Wandering Thoughts

August 15, 2017

The presenter

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 10:57 am

His speech would pause and then dash forwards. Pause and dash. Tension and release. His tone rose and fell. Words snapped shut for emphasis.

All of this brought the ideas to life, made them look crisp and respectable like he did in his expensive suit. But if you listened, if you tried to follow where each individual train of thought was going, all you found was ideas that wove about, flurried enticingly, and went nowhere in the end.

The audience waxed — caught in his energy — and then waned as the temperature and lack of oxygen in the large grubby lecture hall imposed an unavoidable drowsiness.

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August 12, 2017

Ghost stories

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:51 pm

The town lay in the hook of a great grey bay. On a hill above a grubby port. Hemmed in by giant, forest-cloaked mountains. The clouds never cleared. It could rain for weeks on end. I had to work with a local team observing elections. I didn’t speak the language. I never really knew who was lying to me and who was telling the truth.

The hotel had thick metal gates. There was no question of going out at night. A waitress from the hotel’s restaurant told me how afraid she was walking to and from work. Even during the day, I was anxious whenever I walked out on the streets. The ute we rented some days was missing a front-passenger seatbelt. The first time I reached for it the driver told me it had been cut out and used to tie someone up in a car-jacking.

The room had a tiny TV and a giant fake leather couch. The air-conditioning made me cough. Every day as I typed away on my computer I would be interrupted mid-morning by the woman who cleaned the rooms. She was from Bougainville and had pitch black skin. She wanted to go home she told me, but she needed the work. Occasionally, my awkward comments and attempts at chatter would cause her to smile, or even laugh, but usually all I would get was curt, cold replies.

One night as I went to bed two men started talking in heated tones in the room next to mine. I was numb with bone ache and tired. I felt irritated, but went to sleep nonetheless.

I was a nervous child. I’ve never watched horror movies. I had an older cousin who relished them though. He also took great joy at retelling every detail, to me, alongside ghost stories of his own. So I grew up frightened of the dark, convinced there were beasts in the gully below our house, and fully aware what poltergeists were.

I woke about an hour later. Now the men were shouting in the room next to me. An argument was worth worrying about. There were lots of guns about. And elections could be particularly violent. Two voices, perhaps three. Shouting. Fervent. Furious. What were they saying? I put my ear to the wall, but couldn’t catch the rapid-fire pijin. There was so much anger and intensity in their words, but slowly, as I listened, I came to figure they weren’t arguing. There might be interruptions but arguments go back and forth. But they were all shouting simultaneously. Not coordinated. They weren’t chanting. There was no unity. Just rapid, individual angry, endless streams of words. Cautiously, I opened the door out to the courtyard the rooms were around. The shouting was harder to hear out there. But there was no one round, just florescent light. I closed the door again. What were they doing? On drugs? Worshipping something? These three voices going on and on. I stood for a bit in my room. There was nothing I could do. I could try and find a guard. But the rule of thumb, that everyone — especially the unarmed security guards — followed, for surviving, was don’t involve yourself in other people’s business. The nearest police officer who would have cared in the slightest was in Queensland.

Who were they? What were they doing? What were they…

With nothing better to do I stuffed my earplugs as hard as I could into my ears. Stomped on my irrational childhood fears and my sensible adult concerns. And I willed myself back to the weariness of a guy with a million things to get done in a place where it was hard to get anything done.

When I woke the next morning it was raining. The shouting was gone. Complete silence from the room. Just the sound of cars coming and going and food being prepared in the kitchen. I stopped worrying about ghosts, started thinking about breakfast, and started – as usual – worrying about work.

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