Sitting in the side foyer of the City Gallery, at lunch time, to catch some sun out of the chilly breeze. It’s warm, pleasantly so, the aircon is purring away like a satisfied cat.
I’m writing in my yellow note book with my gel pens, trying to provoke some words I can live with. It’s a bit like cultivating a garden where we live – a thankless task, the futility of which is further highlighted by the obscenely stringy corpses of vegetation that hasn’t had the good taste to rot away from the last effort. No words to be dug out today.
The gel pens don’t have the dignity to scratch the way the old school dip pens did, they simply peter out and so I sit like a teeny-bopper, three gel pens, three different colours, and swap them over as the moment moves me – to keep the flow. I’m appalled at myself. The pens have glitter ink, and only thing I feel I should be adding to finish it off is to carefully draw heart shaped tittles – the ‘dot’ over each i.
So much for my efforts to ‘just let it go’. I had equal success with ‘just put it out there’. Ditto with ‘just stop trying, let it come to you.’ Same with ‘I’m turning it over to the universe now.’ Nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Devoid of words. The aircon purrs, the sun pours through the window. My head begins to climb into the white noise. I relax.
“Excuse me, is it free today?”
I consider ignoring the words – pretending they were for someone else. There is no one else present. I turn around on the bench. I smile my coathanger smile, previously reserved for serving drunks at the bar. A very intentional looking Maori woman smiled back at me. An authentic smile. I upgraded my smile to the real thing. Ran the playback – “…is it free today?”
I wanted to say look lady – there’s this tree out side with strange looking leaves developing and maybe it’s a liriodendron, but maybe not because they look small but maybe it’s container grown and needs a feed and the leaves’d make interesting photos and should I come back tomorrow to take photos because if I leave it a few more days it’ll be too late, and how can I get the photos without going into the creche grounds and how dubious would that look, and look, actually, stuffed if I know what was it again? “…is it free today?”
Our smiles are slightly cooled. I can see the look in her eye – is he on drugs? Clearly, I’m a crazy man. I figure she’s asking about the exhibition and I’d seen a sign outside that says City Gallery, Open everyday, free. So I said, “Oh no, it’s all free today. Everything’s free.”
“Oh, ok.” She smiles. “Thank you.”
I pretend the woman vanishes. She sits. Inside doubt begins to gnaw on me. The gnawing grows. Soon it’s sucking the marrow out of my bones. I look up and see a sign on a door in the distance. I can dimly make out the words ‘Writers blah blah’.
I’m writing in my yellow note book using multicoloured gel pens.
I’m sitting outside a workshop that’s a) for writers and b) about to start in 15 minutes.
The wave crashes in. I’m suddenly mortified as the circumstantial evidence washes over my head and slams me onto the beach of reality – I’m writing at the scene of writers… that must mean… oh my god – this wahine has mistaken me for a writer!!!
Flustered, I shove all my stuff in my glasses case. It now holds three gel pens – red (doesn’t work well), green (a psycho alien green that does work well but is hideous), and orange (held together with cellotape); a 1gb memory stick with less than 3mb of space left; my xD picture card USB stick, and the cleaning cloth (not that clean in itself) for my glasses. My glasses no longer easily fit in this tortured ecosystem of contemporary ephemera, and so I have to shove my glasses in, risking my glasses life and limbs.
I smile stupidly at the lady, stare at the sign more closely, confirm that – ‘yes, it is free today’, and scuttle away to the library. I get a seat by the windows overlooking the gallery, and peer back towards the bench where I was sitting. The Maori lady is nowhere in sight. There are people arriving and going in to the theatrette. It was free today so I figure I’m going back. I’m going to find out what’s going on in there. Comfort zone my ass!
Turned out indeed there was a scripting of writers there – the ten students from Vics master of creative writing. I stayed for the first couple – a poetess (v.deep and meaningful – i.e. lost my interest quickly) and a short story writer – who bravely read a work in progress mentioning the women of Smyrna. I had to get back to work – 13:00 start time – clearly student hours. As I left I could feel the Maori woman’s gaze. I’d like to think she thought I’d been inspired by the works and I simple had to write my words down. In reality, she probably thought, “Is he on drugs? He keeps rushing off.”
It is unclear if the tree concerned is a Liriodendron. My glasses survived.