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A moment of reflection: more contemplation of identity.

Inconclusive

part 19 of Common People


As a child, maps of Australia made Beloved happy. The webbing of roads and cities hugging the edges, like scared weird little things who won't fork out into the void of center. Vastness and grandeur is in Beloved's backyard, old and sublime and absurd, like termite nests that are nine hundred years old next to carpets of wildflowers born every spring without even bothering to put down roots; they know who's going to stay. A little older, and Beloved realises there's no bravery or adventure in her Australia, no glorified conquest like through the centre of Africa, no heroism, only fucking hard work and no hard workers; there was deliberate death and slipshod death, and inappropriate mismatched gauge sizes of train tracks so there was no crossing the void except with grunt. (Here began the Australian tradition of dodgy builders, figures like unto the devil; the mums who agree that great transplanted Greek chorus and oracle all in one, singing allelulia, my kids are fat, always united in homogenous nasal strine.)

Australia was too old and too far away for Beloved to be allowed to play out there; permissions withheld, her own permissiveness unravelling as she ages. Her parents were just a part of that great reeling mishap of mistimed communication and conquest staggering toward cogency, eventually, maybe, at some point, they'll relax and trust this country. They won't, can't. The land is the enemy of the state, and with every word spoken of their dutiful persistent survival, despite everything, it's not so bad, they reaffirm their hatred.

Beloved will grow old in Australia, and cities will crinkle her edges, Australia's edges, lines that web at the corner of an old woman's eyes when she's thinking, still inconclusively. Cosmetic surgery will come where there's no other way left for Australia to define itself as worthy except with its uniform monstrosity, roads that don't care about spaces or curves, only grids, winding grids, grids within grids, imported just like everything else. Austraila doesn't need grids; Australia is fractal, like a butterfly's wings, a person arrives on a plane, catches a bus to the outskirts, hires a car to get to the small lonely town, takes a dirt-bike or a horse or a camel to get even deeper, ends up having to walk, and walk, and the only tracks and roads are made by rabbits and wombats and ants. Australia is the only place where moving to the center takes Beloved further away.

Beloved's first puppy was too scared to walk into the middle of the lawn. Don't blame her, laughed someone, what with how huge the lawn was, impossible green. Backyards used to be (still try to be) suburban scale model maps of Australia. The clothesline is Alice, a lonely track from the laundry to the pillar and back. The puppy wandered around the yard with one shoulder always against the fence, corrugated, until there was a solid grey line of dog grease that mapped her daily path, edge to edge and back again. Dutiful and persistent, Beloved's grandmother coaxed that terrified dog into the centre of space by throwing the ball into the middle, where at first the puppy still couldn't do it, two steps and knees caving, trembling. But she learned. However searing the sun, space was never a glorious frontier.

February 2010


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