I saw Life and Times over three nights, with increasing irresponsibility, delaying imminent things and racing back from where I should have lingered. I was addicted, thinking about little else between stints at the Playhouse watching – what? A choreographed phone conversation.
Episode 1 recounted earliest memories, stories of kindergarten and visiting friends. Threads were both detailed and detached, like Pollock at close range. Across the theatre, people saw their own first places. They sang about Cheryl and I thought about Andrew, whose home I’d visited for a while. He had three brothers and a computer in the basement that flashed green. We’d go down the back with makeshift slingshots. Once I saw an ad in the newspaper for a karate club so I called them up and booked Andrew in, roleplaying his parent. “Okay Mrs Collins,” said the man on the phone. “It’s Mr Collins,” I squeaked. When Andrew moved to Sydney I think in third grade? I cried so hard that Dad took me to McDonald’s, just the two of us, for a sundae. I can’t remember the sauce. It could have been chocolate, maybe strawberry. I usually chose strawberry, but my image of this sundae is dark brown.
Episode 1 ended with a weekly writing contest. Walking home across the bridge, I recalled a poem I’d written in primary school. The theme was the environment. I can’t recall the opening lines but it included the couplet “as we look at our animals, have fun, and play / but really our world’s getting smaller each day.” I used textas, a different colour for each stanza. Yellow didn’t show, so Mum suggested tracing over the letters in pencil. Even then I felt this aesthetic error as a blow. I won first prize, but only after a teacher interrogated me about whether I’d written the poem by myself. I’d never had this teacher. Her name was Mrs Drew. She made the truth feel like a lie.