A golden autumn morning breaks through leafless branches. The chainlink fences that flank the railway tracks gleam as the sun rises behind them. The footpaths wear mantles of brown and red leaves. My fingers are cold and only seem to get colder as I type. I piece together a couple of paragraphs from the scraps I left for myself the last time I opened this file. It feels like sewing together sheets of rubber.
The last few weeks have been like this. My habits have taken a 180-degree turn. It used to be odd if I went to sleep before midnight. Now it feels strange if I wake after dawn. My old housemate maintains that the elements are the same, I?ve just swapped my alone-time to the very early morning. She?s probably right, but it feels like progress somehow, like it?s worlds away from how I used to live.
I find some notes in my journal: two years ago, a fragrant mid March evening. Cadie and I sat on the steps of the creaking verandah in our friends? overgrown, bamboo-filled garden in Kangaroo Point. A few feet away, our friends sprawled around the kitchen table half-drunk, making bad jokes and cackling with laughter. The threads of their spiralling conversation had sunk so low beneath the beer bubbles we?d lost sight of them. A possum stalked across the verandah railing before taking a flying leap and landing on the tree that towered above us and canopied the entire garden. Cadie looked intently past her own (discarded) beer and confessed that sometimes she didn?t know who she was or what she was supposed to be doing. ?Sometimes,? she said, ?it feels like I?m living multiple lives.?
I muddle my way through a paragraph, the sentences flaccid, the cadences all wrong.
Later, a friend calls to vent about a mutual acquaintance in an unhappy marriage. The acquaintance: I stayed at her house for a night, a couple of years ago. I don?t remember why. I think I was trying to get to know her. She asked me what I was planning to do after my PhD. I wanted to publish, I said, and then perhaps travel. After that?who knew? I had as much as I needed to go on for the moment.
?But what about getting married?? she asked. ?What about having children??
?I don?t want to do either of those things,? I said.
?But surely, at some point???
It curtailed our friendship: we saw each other as irrevocably different, constantly speaking at cross purposes. I was convinced by our conversation that night that those ideas were hardwired into her: that marriage and children were so much what she believed to be the natural objectives of her life that she didn?t understand?couldn?t understand, I think?why either of them might feel wrong to me.
She now has a one-year-old and is pregnant with twins. Her Facebook feed is flooded with discussion of babies and child-rearing, and status updates gushing about how much she loves her life. It?s a stark contrast to the bitterness that my friend relays to me on the phone, which is overlaid by our acquaintance?s insistence that because these things are right she must be happy, even if she doesn?t feel it.
I want to flog her with a copy of The Feminine Mystique and I don?t care if she hates me for it. My friend insists she has tried and there?s no helping some people.?I suppose not, but what does it say about the world when the structure means more than that which is contained within it? That must be my idea of hell: a hollowed-out shell, perfunctory motion, conformity for the sake of the status quo.
I think, perhaps that?s why I gravitate towards the dark, lonely hours. It still feels like quiet rebellion. Off-kilter, out of sync. And the edges are where the cracks are.