Mark works in the emergency department of a suburban hospital, where he spends his days removing inanimate objects from the orifices of the public. Mark is well aware of the positive impact his work has on society. “If it wasn’t for me, things would go in and not come out, if you know what I mean…”
When he is not at work, Mark spends his time trying to accumulate muscle mass in order to make himself appear more attractive to those around him. “It benefits society because firstly, people get to look at someone who looks nice, and secondly, the ladies get to touch someone who feels nice.”
Kimberley left school in Grade Ten but that does not stop her from being a strong contender for the Alumni of the Year Award. Upon leaving school, Kim immediately set about improving the world she lives in by nurturing children whose parents are too busy to take care of them.
Her job is important to her and she wouldn’t miss it for anything. This attitude extends to overcoming hurdles that would intimidate ordinary people. “Sometimes I have a massive weekend,” she says, “and I haven’t slept since like Thursday. Sure, I might be over the blood alcohol limit to drive to work, but you know what? I just put on my runners and walk there.”
Kim dreams of helping the less fortunate all around the world. “I often wonder about the kids of all those people skiing in Whistler or lazing on the beach in Hawaii,” she sighs. “I should go over there and start really making a difference.”
Every year, my old highschool awards a member of the alumni for being successful or a virgin or whatever. I thought I should nominate myself and some of my highschool friends for the award this year, since nobody else will.
Veronica Gillot graduated law in 2009 with first class honours. Although she had done sporadic volunteer work throughout university, she felt that the best use of her abilities would be in the corporate world. She now works for a large firm in London, representing international airlines when passengers try and sue because they have been injured or killed on flights. “It’s a tough job, for sure,” she admits. “Bereaved families can put up a hell of a fight in the courtroom, especially if they’ve inherited enough to hire themselves a dynamite lawyer.”
She deserves the Alumni of the Year Award because of her benevolent attitude towards the needs of others. “Oh I can’t wait to earn enough money to give some of it to charity,” she has been heard to say as she rummages through her Chanel bag to find her credit card. Last Christmas, Veronica purchased 2 chickens to send to African families and a new car for herself.
Annik Skelton is vaguely known in the advertising world. While she lives comfortably, Annik really does the job for the benefit it has on society. “Without me, people would never be able to figure out what kind of toilet paper or bread to buy,” she says. “I’m really more of a life coach than a copywriter.”
Annik has recently enrolled in a degree, which she plans to finish in 2020. Her return to study is also motivated by bettering the world in which she lives. “There are so many fucking morons out there walking around with degrees. The fact that I don’t have one would really confuse people and the community has a right to know who is legitimately intelligent.”
She also recently convinced her parents to kick their niece out of their home and onto the street, stating, “People deserve to be given an opportunity to make it on their own.” She maintains a successful blog in which she makes fun of her family members and other people (“because it entertains others, and that’s what really matters”.)
Michelle Baldwin works as a property analyst, valuing retirement villages to allow investors to ascertain how much they should invest in order to recoup the maximum benefit when the retirees die. She has recently ceased dating one of Australia’s top investment bankers and is now seeing a man belonging to the English aristocracy. She’s a strong believer in environmental sustainability and minimises her water usage by showering with her boyfriend’s corgis.
Michelle benefits the world in which she lives by contributing through her work. “Seriously,” she says, “I could retire tomorrow and live comfortably in my boyfriend’s mansion for the rest of my life, but I don’t because I want to contribute, you know?”
When asked how her particular career benefits society, Michelle can provide an extensive list of compelling reasons: “I believe in equality. I think that everyone deserves the opportunity to make money, even large property conglomerates.”
The best/only thing to do while growing up in the Hills was to go to house parties. I went to house parties every night of every weekend until I turned 18 and ditched my then-underage friends so I could go out clubbing instead with work people. I have very fond house party memories though.
Anytime anybody’s parents went anywhere ever, we had a house party. However, the best kids to host house parties were those with single mothers who were in the middle of messy divorces and/or distracted by alcoholism. They were too depressed to give a shit about what we did in their backyards, as long as nobody died or got pregnant.
We spent every lunch break during grades 9-12 figuring out how we were going to get blasted on the weekend. We’d pool our money and then fight over what we wanted and who could buy it for us.
“Can we get a bottle of Midori?”
“No. Fuck the Midori.”
“We need cigarettes too.”
“Do we have enough for Cruisers?”
“Just steal a bottle of wine from your nanna. She won’t notice. She’s like a hundred and fifty.”
Then we’d organise for somebody’s older brother/sister/cousin/boyfriend or someone with a fake ID to do a bottle shop run for us. If that didn’t work, we simply hung out around the front of Liquor Land and smiled at every guy who walked past until one of them agreed to buy us booze. Sometimes they’d give us a lift to the party too. We were street-smart.
Usually you would tell your mum and dad that you were staying at a girlfriend’s house for a “movie night” or similar. They’d drop you off and you’d walk gingerly up the driveway, trying not to let your Country Road overnight bag full of Stoli’s and Woodstocks rattle. Then they’d collect you the following morning and you would lie on the backseat of the car in the fetal position, reeking of cigarettes and alcohol, complaining that you ate some bad party pies and might have gotten food poisoning and could you please wind down the windows, it’s like a goddamn oven in here and where the hell are my sunglasses?
If the house party occurred at your place while your parents were away, you had to get up early, ignore your raging hangover and attempt to restore everything to its former condition as much as possible. You febreezed the shit out of the couch, stashed garbage bags full of empty liquor bottles under your bed and hoped your dad wouldn’t notice the garden hose had gotten shorter when you tried to make a bong.
My highschool friends are now teachers, psychologists, lawyers, nurses, and some do jobs I don’t even really understand. All are functional, well-balanced, tax-paying members of society, and one has even reproduced and is now responsible for the wellbeing of another human being who is still successfully alive at the time of writing. I guess the point is that even if your kid seems like a complete fuck-up, it will probably turn out fine. So just chill out and do your own thing while they binge-drink their way through their interminable adolescence. It’s the Australian way.
Me: And my UAI is…wow.
Mum: What is it?
Me: Almost ninety-five.
Mum: Well that can’t be right!
Dad: Maybe you should give the Board of Studies a call?
When I was fifteen, I worked in the créche at my parents’ church. This meant I had to look after other people’s whining children and sometimes take them to the toilet and wipe their bums, but at least I didn’t have to listen to the sermon.
One Sunday, there was a new kid in the créche who seemed to take a liking to me. We played for half an hour and read some books together, then she said she wanted to draw a picture of me. I was flattered and sat on a beanbag in front of her, posing for my portrait.
“Now you have blue eyes…” she said, selecting a sky-coloured crayon. “And then brown hair… and a yellow t-shirt… and a BIIIIIG belly!”
“Church is finished,” I told her, holding in a scowl. “I’ll mind your picture until your parents are leaving. You can come back and collect it then.”
After she left to find her mum and dad, I scrunched her picture into a ball and threw it in the bin. Then I walked down to the takeaway shop and bought a large tub of hot chips. I decided I would not have children if they all turned out to be such nasty little shits.
When I was in year nine, every weekend I told my parents, “I’m staying at <insert friend’s name>’s house tonight.” Then I got drunk in a park and passed out on somebody’s couch or in the backseat of a nearby car.
One week I made the error of including a movie in my lie. “Bye, Mum,” I said, walking out the door, “I’m going to see Panic Room with my bible study group.”
Then I went to a school friend’s boyfriend’s share house, smoked bongs with a bunch of uni students, and built a tower out of empty UDL cans.
When I got home, my parents asked me if I’d enjoyed the movie.
“It was okay,” I said, not wanting to rave about it too much in case they decided to see it. And then, on a roll, I proceeded to fabricate an entire synopsis of the film. My rationale behind this was that if I told my parents everything that happened in the movie, they wouldn’t bother going to see it. I hadn’t even seen the preview prior to this, so my account of the movie was inspired by the title alone and was about as accurate as a James Frey novel. I gave extensive descriptions of the characters and made sure to detail all the plot developments, and then I re-enacted several scenes, using a set of Babushka dolls my aunt had given us for Christmas.
“I heard there’s a big twist at the end,” my mother said, “What’s the twist?”
“Jodie Foster is a robot,” I answered confidently.
“Well, that sounds like quite a film,” my dad said when I had finished. “And if you didn’t smell like a grow house, I would probably believe you.”
“Am I grounded?” I asked, leaning against a book shelf to steady myself.
“No, that was entertaining enough to redeem you this time,” Dad said, “But if you come home this stoned ever again, I will enrol you in aqua aerobics classes with your mother.”
When I was in highschool, there was a group of boys four years above us who were all blonde and hot. They never showed the slightest interest in us during school, but after graduation, I became visible.
One night I spotted the group’s ringleader, Ryan, at a local nightclub. I caught his eye, then looked away and smiled. He approached me and asked, “Can I buy you a drink?” and thus began a brief sort of relationship.
Ryan was attractive, friendly and smelled nice. However, once we got to know each other a bit better, I realised that he was painfully boring. I didn’t really care about any part of his personality because it was all so mundane and ordinary, I wanted to stab out my eyes with a dirty chopstick. The sex was good, but when it came to conversation, I would have preferred a homeless person. The issue was that Ryan was too normal and well-balanced for me. I need to date men who are tortured and neurotic and irrational, otherwise I lose interest after about eight minutes. So whenever Ryan talked, my eyes would glaze over and I would fantasise about being with somebody less average. Every time he suggested we go out for dinner or a movie, I would panic at the thought of being forced to endure hours of his conversation. “Why don’t we just stay at your place and fool around?” I would suggest, trying to reign the relationship back to its shallow, physical roots.
After a month or so of this, I met somebody more interesting and stopped answering Ryan’s calls. I then successfully avoided him until roughly a year later, when I bumped into him at the same club in which we met.
“Hey!” he cried, scooping me into a hug.
“Hi,” I said, pulling away from him.
“Gosh, I haven’t heard from you in ages!” he said.
“I lost my phone,” I lied.
“Can I take you out for a drink sometime?” he asked.
“Oh, I don’t think so. No, thank you.”
“Hey, Neek,” he said, beginning to look downcast, “I don’t know if you heard, but my dad had a heart attack a few months ago and he… he died. My dad died.”
“Oh. I’m sorry,” I said, scanning the bar for my friends.
“I could sort of use someone to talk to right now,” he said quietly.
“Well you’ve still got your mum, right?” I reminded him. “Listen, my ride’s about to leave. Take care.”
In 2001, my highschool tragically lost two of my classmates on a Duke of Edinburgh hike at Crosslands. The group encountered a violent storm mid-hike and was forced to set up an emergency campsite in a nearby clearing. The wind grew strong and knocked over a tree which fell on top of one of the tents, crushing both girls who were sheltering inside and killing them instantly. I was at an orphanage in Thailand at the time, building dormitories and singing hymns with some Christian missionaries. I checked my email one night when we went into town and saw a note from one of my friends back home:
“Samantha and Tara died on duke of ed. I twisted my ankle. We got to stay home from school and eat tim tams. You’re gonna miss the funerals.”
I dealt with this in my usual way: almost entirely physically. I went to bed for three days and didn’t eat or shower or speak to anybody. After this, I was very sick for a week, and then by the time we got to Chiang Mai, I was somewhat okay.
When I returned to Sydney, most of the formalities were over. However, the faculty wanted to do something special to honour the memory of Samantha and Tara. During class one morning, my English teacher put out the call for ideas.
“What can we do that is special and will carry on here at the school, even after you guys have all graduated?” he asked.
“We could name one of the buildings after the girls,” one student suggested.
“We certainly could,” the teacher agreed, “Any more ideas?”
I raised my hand. “We could plant a tree? Like, in memory. One with strong roots, obviously…”
They went with the building idea.
This morning a girl who I was once very close to died. I’m not going to pretend to know the particulars of the situation, because I haven’t had contact with her for years, but something about Crohn’s disease and the latter stages of liver cancer, etc, etc, she didn’t make it, please pray for her family.
I’m sitting here trying to come up with some memories of this girl. Pick the pieces out of my brain, look at them with renewed perspective, type them out and embody one small part of her life: the impact she had on me. She and I spent a significant amount of time together during highschool, and in theory, I should be able to recount specific anecdotes, quote directly, dig up old notes and emails and photographs.
But sadly, my brain has wiped most of my memories from early adolescence, and I have thrown away all the physical evidence over the years.
And so, digging deep as possible, all I can put together is the vaguest of pastimes, but a stronger sense of her spirit:
The memory is blurred and non-specific, but I do recall the intense camaraderie I felt from the day I met her. And I remember that at every church-related event our fascist parents dragged us to, she and I snuck away, without fail. We stole biscuits and ran down the street. We hid in parks and bitched about every single person in that church. We condemned their hypocrisy and ridiculed their sensitivity. We were ruthless and nasty, delighting in which one of us could shock the other the most.
Believe it or not, she was a lot more cynical than I am. She was more negative. Less ethical. More bitter. And that’s exactly what I liked most about her.
Friend #1: So, any goss?
Friend #2: Jennifer Chapman from school is engaged.
Me: Who the hell would marry that piece of shit?
Moment of silence.
Friend #1: You’re kind of a bitch when you’re stoned.
Me: So’s your face. Fuck you. I’m going home.