Dec 4, 2009

Reservoir Dad’s Adventures in Phuket – Home

Even though I have told my mind to shut up and sleep a dozen times it continues to move from one unordered thought to the next. We arrived home from Phuket at 7.15am without a minutes sleep and the house smelt dusty and well and the air inside was cold and refreshing and I saw that, outside, the chickens had shat all over my shoes as well as they possibly could.

It’s now 2am and I am in bed, desperate for sleep, and my eyes are so wide open and motionless that they remind me of the mannequin me and my schoolmates stole and kept in a deserted old train station behind my house. We also kept a bow and several arrows that we stole from the school gymnasium there and one day I shot Jimmy in the leg from a short distance. I can still hear the noise – thoooomp! – and even though it was a blunt arrow it still penetrated his leg about a centimeter and made him bleed and I felt a little bad about that at the time even though Jimmy was a bit of a turd and the sort most people would take pleasure in shooting with whatever weapon they had on them.

I drift away from Jimmy into semi-wakefulness and my ears are being throttled, again, by the noise of the airplane engines on our flight home from Phuket, and Archie and Lewis are entwined and asleep between me and Reservoir Mum and we’re doing our best to stop them falling to the floor at the same time that we’re trying to keep Tyson sleeping through the relentless ping of the turbulence warnings. Thoooomp!

I see the Thai air hostesses in those long tight traditional-looking dresses shuffling around the plane as if they are bound at the ankles and everything about them is so polished – the blackened hair in a tight bun, the makeup-ed face as smooth as a sugared almond – and the shape of their bums are on display and their cleavage has me glaring and their patterned smiles and warm but wary eyes make it seem like my attention is acceptable only because they don’t expect anything else.

Thooomp Thooomp Thooomp. It’s now 2.45 and I have shot Jimmy in the leg seventeen times and each time I wonder at how pithy an event it is – two boys in a tiny country town versus the rest of the world – and yet here I am trying to convince myself that it didn’t matter and I realize that I am stuck in a vicious cycle because I am so hammered by sleeplessness that I am remembering irrelevant events in a dramatic and engaging way that makes it even more impossible to sleep.

Putting the flights to and from Phuket aside, the holiday was awesome and I only have to think of
Patong and Surin Beach and the Buck’s Night and The Wedding to acknowledge this but as the ticking continues and the night begins thinning I struggle with an uneasiness that may take me a while to shake. We stayed in a five star holiday apartment for two weeks while the locals lived in shacks made of corrugated iron or bamboo and lived one day to the next on whatever the tourists threw at them. Thooomp. And then I remember the arrogant old men buying girls for thirty Australian dollars a day to perform whatever service was required and I think about money and how the uneven distribution of it makes these things possible and I want to hurt these men for what they do at the same time that I see my part in it and the only thing that stops me from feeling a level of disgust at a world that allows such unfairness is that the locals I met and got to know seemed genuinely happy all the time and I can forget about the poor living conditions – as easily as I forgot about Jimmy’s wound for so many years – by convincing myself that what I saw was an actual happiness and not simply something I perceived to quell a rising sense of guilt.

Before she fell asleep tonight Reservoir Mum watched me reading an old newspaper article about the
Geelong 2009 Premiership and said, ‘You’re very simple, aren’t you? You only need football, powerlifting, sex and writing and you’re happy’ and I wonder if this is the real reason I’m awake. Thooomp. I am simple and if I get a taste of those four things on a regular basis – with sex being shuffled through the order depending on desire – I am as content as an individual can be but this does depend on my ability to ignore certain sufferings that exist all around me, all over the world, and I reflect on that fact as I remember that an old school friend told me, several months ago, that Jimmy is now very fat and drinks a lot and has a tattoo of a pizza on his ankle and I wonder if me shooting him in the leg had anything to do with that.

As I am about to shoot him, for the twenty-first time tonight, he makes a strange whimpering sound – which only makes me want to shoot him more – before he says, ‘Seven billion people, man. Can’t you go and shoot someone else?’ and my mind shifts to the size of the world’s population, reflected by all the people I saw at the airports, and for a moment I have no way around the fact that being one of so many is dwarfing to the individual and I wonder how I can convince my children when they are older that even though they are one tiny part of seven billion they are still vitally important if I don’t really believe it – on a consistent basis – about myself.

There is no way around it. Thooomp. A level of selfishness is required to live in this world when you have it as good as I do. The holiday is over and now I must narrow my vision, again. Among seven billion I am nothing but to the four people who I am around every day I am everything and I only have to remind myself of this whenever I feel the world is working to make me disappear or overwhelm me with its sufferings and complexities, and a simple thing – like teaching Tyson to sit and crawl – becomes the most important thing and makes me indispensible.

It’s 3.50am, thooomp, and the arrow fits nicely into the hole that has permanently opened up in Jimmy’s leg and I am finally at the point where sleep is inevitable. When we got home this morning I noticed the backyard was overgrown with weeds, and the cracks in the walls and the stains in the carpets and the overstuffed disorganized cupboards and the lack of storage space and all the other things that plagued me daily before our vacation re-enter my thoughts immediately and I can’t help but smile because all these concerns seem petty and familiar and altogether safe.