Day 77

Written 5 June, 2020.


Days of torment about my chapter. My tormentor my editor has said it’s like a re-write of my book The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady: a Novelist Looks at Creativity and Neuroscience and he’s right, it is; a re-write; then he says it needs typo correcting and the removal of my florid novelistic flourishes and he’s right, it does; a re-write; then the sections under each heading needs to be evened up: they don’t but I even them up any way; a rewrite; I send it off, and studiously avoid any email from him until suddenly my eye is caught by the word “tooth” : he’s needed an urgent operation on a tooth, and none of us writers will hear from him till 14th June, when he’s finished his antibiotics. A few hours ensue and  then he texts in a most friendly way that he’s sent my chapter off to my heroine, the famous neuroscientist Liane Gabora who I’ve followed for months- in one of my beach videos, I quoted her extensively – and suddenly, it’s all been worth while. And he adds that when it’s been refereed by her, I can put back my florid novelistic bits.

At the post office, the postmistress holds in her hand the envelope full of masks for my friend in the UK who works without any protection in hospital admin; she asks me what’s in it, and, heart beating, fearing the worst, I tell her, because I can never think fast enough to tell lies. She says it’s illegal to send a mask out of the country. I remember 77 days ago, a Chinese man tried to send tens of thousands of masks out of Australia and it was declared illegal because masks here were in short supply: I cannot believe that now masks are everywhere, it’s illegal to send a paltry six. Besides, they’re not commercial masks, they’re home-made by a theatrical costumier. In my reasoning,that makes a vital difference. I ask if I could send it, how much my envelope would cost. She answers my question as if she doesn’t suspect me, though her eyes flash. $8.30. I ring GG and ask if he has $8.30 in stamps: he does. I rip open the envelope, find another, put the masks inside, decide as a compromise to cut it down to three masks, and at a post box on the footpath outside, post them with $8.00 worth of stamps for luck. I might be arrested but my friend’s life is at stake.

In the afternoon, coffee with my dear writer friend Libby at Coogee. She’s comforting and warm-hearted and I don’t know how I’ve done without her up the river. I  cannot watch enough of the shining green caves of breakers that I could hide in,until they like everything else topple, I hide in them, they topple. I struggle with homesickness for my own brooding river. Libby says I should  send my rejected novel to another publisher who six months ago said she’d love a manuscript from me. Libby’s right. She’s a  fellow-writer and wants the best for me, and I feel I have the courage to do this until I get back to Marg’s, when I know I can’t. I must re-write it. Sometimes, many times, I wish I didn’t live my life. Someone else, wiser, smarter, should. A life seems too big for one person to live.Too large, too many angles, too many protrusions. It’s like stumbling along carrying a vast, unwieldy, flapping shape, and you’re teetering on a cliff edge. If only a group of smart people  could do carry it, and decide to go this way or that- watch out for stone, watch out for hillock.  A committee- no, that wouldn’t work…  But at least i upload the video, shot on Dy’s beach:



2 Responses to Day 77

  1. It’s been a week of brothers in Lennox Head. C flew in last Sunday from Sydney, N dropped in for a short stay on Thursday, finally able to cross the QLD boarder. For 48 hours, things almost felt normal. I realise the extent of my weirdness when I’m with my brothers. I’d say that I’m rather weird as a default, but truly strange once the davis’ siblings reunite. To thrive in family dinner conversations one must be fast on their feet, agile, ready with witty remarks, comebacks, callbacks, satires, voices, retorts, accents, all of it! N does this thing where he bursts into a silent rage of laughter, so silent that all that manages to escape his body are a few tears… When N breaks into his silent cry laugh, you know you’ve done well.

    It’s nice. We go for coffee and walks on the beach. C and I get lots of work done on our script. We swim. We play. We laugh, we laugh more, all the time we laugh! It feels very full, very heightened, very loud, very hyperbolic… very us. But with this height comes a deep low. We feel the space, the dissonance, we feel J’s absence.

    What more could this year throw at J? If a punch in the stomach isn’t enough, why not kick him while he’s down, and spit on him too! Hidden away with his brilliant wife E, in midtown Manhattan, for months now, they paused their lives for Covid 19, and now, they watch their country rip itself apart.

    I spoke to J and E a few days ago. They’re saddened as we are. Angry as we are. Conflicted as we are. They both want to protest, they want to scream for justice and march for lives lost, but with their passion comes risks. Risk of the virus, risk of falling victim to violence, yes, but something more horrific threatens them; the risk for arrest.

    Arrest for E and / or J, means J’s immediate deportation. Certainly, absolutely, there is no doubt. Arrest for J means separation from his wife. It means separation from the life he’s been trying to construct for five years. Arrest for J means an obliteration of his dreams. So they hide from the virus and they hide from the masses outside their windows, despite the fire inside burning away at them to fight for what is right, for what is just.

    I protested today in Byron Bay. Around 2,000 people turned up. I’ve been to a few protest movements since moving to the Northern Rivers, and I can say with delight that this was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. The protest was peaceful; it felt supportive, it felt sad, deeply, deeply sad, but nonetheless, it felt supportive. Shivers and tears were shed, chants screamed and waves of applause echoed around the local soccer fields. It was peaceful. J and E could’ve come to this, no chance of arrest. No chance of being brutally bashed or tear gassed. No chance of being kicked out of the country.

    Today I realised that there’s a different kind of fire burning in America. All over, there is pain and there is anger. But it’s devouring the U.S. from the inside out. I’m not saying that the Australian BLM protest movement is superior, far from it…I’m saying that it’s different. Our histories are different, our oppression is different, our contexts are different. However, fundamentally, it all boils down to injustice, it all boils down to a deep systemic sickness which has poisoned the waterhole and we’ve ALL been drinking the cool-aide.

    I feel privileged that I can protest; I feel privileged that I can learn about racism instead of experience it. I feel privileged that I can even write these words! Today, a First Nations person told the crowd that he’s sick and tired of trying to educate us white folk, for fifteen years he’s been trying to educate us and we haven’t listened to him. He told us that he’s exhausted. He told us that now it’s time for us white people to educate ourselves, to educate each other, to have conversations with each other, because he’s exhausted.

    I’ll never understand the extent of this man’s exhaustion; I’ll never understand what it’s like to be oppressed for my skin colour… and I’ll certainly never be able to understand what it’s like to be unable to breathe – but I’ll do what I can. I’ll do what I can do. I’ll use the words from my mouth and the words from my finger tips and I’ll do something. Because we have to do something as allies. We do. We must.

  2. Hi Sophie, Thank you for this. I’m sad, ashamed, angry to say I didn’t go to the Sydney protest. I was intimidated by the virus, yes, and by the banning of more than 500 people. But it’s vital to be counted. I’ve protested a lot about injustice, from way back, way back to anti-Vietnam days when I was teaching at TAFE and they threatened they’d dock my vitally needed fortnight’s pay if i did-and I did, and they did. It’s vital to be counted, and that solidarity, that community you talk about is vital. We know that from #me too.To find out that in my therapist’s words as she called across the bay: “You are not alone”.

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