In my own city I am but a consumer. I work hard at my designated task, which is to document a personal history of my purchases and stock-take carefully for the future. I have few options – to join the parade of hybrid fashions or declare myself unaffected . Either way, I am involuntarily attached to the umbilical chord of own, local culture. I am homesick for faraway places and homesick for home. Melbourne is colonised by those who yearn to travel but never will. We are trapped in a city which is so confined to its own self-generating dream of enthusiasm that we are too busy trying to get out of, that we don’t get out at all.
I am alone with you, but really alone with myself. I give myself to you, yet what you return I measure against my gift – so I have really given nothing at all. Instead, in future, I’ll remember nothing of your gifts except as memoirs, tokens and tears. And already I have forgotten what I gave you, or remember too well. I have secretly taken myself back from you and given it to another – just a loan, I’m not sold yet.
The history of Melbourne is not written on the pavement, nor can it be seen on our faces. We have so many faces – two-faced faces and humble, honest faces. We cannot decide which face to show. We are caught between self-criticism and self-adulation. What we never had, we will re-fabricate five years later by proxy – our long-lost heroes, our music, our art. For my pleasure, I can join the lost identities at the Hardware Club – exhausted, but still raging – except that the place is not for couples. I share more experience with the person squashed next to me at David Bowie for five minutes than I do with my companions for the whole event. Everybody’s in a constant state of waiting.
And when I betray you, you’ll think I have left you for good, you will build up a pretence of separateness, of us going in different directions, when all the time we are travelling in concentric circles. And when you say I have deceived you, made decisions, deliberations, you will play the game of lies, anger, hatred and avoidance, when it is simple longing. But don’t show me that, because we have to pretend to each other and the rest of the world that we are singular, always available to a stranger. And you betray me; don’t talk about jealousy and possessiveness when the one you are betraying me with has nothing to do with us, nothing at all; it’s just another excuse to feign separation. Can I speak to you about this? No, to speak to you means I have to create an obstacle – a letter, my voice, my body. The unspoken must remain unspoken and rely on the precarious, trust and knowledge.
And this city won’t bother to record itself. If something needs fixing, it won’t be matter for restorations; it will simply die. Traditions are born and abandoned every day, and yet there are so many places where tradition thrives but is part of somebody else’s culture. To pretend to live on the margin is to desire to go back to the centre, and vice versa. Neither side offers an outlet, except to share belligerences. Just keep working, hard at your own task.
To whom this is written for, but not to: sans vous, je suis rien.
This text originally appeared in a 1983 double issue of Stuff, dated 23 December 1983, published by Philip Brophy (‘Made by → ↑ →’) in Melbourne. This version corrects several errors made in production, and restores the original layout presentation intended by the author.
© Estate of Vikki Riley 1983