Short Friction

Writing to entertain and to stimulate thought

Sandra’s date

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I can’t believe how long I spent getting dressed for the evening. Normally I don’t fall within that stupid girlie stereotype of taking hours to get dressed, deliberating over the smallest detail. But I was feeling fragile. My first date with Wayne had gone so well… I’d felt we could really relate to each other, and that seemed like a bad sign. I mean: I felt we could really relate to each other — like in the “he’s perfect for me” kind of way that I so hate other people talking about. I’ve always been the cynic who thinks other people are just fooling themselves when they say that (and inevitably it turns out that they are). So I felt like my sense of the perfection of this person was really only a sign of how utterly foolish I myself had become. I felt that the slightest mistake could mess it up forever — hair worn wrong, wrong shoes, wrong skirt… or if I said the wrong thing — it would be over, and I would have to face that terrible admission that I’d been wrong in the first place. I would have to convince myself Wayne was, in fact, a total loser. That, of course, is the only way to cope with a failed relationship — vilify the other person, say, “Why didn’t I see how arrogant and malicious he was to begin with,” and pretend you’d been blind and now suddenly you can see, and that… that is why it didn’t work out. Not because you were stupid enough to not give him the chance to give you his genuine apology after he made some little mistake.

So I’m going off on a tangential rant here. Excuse me. My point is to give you an idea of why I was so paranoid about getting everything right. I gave myself three hours to get ready before I needed to meet him at the train station, and that almost wasn’t enough. But I managed, somehow. Perhaps it was worth it, too. In the end I wore my pin-stripe pants (I decided to ride my bike to the station, so a skirt was out of the question), a simple top, just a touch of make-up and left my hair out. Simple as it may have been, it seemed to hit Wayne like a brick. His jaw actually dropped, momentarily. I thought that was something that only happened in tacky romance-comedies. He regained his composure quite quickly, though, and we settled down to a comfortable conversation about some of the graffiti adorning the station. He had been particularly disturbed by some graffiti promoting “Critical Mass” — a bunch of cyclists who periodically take over city and suburban streets and tell the cars they can rack off for a while so the cyclists can make some point or other. The graffiti said, “Cars smell funny! Support Critical Mass! 100 cities can’t be wrong!”

Wayne said this had been puzzling him while he’d waited for me. He wanted to know what 100 cities weren’t wrong about, and why it was they couldn’t be wrong. I said it must be that 100 cities had Critical Mass operating in some form, to which he responded that if that were the case, 100 cities could very well be wrong… in fact, almost certainly had to be wrong if one were to reason purely by number. If 100 cities can’t be wrong, surely 101 cities can’t be wrong either. In fact, given that any number, x, of cities can’t be wrong, we could safely assume that x+1 cities must also be right. By this reasoning, if 100 cities can’t be wrong, we could say that the 100 cities with Critical Mass are, indeed, right. But, we have a problem. Assuming there at least 200 cities in the world, if only 100 have Critical Mass that leaves at least 100 without. That means the cities without Critical Mass are also right. It would be a safe assumption that more cities don’t have Critical Mass than do, and should we on the basis of being a majority give them the benefit of the doubt? If we were to do that, we would have to admit that 100 cities were indeed wrong… but if we instead say those cities without Critical Mass are wrong, we are still having to say 100 cities (and more) were wrong. Wayne’s conclusion was that the graffiti was wrong to begin with. 100 cities can easily be wrong.

“People shouldn’t be allowed to paint misleading graffiti like that where just any old fool could read it and not have the intelligence to pick the flaw in reasoning,” Wayne told me. “It’s worse than false advertising. People really believe graffiti.”

I reminded him that people weren’t allowed to paint misleading graffiti like that, and in fact, weren’t allowed to paint graffiti at all. This seemed to comfort him, somewhat. But he did contend that he liked graffiti, and it would be a real shame if nobody broke the law, at least in that respect.

We were still discussing some of our favourite graffiti when the train arrived. Wayne said one of his favourites was one that said, “Legalise it rally: March 23, city square.” He liked it because one could never tell whether it was more than a year old or not, and the graffitier hadn’t bothered to include a year. I still think my favourite is one I saw many years ago, around the time of the Gulf War: “Give blood… join the army.”

I told Wayne about my graffiti experience during my ride to meet him at the station. On my way to the Upfield bike path I saw a piece of graffiti off Sydney road near the Brunswick tram depot. It was a simple, black stick figure painted on a bright yellow wall. The figure was crying pale blue tears, standing under a brief verse:

In one dark night
I lost all my love
please help me wall

Please help me wall

Please help me wall (click image for actual location)

“I don’t think I have quite the passion for graffiti that you seem to,” I admitted to Wayne, “But I have to say I felt compelled to respond to this one. I wanted someone to provide some reply to suggest that the wall somehow had helped.”

Wayne nodded, “I know that one,” he said. “and I’ve felt the same – if I could ever bring myself to graffiti the first thing I would want to do is provide a response to that.”

We had to change trains in the city. Since the second was a late train going out of the city, it contained many inebriated individuals. One rugged looking gentleman sitting across from us had fallen asleep, VB stubby in hand, and obviously had forgotten he was on a train and not at home in his flat. The train was pretty noisy, particularly around corners. Now and then, when the train bumped or groaned loudly, the man would roll his head in frustration and thump the side of the carriage wildly with his arm. “Shuudup! Shuddup! I’m tryna sleep here!”

Further up the train, a man with bright red hair was fascinated by the same sounds that were so upsetting the other man. He was trying to imitate them. He particularly enjoyed the beeping of the train doors. At each station, he would try to replicate the sound by whistle. Across from him, a naïve young couple looked concerned for their safety.

Our destination was Wayne’s idea. I liked it very much for its simplicity. We were going out to a park he knew that was sheltered from the intrusive lights of the city. He had brought a little gas camping heater and a picnic basket so we could eat, talk and look at the stars. The night had turned out perfectly clear for the occasion and, sitting on the train, I couldn’t wait. Wayne continued talking, now about his vision of a future where all governments were privatised, and ethnicity was a function of one’s employer, not physical location or race. As much as I liked listening, I was starting to feel several nights running of late shifts at work catching up with me. Finally, I couldn’t help myself. All I could hear was the pleasant rhythm of his voice, as I lost grasp of the content. I fell asleep on his shoulder, listening to him talk. He didn’t mind.

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Written by shortfriction

02/06/2009 at 13:00

Posted in Fiction, Sandra, Wayne

Tagged with , , , ,

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