for three nights, I decided to leave early the next morning, because fuck running up and down stairs like Tom and Jerry. I splashed out on a hotel that had a bathroom in the room, packed my bags, and headed to the front desk.

Not wanting to pay for the whole stay, I approached the clerk with a smile and said, “Hello, my grandfather’s dead. Can I check out?”

In Australia, a family emergency trumps a cancellation fee. In Nepal, it opens up a negotiation. With a small nod of condolence, he tallied my bill, swiped my card, and presented me the receipt as if it were inconsequential: bacon rind given to a hungry dog. I glanced at it.

“You’ve charged me for three nights.”

“Yes.”

“But I’m only staying one.”

“Yes.”

“But,” I paused, trying to direct my thoughts through the fog of fatigue. “Can’t you…?” I trailed off, letting the sentence rot in the air between us like a bag of liposuction fat.

He slid a notepad and pen across the counter. “What is your offer?”

I stared at him. “What?”

“You tell me what you want to pay and then we discuss.”

“But…I,” pause. “No! My—”

“And I’m sorry for that.” He tapped the pad, looking delighted. “Your offer?”

The only offer that felt appropriate was a bucket of dicks for him to suck but I had no idea where to unearth such a treasure—not in Nepal, anyway—so I gave up. I reasoned that the money wasn’t worth the very real danger of shitting my pants mid-negotiation—a tactic that could have worked in my favour, but seemed like the sort of thing I’d ultimately regret.

 

Outside, the streets were still quiet and I stopped at the only pharmacy that was open. I bought the essential narcotics from the white-smocked clerk, neglecting to do the currency conversion in my head. Later that evening, I discovered that he’d charged me roughly three times the amount he was supposed to. A fact which bothered me roughly three times the amount it should have.

Sure, it was a minuscule amount of cash to me but a modest amount to him, but I was vexed: It was wrong, I was just a tourist. And I was sick. Vulnerable. He was taking advantage of that. He was shitting all over me. I had to say something—for colonically-challenged travellers everywhere.

Two days later, lathered into frenzy, I strode to the store with my indignant inner monologue juggling words and phrases in my head like linguistic Sudoku. I stormed up to the pharmacist, struck my fist on the counter, and said—among other things—“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”

Yep. Apparently food poisoning turns me into Dorothy from Oz. I mean: who says ‘ought to’ in general conversation? What the fuck was that? Why not just go all-out and put my little soliloquy into iambic pentameter?

At the end of my rant, he was flummoxed. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to find some ridiculous justification for it.

“Madam,” he began delicately. “I’ve never seen you before.”

My first reaction was shock, “What?” which slowly gave way to confusion, “I was just in here the other day,” then realisation, “Oh,” and finally, a throbbing mortification: “You didn’t serve me, did you?”

He shook his head.

I looked around, trying to pick the offender from the line-up of neat men in matching uniforms. “Does your twin brother work here?” I gave what I hoped was a charming, disarming, and completely non-racist smile. “Maybe he served me?”

“Madam, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Okay,” I turned, and then looked back. “Just, you know, don’t overcharge tourists. Not that you do. Because, um, we now know,” grin, “that you don’t.” Pause. “I’m a nurse by the way! Yep. An egalitarian nurse who is totally supportive of refugees and…”

I prattled on like this for a while, determined to dig myself out of the hole I’d just placed myself in.

Perhaps I should have just buried my shit in it instead.

Most cats do that, you know—bury their crap.

But not this one.

This cat flings it into the ether of the internet in a scatological frenzy.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Forehead

21 Dec

I’m getting dumber as I age, because in my 33rd year on this planet, I decided that it was time to inject poison into my head.

Botox.

God knows why. It was largely curiosity, which appears to be the driving force behind my every impetuous decision. And you should know that the word ‘largely’ is used rather ‘loosely’ there.

Ten days later I fucking hate it. Hate it. And there’s nothing I can do about it, either. I’ve got to marinate in my stupidity and wait for my vanity to wear off, which will take approximately three months. This is just long enough to come to terms with the fact that I’m ageing, and also dream up a bunch of Botox jokes that’ll never get old.

Ha!

So, it’s an ordinary morning in an unnamed laser clinic in Sydney’s inner-west. I’m in a plastic chair, fingers clutching the leather satchel in my lap, and I’m grinning like a fuckwit before a woman with an I’m-still-funky-in-my-fifties orange dye-job and freakishly smooth skin. She repeatedly calls me ‘Gorgeous’ in an attempt of camaraderie that’s about as natural as her hair; and she is hovering over the top of me: an odd, waxen Skeksis from a nebulous era.

I trace a finger lightly across my forehead, emphasising that my presence in her salon is only spurred on by the appearance of “some fine lines starting across here”. I’m not, you know, vapid or anything.

Her hazel eyes zero in on my face as her throaty voice corrects me. “No, Gorgeous. Those are deep lines. Quite deep for thirty two, actually.”

Great. Apparently I’m ageing in dog years.

“And you’ve got a frown line beginning here,” she continues. “That’s a fine line.” Pause. “There’s one here, too. And your crow’s feet could do with a little…” She puts down the marker that she’s been using to Crayola my face with and picks up a brochure. “There’s a package available for treating two areas or more. It’s discounted at the moment,” she makes a show of flipping pages even though I’m fairly certain she knows the price by heart. “$459,” she glances up, her emotionless face incongruent with her tone. “It’s our Christmas special!”

Now, to put the cost of these injections into another context, $459 is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Liberia.

*Pause for effect.*

And, if a woman were to get this package four times a year (once every three months) her budget for facial paralysis would be the annual income of a Vietnamese fisherman.

Or, in other words, it’s a Christmas special fit for Tiny Tim himself.

Essentially, this package would make everything from the cheekbones up immobile. And, while this did appeal to my narcissism on some primitive level, I declined. At least until I learn how to express myself like a chimpanzee.

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The side effects are listed as she preps the syringe. “…drooping eyelids, bruising, headache, a heavy forehead-”

“Wait, wait,” I stop her. “A heavy forehead?”

“It’s not a pleasant feeling, but you do get used to it. You might have to raise your chin to read anything above eye line.”

I stare up at her. Without lifting my head, incidentally.

“I’ve got a date tonight, I’ll be alright for it, won’t I?”

“Of course. Just remain upright for the evening. If you lay down there can be complications.”

“Complications?”

“It can spread and paralyse other areas of your face.”

Best birth control ever. Sorry cute musician boy, I can’t shag you- unless you keep me perfectly vertical during the entire event- because nice girls don’t let their face get fucked on the first date.

Three days later I can’t move my forehead. And I’ve tried. When I do, one eyebrow twitches and the other flattens- I’ve nicknamed them ‘Mr Abbott’ and ‘Mr Shorten’, respectively. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. What’s more- or possibly, what’s worse– is that she put far too much in. My eyebrows, once as delicately arched as the Bridge of Sighs, are now two broken roller shutters hanging over my face. I’ve devolved into Cro-Magnon woman. The skin under one brow bags attractively- sort of like a prolapsed uterus. I look like a Fraggle with a busted facial stitch.

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And one could argue that I am a complete muppet for doing this to myself. I mean: I can’t express how I feel about the results. I’m absolutely horrified, by the way, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I’m currently unable to convey that emotion.

And there’s got to be a feminist rhetoric hiding in that statement. Botox caps our emotional range. It lobotomises us, turning us compliant, docile. The patriarchal hierarchy is dimming our fire, man! The bastards. In Renaissance Italy, women used to drop belladonna into their eyes to dilate their pupils, which was the socially agreed upon sign of beauty. The side effects? Blurred vision and eventual blindness. So they were pretty as, but, you know, utterly fucking helpless. This sounds insane, right? Well, I posit that cosmetic injectables are the belladonna of the 21st Century. Don’t believe me? Botox is a compound of botulism, a toxin that was manufactured for chemical warfare in the Gulf War (among other places). Not only do we now inject this shit into our faces, but we pay people for the privilege. If the ridiculousness of that isn’t smacking you in the face like an autistic toddler, let me throw some farce comedy in to drive the point home: shortly after my botulism injections, I went and got myself an anthrax exfoliating peel and an ISIS labioplasty.

So my skin is now smoother, but in being frozen from the eyebrows up, I’ve lost something of myself. Botox has literally and figuratively flattened me out. My face- once earnest, friendly and reactive- is now a mask. I have permanent Resting Bitch Face. I’ve become Kristen Stewart. I didn’t realise how much I used facial expressions to communicate: to convey interest, surprise, to build rapport. Without my eyebrows, I find myself nodding a lot, like a bobble-head dog in a Chinese lady’s Corolla. In my haste to preserve my skin I’ve incapacitated a chunk of it, turning it into a metaphorical comic book that sits on the shelf in a plastic sleeve- the one that you never read and therefore never enjoy because you’re worried about a crease diminishing its value.

And I don’t know if that’s an equal trade-off.

Because I earned those wrinkles.

Sure, through smoking, but also experience. The furrow of worry above my left eye is courtesy of being trapped in Cuba with no money, no escape and no passport. The one above my right? Nursing violent lunatics for four years. That one there? A university degree. This vertical line above my nose? A crazy ex-husband. They’re the physical manifestations of a life lived. They’re my fault lines, each forming from the minuscule internal shift that has occurred from being thrust under a pressure that has tested me, nearly broken me, but ultimately fortified me. Would I trade them for a boring life and a smooth forehead?

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And, if you’re hurtling towards the bathroom mirror every morning to marvel at the way your face has subtly shifted in the past ten years, it means that you’re still alive with your motherfucking marbles intact, which means that you’re incredibly fucking lucky. And if, like many of us, you’ve been challenged in your life; and if, like many of us, your body is now a roadmap of your emotional scars, you should stand tall because it means that you’ve not squinted in the headlights of adversity (or, if you have crow’s feet, maybe you have) but bore a brunt instead. So be fucking proud of it. Don’t erase it.

Besides, as a smoker, I’ll probably have a few more wrinkles than the average girl, but that’s the price I pay for sucking nicotine through a little tube every few hours. Getting Botox to ward off the effects of that is like going to church for Sunday confession after you’ve spent the week beating the shit out of your wife.

Back in the clinic, when I decline her $459 package, the Skeksis warns me about the importance of injecting the rest of my face as a preventative measure.

“I never started getting it until late and now my frown line just won’t go away.” She points at her glossy forehead.

I squint. Nothing. There’s nothing fucking there. Michael Jackson’s sexuality was more pronounced than that wrinkle.

“Preserve your beauty now, Gorgeous. You don’t want to wind up looking like me.”

I blink, considering the sentence that’s running through my head, choosing to remain politely silent instead.

No. I certainly don’t want to wind up looking like you.

Cropdusting Hipsters

31 Oct

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It all started when I farted in yoga.

It happened once, twice, three times a lady flatulist.

Not many girls own up to a fart, so at first I pretended that the pop was simply a wayward hip joint being wrenched from its socket like a newly-weaned, puppy farm kelpie. It kept happening though: every class I’d cropdust inner-west hipsters like a leaky Vietnam war jet, blithely turning the yoga studio into a miasma of my own special brand of Agent Orange. And sure, those bastards were breaking wind in uttanasana waaaaaay before it was cool, but some poor fucker was going to get their improved flexibility with a side of asbestosis. Seriously, I was about to be swapped out of the class on an emissions trading scheme for a sacred cow. I had to do something. So I tried a champagne cork. My li’l butt-plug became a rogue missile that rebounded off the wall and wedged in my instructor’s man-bun. It nearly took his eye out, actually. Thank god he had those vintage horn-rimmed Ray-Bans on.

Blaming it all on poor digestion, I briefly turned vegan. That was an experience. A windy one: I didn’t realise that eating legumes would cause me to fart more. Why did nobody tell me that? I dropped my guts so often that I’m probably due for a stoma. And it’s fucking hard to be a vegan. Not because of what you can’t eat; but because you have to master a brand-new tone of voice. The most important part of being a vegan is telling everyone that you’re a vegan. And you have to learn to say this correctly. You want only a modicum of snarkiness. You should imply superiority without sounding grandiose. Do this wrong and you’ll get punched in the face. And you absolutely cannot get punched. Trust me. A physical blow is devastating to a vegan- they’re all dangerously low on iron because vegan food tastes like unwaxed cardboard, elder abuse and broken dreams.

Next I tried The Paleo Diet: one of the most baffling marketing gimmicks this side of a Toohey’s commercial. Paleo is astoundingly popular in Australia- Woolworths are in the process of creating a mastodon section in the frozen food aisle as you read this very paragraph, so it’s not likely to become extinct anytime soon. In my brief stint as a cavewoman, I discovered that you can eat a large variety of foods. Such as bacon and olive Paleo bread served with thick, creamy clarified butter.

I wasn’t aware that Cro-Magnon man cured meat. Or baked, actually. Is Betty Crocker that fucking old? And what cavewoman churned butter? Was that while getting Bubba Yum Yum to stop scrawling on the walls of the cave and consume their autism-averting bone broth? And I have a math problem for you: how much kombucha do I have to drink over what period of time before I get the ‘Pete Evans manic gleam’ in my eye?

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That man is the Charles Manson of the food industry. Have you seen his Instagram page? It’s just drenched in clarified smug. I’m fairly certain that if you scroll backwards through it at a high velocity you’ll generate enough Newtownian energy to play Helter Skelter.

Another weird Paleo thing? Activated almonds. Yep, just because Pete Evans is a dick, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy his nuts. How do you activate nuts? Well, first you soak them in salt water- so the special, miracle Paleo enzymes are released- then you bake them over a low heat. And yes, cavemen totally did this. It’s how we evolved evolutionarily- activated almonds gave us the energy burst needed to outrun the sabre-tooth tiger. Everyone knows that. God, read a book. Activated nuts are easier on your colon, too. So not only will your anus love Pete Evans’ nuts, your shit won’t stink, either. I have to admit that my nuts felt awesome after they were activated. They were so salty and warm! I couldn’t stop playing with them. And I don’t know why Pete Evans doesn’t say to women, “Hey baby, do you want to come over to my place tonight and help me activate my nuts?”

There are people in this world who spend their time thinking about the dichotomy of capitalism and world peace. Me? Paleo pick-up lines.

Anyway, when my Paleolithic era died out, I latched onto the I Quit Sugar bandwagon and rode it to glory.

I Quit Sugar isn’t a diet. Sure, it involves drastically reducing your calorie intake and cutting out entire food groups- just like a diet- but it’s more than that. I Quit Sugar is a cult way of life. That will make you healthier. Glowier. Better at calculus. See, your body metabolises fructose differently to other sources of fuel. For example, when you drink Coca-Cola, your pancreas release insulin. You knew that, right? Well what you may not know- and I didn’t until I started reading Sarah Wilson’s blog- is that insulin then reacts with the soda, causing the glucose molecules to bind together to form a miniscule troll that will then take refuge in a pocket of your liver. Consume enough, and the pocket will begin to harden, calcify, and resemble a cave (this is why I Quit Sugar is so similar to the Paleo diet). If you keep consuming sugar, your body becomes acidic, and the troll will magically procure a pitchfork. The pitchfork then permeates the cells of your mitochondria to give you diabetes, adult acne, unfuckability, and high-magnitude emotional instability. Before you know it, you’re spinning off into a banshee’s orbit, screeching at people, dousing the world in vitriol because some lazy motherfucker forgot to refill the photocopier’s paper tray. Again. Bastard. This causes a chain reaction: the other person gets angry, stews on it, goes home, kicks the dog, slams the fridge door, and crushes their son’s 5th birthday cake- the Power Ranger one that the nice old lady down the street baked for him. The son will then grow up with soul-crushing feelings of inadequacy, which leads him to externalise, shag your only daughter, and dump her in front of the entire school, breaking her heart.

All because you drank a fucking Coke. Shame on you.

So, in summation: Sugar is evil. And, like Buffy, we must roundhouse kick it in the temple.

Odd things happened when I quit. My shopping trolley, for instance, was suddenly stuffed with kale, maca powder and coconut water.

Coconut water. Something that I once proclaimed to be “the only substance in the world less palatable than jizz.”

As the month wore on, my blood sugar levels stabilised, my stomach flattened, and my energy levels increased in direct correlation to my sense of puffed-up superiority. Before I knew it, I was becoming one of those horrible people that post their dinner to social media. Although, I must have retained some modicum of CC-ness because I added the hashtag ‘peteevansisadick’ to everything.

By day 35 I was running at 88% macrobiotic: almost at full Gwyneth. I felt amazing. I was a better person. Better than you. Better than Jesus. So I decided to bake brownies for everyone, which is what Jesus used to do for his disciples.

Don’t believe me? It’s true. Jesus used to bake all the fucking time. He wasn’t a Palestinian. He was a Paleotarian. It’s just a mistranslation. Pete Evans is writing a book about it. It’s self-published. Due out later this year. I believe it’s called, You have to eat Paleo to get into heaven. Apparently Bubba Yum Yum got smart from being fed bone broth instead of breast milk and wrote delicious recipes on the cave walls, which Jesus then found when he spent three days in there over Easter. He was resurrected to bring Paleo to the world. Where do you think the “loaves and the fishes” thing came from? It was smoked mackeral on gluten-free Paleo bread.

Anyway, since I’d been so healthy for so long, I decided to eat some batter. I dipped my finger in the mixing bowl, scooped out a large chunk of sugary happiness, and-

It all unravelled quite quickly.

I came to three hours later, snapping back into reality like a KGB sleeper agent who’d just heard their trigger phrase. I was on my kitchen floor, foetal, with a mixing bowl on my head. Around me, a nest of sugar packets, brownie batter, a mangled rubber chicken, clotted cream, and pinking shears. I have no recollection of what happened and my thongs are still missing. It’s possible that I traded them for some sugar. Or a rubber chicken. And I spent the next seven days consuming more chocolate than Honey Boo Boo’s entire family- including the inbred, extended brother-cousins. I was more saccharine than Delta’s post-leukemia album.

Banning sugar had given me a total ‘don’t push the red button moment’, and when I allowed myself to linger within the vicinity of the button again I not only touched it, but licked it, fondled it, and spanked it with synthetic poultry. I needed a detox day, I told myself. 24 hours where I consumed nothing but vegetables and green tea. That’d pull me out of Willy Wonka’s rabbit hole. I’d reset everything and I’d be okay.

I made it to 5pm before driving to the shops and purchasing a large jar of Nutella, which I then consumed for dinner.

That’s not true.

The double bacon cheeseburger with extra avocado (that’s a vegetable…right?!) was my dinner. The Nutella became dessert. A dessert that I ate directly from the jar with a tablespoon while wearing little more than shame, a basketball jersey and a pair of Batman knickers. Well, I could only bring myself to eat ¾ of it before coming to my senses and throwing it in the bin.

Okay, that isn’t true either.

I consumed roughly ⅞ of the jar before digging the remaining slivers out with my fingers, smearing them across my cheeks like war-paint, and watching Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on Netflix, because when I cross that sticky brown line into debauchery, my instinct is always to round it like a marathon runner and sprint into the forest faster than a Delorian trying to travel through time.

At 32 years old I should know what I can and can’t do in relation to dieting. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person that can airily attend a few extra spin classes and skip dessert in order to fit into last summer’s bikini. When I diet, it starts as, “I’m only allowed to eat broccoli and cottage cheese, upside-down in a darkened room, while an organic lemon myrtle candle burns,” before eventually degenerating to, “So, I’ve spent the morning burning myself and smearing Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream into the wounds while crying and listening to The Smiths.”

So I quit quitting sugar because I didn’t want to be a quitter anymore. I had to. I Quit Sugar nearly turned me into Sally Struthers. So I threw the whole thing away and decided to face reality, to be a grown-up and be honest about where my digestive issues stem from.

Blocked chakras. Obviously. Specifically the sacral one.

So I’ve just booked the Flowering Lotus Spiritual Retreat. It promises to be a “magical journey through Mother India” which includes meditation, reiki, introspective rituals of the sacred goddess and, for some lucky participants, a Delhi Belly purifying cleanse. Inner Peace is guaranteed in the fine print and since I’ve booked before December 1st, I receive a free colonic irrigation upon arrival. Woo!

Fleurgen the Stereo Muppet

18 Sep

Six months ago I bought an $800 car- a dusty red Charade manufactured back when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. I dubiously christened her “Cherry Bomb”.

She was bought from a fellow in Darlington. From there, Cherry travelled nine kilometres before having a hot flush and overheating on a busy road, ultimately forcing me to tow her like a menopausal beached whale to my mechanic. After some tinkering from him, my $800 bomb became my $1100 baby. We shared a few volatile months that were punctuated by agitated dashboard slaps, emergency radiator refills, and cries of “Just move you old whore!” Shortly after returning from an impulsive and ill-advised road trip to Melbourne, Cherry Bomb died, and I abandoned her on the side of the road like a Bangladeshi baby girl.

Then I bought another car. A shiny blue Citroen: round as a bubble, pretty as a daffodil, and reliable as a mule. I called my darlin’: Clementine.

Clementine deserved a new stereo. Speakers, too. Other stuff. I’m not sure what- I’m not fluent in tech…but something heroic that could handle Meshuggah being played at a volume best described as “unwise”.

I turned to Google. Found Fleurgen. Fleurgen has a 100% 5-star Google review rating. RodBallz2164 claimed that Fleurgen is a “wizard” that does “seriouse jobs n wiked shit”. DriftMaker called him the patron saint of car stereos before adding: “Don’t let the size of the shop fool you! lols! Hes an awesome dude too.”

Sounded good. I emailed Fleurgen. He instructed me to visit him Friday.

On Thursday night I had a few quiet beers with my best friend, The Reader. Because we’re horrible influences on each other, our three craft beers quickly devolved into being the last two inebriated idiots badgering staff at The Absinthe Salon, followed soon after by a dodgy kebab that may, or may not, have contained some minced dachshund.

So on Friday morning we’re both in a fragile state. Through a green groan, I tell The Reader about Fleurgen.

“Who?”

“The dude who’s installing my car stereo. He’s Swedish. I’m sure his workspace is filled with misbehaving chickens and that he says, ‘fleurdy der, der fleurdy der…bork bork bork!’ as he works.”

Just to, you know, ram that reference home for you all. Bork.

Just to, you know, ram that reference home for you all.
Bork.

“We’ll go,” I continue, “Meet him super quickly, then have wanky inner-west coffee somewhere.”

“And bacon.”

I grin. “Pork pork pork!”

*

The first thing you notice about Fleurgen are his teeth, because they aren’t really his teeth at all. They’re Gollum’s. Despite this, Fleurg smiles warmly, talks quickly, and repetitively answers his mobile phone during the consultation.

My knowledge of car stereo systems is just behind that of Toad from Wind in the Willows, and, in my hungover state, I’m about as green as my foppish, amphibian counterpart. I try to explain my audio needs to Fleurg, “I listen to music loud. And I listen to a lot of metal,” I swallow, willing myself not to fleurg recycled absinthe all over Fleurg’s floor. “I don’t want anything too extreme, no doofwoofer thingies,” I croak, “Just something that can frighten the soccer mums in traffic.”

Instead of answering, Fleurg leads us to his ute and folds himself in, leaving a pale, hairy leg protruding horizontally from the door. The Reader and I eye each other. Fleurg emerges and encourages me to get in. I do. He flips a switch and Swedish gangsta rap straight outta Stockholm assaults my ears.

“Sure,” I say, once he’s mercifully turned it off. “Sounds good.”

He grins wolfishly. “Well, that’s expensive.”

“Too good,” I quickly clarify. “I’m not worthy of such a sound.”

Fleurg then enquires about my budget. I evade the question, knowing that an answer will betray both my lack of knowledge and my deep pockets. He studies my car, muttering words like “amplifier”, “head unit” and “tweeders”, which sound like the unfortunately named sidekicks of a meth dealer to me. Fleurg suggests that I “soundproof” my ride, something that involves ripping my doors apart and stuffing them with what appears to be Ikea bubble wrap.

“It’s to create a speaker box,” he explains. “I can skip this but it really won’t sound any different after an upgrade and you’ll be wasting money.”

It’s all got the vague aroma of bullshit, but absinthe numbs my olfactory receptors and I was out of my depth the minute his jargon morphed from dB’s to THD’s, so I agree and ask for the quote. $1300. A quarter of the price I paid for the fucking car. It’s more than what I’d expected, but Fleurg is the best. And the best costs money. And it’s what Opeth and Katatonia would want to be played through, so…

“That’s fine.”

As he’s taking a small deposit, Fleurg asks where I work.

“I’m a nurse.”

“Oh, so you know about signalling molecules?”

My stare is blank. “I’m a mental health nurse. Not, you know, a real one.”

“Oh, mental health,” he clasps his hands together. “No. Even more relevant. Yes. Wait, please.”

He leaves, returning a minute later with a small photo album.

And then it got weird.

Because for the next ten, cotton-brained, dry-mouthed, we-are-both-way-too-old-for-this-shit, and-maybe-that-shot-of-mescal-was-a-bad-idea minutes, Fleurg shows us pictures of mouth cancer, ulcerated flesh, STD-ravaged genitalia, and limbs smeared with autoimmune skin disease, all juxtaposed with images of slightly less grotesque versions of the aforementioned. The Reader retches, swallows, and absently touches the cigarette packet in his pocket. Fleurg doesn’t notice. He’s enthusiastically flicking through the album like it’s a twisted Playboy– illness porn. He claims that the sole credit for healing goes to ASEA.

Make that ‘science porn’.

“What’s ASEA?”

According to Fleurg, ASEA is a scientifically sound revolution of molecules and atoms that are created in scientifically advanced ways and used in the fantastically scientific science of curing disease scientifically.

ASEA is the fountain of youth. The next big thing. It can fix anything. Anything. Did he mention that? Cerebral Palsy. Tuberculosis. Acne-scarred skin.

“Acne-scarred skin?” The Reader asks dubiously.

Fleurg nods. Anything. In fact, Fleurg’s been drinking ASEA for years.

“ASEA cures anything. Anything!”*
*except poorly fluoridated teeth

The Reader raises an eyebrow, “Drinking it?”

Yes. ASEA is water. Salt water, actually. Filled with miracle molecules.

I gaze at Fleurg, wanting to ask if he has any magic beans to sell us, as well. Before I can, he gets to the point: ASEA is, to be blunt, a pyramid scheme.

That I can buy into.

For the low, low cost of $259 per month.

Then, I can then sell ASEA to my patients at work, making a tidy profit in the process.

Simply by encouraging the mentally ill to exchange their antipsychotics for magic saline.

I’m not sure how that fits into that pesky ‘duty of care’ thing we nurses have.

Fleurg isn’t either. “Hmm, maybe you just refer your patients to me- keep things simple for you.”

I agree to it. I’ll agree to anything just to get the fuck out of there. “Yep, I’ll take a look at it…No, it sounds very interesting…Yes…No, of course I will. Just, ah, email it to me, and I’ll, um, look.”

By offering to buy the Kool-aid that he drinks as opposed to the stereos that he is meant to be fucking selling, I have pleased Fleurg immensely. “Goodbye, Happy CC!” he cries. “I send you information tonight!”

The Reader and I barely make it into the car before we begin cackling like jackals.

“What a fucking lunatic!” he exclaims as I speed out of there. “I just knew he’d be nuts. Fucking Scandinavians.”

*

Two hours later, over a cup of the inner west’s finest coffee: An overpriced, single origin blend infused with Guatemalan hayfever and Colombian orphan tears, we dissect ASEA.

I look up from my phone. “It is salt water. Literally. The bottle lists the ingredients as ‘salt’ and ‘water’. And, on a side note, the company director looks like a member of NAMBLA.”

The Reader leans in to look, smoking and smirking. “I think we should sell everything we own and buy into this. We’ll be rich as Nazis!”

I switch to Google stalking Fleurg. “According to his LinkdIn profile, Fleurg is a health and wellbeing enthusiast who believes that the apocalypse is coming.”

“Fruit loop. I might start selling my pubes as organic dental floss.”

“If they’re paleo you might be able to get Pete Evans to spruik them.”

“Think he’s on the wank-water bandwagon, too?”

My coffee cup clatters to the table in mock indignation. “It’s ‘ionised molecular saline’. Not wank-water. It cures cancer. Get it right.”

*

Later that evening, I receive a voicemail from an ASEA associate, a woman named Gaia who tries to build a rapport- or possibly credibility- by opening with, “I’m a nurse, too”. She then…speaks with…odd…pauses during part…s…of the conversation, almost…as if she was reading it…from…a script that had a large…cancerous…tumor on it.

Apparently ASEA have found a way to clone William Shatner into a female’s body, as well.

Fifteen minutes later Gaia calls again.

Then once more after four days.

Next, Fleurg emails me: ‘Hello Happy CC, Do you have steering wheel control for the radio in your car? Do you still want to be able to use this?’

‘Yes. And definitely,’ I type, finishing the sentence tersely in my head: I’m not sure what else I’m about to pay you over a thousand fucking dollars for.

His reply comes the next day. He’s ordered the part. But he can’t guarantee that it will work. Apparently, Happy CC’s car is “a borderline”.

Oh, no, I think. Clementine is a PD. I guess that explains the scratch marks around the doors. Maybe some ASEA in the fuel tank will cure her.

Untitled

But that wasn’t the end of the email:

With regards to the Redox Signalling molecules i spoke to yo about.

Here are a couple of links to short info videos:

www.amazingmolecules.com

Watch ” The Redox Breakthrough” (9 min)

” ASEA The Genesis” (21 min)

I like ” Doctors and Science” (5 min)

If you have further interest i suggest that you attend ASEA Discovery Event in Ryde this Saturday morning starting at 10, for about two hour.

This will be part of mainstream health care not to long from now.

You will hear real testimonials face to face.

Come along and have some fun a great bunch of people!

It was an event such as this that it convinced me it is something i need to be part of. This is an exceptional opportunity not only to seriously help people …but also to get paid for it!

Ver-fucking-batim. I think Fleurg’s positive Google reviews were left by fellow bricks on the ASEA pyramid.

*

“Don’t fucking go to that!” The Reader shrieks when I tell him. “It’s probably in a fucking dungeon where they make you drink their atomised rape-water and molest you to Swedish gangsta rap!”

“Think they want to ‘pork pork pork’ me?”

“Or maybe ASEA is just the bottled tears of their investors. It’s all just too fucking strange. Cultish. And how do people fall for this shit!?”

*

So, in conclusion, it wasn’t the redox that signalled to me on a molecular level that I was making a mistake in getting Fleurg to install the stereo in my car. It was an intuitive twang, something as thin and fine as gold filigree that plinks in my gut every now and then. I used to ignore them, often finding myself in horrific situations- like, you know, the time I was fucking robbed in fucking Panama– but I try to listen now.

Or, more succinctly: I tell Fleurg to fuck off.

I find a well-known car stereo franchise that afternoon. I speak to an earnest young man who quotes me $500 less than Fleurg. So far so good.

“And can I still use the steering wheel controls already in place?”

“That’s going to cost a little bit more.”

I hold my breath.

Keys click on the computer. “That part costs $15.”

My breath exhales in a rush. “And it’ll work?”

He eyes me strangely. “Well, yeah.”

I glance at his pasty, unfortunately pock-marked skin. Acne-scarring. Obviously not an ASEA enthusiast.

I grin. “How much deposit do you need?”

6ebb3c76fce9319fb54e82c7bc95e46e

A Post About a Threesome…

13 Jul

Ha! I’ve busted you, you perverted little sausage. This isn’t a story about a threesome at all. I’ve told a lie in a blatant ploy for attention that stops just shy of ‘tawdry’ by my omission of the word “lesbian”. My salacious title is just pandering to the voyeur in all of us. It’s my ‘now that I have your attention’ moment. There is no fornicating to speak of in this post. Just pornographic self-publication.

I am endeavoring, like The Little CC That Could, to get my book published via Kindle Scout. It’s called Funereal. It’s a black comedy. About a fucked up family squabbling over a will. There’s a twist at the end. And the heroine gets committed to a loony bin. That’s not the twist, though. That’s like, a plot point right near the beginning. It’s dark in places. I tried to write a sex scene. And failed. A monkey smokes a Parliament. And the word “fuck” appears 221 times, making the book 0.39% ‘fuck’.

The tagline is: And you thought your family was bad.

And it’s good. I promise you. Don’t believe me? Here are some recent reviews that I’ve gotten:

“I’m so proud of you honey. No, I didn’t read it, but you wrote a novel! Look at you! You came out of my vagina and thirty years later you wrote a whole book! Kiss, kiss. Dinner is at 6pm Tuesday.”

-Mum

“It’s not bad. That doesn’t mean that it’s good but…well…it’s done now. That’s something, right?”

-Uncle Theodore

“CC, I paid you to edit my sociology essay, and you send me this? Where is my essay? If you don’t replace this nonsense with ‘Merits and Demerits of Media for a Society’, I’m taking it further. You can’t hold my essay ransom until I write your book a good review. It’s unethical. And answer your goddamn phone. Return my damn calls. Goodbye.”

-Girl I met in the Manning Bar at Sydney Uni

“One of the greatest, most provocative and enlightening books of our generation. ‘Fight Club’ is an absolute must read.”

–A positive review for a totally different book.

“It’s hilarious. Well written. Compelling. Full of well drawn characters that seem to jump off the page. The next time you hear the name ‘Casey Millikin’, it will be alongside names like Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare.”

-Homeless man at Central Station who is, on a completely unrelated note, now $50 richer.

“You surprised me, its actually not that bad. The bisexual musician character, that’s based on me, isn’t it? Your saying you want to get back together, aren’t you? …No? Oh. …Well, your writings shit. Prick tease.”

–A grammatically inept email from an ex-boyfriend.

“Okay, just so we’re clear- if I write a good review for your book, you blow me. Right?”

-Something that never actually happened.

“CC, I’m going to say this one more time: Stop contacting me, stop stalking my Facebook page, and leave my secretary alone. The poor woman is two steps from a nervous breakdown. Threatening her cat was completely inappropriate of you. Yes, I gave you an ‘F’ but it was ten years ago and I stand by it: your poem was dreadful. You need to move on with your life. And stop sending my mother your smutty novel. I have no idea how you got her address but she’s had a stroke. She needs rest. The nursing staff have your picture and have been instructed to refuse you entry.”

-As Associate Professor Barnes can now attest: you never give CC an ‘F’.

“Alright, alright. It’s good, okay? There. Please stop crying. You’re so ugly when you cry.”

-Beneficial friend #23

I should probably tell you how Kindle Scout works. It’s basically crowd funding. I put my book up, you read the beginning of it, you peruse some Q & A I’ve done, you read a short- and not entirely truthful- bio of me, and then you log in with your Amazon account and nominate me in your top 3. If I’m popular enough to get selected for an eBook deal, you get a copy of it for free. Either way, you get a personalised thank-you note from me just by voting. It’s Sally Field’s acceptance speech from the 1984 Academy Awards- you know the one. She says, “You like me. You really like me.” in it.

And, just to add a sweet little kicker, if you vote for me, I’ll totally get Megan Fox to date you. Don’t believe me? I met her earlier in the year. She was an inpatient at a ward I used to work in. Lovely girl- a little volatile when she’s coming down from crack- but nice nonetheless. She has what’s known as a ‘grandiose delusion’. Sure, she’s let herself go a little bit since Transformers, but if she’s still heavily into the gear I can probably call in a favour from her. Guys, you’ll love her. Heroin has taken almost all of her teeth. They call her ‘Gummy Joe’ now. And she might even be a bit manic- and we all know what that means.

I’m kidding.

But in all seriousness- the book is good. Everyone who I’ve shown it to has read it in one or two sittings. They’ve laughed out loud. They’ve disliked the anti-heroine but found themselves rooting for her anyway. When I got it professionally edited, the feedback I received was, “It’s great! I stayed intrigued and interested to see what was going to happen next all the way through…The chapter titles work well; I loved the humour, enjoyed the profanity and the gutsy-but-fucked-up heroine.”

So, there.

And you know what? Fuck it, I believe in it. think it’s good and sometimes that’s all you need- delusions of adequacy.

Here’s the link. Vote. Not just for me, but for your country. Vote to stop the tyranny of ISIS in it’s tracks. Vote for the second helping that Jenny Craig won’t let you eat. Vote for the cake you dug out of the bin and ate with your hands after the last attempt at fitting into your skinny jeans failed. Vote for your dog. For the one-legged pigeon that confronts you on the way to work each morning. Vote for the red wine that you drink out of a chipped coffee cup when you can’t be bothered to do the washing up. Vote for Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Vote for the hug you get from your best friend when the man/woman/dishcloth breaks your heart. Again. Do it for God, because s/he would totally read Funereal. If you believe in that sort of thing, look at it this way: God put this in my brain for you to read, so you have to vote or God will get cranky. And we don’t want an angry God- Nepal can’t handle another earthquake. You don’t want that in your conscience, do you? Hmm? Well, vote. Now.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/42SZ05LUODJV

FUNEREAL – ON KINDLE SCOUT

Happy New Year from Playa del Carmen

31 Dec

I don’t think I like Playa del Carmen.

There. I feel better now.

It’s not Mexico. Well, technically it is, and I’m probably sounding incredibly conceited and elitist right now, but Playa is a shiny tourist hub where the drinks are overpriced, the stores are designer branded, the locals speak American-accented English, and the food is NOT REAL MEXICAN. Real Mexican food- pozole from a tiny family run restaurant, tacos al pastor grabbed at 11pm from a street vendor- is delicious. The stuff they serve in Playa del Carmen is the American idea of Mexican food- what my sister calls Tex-Mex. The cheese is that fluorescent Jack Cheddar nonsense that looks like it could clog your arteries, a highway, and negotiations between Israel and the U.N. in one mouthful.

The Beautiful People

I went clubbing with people from Hostel Che one evening.

I was provocatively dressed in ripped denim shorts, thongs, and a faded Sonic Youth T-shirt. The girls around me wore cocktail dresses, high heels, and expensive gold jewellery. Their hair was straightened, their make up perfect, the sick desperation on their faces apparent. I was still coated in tanning oil and salt from the beach. I fit in like Vulvatron at a Beiber concert. If a man were to run through the gauntlet of prettiness to pick up the girl on the dance floor who is shaking her booty so much that it resembles two ferrets fighting in a denim pillowcase, he’d have found a moderate amount of sand still hiding at the apex of my arse crack. Like a grainy, x-rated Kinder Surprise.

At my second hostel, Bendito Rancho, I was lucky enough to befriend one of the beautiful creatures. UK Girl was perfectly nice- and her designer pool wear consistently matched her espadrilles- but she looked like the type who will, in thirty years, be back here with a handful of girlfriends; having ditched her rich husband for a naughty week that will culminate in bedding a Mexican towel-boy after a Margarita-fueled brunch.

One evening, I was chatting to a group of South American’s, trying desperately to play linguistic Sudoku as Argentina’s basic English failed him. Knowing that it would be good practice, I invited them to speak slow Spanish with me. While I was revoltingly chuffed that I could now pick up one word in every seventeen-point-four, the whole process was making my head hurt. Following a second language that periodically turns your brain into overcooked rice pudding can be draining. UK Girl came in with a group of friends, all of them clutching tiny boutique shopping bags filled with tufts of coloured tissue paper.

“CC, I want you to come and meet the girls.”

I obediently followed and was introduced to three blondes, all drunk on Daiquiris and discount Gucci.

“This is CC. Girls,” she added with a wink, “I think we’ve found a new partner in crime.”

I stood, smiling like a dickhead.

UK began to complain about the restricted hours that the air-conditioner in our room operated on. Last night she was so hot that she had to leave the dorm and sleep in a hammock. Mosquitoes bit her. Can you imagine that? Completely unacceptable. She left to talk to reception about it.

I glanced at the girls before me. Have you ever seen one of those American high school movies where the popular crowd zeroes in on the new girl, testing her cool-factor before ultimately spitting her out like a putrid dog bone? It felt like that. I’ve never fit in with The Beautiful People. I’m too weird. I know it and they seem to sense it. On the few times I’ve tried, there’s been three minutes of polite conversation that abruptly ceases when I say something inappropriate and am immediately led to the abattoir like a babbling, nitwit lamb. I prefer to lurk on the fringes of society, having humourous and often eccentric conversations with the other oddities of the world. They’re my people. However, judging someone based on their attire and artfully applied blue eyeshadow is probably not cool, so I dredged up a small amount of charm and sat awkwardly on the bench, trying to follow the conversation. I understood more when people were speaking Spanish.

“I think I have to buy that dress even though it looked like a potato sack.”

“Why?”

“Because you said it looked good on me.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to buy it.”

“No, I think it does. Wait, what colour was it again?”

“Wait until you are sober.”

“I’m so,” bend forward at the waist, “drunk. Did that dress make me look fat?”

I left a conversation that included the words Fox News, corruption and xenophobia for this, I thought.

“I should have given my number to that guy at the club. He was a good dancer.”

“Which means he’s good in bed, right?” I added suddenly.

Six eyes studied me curiously. I lit a cigarette. Doesn’t it?

“Is paying $120 American for that dress too much?” Drunk Girl continued.

“Well, just don’t buy the belt.”

“But the belt was hot.”

“Do you think I’ll see that guy again?”

“She wouldn’t negotiate with me on price, the bitch.”

Cackle.

Shortly after this, my brain plopped on the table and they disappeared in a whirl of Pandora and Viva la Juicy.

Well I’ve Never!

Last year in Prague, I heard the sentence, “Chlamydia is easy to get rid of, if you want an STD, that’s probably your best option.” I had befriended a group of twenty-something girls that had all managed to bed more men than me, even though I had a ten year head start on them. Usually, I’m not the depraved one when I travel.

Then I checked into Hostel Che.

A group of people were drinking on the balcony. I went out for a cigarette and was invited to join them.

“We’re playing ‘I’ve Never’,” Mexico Dude said.

Of course you are. Every drinking session I’ve entered into on this holiday has degenerated into an ill-advised game of ‘I’ve Never’.

“Want to play?”

Sure. I settled down on the floor between Finnish Girl and Posh American. The rules of the game seem to change every time I play it. Usually you can just eject something, whether you have done it or not, then surreptitiously glance around the room to see who’s lived more dangerously than you. However, these guys had a rule: You have to say something that you’ve never done.

“So far we’ve had, ‘I’ve never done drugs’,” Mexico gestured to a pretty Chilean. “Tried anal,” point to Argentinian girl, “had sex in front of someone,” nod to South Africa, “gotten a tattoo,” Japanese Guy, “or watched porn with someone,” Posh American. Mexico glanced at me, “Your turn.”

Fuck. In ‘I’ve Never’, you drink if you’ve done it. If I’d entered this conversation fifteen minutes earlier, I’d be drunker than Mickey Mantle during a Yankees play-off. I swallowed. Despite over-sharing with formulaic regularity on this blog- something that leaves my Dad pleading, “Stop writing about sex, CC!”- I’m not usually inclined to lay my dubious sexual history bare in front of relative strangers.

“And I have to have never done it?”

Mexico nods. I rack my brain. “Um,” I began. I’ve never gone ATM? No, I’m sitting with people who have never done drugs, explaining ATM, snowballing, felching, or the good ol’ Angry Ewok would probably result in someone throwing themselves off the balcony with their hands firmly clamped over their ears. “I’ve never…” tried beastiality? No, why would I go for beastiality? Let’s not analyse that too much. Quick, they’re staring at you! Think of something. Now, CC, now!

“I’ve never shat on anyone,” I blurted out.

Silence.

“Or been shat on,” I added thoughtfully.

We started playing another drinking game after this.

The Consolation Prize

The following evening, I was in the bar with Brazilian Psychic, Mexico Guy, and Argentinian Fellow. Brazil and Argentina leave and I’m chatting to a very drunk Mexico. He’s very young, maybe 21? Slightly misguided. Completely lost. Sort of like a stray puppy that you want to adopt.

“I’m really shy,” he was saying.

“Dude, so am I. You learn to get over it, though. Just remember that most people have some level of discomfort in social situations.”

He nods, staring at his drink. “I really like Pretty Chilean Girl.”

At this point, Brazil and Argentina have rejoined the table. “You have a shot with her,” Brazil tells Mexico. “I’ve spoken to her. She likes you, but she’s waiting for you to make a move.”

Mexico grimaces. “I can’t make a move. She’s too pretty.”

Mexico has a point. Chile is absolutely gorgeous, and she hasn’t got that friendly, approachable beauty, either. She has the intimidating look of a Victoria’s Secret Angel. She’s lovely, but I can see how Mexico would be scared. I glanced at him. He seemed like a nice guy, so I decided to intervene.

“I’m going to tell you a secret. Always try your luck with girls like Chile. Most men are terrified of beautiful women and they never get approached, so if you are brave enough to do it, the odds are stacked slightly in your favour before you even open your mouth.”

He glanced at me, prodding the ice cubes in his glass.

“Trust me. Go for it.”

He ruffled my hair. “You’re awesome.”

I drained my glass. “Yeah, I know.”

Shortly after we left for a club and here Mexico began to get closer to me, drunkenly touching my waist.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I asked bluntly.

“Chile isn’t interested.”

So you’ve gone for the consolation prize. How lovely. What an ego boost: ‘I can’t get the pretty girl, so I’ll just go for the older one with lines on her forehead who is probably desperate enough to shag a lubed rubber chicken if it’s thrown her way.’

“What? No, stop, yes, she is,” I protested.

That was almost a lucid sentence.

“She told me to get away from her,” he tried to tuck my hair behind my ear and I waved him off impatiently, making a beeline for Chile.

“He’s a player,” she said bluntly. “He has no chance.”

“What? A player? No he’s not.” I can usually spot a player. Unfortunately, they are the smooth, irresistible ones. Mexico was awkward, shy and overly enthusiastic. Like a puppy that hasn’t been neutered yet. I suspected that he had put the wrong moves on her and fucked it up somehow, so I asked her to give him another shot.

“No.”

Fair enough.

I avoided Mexico for the rest of the night and left the club a little after three, drunkenly getting lost on my way back to the hostel. When I arrived, Mexico was standing in the dorm. He lunged at me.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

“I want to sleep with you.”

“No.”

“But you’re awesome.”

I’d tried to play Cupid and the poor schmuck had misread my intentions spectacularly. “I’m not sleeping with you. I’m ten years older than you, for goodness’ sake. I’d destroy you.”

That isn’t even true but my god do I love saying it to younger guys. It conjures up all sorts of images. I’d ruin you for other women forever. I’m like a Laotian landmine, my friend. You wouldn’t know what to do with me. Note that I only ever say it to someone that I have zero intention of shagging. Don’t want to raise the bar too high if I’m actually going to drag someone into bed with me.

“I’m twenty seven.”

I was surprised. “Are you?”

“I am.”

“It’s still a no.”

“But I really want to have sex with you.” His voice turned into a whine, the surefire way to get a woman into bed: ‘Oh, come on, don’t be mean. Have sex with me. Pleeeeeeease? I’ll be your best friend…’

I racked my intoxicated brain for something that would shut him up. My first thought was ‘I have a boyfriend’, something I had employed in Puerto Escondido with an older Texan dude that would periodically say to me, “Anytime you want to have some sex, CC, you just let me know.” I told Texas that I had a boyfriend in Australia, thinking that it would stop him. It didn’t.

“So? He’s probably fucking someone else right now.”

For some reason this annoyed me, and I felt the need to stick up for my imaginary guy. “He’s not like that. We have a bond. It’s special,” I began, wondering if I could Stranger Than Fiction a man into existence. “He wouldn’t fuck around on me. He loves me.” We are going to buy a sharpei and a house full of Ikea furniture when I get back to Australia.

My non-existent boyfriend actually made things worse. When Texas suspected that Manchester and I were involved, he became passive-aggressive towards me, leading me to eventually snap, “If you keep acting like a cunt, I’m going to stop hanging out with you.”

Texas narrowed his eyes. I’d forgotten that American’s don’t like to be called that. But the C-word stopped him in his tracks quicker than the B-word did and he thankfully stopped badgering me for a root.

I looked at Mexico. Calling a man who is pawing at you in an empty dorm a cunt didn’t seem particularly smart. I needed to find something else to say.

“I’m a lesbian,” I said finally, pushing him away at the chest.

I wish it was that smooth. What I really said was, “I’m a…lesbian. A. Big. One. I love…minge.”

I love minge: a sentence brought to you by excessive amounts of Absolut Citron.

He stopped. “You’re a lesbian.”

I nodded enthusiastically. “Oh…yes. A. Huge. Lesbian. I find penis repugnant.”

I find penis repugnant.

I actually said that.

I find penis repugnant.

Who uses the word repugnant when describing genitalia? And how stereotypical is that statement, anyway? Do lesbians even find penis repugnant?

It worked, though. This pretend lesbian climbed into her bunk shortly after to dream about her imaginary partner in Australia, leaving Mexico to abuse his repugnant man-bits in peace.

Oh, *nose boop* you humans.

26 Dec

Six years ago, I went for a sales job. It was one of those abhorrent group recruitment processes where they put a room of wannabes together and assign them ridiculous tasks, ultimately causing the recruits to transform into screeching, carnivorous toddlers that tear metaphorical flesh from bone with aspiration-sharpened milk teeth. We shredded each other like a Mexican cock fight that day, each of us furtively looking over our shoulder for the approval of the bosses who were languidly surveying their surroundings with the sort of enthusiasm generally reserved for monkeys in fezzes that rhythmically bash cymbals. It was brutal. Although, I almost want to recruit my next boyfriend like that. I picture a room of men, inexplicably wearing gold lamé hot pants, slathered in baby-oil, who will ultimately claw their way towards a date with me. Sure, that might sound a little homo-erotic, but we are evolving beyond stereotypes in society and homophobia is a reprehensible character trait in anyone, anyway. There will be a Ben-Hur style battle involving a loincloth, pitchfork, and a life-sized animatronic lion. They’ll solve a Rubix cube, blindfolded, whilst Stephen Hawkings reads a garbled version of 50 Shades of Grey; then watch Adaptation and write a grammatically correct essay on the subtle nuances in Charlie Kauffman’s screenwriting and, in the grand finale, play at least ten bars of the Ibert Flute Concerto. On the flute, of course.

I’ll let you figure out the reasoning behind the final quest.

One thing I remember from the recruitment day was the lecture from the Managing Director, a pompous Brit who liked to use the phrase, “That’s what I love about you humans”. The final two words were delivered with contempt, as if he’d evolved beyond the pettiness of his emotion-charged companions. The sentence usually preceded a ‘people are gullible’ sales principle; and after the third “you humans”, I began to wonder if he was some sort of Neuro-Linguistic alien: a sales-bot swaddled in an expensive pinstripe suit, sent here to bore the conscience laden masses with unimaginative lectures on the importance of materialism.

I hadn’t thought about this man until San Cristobal de las Casas.

I left my blankey in Puerto Escondido

I had fled to San Cristobal after the Manchesterian Mayhem, spending the evening drunk on a night bus next to a ginger-haired Australian who was polite enough to let me sleep even when, some time after midnight, my head lolled gently onto his shoulder where it stubbornly remained for the rest of the journey. I awoke to him gently prodding me a little after 6am. It was his stop and, he added with an affectionate grin, he needed the use of his arm again. Mortified, I wiped the drool from my mouth, the crust from my eyes, and thanked him for being such a cooperative pillow for the journey. That’s what happens when you mix booze with buses, you wind up shoulder-raping a fellow passenger. I’m sleeping with you whether you like it or not, hippie man.

My first instinct for San Cristobal was to book a cheap hotel with my two new friends- misery and beer. I wanted to lick my wounds in solitude, get blisteringly drunk- perhaps inside of a pillow fort- and put on some heartache-curing red lipstick before lip-syncing Chandelier by Sia. However, I knew that a hotel room would only see me listening to The Smiths, crying, and logging into Facebook where I would either shamelessly stalk Manchester’s profile, send him an irate and colourfully worded message full of exclamation points and drunken typos, or put up inappropriate and slightly maudlin status updates that I would cringe to and promptly delete the following morning. Becoming a hysterical chipmunk on Facebook is inappropriate for anyone over the age of thirteen, so I decided to book a hostel, figuring that you humans would act as a welcome distraction.

It didn’t start that way. After making halfhearted conversation with the Irish boy in my dorm who subtly chastised me for not having accommodation booked for Christmas and New Years, I headed to the bar with my laptop, planning to rectify this. Here, an older gentleman was trying to entertain a table of girls by telling them that he used to wrestle alligators in the 1970’s.

Because every girl fantasises about bagging an over-the-hill Steve Irwin type on holidays.

But this reminded me of the eccentric older gentleman that Manchester and I met on one of our first evenings out- a dude who managed to subtly work the fact that he hung out with Hunter S. Thompson during his campaign for Sheriff of Colorado into the conversation, which reminded me of Manchester, which-

No.

I packed up my laptop and headed to the courtyard. Here, another traveller was singing and playing guitar. What song? You can’t always get what you want. Pertinent. At least it wasn’t All by myself or the mariachi classic I broke my girl’s heart in a seedy cantina last Friday night. Still, it was as welcome as genital warts, so I returned to my dorm, booking the accommodation there. Tulum for Christmas Day and Playa del Carmen for my birthday and New Years Eve. I landed the last dorm bed in the city for the latter, at the slightly inflated rate of 500 pesos per evening.

For those that don’t travel- that’s obscene. Really obscene. Fucking obscene. It’s as obscene as Marilyn Manson’s mOBSCENE. And that song sucks, so you know how I feel about staying in a dorm for the equivalent of AUD$50. Basically, for that price, I want round-the-clock midget massages and a scantily clad man servant- preferably not a midget- to feed me peeled grapes whilst his twin brother lazily fans me with a palm frond. In Puerto I was spending 150 pesos on a private room. 500 pesos is my daily budget. It’d better be a backpacker’s utopia filled with interesting and open-minded people that I can latch onto like a foul-mouthed barnacle.

Casablancian

I tried to open my locker the following morning only to discover that I had somehow managed to procure two sets of keys. I’d checked in early and the girl had given me one set when I paid, then another when I was allowed into the room, something that hadn’t become apparent until I’d blearily shoved my hand in my bag and removed the wrong set. I went to the front desk to return the spare key. Here, the receptionist let out a sigh of exasperation, turned to her colleague to complain about the other staff, and demanded to know who checked me in, using the voice of someone interrogating an al-Qaeda operative. Not wanting to be water-boarded, I hurriedly tried to explain that I wasn’t filing a complaint, nor was I trying to get anyone in trouble, and I had no idea where Bin Laden’s successor was. She was retrieving the electrified nipple clamps from the drawer when an Australian accent drifted from behind me.

“I thought I recognised that voice.”

Yep. She recognised “that voice”. Verbatim. Apparently I’m shrill.

“Do you remember us?”

I turned to find the two Aussie’s that I had befriended in the bar in Puerto. The ones that I’d ditched Manchester to dance with.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world.

The odds of meeting these girls again were marginal. The odds of staying at the same hostel at the same time were even smaller. And the odds of seeing them two days after Manchester unceremoniously flung his faeces at me like a temperamental lemur was about as likely as finding the Hope Diamond in a pile of liposuction waste. Oh, the irony. It tastes like a stale salted caramel tart from that little bakery that the health inspector shut down last Christmas.

“You broke up with your boyfriend?” the blonde exclaimed.

It’s my firm belief that life, or the great deity in the sky, or the universe- or whatever you want to call it- has a sense of humor. A black one. I’d left Puerto, wanting nothing but an environment that would distract me from the very real pain that was still coursing through my veins. Instead, I’d been confronted with satire, irony and coincidence. Life is absolutely ridiculous at times. Mine is, anyway. At least it consistently gives me dubious material for a badly written blog.

“Ah,” I chuckled awkwardly. “You saw that, huh?”

“We saw,” she stopped when she saw the look on my face. “Nothing really. Just you guys talking then leaving…but the English girl you were with?”

Manchester’s dorm mate at the hostel he was working for. A girl who we had managed to silently shag beside one evening, a move which would lead me to be overly friendly to her the following day as I tried to clumsily ascertain if she’d been awake or not. “Yeah?”

“Well, you guys disappeared from her? Or something? Anyway, we hung out with her for the night because she said she couldn’t find you. That’s all I know. Anyway, how are you?!”

Sex-Toys on Chairs.

Two hours later I was on my knees in the middle of a crowded street. I had managed to slip and spectacularly stack it before two bemused Russians. It’s my own fault, really. I was listening to Skrillex at the time. That’s what you get when you listen to dubstep. The Music Gods reach down from the sky and flick you across the back of the head, knocking your tasteless arse to the ground. I never fall over when listening to metal.

A little while later a stray dog with creepy grey eyes chased me, but I managed to both evade it and stay upright. Small victories. Nonetheless, I was slightly fed-up upon returning to the hostel. Walking to the courtyard for a cigarette, I noticed a raucous group of people drinking. After five drags of my fag, one called out.

“Hey, you.”

I turned. “Me?”

“Yes, you,” the French accent continued. “Who are you?”

“Who am I?” I responded with a grin that I hoped would soften the next statement, “Who the fuck are you?”

He considered me. “I like you. Come and join us.”

I obediently sat and began to chat to the Central American dude beside me, starting with the obligatory: “So, where are you from?”

“A little town an hour north of here.”

“Oh,” I wasn’t expecting that. “And you’re here for Christmas?”

“No. I’m one of the owners.”

It was the first time I had seen an owner of a hostel engaged in a drinking session with his guests.

“You need a drink,” he continued. “Let me get you a rum.”

He returned with a fucking pint glass which he proceeded to fill with a heady mix of spiced rum and pineapple juice despite my protestations: “What, no lemonade? What kind of dive bar are you running?”

The evening whirled on from there. The group was an eccentric bunch from all areas of the globe. We instantly got along, and the alcohol poured into us as easily as the conversation flowed out. We laughed, poked fun at each other, and smoked around a plastic picnic table in a freezing courtyard in a tiny Chiapan town. At one point, the owner had a pirate moustache drawn on his face- although none of us could exactly remember why, just like we couldn’t remember how the curved finger sex toy got glued to the leg of the chair. The bar stayed open late that night, and I collapsed into bed a little after 3am, inexplicably happy again. Finding yourself in a hostel with a group of people that you instantly click with is a travelling four leaf clover. When you find yourself in this position after a man has just taken a gigantic- and figurative- shit on you, it’s even more wonderful.

The following day, I had to leave. I didn’t want to, but my accommodation for Tulum was booked and there was a hefty cancellation fee for the Christmas period. I found my friends in the courtyard. Upon seeing my backpack, the Frenchman cried, “No! You’re leaving?”

I explained that I didn’t want to.

“So don’t,” Connecticut Guy declared, lighting a Marlboro red. “Stay with us.”

“I really can’t.”

Belgium Girl got up and gave me a hug. UK Lass followed. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by people, all hugging me and pleading that I stay. Since goodbyes are not my strong point, I broke away, offered a flippant wave, and turned to leave.

“Don’t go, CC!” Connecticut called after me.

“You’re making a mistake,” Belgium cried.

“Stay! We’re doing mushrooms tomorrow,” France added.

But, with a moderate amount of regret, I left. It was harder to leave this group than it was to flee Manchester. Without realising it, without knowing anything about the events that had led to me being there, they had distracted me for seventeen whole hours. When you feel like shit, that can seem like blissful eternity.

Feliz Navidad

Christmas Day arrives two days later. I’m on a beach in Tulum. The water is cold. It’s overcast, and I am sitting on my sarong listening to music when a couple kissing catches my eye. My thoughts are drawn irresistibly back to the many sunsets that Manchester and I enjoyed in much the same way on Zicatela beach. Knowing that I had to make peace with things, knowing that I couldn’t carry an iron heart through South America- my goddamned backpack is heavy enough- I tried to reframe the events in a positive way. And this is what I came up with:

Manchester was obscenely good looking. Horrifically attractive. Looking at him was like staring at a solar eclipse: it’s magnificent, but you get the sense that a protracted gaze will sear your retinas like rump steaks forever. He actually modelled once. For Prada. Oh, he didn’t set out to, it was offered to him- which makes the whole thing even more fucking intimidating. He wasn’t narcissistic enough to try and model, just attractive enough to be scouted one windy winter’s evening. He told me the story during one of our many stay-up-chatting-until-sunrise nights. Manchester’s stories rocked, I’ll grudgingly give him that. They were delivered with a loquacious, laconic wit, often contained excessive amounts of narcotics or a hilarious misunderstanding, and were summed up succinctly at the end: “So that’s how I modelled for Prada”, “So that’s how I woke up in a Mexican jail on my birthday”, “So that’s how my grandmother wound up in the garden with a used condom on her shoulder”. Now, I’m far from shallow- it’s usually a person’s energy that attracts me rather than their visage- but, if nothing else, I can now arrogantly say that I once dated a Prada model with incredibly dexterous fingers. Yep, lil’ ol’ fidgety, gawky, clumsy CC managed to repeatedly shag a male model in Mexico. Sure, he hurt me, and it didn’t end well, but instead of focusing on that, maybe I should look for the story, rather than wallow.

Could I have gotten here without the people I met at San Cristobal? The people who reminded me how to laugh for an evening? Could I have gotten here without the unyielding and most welcome support of my loved ones in Sydney, who all answered my Facebook call to arms with love, compliments and positivity?

No.

And “that’s the thing about us humans”. Without meaning to, without realising what we are doing, we can help someone when they most need it. Sometimes we know that assistance is required, and we pass the metaphorical hat around. Sometimes we have no idea that we are bringing someone up from a San Cristobalian pavement to their feet where they can dumbly survey their surroundings like a newborn calf after a bush fire. It’s the nectar of humanity that lies within all of us. It’s beautiful. And it can mean everything to someone. However you want to describe it, it makes me smile, it makes me grateful, and it makes me promise to pay it forward whenever I can.

Sufferin’ Succotash

29 Nov

As I write this, I’ve been in Puerto Escondido for nearly three weeks. This beautiful beach side town has made me it’s unintentional prisoner as I wait to receive a package from Australia. I underestimated Mexican postal services. I foolishly thought that an express post package that should arrive overseas in three business days would have made an appearance in Puerto Escondido within a week and a half. Silly CC- I forgot about the phenomena that is Mexican Time. If one was going to compare the Mexican postal service to anything, it wouldn’t be to a Looney Tunes mouse.

SPEEDY

Once I learned to blithely flick the bull ants off the bed and ignore the geckos fighting in the corner of the room, the accommodation I stayed at for my language school was lovely. Mix that with amazing people in the area and the purpose that comes with a scholastic responsibility each day, and I found myself quite content with my Escondidian routine. After travelling for six weeks, it kind-of, almost felt like my little Mexican home, but when the language course finished, I had to find new digs. Without giving the matter much thought, I chose the hostel that a friend was staying in. It was disconcertingly devoid of human beings every time I walked past, but The Texan had found a private room there for $2000 pesos for the month- an obscenely good rate- so I booked a room for three nights.

I didn’t notice my surroundings on the first night. I’d been involved in a particularly debauched drinking session with The Texan and an English expat chum of his, and I fell down no less than eight times during the 500m walk back to my room. Once I made it to the door, it took me a good fifteen minutes to open it. I stood, swaying in the hallway like an inebriated fuckwit, clumsily inserting and reinserting each key over and over. I was given three keys when I checked in and I never did discover what the other two were for. I jammed them into everything from the storage closet to the cat, but their purpose remained enigmatic.

The next morning I woke up looking, feeling, and smelling like a bruised puddle of bulldog vomit. The bathroom was located down the hall. It was a poky, light blue room, smothered with leopard spots of mould. The noxious odours of Mexican feasts past had long stripped the paint from the walls, and what was left hung in flaky chunks like sunburned skin. The toilet cistern lid was broken, and damp books were piled haphazardly on top it like some make-shift lavatorical library. And there was never, ever any fucking toilet paper in there. In fact, if you asked at the front desk for toilet paper, the staff would half heartedly look behind the counter before saying, “I don’t have.” This was uttered in a completely indifferent tone, almost as if you’d asked for a pen or a cigarette lighter. The first time they said it I was flummoxed, “What do you mean, ‘you don’t have’?” I asked in Spanish.

Shrug. “No tengo.”

“I need to go to the toilet,” I said. “What do your suggest that I use?”

She smiled, nodded and said, “Use. Yes.” Then she turned, walked across the reception floor and stood by the fridge, staring at the wall, her back to me.

It was a tactic that I had employed myself. The staff spoke almost exclusively Spanish and when they’d say something I didn’t quite catch, I’d lean forward and ask them to repeat it. They would, and if I couldn’t cherry pick enough words from the sentence to create a meaning, I’d often just repeat the last word they said and add a ‘yes’, so it sounded like I understood them thoroughly enough to confirm the final word of their sentence. You know, you do it if someone offers you directions:

“Turn right at the park.”

“The park, yes.”

“Then first left.”

“Left. Yep.”

“Then go straight past the school…”

“The school, got it.”

But since the phrase was spoken in a second language, I could have been agreeing to anything:

“We’re going to slaughter a stray dog in a voodoo ritual tonight. Right here.”

“Right here,” Enthusiastic nod. “Yes!”

When the reception gals couldn’t deliver the bog-roll, I was forced to fossick through my bag for travel wipes and, when they ran out, odd athletic socks whose partner had fallen victim to Mexican lavanderias. I’d drop each in the basket beside the toilet with a small sigh- another travelling companion lost in Mexico, like a pilled, grey drug cartel victim.

The shower in the bathroom was a single jet of water, a quarter of the diameter of your average garden hose. The shower head was cemented to the wall, so it stuck straight out at an 130 degree angle. This meant that the adjacent sink often got a better bathing than you did. Unfortunately the angle wasn’t obtuse enough to dislodge the seventeen bars of pubic-hair encrusted soap that were perpetually glued to the porcelain of the sink; but it did create a striking paper mâché effect with the yellowing Surf Class pamphlets that were stuck to the top of it. It looked like something an obsessive compulsive preschooler had created after binge watching Playschool under the influence of acid. The water pressure was unyielding, and, despite the room being constantly shrouded in steam, freezing. It was like trying to clean yourself in a Urinating Cherub Fountain. In fact, if the water had of been warm, it would have felt like I was being peed on by an excessively well-hydrated vagrant. Showering became an endurance event: not something pleasant and refreshing that you do of a morning, but a necessary ordeal undertaken only to rinse the smell of the mattress from you.

The mattress smelt like interspecies erotica, sherbet, and broken promises, but I’ll get to that.

My room had a large concrete mesh window which offered a lovely view of an abandoned toilet in the courtyard. If I squinted, I was transported to The Labyrinthian Bog of Eternal Stench. My window didn’t have curtains on it, something I realised as I was dressing after the shower. There was a cleaning lady outside who was systematically moving through the courtyard, scrubbing the concrete with a weathered red broom. It was refreshing that they paid so much attention to the ground outside. I mean, my room was wallpapered in dust and spiderwebs, and the pool was a particularly fetching shade of flourescent green, but at least the external concrete was clean. That patch of cement may have been more sanitary than my sheets. It was certainly cleaner than my mattress, which had morphed from beige to yellow under the strain of assorted bodily fluids from a thousand anonymous hosts. When I spied the lady, I ducked into a crouch, trying to hide. However, since I could still see her, there was a good chance that she could see the naked thirty one year old squatting on the floor like she’s trying to insert something into her vaginal canal, so I stood up slowly, not wanting to attract her attention. I did, anyway. I’m not sure if the moment our eyes locked was more uncomfortable for her or me. I think it was for her- the hairbrush dropped from my ‘giney when I stood up, and it clattered loudly to the floor with a wince and a disapproving glance.

I’m kidding.

I bring a frozen zucchini when I travel. It’s more ergonomic.

I forgot to take my toothbrush into the bathroom and I couldn’t bring myself to go back in there, so I went to the sinks in the common room to complete my ablutions. Turning the handle gave me a puff of smoke, several bats, and small dribble of rust coloured liquid. I didn’t have a bottle of water on me, so the receptionist helpfully offered me some. I accepted it gratefully.

“Can I have some toothpaste?” She asked as she handed me the glass.

I paused. It was the first time that hotel staff had asked to borrow my toiletries.

“I’ve run out,” she continued.

I was so baffled that I agreed before considering the implications of giving my toothpaste to a stranger to smear across something that scrubbed the bacteria from her mouth. I realised the ick-factor as she was fetching her toothbrush, and when she returned with a dog eared blue thing, I told her that she could keep the toothpaste.

“Really,” I said, offering her the full tube of Colgate like some babbling dental hygiene fairy. “I have plenty and it’s nearly empty, anyway.”

I wasn’t given a top sheet, so that evening I slept huddled beneath my sarong. At some point during the night the fan had stopped working, and I awoke just after 3am in an environment sufficient to bake scones in. The skin that hadn’t been covered in brightly coloured cotton was now covered in bright red mosquito bites, which itched in an insomnia-inducing ditty of frustration. I lay there, mentally offering Satan everything from my soul to the virginity of my first born child in exchange for sleep, trying to ignore the itching that was slowly making it’s way from my skin to the last shred of my sanity. Something crawled over my arm, I smacked it and felt it scurry up my shoulder and onto the pillow. I vaulted out of bed in one fluid motion, turning on the light and flapping my hands at the wrists.

The light allowed me to see that the mosquitoes had made their way into my room via a hole in the flyscreen, which was roughly the size and shape of an overdeveloped child’s fist. I was considering what other item of clothing I could sacrifice to jam into this filthy hole when a moth flew through it. It might have been as drunk as I was the previous night because it spectacularly missed the lightbulb to crash land just below my left eye. My hands started flapping again, the moth flew away, and the next fifteen minutes were spent chasing it around the room with a thong. It was a wily little bastard, I’d thwack one wall seconds after it careened off to the next one. This noise woke up my neighbour, who thought that a spell of vocal masturbation would be just the thing to get him back to sleep. The walls were thin, and I heard enough to be able to confidently do it myself, had I wanted to. I should have offered him my zucchini.

After destroying the moth, I sat on the bed, lit a cigarette and listened to the overweight fellow next door flog his meat like an unemployed butcher. I reasoned that noxious tobacco fumes might be enough to drive away both the bugs and my ever-increasing desire to repeatedly punch a badger in the ovaries, so I smoked and lazily batted at buzzing mosquitoes while he jerked away on the other side of the wall. The only sounds in the hostel were a symphony of pleasure, hunger and frustration. And I don’t even know which was which.

I checked into a hotel after this. It was three times the price. I saw clean white sheets on the bed when I checked in. Totally worth it.

“Me talk pretty one day.”

20 Nov

In an oestrogen laden opening sentence I can sum up my Wednesday: I got my hair done. In Mexico, it’s about $50 for a full head of blonde foils and a cut. For the men that don’t speak ‘vanity’: that’s cheap. Really cheap.

I went to Spanish class afterward and tried to tell my teacher about it. I failed. Dismally.

This leads me to transcribe the actual conversations that I’ve had in Spanish with my language teacher. I can’t say that it all happened on one day, but, unfortunately, it did all happen. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse, really.

“So, CC, what did you do this morning?”

“I have the white stripes this morning,” I motion to my hair.

“Ah, you do look different! Where?”

“Um, on the street. Here.”

On the street?”

“No, no. On the here street. There.” I point out the door.

Pause.

“Um, what’s the word for ‘down’ again? Hmm…okay, I walk down the street here for the white stripes.”

“Okay.”

“I run up the school for my reservation there today. Now I am a little tired but happy.”

Pause. “Escaleras is stairs. Escuela is school”

It’s nice that she speaks gringa. “Yes. I like it but I want it blue now.” I motion to my hair.

“Blue?”

“Well, when I arrive in Mexico my onion is blue. I like blue. Blue as well, now.”

“Your…wait, what?”

“I have blue…um…paint for onion with my bag and I want make onion blue. On Saturday, more or less. Maybe Sunday.”

“What are you saying?”

“My onion is blue on Saturday. Many months ago it was purple, but now with white stripes I can all blue.”

She realises what I am trying to say. “Oh! No, no. Cabello is hair. Cebolla is onion.”

“Ah.” The frown that the hairdresser gave me earlier suddenly makes sense: ‘Thank you, my onion is very good now.’

“Okay, what about last night? What did you do last night?”

“Last night I write and I go to my American friend and I drink beer with her. I drink beer because I am on vacation now and I am unemployed all day now and this morning I use the bathroom for cold shower. And I eat many chorizo tacos. I like chorizo tacos. It is very cheap with 25 pesos because I buy chorizo tacos for arrive eat.”

“You bought chorizo tacos take-away. Llevar is to take. Llegar is to arrive.”

I nod. “I need to eat more fruit and no more chocolate because I am a lazy rabbit here and I don’t gymnasium here for run. In Sydney, yes. I eat many Nutella in Sydney and run at gymnasium but here, no. I smoke a lot. More and less. I need do less smoke but more run. No. Yes?”

“Right. Let’s start the lesson now. I’m going to ask you questions and I want you to answer in Spanish, okay?”

“Yes, yes, yes.”

“What days do you study Spanish?”

“I study Spanish with the Oasis school from Monday to old man.”

“What? No, Friday is pronounced like this. Not viejo. A viejo is an old man.”

“Ah, yes, yes, yes.”

“Okay, so what time are your Spanish classes?”

“My class is three at the point.”

“No, en punto, is o’clock, not a la punta.”

“Right.”

“La Punta is a beach here.”

“Okay. Can we study on the beach?”

“Not really.”

I’m mildly crestfallen. “Okay,” but remain optimistic, “but the room is large and there is one fan so it’s not, um, fire here now but beach maybe fire there today.”

“Caliente is the word for hot.”

“Right.”

“Now you try asking me some questions. Let’s start with ‘where’. Ask me a ‘where’ question.”

“Where…is…your mother.”

There is a pause. “My mother is dead.”

Awkward. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Ask another one.”

“Where is…Batman?”

“…what?”

“Nevermind. Where is my kitchen?”

This continues on. For some reason, she thinks that my conversation skills need work. So, this happens.

“What do you do in Australia?”

“I am a sick in Australia.”

“You are a nurse in Australia.”

“Yes. And I work in a…nurse house. A big, loco nurse store.”

“A hospital.”

How could I fuck that up?! It’s the same damn word in English. “Yes, a hospital. For loco.”

“A psychiatric hospital.”

“Yes.”

“What do you do for leisure?”

“At cafe, I drink coffee with my Australian friends-”

“You can just say we drink coffee. What else do you like?”

“Or we go and drink all the wine glasses.”

“You drink wine?”

“I like the wine very much.”

“Red or white?”

“White when I go there, red when relax on my house.”

In my house.”

“Yes, yes, yes.”

“Do you dance?”

“A little, but I am a rectum…no, wait. I am a retarded. I make bad dancing, no, wait- I am bad dancing. I want good dancing but I make bad dancing…so, um, no. No dance in Australia.”

“Do you do anything else?”

“Yes. With my Australian friends and I-”

“You know you can just say-”

“We can drink many beers. But before we have to lay down on the pizza at two in the morning.”

Silence.

“No, wait, after. After we lay on the pizza. Before beer, after pizza.”

More silence.

I realise my error. “No! Shit, piso is floor. We lay down on the floor.”

“You lay down on the floor?”

“Yes, yes, yes. Many beers. We sleep. And we drink many coffee and eat bacon because I am happy in the morning with my bacon. Bacon is friendly.”

“Just say delicioso.”

“I thought amable was nice?”

“Yes, but it’s personality nice, not taste nice.”

“Oh, correct. But I don’t like eggs for breakfast. Or lunch. Or-”

“Right. I get it. What else?”

“I do not like green eggs and ham!”

She doesn’t laugh. Maybe it was lost in translation…or maybe I said it incorrectly. “What else?”

“I write a lot. Also I write blog of good.”

“Write what?”

“Blog of happy. Ha-ha good, more or less.”

“Funny?”

“Yes, yes, yes.” Well, I do try to make good happy-funny for my friendly amigos.

“Are they real stories or do you make them up?”

“All real because I am bad with living and I make crazy story many days. When I travel, I do bad things.”

She didn’t bat an eyelid at the fact that I have made myself sound like a serial killer who hunts abroad. “What silly things?”

“I make lost. Other night. There. Not here. Many times.”

“You get lost?”

“Yes. Every day more or less. And I am a bad Spanish, as well.”

“CC, you have to drink more water and less beer because the climate is so hot here that you get dehydrated and it makes you tired and unable to think straight. You look a little tired today, yes?”

“A little. Tonight I eat chicken tacos at a store of take away food and tomorrow I must go to the beach and read but not when the sun is strong because I am all white and when I am many time in strong sun I’m going to, um…ouch.”

“Right, enjoy. I’ll give you more reflexive verbs for homework.”

Buenos Aires! Oh, shit. I mean, good day. Thank you. See you tomorrow, my lawyer.”

“Teacher, CC. I’m a teacher. Adios.”

CC & JC

31 Oct

Despite the fact that I never enter them at home, I find myself hanging out in churches a lot when I travel. Not because I seek answers, or peace- I just think they are pretty. And God’s pad can be a good place to gather your thoughts, actually. If I could smoke and drink beer in them, I might become a permanent house guest. Couch surfing the globe with Ol’ J.C.

Uncertainty accompanies the moment I first enter them. My scuffed Doc Marten hovers over the threshold as I wonder if this is the day that the sheer will of The Divine will drive my heathen ass back through the doors and into the bright sunlight where I will combust like a Tibetan monk. It’s yet to happen, though. I remain happily beyond redemption- although a slightly curious thing did occur in Cuba. I was enjoying half an hour of quiet time- thinking my thoughts as one does- when I had a, um, revelation of sorts. Something I had been ruminating on suddenly clicked into place. My lightbulb moment happened at the exact time the maintenance man turned on a light beside me- ostensibly to test it. True story. It was comical. If only the organ cleaner had of played an F-sharp note on the keys, as well.

I have to admit that I indulge in some…compulsive behaviours in when I’m in church. This next part is written with some sheepishness, but- gulp– I usually cross myself upon exiting. I know, I know. I’m a fucking athiest for Christ’s sake (Ha! Geddit?) and I am sure that all of my scientifically-minded comrades are now tittering in disgust. I do feel slightly ashamed, it’s almost as if I am publically expressing a fondness for some sort of perverse sexual deviancy.

I’m certain there’s a priest joke to be made here. Hmmm.

I don’t know what it is about these buildings that gets the old Irish Catholic blood pumping, but it feels disrespectful somehow to leave without turning quickly and giving a little ‘spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch’. I tell myself that it’s just a courtesy, in much the same way I wouldn’t enter a Buddhist temple in hot-pants, I respect the beliefs of the Catholic community- no matter how ridiculous they may seem to me. Once upon a time I used to take great delight in baiting Christians. It was a hobby. However, age has taught me that someone who pokes fun at the beliefs of others is generally no better than the people who try and force said beliefs onto you. I can’t do it anymore. Last year in London, I entered a church and sat quietly at one of the pews. There was a middle aged couple on the kneeling board thingamajig adjacent to me, praying. They sat back down, and the woman abruptly burst into tears. Great, heaving ones that consumed her whole body. That’s why I don’t bait Catholics anymore in a neat, allegorical nutshell- a person’s faith is something that often gets them through their darkest moments. I have no idea what this woman was crying about- a death was my first thought- but this church provided her with something far bigger than my stubbornly logical, athiest brain could ever fathom. I can’t take a person’s faith away from them and look at myself in the mirror. I just can’t.

My newfound respect quickly morphed into curiosity from there and, well, I hang out in churches now.

Then I leave, smoke some weed, take the Lord’s name in vain, watch pornography on my phone, kill someone, and covet their wife.

The Cathedral of Oaxaca in Zocalo isn’t known for being the nicest church in the city. Many would argue that it’s sort of like an average-looking kid sister when compared to the others, but it’s still lovely in it’s own way. I was standing at the altar silently admiring the stained glass when a fellow came up to me and began speaking rapid Spanish. I must have looked lost because he paused and said, “Hablas español?”

Poco español,” I answered.

Unpertubed, he continued to speak, gesticulating at the altar. I caught enough random words to deduce that he was giving me some sort of in-person audio tour. He spoke with pride, passion. His eyes were alight with love. I wanted to convey my appreciation for what he was clearly so fond of, and while I don’t know the Spanish word for beautiful, I do know the one for pretty. I learnt bonita the same day I learnt novilo. From a cab driver. I had just woken up from my Cuban nightmare and was catching a cab from the airport to my hotel in Mexico City. The driver only spoke Spanish, and I was struggling to have a conversation with him. He asked if I had a novilo.

Novilo?”

Si, novilo,” he took his hands off the wheel to mime kissing someone. The cab swerved violently.

Ah. No. No novilo.”

Porqoui?”

When asked this question I usually respond with a joke. Depending on my mood it’s either an arrogant one: “I’m far too attractive to settle for just one member of the opposite sex! I’m greedy. I want them all,” or an adorably disarming one: “Boys are trouble!”

The first statement seemed beyond my capabilities, so I racked my sleep deprived brain for ‘trouble’ in Spanish. The closest I could come up with was muertos i.e. Boys are dead.

Not appropriate.

The cabbie was looking at me expectantly. Two things occurred to me: he should really be watching the road, but also I don’t have a personality in Spanish. I can be polite, thankful, friendly, and utterly vanilla; but I can’t be CC. Not yet, anyway. However, this all seemed unimportant so I just shrugged.

It must have seemed melancholic because he let go of the wheel- again- touched my arm, and told me that I was bonita. Muy bonita, in fact.

I was muy grateful, especially considering I had spent the night in a Cuban airport and was fairly certain that I looked like I had been dragged through the Himalayas from the undercarriage of a bus. It was a lovely welcome back to civilisation. Not only could I get a hamburger and a cold beer here, I was randomly complimented by a total stranger. Viva la Mexico. I tipped him, of course. If you ever want to make some extra cash you can probably just follow me around and tell me that I’m attractive. Do it enough and I’ll start regurgitating coins like a slot-machine.

Actually, I first thought bonita meant beautiful- yes, I am that vain. I’m not even sure where I got “beautiful” from. I know I stepped away from Google Translate long enough to be lied to be another medium- the all-knowing Yahoo Answers, probably. It’s interesting that I readily believed that ‘bonita = beautiful’ when I question everything else I read on there. Realistically, what the cabbie said could have been a Mexican idiom that was lost in translation (“You don’t have a boyfriend? Well, that’s because you are unfuckable. Very unfuckable. I’m sorry you had to hear it from a cab driver, but somebody had to send you spiralling back to reality.”)

Anyway, I later learnt that it means “pretty”.

Yes: later.

In other words, this happened:

Waiter: “How was your meal, senorita?”

CC: “Very pretty, thank you.”

Yikes.

So I wanted to tell my new friend that I thought his church was lovely. Problem was, I couldn’t remember ‘it is’ in Spanish. It was either ‘es’ or ‘estoy’. Hmm. Which one? I couldn’t recall, and I had a 50/50 chance of being correct, so I picked one.

“Estoy muy bonita.”

He paused, frowning at me in utter incomprehension. Finally, he shook his head, said, “Si,” and walked away.

For those that don’t speak Spanish. Allow me to translate what happened.

A man stands next to a blue haired girl in a church. He is talking: “The altar is blah, blah, blah with blah and Saint blah, blah, blah protects blah, blah in the blah with a blah-dy, blah, blah and this is original blah glass with 18th Century blah, blah, blah.

He looks at the girl. She is staring at the altar. “Wow,” she says softly. She turns and offers him a 50-watt smile. “I am very pretty.”

The day I grasp Spanish will almost be a sad one, I will have no material left for this blog.