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Postcards from the Middle

Artwork By Yusra Shahid

 

DAY THREE

Two more days to go and I really hope Suzy learns how to shut up. Just stop talking to me. Fuck. I mean, how hard could that be? I get that we’re all here to ‘make friends’ and ‘learn leadership’ but there’s a line. Why isn’t there a workshop about knowing when to leave someone alone?
“No, Suzy, I haven’t watched any movies recently.”
Who has that kind of money? And time? God.
Why can’t Annie ever bother me like that? I’d talk to her myself but she’s always surrounded by everyone else and I don’t need that kind of social anxiety in my life.
I come into the workshops, participate, stare at her a bit, and then leave. I’m a solitary person. I value my space. She’s killing that vibe. And honestly? I think Suzy might have a crush on me. How do I let her down gently? She’s not bad or anything but she’s just too friendly. Is that a thing? Could someone theoretically list down ‘being too friendly’ as a flaw on their resumé?

SKILLS: Photoshop, photography, second language (Spanish).
FLAWS: Friendly. Way too fucking friendly.

I think she’s trying too hard. She does it to everyone. Always saying hi. Smiling and shit. Completely unnatural. She’s too nice, but I can’t tell yet if it’s fake or not. Punchline is, everyone else seems to like it.
Suzy’s talking to Peter right now. Laugh, smile, serious comment, chuckle, high-five. It’s a conspiracy. Is she recruiting them for something? We’re already part of a cult, what does she think we’re doing at camp? That high-five looked really good, though. Strong, timed right. Hands looked solidly red. 10/10. It could probably make the Hall of Fame of high-fives. Maybe I should high-five Annie. Looks like a great way to establish contact. Will need a situation first. Can’t just high-five her out of fucking nowhere.
How does Suzy do it so easily? She just goes for it. Whoosh, here I am! Hurricane Suzy. Just come in and fucking demolish the place with my never-ending, oh-so-wonderful, Playschool ‘kindness’.
Any idiot could smile and wave.
I’ll try it tomorrow.

 

DAY FOUR

Whoever said friendship is a gift is a fucking liar.
I spent the worst five hours of my life sipping warm beer, watching people play an assortment of beer pong, cards, Charades, and a mix of all three.

Bonus: Annie was there. She was playing beer pong. A girl after my own heart.
I reckon the people who advertise this socialising shit don’t actually understand how stressful it can be. I’m there, and I’ve said ‘hi’. I accepted someone’s offer for a drink. I cheer when someone finally gets a shot in. I joked about how shitty that one lecturer is. Patted someone’s back when they told me they should be doing a 3000 word essay right now.
“That’s rough, buddy.”
They’d forgotten their laptop. The essay’s due on Monday. They’re going to die.

 

DAY FIVE

Fuck. Shit. Fuck. I did it again. Shit.
On the way back, the bus broke down near a gas station with a Maccas, so I bought Annie a McFlurry and she thanked me. She kind of looked like she was crying, so I asked her if she was okay.
But wait! How could you fuck up asking if someone’s okay?
Here’s a hint: ask her if she’s okay à la Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit classic ‘Smooth Criminal’.

I literally saw the light leave her eyes, and I could have fallen on to my knees begging for forgiveness. I think she actually hated me for three seconds.
She kept the McFlurry at least. Didn’t tell me why she looked like she was crying. Fair enough, since even I wouldn’t have spoken to me. How would I feel if someone sang a song at me because of my name? I don’t think about these things enough.
Later, I told her I thought she’d make a good leader. She won that prize with her group at the end of camp. I probably cheered louder than necessary, but I was sort of, like, actually proud. People were still loopy from hangovers (I found out who stole my booze).
We’re all feeling pretty leadership-ed out.
Sidenote: Suzy’s been leaving me alone. Reckon she got the message. I think I might have actually said “Fuck off, Suzy” out-loud and not in my head. I was drunk, so it’s fine. She knows I was drunk. She just laughed and high-fived me.
I got back home and my first thought was how that guy with the 3000 word essay was doing. Is he doing it right now? Is he okay?  Is he playing DOTA? Is he crying?

 

DAY SIX

This is sort of fun. I reckon one day we’ll all just forget how to write with our hands. All we’ll know is how to point. What’s gonna happen to the drawers and painters?
Not at camp, which means I’m back at home and back to telling my mum to stop gossiping about the man two houses down. Just let him walk his dog. Jesus Christ. But she can’t help herself.
She’s a little racist. He’s tall and doesn’t smile. She’s fascinated. She wants to know everything, and if she can’t find out everything then she’ll guess. This is what happens when you move to a country halfway through your life and settle in a suburb where everyone else has come from somewhere else. You’re bored and stuck, trying to figure out what the fuck you’re meant to be doing now that you’re here.
This is what you get. You get an Asian lady calling her sister and now they’re comparing notes. Turns out my aunt has ‘criminals’ on her street too. She lives in the south-east so I don’t know why I’m surprised. I’m just glad they’ve stopped bothering me about not dating anyone.
Wonder if Suzy has ‘criminals’ on her street. Gangs! Maybe that’s why she’s so over-friendly. She’s just used to being friendly to save her life.

 

DAY SEVEN

Can’t make any of the Wonder Woman showings this week because I’ve got unrecorded lectures, tutes, labs, and then work. What the FUCK.

 

DAY EIGHT

First meeting since camp and how does Annie look better than last time?
Made sure not to reference Michael Jackson at all, or any other artists of the 70s, 80s, and beyond. Wouldn’t want to trigger anything. Maybe she has a brother called Jessie. And a sister called Stacy. And all of her dogs had been let out at one point. I don’t know.

Meeting was boring, just went over everything. What went good. What didn’t. I suggested we tell people not to steal other people’s booze. Trent asked how exactly I planned to implement that. I shrugged and asked her: isn’t this why we have meetings? For ideas to be told and then other people actually doing it? He told me that there’s no point to an idea if you can’t follow it up with a plan.
For fuck’s sake. Can’t even brainstorm anymore. I can’t believe I ever liked him. Asshole.
No one else brought it up too, so I guess everyone’s fine with having their booze stolen.
Annie stayed pretty silent. She mentioned that we can’t really control people that much, they’re all there for a good time. Sure.
Suzy didn’t high-five anyone today.
Same, Suzy, Same.

 

DAY ELEVEN ?

Will I ever have my shit together.

 

DAY SIXTEEN (FUCK I DON’T KNOW)

What if we all collectively decided to not give a shit? Asking for a friend.

 

DAY 22 24

How do I get so tired from not doing anything? I go to uni and I sleep in lectures. I go to meetings and I sleep in meetings. I go to work and I sleep on the bus. I get home and I don’t sleep, and then I’m tired the next day. Shouldn’t they all cancel out or something?

Sidenote: I don’t think I’m a very good leader. I forgot I was the mentor of five jaffies (I can’t be completely at fault, though, because they never contacted me).
Maybe I could be the leader of some quiet group or something. All I have to do is book a room, open the door, let people in, and we could all just enjoy each other’s silent company. No need to get to know anyone else, this is Where the Silent People Are.

Our constitution:

  1. Be silent.
  2. Don’t pressure anyone to talk.
  3. Always have booze.
  4. Don’t steal anyone’s booze.
  5. Don’t judge people for being quiet. Fuck you, if you do.
  6. Listening to music on earphones is permitted, but not loud enough so we can hear it.
  7. High-fiving is encouraged.

Maybe I can book two rooms: one for the Totally Silent and one for the Somewhat Silent, so people who actually want to exchange a few words can do it in there. I could have snacks there too. Food gets noisy when you chew. Mouth-breathers go in this room too. That way, people like Suzy can come in, to balance it all out. I reckon I could probably have her as VP or something, so you got someone quiet and you got someone loud to, like, help people who are quiet. Yeah.

I caught up with Suzy after a lecture. Never realised she was in the same lecture as me but I knew we did the same course. Always thought she was the type to say things all the time and actually participate and answer the lecturer’s questions. Turns out she’s been sitting two rows behind me this whole time. SHE was the one who always took pictures of lecture slides on her phone. Never participated once. Small world.

She told me her cat died. It was a long-winded story about how she adopted him, and then how long the cat had been in the family. Then something about her uncle being allergic to cats, so she had to chase him out of the room all the time. The cat, not the uncle. I reckon she’d been waiting to tell someone about her cat for a while, and I didn’t have much else to do but study so I stayed. She also had some chips with her and she was sharing. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.

I had an essay to finish start but to be honest, I thought this was a good opportunity. Experience the other side for a bit. Suzy In Camp was draining and annoying and really just leave-me-the-fuck-alone, but Suzy By Herself wasn’t all that bad. Wonder if people think that way about me.
The last thing I remember from what she said was that her cat’s name had been Annie. So, I did it again: I asked her if Annie was okay. Thank God she found it funny (I think), because I could NOT go through another five minutes of wondering if someone secretly hated me. Then I asked her if she was okay. She said she was fine:

“Just…fine.”

 

Jeanne Carlos

The author Jeanne Carlos

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