Efficiency (Chelsea Avard)
Monday. Eleven PM. Time to sleep. Today has gone well. As close to perfect as any flawed day can go. And all the days are flawed. Even the amazing ones, even the ones that are off the charts incredible when I feel capable of all the things – flight, space travel, happiness, love. Today was not one of those days. I am taking my meds. I have been exercising. I ate three meals today: two pieces of fruit, five serves of vegetables, protein, carbohydrate, sugars (because enjoyment is part of a good life too and shouldn’t be ignored), enough fats, the right fats, not too many fats. Wrote a song I think might just have legs. One-and-a-half beers. The half was a mistake that is niggling at me. It took me forty-five minutes to decide to pour the second half down the sink. To weigh the way the messiness of the half measurement would hang around in my head against the risk of what drinking more than the one nightly beer might do to my life.
Tuesday. Eleven PM. Time to sleep. Both tired and wired. Today I passed the woman from the flat down the hall seven times. Seven is a good number in some ways. Whole. Prime. Significant. But it’s also an odd number, which leaves me a little uncomfortable. It’s a tricky number too, because it’s distracting. Its significance is what makes it distracting. Like the woman from the flat down the hall. Three of the seven times we passed on the stairs, we said hello. Twice we only nodded. The last time we passed I pretended to be talking on my phone. The time before that we talked about the broken washing machine in the laundry room downstairs and how it really needs to be fixed and how someone should take it up with the body corporate. Not either of us though, because we’re both only renters, and it should be someone who owns their place that takes responsibility for that kind of thing. That’s what she said. And now I’ve wasted two hours when I could have been working, thinking my way through this as an idea. What are the ethics here? Whose responsibility is it, really? Do I agree? What is the right thing to do? Do I even have a position on this? And is that position based in right-thinking, or in laziness?
Wednesday. Eleven fifteen. Not sleeping. Afraid will not sleep. Three beers. No songs written since Monday evening. No gym yesterday or today. So many hours wasted trying to write an emergency plan to make up for the missed hours of exercise, the missed vegetables, the five beers I drank last night without having eaten dinner. The three packets of two-minute noodles I ate at one am this morning. My flat is hot and muggy and starting to smell but I can’t leave the balcony windows open or people will see the messy lounge and I can’t leave the hallway door open or the woman from the other flat will smile at me through the doorway and want to talk to me and I’ll want to talk to her but I am too all over the place to talk to her I will just start talking about the same things I always do and they’ll just be meaningless and I’ll bore her and she’ll figure out how crazy I am and then it won’t matter how much I think about it all or how much I plan, even when I get things back on track it won’t matter, it won’t matter that I’ve managed to claw back some control and get things in order again because it will be too late she will have seen the ugly crazy and that will be that.
Thursday. Two AM. No sleep. No appetite. No work. No shower. Too much to drink. No woman down the hall. No woman. No one will ever want me, the way I am.
Friday. 8.47 PM. Ran. On treadmill. Mis-stepped and pulled the safety cord out so I couldn’t get an accurate measurement of my kilometres. Around 4K. Not good. Not good enough. Showered. Had run out of shampoo so had to use body wash. Left my hair feeling thick and gluey. All the strands caught up in one another. No food. Nothing seemed clean enough to eat. I passed her in the hall. I didn’t meet her eye. She’d ask where I was going. I’d have to say it out loud. I’m going out. I’m going to dance. I’m going to drink. I’m going to meet a woman I’ll never have to pass in the hall. One who doesn’t make me think. One I’ll never need to want me again.
Saturday. Nine-thirty PM. Slept most of day. Have come through the worst of it into a comfortable haze. Haven’t yet been brave enough to eat. Fluids and painkillers. Water. Berocca. Electrolytes. Nurofen. The memories rise and drop away like the nausea. Meaningless moments that would once have caused me shame. Now I just watch them. Nothing to be done about them anyway. Shame is not an efficient emotional state. It’s not productive. The images come and go. There was a girl. She went. The nausea builds and takes over and then I throw up and it is quiet for a while. There is no real thought beyond gauging how long it will be until I throw up again. Beyond wondering whether this time will be the last time. The girl asked if she could add me on Facebook. When I told her I didn’t have Facebook she looked incredulous. She was right to do so. I am a liar. I stopped myself from talking to her until my silence forced her to leave. At the door I said, Seeya, dude. Her eyes glistened. Her shoulders hunched, her chest hollowing out. The sleeves of her jumper had holes in them where her thumbs poked through. Her black nail polish was chipped. Too young. Too soft. She turned away. I shut the door. Lay down. An hour later there was a knock at my door. The woman from down the hall. She’s the only one who does that. From the cool kitchen floor tiles I listened to her knock three times. A pause. Three more knocks. A pause. The soft pad of her bare feet on the hallway carpet.
Sunday. Eleven PM. Time to sleep. Cleaned the house. Aired it out. Wrote a song that is not great, but not awful either. Ate. Two pieces of fruit. Three vegetables. Protein, carbohydrate, sugars, fats. Two beers. I drank the first sitting on the steps out the front watching the carport wall turn a deep warm yellow in the afternoon sun. She passed me on her way down the steps toward the road, a washing basket on her hip. My second beer was done before she passed me again.
Chelsea Avard is a writer from Adelaide. She is co-editor of the 2005 anthology The Body, and co-organiser of the Wordfire salon. She teaches English and Creative Writing at The University of Adelaide, where she completed her PhD. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in anthologies by Sleepers Publishing and Wakefield Press. You can find her creative non-fiction and other short works at https://chelseaavard.wordpress.com/ and find her on twitter @ChelseaAvard