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Monika and the harbour (the house part 4)

Sydney Harbour at night from Milsons Point

The first time was with Monika. I’ve been told I’ve taken mescaline on four or five occasions. None of the sources are reliable. Maybe I’ve never had it. The maniacal German girl was the first to tell me otherwise, just after I swallowed a large pinch of orange-pink granules escaped from a burst bubble sheet of doses secreted in her luggage.

I dunno, it’s all acid to me. Whatever the power in her powders the magic was Monika. We swept through the harbour city with beginners’ eyes. In dark suburban parks. In bobbing ferries beneath enormous illumined ships. On headlands staring out across the ocean then back into the sprawl. Smog sunsets over industrial wasteland. Tiny possums peering from their mothers’ fur. Light on water everywhere.

It’s good to have a visitor show you the beauty of your home.



They wear the city like bling.

It’s not about soldiers and firepower in Sydney. It’s about how many cops, judges, bankers, journos and politicians they own. How they make things work.

Sometimes they make a display. Something flash so no-one thinks they’ve lost their touch. It was nothing personal Juanita.

Mostly they stay understated in a system so smooth and seamless its operations are almost undetectable. It is the playing field. As long as the rules are respected any ripples soon disappear. The rules aren’t the laws. They matter.

They wear the city like bling.


Immune system

I couldn’t be charged. Not for minor stuff. Especially not drugs. I had a number and name. Detective Sergeant S- at Marrickville. I was his informant.

Not that I informed. To him or any other cop. I never even met Detective Sergeant S-. He was presumably one of many on my employer’s payroll.

Even if you don’t inform there’s a downside to being an informant. If my body showed up I knew what the media would call it. So did my employer. So did the police. Everyone shrugs and gets back to work.

Most cops didn’t want to arrest me anyway. They wanted to beat me up and steal whatever I was holding. Not much I could do about them. Just try to build them into the business model.


It’s just a gathering of middle aged people at a bowling club near where I grew up. Woy Woy High Year 10 class of 1977. Such as is left of us.

It’s not like we have much in common after forty years. Just a few shared memories. Like that one. And … er … that one. Maybe I should check with survivors and make sure everyone’s keeping quiet. We may not have much to talk about but we’ve got plenty to not talk about.

Turns out a surprising number of us are still alive. I knew we should have started a teenage death cult. They were  fashionable then. I wonder what we’ll discuss while avoiding less savoury topics. Maybe I should walk in stoned, get drunk as fast as I can then get into a fight. Wouldn’t be a Woy Woy High reunion otherwise. Or I could try doing something I risk remembering.

What if someone asks me what I’ve been doing for the last forty years?

Should I ask them which day they mean?

Or should I admit I have no wife, no children, no house and no car. No career, no title, no footie team, no political party, no religion, no cause, no dreams. No projects, no clubs, no diet, health or fitness miracle, no portfolio, no milestones, no favorite cafe, no shed, no status. No Facebook friends.

It’s probably fair to say that since leaving school I’ve achieved nothing at all. I didn’t do the homework.

Evil relatives

Like I said I don’t really believe in evil – except in relative terms. One relative term is down to how *alien* a particular organism is and, especially, how alien I imagine its needs, perceptions and goals are to my own.

When I look out into the universe it seems to me other people are the *least* alien thing out there. Not because I’m ’empathetic’ or can see into their worlds, that’s for sure. But because they look like me and act like me and *seem* to think and feel like me, with a few differences that are trivial compared to the difference between me and my pet rabbits, much less than between me and a carnation or a comet or a corporation.

I don’t really know what a psychopath is. I know I’ve run across people who creep me out with the overwhelming feeling they’re *pretending* to be human (Bob Carr always springs to mind) but I know other people are creeped out by different people than I am. There’s probably people I creep out the same way. I don’t know what us creepy folk would score on the psychopath checklist or what dissection of our ventromedial prefrontal cortex might reveal or whether any of that matters. I know I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s, which means impaired or absent empathy of the sort often cited as at the root of psychopathy. So maybe that’s why I can’t work out what psychopaths are. You can’t see vampires in the mirror.

I’m not about to stake out my own narrow perspective of what it means to be human as some sort of overarching viewpoint that would enable me to judge which of the tiny differences between me and other people are ‘manifestations of evil’. And I’m not about to generalise my own set of experiences and responses to the extent where I can point at someone else and say “I wouldn’t have done that in his shoes”.

Yeah, I think everybody probably gets the feeling they’ve done wrong from time to time. Or constantly if they think they *are* wrong. And it’s probably best to try to avoid doing shit that makes you feel that way – though life doesn’t always seem to offer a guilt-free choice. And from what I can see what causes the feeling differs a bit between people, but not much compared to say, between people and mosquitoes. But it’s really hard to believe they’re similar enough to even offer one of Kant’s “categorical imperatives“, much less an objective measure of good and evil.

If you believe in evil you’d be pretty fucked up if you didn’t try to avoid doing it. But if you ask me you’d probably already be fucked up by the fact that the only way to avoid it would be to keep sliding the definition around your own actions.


edited extract from an email to a friend

The yard

weeds, Hills Hoist, having to mow the lawn, railway stink and noise, cement, fruit bats at dusk, mosquitoes, shafts of afternoon sunlight, a laundry shed, kookaburra cackle, rescuing washing from the rain, a twisting line of ants, cold stars at midnight, built abutting grown, smell of neighbour’s dog, dewy grass underfoot, finding the owl, rabbit food reserve, defeat of the bindis, darting skinks, amateur plumbing, basking in the sunset

It doesn’t work in pieces.

Me and mine

I stand at the centre of a vast expanse of sand, as far as the eye can see. I hold a stick.

The landscape is immense. Beyond my comprehension. I’m a speck in danger of being overwhelmed. Of losing all significance. Of ceasing to exist.

I wield my stick. I draw a line.

Everything on this side is mine. It is part of me. I am no longer a speck. I too have become vast. I matter.

There’s still an awful lot on the other side though. Maybe more than on mine. As I watch some sand is blown from my side to that of The Other. It’s absorbing me! I’m draining away! Some sand blows from the Other side to mine. I’m being invaded! Overrun! Defiled! The terror of extinction comes flooding back.

I peer around furtively. No-one is watching. I erase the line and draw a new one a few paces forward. I have grown. I have pushed back the void. My path becomes clear.

By progressively moving the line I become greater. More powerful. More real. Eventually all will be mine. I will have defeated oblivion. Complete appropriation. Unity via annexation.

But I live on a globe.

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