Point & Spray

Three weeks ago I killed a 13 year old boy. I shot him multiple times in the left leg as well as his torso. I collapsed his lung and ruptured his spleen. The things he called me, the racism the homophobia – I just couldn’t let him go on. It’s okay. He resurrected. And I tracked him down in another portion of the map to repeat the process. This all took place in a videogame and what really hit me wasn’t the frag grenades or throwing knives or the barrage of M-16 bullets. It was when a typical outcome in the game happened (not in his favour) and he screeched at me “n***er, jew, fa**ot c**t”… And all the other players heard him, then cheered.

When I was his age I used to hang out in the local Timezone nearly every weekend. For those too young to remember or for those that never went, it was a place full of arcade machines. It was over in Knox City, before it was Knox O-Zone, before Billy Bob’s disappeared, before multiplayer, before console headsets, before cable internet, before torrents and the iTunes store made the Blockbuster Video that stood next to it – seem so fucking depressing to look at. Let alone enter.

I’d racked up so many hours and millions of points. And back then there was a countdown ‘Continue?’ screen. Limited lives. Someone waiting right behind you. You HAD to make your dollar count. So when I got my ass kicked by Metal Slug, Galaga and Ninja Gaiden, I had no one to scream at. I couldn’t get the most out of the game by making my character’s life last. But more than this. I had the subtle challenge to develop patience. This was made simpler since my life wasn’t as conflicted by the relentless pressure today’s youths face. Instead: Punch, punch, punch, kick, kick, DODGE, kick – go through mysterious door – meet boss – slay boss – savour your victory brave warrior! It was just a game and I didn’t only have this outlet to escape through or feel accomplished by if I fell short in other areas. The mistake would have been taking it all too seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not without my trauma and it did lead to some dangerous undertakings. But despite that, that was what it was like, or at least what I remember, growing up then. Not perfect, but easier.

You know what I really admire about the 90s? There were none of these ridiculous “rules” about having to be able to sing or act exceptionally well to be in films or bands that were really appreciated. You weren’t considered a failure if you didn’t have your own business, a six figure salary, a home you were paying off or children you were competently raising by the age of 30. There was much of the world that was undiscoverd, unshared and inaccessible. So dreams and enthusiasm were present in surplus.

I can’t help but wonder (thanks Ms. Bradshaw), that the frustration that the current generation feels, and the aggression they respond with, could be a result of the message these countless talent search TV programs deliver. The pressure of the world being made so small by social media and the countless uploads of ‘the world’s best …………..’ that they compare themselves to. As well as how instantaneous everything is becoming. The over exposure to amazement without the reinforcement that they have time and their own gifts as well that don’t have to be as equally as exceptional right now. They become victims to this wretched philosophy that a warbling, colour by numbers performance that *just* manages to hit the high long note should automatically overshadow something subdued yet transcendent in its soulfulness. Or that doing five perfect impersonations instead of 100 so-so ones in 2 minutes has no value. Or if the dragons won’t surrender their gold – your imagination is a useless possession.

Kids, my heart breaks for you and I get why you try so quickly to act older than you are. I had my reasons too and was shown too much too soon. And yes there are many of you that have similar reasons as mine as to why you may think less of yourselves now and get attracted to danger – or in truth, this urge to just feel something that you chose outside the regular. Something that you can claim ownership of and feel unique for. I will tell you what I wish someone told me back then. You will not be alone if you tell someone that loves you. Someone does, no matter what. Find them and hold on to any shred of courage you can muster. You are never truly alone.

I am seeing this rising desire (amongst children and adults) to be taken seriously and to feel visible in a world of simply too much noise. It’s a horrible paradox – to strive to be heard in a deafening land. But I do believe amongst these people are those who are just as good at listening. Maybe the need to escape the unsurety of self, the looming potential attachment to mediocrity, and the constant expectation to be nothing less than amazing is what draws children to vices so early? Whether it will perpetuate into adulthood is another concept entirely. In the meantime, what I am finding is an epidemic of kids looking to have sex just as their age hits double digits, putting substances into their system before hormones and other naturally occuring chemicals have had a chance to do their thing. Getting lost in devices instead of face to face conversation – terrified to try because there is no backspace for a spoken thought.

It is okay, you are young and you are supposed to ask. You have the right to fuck up. There is no shame in that. You can say the wrong thing, but don’t push yourself to do it deliberately. For the record I am an Australian born, pansexual, muslim/spiritual (kind of conflicted), cis-male that has ties (through heritage and culture) to France, England and Lebanon. And I am unashamed! So there are a multitude of names I can and have been called. But you may also be surprised how many people find my combination as something fascinating. And being an asshole to people like me will do two things for you after you leave school. It will shut doors in your face and leave you only able to draw people into your life who clutch onto the same cruelty and cynicism that you first showed. People who will push you under the bus as soon as the opportunity to look cool or better than you, arises.

So I implore you to learn. Learn about you. Learn it is okay to say “I don’t know”. Learn how to identify an injustice amongst a crowd. Hell, to even point it out to others or call someone out on it. Come to terms with your age and recognise how much time you have to become what you believe, in an empty room. To revisit that spark you nearly let get extinguished by the suggestions of those who are just as scared, just as lost but maybe sounded a little more persuasive. Staying intact is so much sexier. A sharp mind, a bright soul, a sense of self worth. That pays off in every room, not just the one with a bed in it.

You know what was the biggest lesson I learned when I left school? That you get to choose who you see after. You. Get. To choose. Their voice has no priority over yours, which is why all of ours are different. Just ask Shane Koyczan. Some voices need hands to be shared, some need robots – just ask the smartest man in the world. But it’s you who decides whose words will shape you, including your own. Don’t use your voice to fight against yourself so you can be validated by someone who only likes you when you are absent from your skin, your mind, your ambition, integrity or humanity. Their invitation is them asking you to validate them. Whether it’s to bully someone, indulge in shit you haven’t had enough chemistry classes to understand or to chalk up a number on the sex-o-graph. Knock on your flesh and ask if it’s you in there. Say it’s harsh, insensitive, ignorant, dismissive, empty. Say it’s not time. Say the echoes of an empty room you listened to yourself in. See each victim as a bird robbed of flight. Prod it or protect it – your choice. But you already know what is right.

What you share of your body is yours. See your body as what it is. The only one you get. The brain that can be visited and altered by experimental pharmaceuticals. Sometimes permanently. The heart that can be shut off and turned apathetic. The sexual organs under developed, inexperienced yet forced to rush with no good reason. And too many times have I heard accounts where it ended in just some unrewarding, awkward, confused reflecting. It’s like those people who go somewhere distant and remarkable and wind up just taking selfies. They say they are invested and ready. They collect the moment, but only to brag about it – NOT because they were at all ever emotionally, intellectually or spiritually connected to its happening.

In all situations, see yourself in the empty room before you speak, before you choose. And when you do I hope you speak your truth to those present. Those that stay will embrace the real you. This is when you choose to become. So much more than a scorecard’s content or a buzzer’s silence, the one that puts out, the party record holder of shots or anything else that buried your true identity for a temporary rise of meaningless fame. And the truth is little ones, most of those fuckers on the panel needed an auto-tune anyway and undergo sexual counselling, struggle to see their loved ones and have done several stints in rehab. This is not to shame them, only to question why their opinion is any more valuable than you’re own. We are all perfectly imperfect.

I can’t tell you who you are, where you are going or what you will be. All I can do is wish you luck, light and love and provide a gentle suggestion of how to not become something you may wind up hating. Oh also. Maybe do some more single player stuff for a bit. Make an ass of yourself at a karaoke slumber party and then laugh ’til you cry. Form real friendships without expectations or judgement. Make connections with people of other cultures, so if you feel tempted to use a racial slur you may already know a friend who has suffered from it elsewhere. Catch up with people without screens involved. The world is beautiful and endless – and so are you, if you let yourself be.

Light, love and luck from me (Mandy). Ex virgin at 10, bullying victim, drug sobriety now at 4 years 4 months and 13 days, still a lover of video games and still here.

 

broken games

how to get carried away

There are times when I will lay on the grass, I will look at a car and think that can fit 8 of me. Then I will look at a tram and remember its capacity. It will pass a building I will stare at and I will wonder how many desks on how many floors could be occupied by my meagre person. The building stretches to the clouds and I see a plane scuttling through them, bursting the sky’s cotton on exit like sports teams through paper banners. It’s miniscule in comparison, and I have travelled so many places in them. I’ve only ever had 1 of the 250 seats assigned to me. One window, one tray for food, one tiny pillow that provides more comfort as something to hold onto than to rest against. I prefer to look down at the lights of places I can’t tell the names of in the dark. Think of all the lives I’ll never know, and think of the ways I could have made them laugh if I did.

There are things in things. This humble jet is one more haggered employee late for work and the altocumulus clouds are 4 city blocks it must traverse on its way to getting reprimanded by a boss that shows up once a week. Serendipity can be a bitch.

By the time I have reached past the atmosphere, it has been well and truly night for a while now. And the stars, so distant, ferocious balls of gas, titans to the clouds – I cannot even imagine how many of my clones would be necessary to cover their surface. And god damnn – it just overwhelms me sometimes in the most cacophonous array of bewilderment and awe and terror. And I get to feeling so puny and ineffectual. Until I am distracted by the tickling sensation of an ant tap dancing across my wrist. And the blades of grass that have molded to the shape of whatever of me touched them, long enough to wear a coat of chlorophyll. And I am reminded that something so small can bear 9 times its own weight. Maybe enough of them will come along and help me reenact scenes from ‘Gulliver’s Travels’? But really, 9 times their own weight – phenomenal. I can’t physically accomplish that, but I do believe that there have been many times I have carried the equivalent in emotional cargo. And each day it’s getting a little lighter.

 

ant rose petal

Piecemeal People

today, we shed our thoughts
the trees, their rotten clothes
naked, we weather the winter
repeating cycles of oxygen to carbon monoxide
vice versa
they, a clean purpose
i, my trembling cigarette mockery
and wrapped in hand me downs

i don’t mind
it’s a little old – some say
a little big, like this tank on my neck
in which i breed ideas from koi fish
growing to fill the space they’re offered
if i let their diet get too ego dependent,
i get lost
revert to a childhood wish for the power of invisibility
then realise it’s the gift of ’30’, ‘undiscovered’ and ‘lonely’

these are the boulders we are all breaking in secret
in us all is the art and knowledge of Gustav Vigeland
in us all are the instruction manuals on how to:
(1) wash
(2) wring
(3) fold
and
(4) mould
the pieces of mountains we conquer without climbing
through chisels and hammers, sculpting and scraping
making the piecemeal people, refined and eternal
a collection of life size paper weights,
keeping the letters in place to remember a name,
ambiguous enough to forget the face
and be left staring with only appreciation – perfectly still
statuesque as these trees with frozen droplets on their branches

if you look through them the world becomes a fish bowl
it magnifies a neglected scarf a little ways up the road
where you’ll discover – somehow
the discarded, can be loved again.

scarf

Follow The Instructions

If hearts weren’t meant to break, why do we have so much glue and string lying around the house? And if we didn’t have any of these, just think of all the pleasant surprises we’d miss from receiving everything unwrapped and in pieces. Maybe the point of love is not to put ourselves together well enough for someone to deem us suitable. But to find someone who is also half-built, but has the blueprints and is willing to help construct us. Enough to finish them off too in the process. Every item from Ikea that needs to be assembled is not really furniture – but a code for acceptance and growth. And the warehouse is a library of love stories waiting to happen. It’s by carrying them through the door and into the living room and discovering that we can make and not always destroy, where we find that we brought a heart into the home. That’s why home is where the heart is. And even if there are pieces missing or we hammer too hard and chip the corner, or the holes are too big for the screws – we can always use the string and glue in the bottom drawer of the study to pull it all together. Then stand back and surprise ourselves that it actually worked. Maybe that is what it means to love.

pipe books

Connect The Dots

I define myself by the things that I love, by the things that make me feel most alive in the being part of. That is what sings to my true nature, and I respond in the most effortless way because it is instinctive. Like each time I pick up a guitar and the string rattles enough to make a sound but not a note. It is not quite a breath and almost a whisper – carrying a secret and a promise only my fingers can translate. Or when I step foot into a foreign country, depart the platform in Bergen and dive into shin deep white powder. Face buried and breathing in the fallen clouds I couldn’t touch from the plane. The locals looking at me weirdly thinking “just another Wednesday”, and me face down with muffled giggles making snow angels and forgetting the 15 years in waiting. Or the way I sometimes like to close my eyes and think I hear the flutter of oversized butterfly wings as I let my thumb quickly pass over the edge of each page in a book. That sound, an intermittent machine gun of ‘frtrtrtrs’. Then I think of the forest these 2 covers and bound print were once a part off, and that each turn is the flick of a branch upon outstretched hands, gliding through a grove.

When I pour the liquid into my tea cup, the meniscus captures the light from so many angles and for a moment looks so polished it’s black. In that black I see silt and fragments of leaves and tiny bracken, all which makes what looks like a milky way or galaxy in its surface. And I drink the universe, one sip at a time. And that is how I live my life. One sip at a time. In a quiet room or a raucous cafe, a park filled with bird song and rustling green, or a rooftop where the heat of urban industrial air conditioner exhausts dances with the aimless breeze. A traceless yin yang that only breathes of balance and an invisible waltz. And it fills my lungs and puts the dust of skyscrapers inside me. I become a giant and can press the heavens, rearrange the constellations into a morse code that tells me what heights I’ve known. That reminds, after I exhale and am once again small, that there is stardust on my fingertips. And still 37 sips left in my pot.

That is who I am.

night_tea_by_rock_lady-d4mj8m8*Picture is linked to the artist

STEAM POWERED.

the photo is linked to the photographer

typewriter teaI barely got any sleep last night. My head’s cloudy. There is fog on the insides of my eyes.

Maybe there’s a teapot in my head?

Maybe its steam is billowing out because it secretly wants to be a train. Because it sees the ones that carry my thoughts and thinks “Oh, why not me? I could do that thing with the moving and the whistling really well.”

“But little teapot,” I say. “Can’t you see it is the liquid you provide that fuels all those trains? You are necessary for their survival. Plus, there is a pretty damned memorable song about you. With big arm gestures thrown in it too! Stop these judgemental thoughts. This feeling of inadequacy. What is inside you travels to my gut, to give it courage to speak the things I’d otherwise not. Little teapot, you’re the bestest!”

And then the teapot just blushes, yep, goes all red and says, “I think I’m ready.”

So I don’t mind the fog. Sometimes it’s just my body’s way of saying I’m preparing. Something is cooking. I am doing. I am being. And maybe when it is served it can be a buffet for others.

YOU TELL ME THAT YOU’VE NEVER SAILED.

the photo is linked to the photographer

ifiwasmeanttosailtheseasBut you have.

You are captain of the S.S. Cloud Surfer. It breaks from the harbour at night, lifts it’s mighty anchor made from giant bells that ring out the sound of wind chimes when they clatter, and takes to the sky. It is magic and squeezes you out the bedroom window and is powered by the glow of starlight reflected off the glass of all the houses. You sail across the world. Your ship has tiny cameras fixed to its hull that photograph the other boats at sea wishing to fly like yours. It captures images of their steaming lights and how the moon glows in their wake. It turns this silver and white into brightness, transmitting it to your dreams, breaking through the torment and sadness where it can.

Sometimes it glides through the Northern lights and steals some colour, making the morning sunrise especially orange and the grass a shade greener and more lush. Sometimes it catches the side of a snow drift, making you pull the sheets up, protecting your face from the cold. And sometimes you wake in a soft sheen of sweat; the vapour you pass through on your descent back into your apartment.

You don’t know any of this, because you are fast asleep. But you are. Most certainly. A sailor.