A Story About How I’m A Bad Person

Generally, when something bad happens to me, I initially feel pissed off. Everyone does, I’d say, except uber trained Super Monks. After that initial feeling of rage though, I make an active effort to let this stuff go.

This isn’t, sadly, because I’ve made a positive step to making my life better… It’s simply that my feeling angry about people being shitty to me would make me a massive goddamn hypocrite. Let me give you an example.

It’s the 90’s. I don’t recall what year anymore (which makes me pretty sad to be honest), and my father, brother and I are at a beach we often frequent on the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. Generally on our arrival, this would be my cue to go and climb the cliff, 35 metres high at least, to the extreme anxiety (later, chagrin) of my parents. But today we had boogey boards, so into the surf we went.

It was fairly routine that day, we swam out deep, avoided the humongous sharp rocks that littered the shallows, caught a wave and held on tight. Repeat. Immense joy, and bonding without words.

Now, our dad had made it clear if we ever encountered a rip, essentially where the sea was trying to drag you in a certain direction- it was important not to fight it, which is exactly what my brother, Kirby, deigned to do as I was towling off and enjoying the sunshine.

But one thing he could do? Scream. And he did that plenty.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! HEEEEEEEEEELP!” he cried out, his ginger curls obscuring his face, as with each wave he found himself slamming into a rock with only his foam board for protection.

In reality, Kirby was in no real danger, his boogey board was more than sufficient, and Kirby wasn’t drowning, Dad was an accomplished swimmer, already wading out to protect him, and the situation was under control.

But the truth of the matter is, to me, the sight of my 7 year old brother being tossed around like a beetle in a jar, was absolutely friggin’ hilarious to me.

All bullshit I could tell myself aside, that’s as far as it went for me, my brother in seemingly mortal danger just tickled my funny bone in the right way. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t nice, it certainly wasn’t brotherly, but it was goddamn funny.

To this day, I still laugh at inappropriate situations, when friends, family, and even myself are in trouble.

That’s what I remind myself, every time I wanna get mad about someone stealing my food from the fridge, or leaving my shit on the train. “I probably deserve this.”

Thing is? Even if I’m wrong? It’s a surprisingly effective remedy. Maybe try it. You shitbag.

Find me on my website or buy tickets to my comedy show on the 2nd of July in Melbourne!

This Does Not Justify Abuse

It is the 4th of September 2009, and I am carting my suitcase with all the belongings I can fit inside down Dodwell Street, turning right like I had on so many school mornings, on the way to the bus station. Today, I have tears streaming down my face.This is not, as much as I’d like to admit it- the first time this has occurred. But the suitcase is new. My father’s voice rings in my ears as I plod down the asphalt, I remember with a shiver, as he walks into the room.

Entering without knocking, he demands to know where my latest performance of”Sweeney Todd” DVD was- I told him the truth- I had no idea. The performance was filmed but the show had been lost to the sands of time. I had tried every person available who would talk to me to track it down, to show off my first leading role on the stage- but to no avail. This was the time where a rational mind would shrug, and move on to more important things. This was not acceptable. My young memory does not lend itself to the entire statement my father made; but I remember the words “I’m sick of it!” before he punched me in the face for the final time.

It is the 24th of September 2008, I stand on the Great Wall Of China, breathing in the chilly air and posing for a photo. I have been listening to Muse’s “Apocalypse Please” on my CD player as the fog slowly dissipates and I climb slowly higher to reveal the breathtaking landscape beneath me and the lyrics scream “AND THIS IS THE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEND! THIS IS THE EEEEEEEEEEEEND! OF THE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD!”. It is one of the most surreal moments of my young life. I am celebrating my 18th birthday, all expenses paid by my family.

It is  August 2003. I am in Japan eating fish with a loving and nurturing host family who have the most adorable toddler of all time, and who put up with my weird habits of visiting the Official Sly Cooper Website, checking for announcements of the latest sequel of a video game of my favourite Anthropomorphised Raccoon Thief- at all hours of the night. I drink green tea and almost get conned by african american cap dealers and get a whole concert hall of Japanese school children to waggle their eyebrows at me back and forth as we wait in a state of boredom for the friendship ceremony tributes to finish.

All expenses paid by- take a guess.

Our parents, if they are right for the job, will do the best they can with the child and tools they have. They will try to make you strong, smart, and independent. They will test you, and above all they will support you. My parents did those things, because they believed in me. Countless concerts, rehearsals, lessons of instruments, karate, rugby, holidays, restaurant bills- the list goes on.

It is December 2008. I am being told “You are scum” by my father, on a bus to Rome. This vitriol stems from my lack of hearing his request to pull my seat up, to give him more leg room. With headphones on. Yet, I tried to take it with a brave face and absorb the beauty of my European trip, all expenses paid by my family. And the trip “was” beautiful, I met a love of my life there. I kissed her in the darkness and held her hand at a Welsh Lake which will be ingrained in my memory forever. I ate cotton candy with my brother Kirby at the Eiffel Tower, and I basked in the warmth and smell of mulled wine with my mother in Rothenburg.

But this does not justify abuse.

I was homeless.

I depended on the friendship of friends for a long time, and it has affected my trust and need for companionship and parental figures ever since. I am a insecure depressed individual who appears brash and arrogant because that is all I knew how to be in my family. 

There are two things however, I do not mention on a regular basis about my history of abuse in my family.

The first is this: My father was not the only guilty party. He does not deserve that blame alone.

The second: My mother, who I love as dearly as my father, despite everything- did nothing to stop the abuse happening in my family. And while hers was of a less emotionally harmful variety, she was no stranger to abuse when things got heated. Name calling and gaslighting was, sadly, a common technique.

She never made my father get therapy like I requested.

She never physically intervened when my father and I fought.

She never once called the authorities.

Because to her, she never saw it as abuse. She likely still doesn’t.

It is this month of May, 2016, and my family and I have fought again. This time, it is about opening my mouth. I had posted an article about abuse, estrangement and mother’s day, where I lamented that no matter what I was never going to be close with my mother. She read it, despite my privacy settings specifically stating that she ‘couldn’t’ and began a furious tirade I had not seen in some time. A tirade of how ungrateful I was and how much she had done, she demanded I take it down and publicly apologise, and what do I REALLY think of her?!

This, as it turns out, was a long time coming. See, as hard as it is to imagine. My family still has issues understanding my resentment. Despite the, y’know, homelessness. They consider it a rough patch in an otherwise healthy relationship. Despite, y’know, the beatings.

What do I think of her? As it turns out it’s what I think of my entire family.

I will never ever forget the things they’ve done. They’ve shaped me, helped me become the person I am. They’ve instilled in me a sense of pride in my work and a passion for helping out the little guy. They’ve tried their best to understand my passions.

But not once, for a second- do I believe they have tried to understand my pain and disappointment. Through their actions, and I say they for a reason- I was left to fend for myself. They have been willfully ignorant, happy to resort to emotional blackmail stating “All The Things They’ve Done” like the things above, to justify their current behaviour.

And, at the end of the day, have made no effort to change.

At the end of the day, they beat their child.

Not once have I heard an apology from them for initiating it, or for letting it happen, and continuing to justify it.

They did many things, and I love them despite their failings.

But this does not justify abuse. And I refuse to keep my mouth shut, just to make them comfortable.

I just can’t do that anymore.

Making It Work

(I wrote this as a gift for one of my closest friends in the world, Kerryn Taylor, an ex, a friend, an acquaintance, an irritation, and finally a confidante. She knows me like few do, and I wanted to use my new passion for writing to make her a birthday gift. I hope you like it, dearest).

The cold blue light of the computer monitor bathes me as I type away. I am angry. No, I am furious, in a way that only teenagers can be about matters that matter little to none in adulthood.

“Dear Kerryn, I hope you understand how much you’ve hurt me…”

We met in 2007, where my geek flag was just beginning to show in true form. I was awkward, gangly, and didn’t know the social dances. She was 14 (Shut up, I know it’s weird), a budding photographer, and cosplayed,  she loved anime to an obsessive degree, Kingdom Hearts and Dance Dance Revolution.

After a dose of long glances and my lack of courage in following through at Supanova 2007, where she dressed as Demyx-

I finally took the plunge on MSN messenger, before it became another nonfunctional backdrop in my past.

“Wanna go out sometime?”
“Aw! I’d love to!”

I still remember our first date. ‘My’ first date, ever. Butterflies does not cover it, when I saw her in her WWF t-shirt (fun fact kids, WWF was what wrestling used to be called!), jeans and checkered vans. It was perfect to me. We saw Kung Fu Panda, and  believe ir or not, we didn’t kiss until afterward. I snuck up behind her at the snack bar, and all of a sudden… there it was. It was tender, sweet… it felt right. Many more kisses later, we decided we would go steady, or if you like, the Australian equivalent, “Put the sheep in ya swag” or something.

A myriad of sushi, lying in the grass and smiling, reading manga, and discussing our “cosplays to come” flashes across my mind as I remember our 6 months together, where we were still figuring out who we were but were glad of the support of someone to watch us transition. I even had her as my date at my high school formal, in which she looked beautiful, I looked okay, and the whole event sucked. We spent the whole time listening to Muse on my CD player outside.

It was a happy, exciting, teenage interest.

But like most teenage interests, they will either last forever inside you, transform, or disappear completely. I was convinced for a time that our relationship would be the latter.

Our relationship was one of firsts: First kiss in the rain, first holding hands and walking through the city, other pedestrians be damned, (we were that annoying couple), first DNM over music Greenday and pop punk for her, and my passionate emo tendencies, and our first teenage like activities in dark movie theatres.

However, first relationships mean that, at least for me, it was the first time trying to grasp the concept that the world does not revolve around you, and that meant serious lack of empathy. There was tears, frustration, and our eyes rocketed towards our skulls so often towards the end of our relationship, that I’m surprised they’re not lodged in our skulls. It would take us both a long time before we were happy with who we saw in the mirror each day, and it showed.

I broke it off. It hurt, but not as much as I thought it would, for either of us… because I think we knew instinctually we didn’t fit like lovers should. Let me put it to you this way… When I asked her “What am I to you?” She responded “You’re my Edward.”

Yup. This Edward.

Not gonna lie, folks… Huge boner killer, for a teenager who “didn’t” want to be seen as an abusive badly written statue. In her defense, she was a teenager, and you’ve done some stupid stuff in teenage hood too I bet. But if I’m honest, I’ve never quite forgiven her for that slight.

I think I knew we wouldn’t last after that.

The relationship ended, but we didn’t lose touch. The pain, and fear of losing her forever came further down the line.

She had gotten a  new boyfriend. A boyfriend that I’m going to call Jerkface. This, unfortunately was the beginning of a long hiatus from each other.

A series of emails to each other read like this, mind you, I’m paraphrasing:

J:”YOU AND YOUR BOYFRIEND DITCHED ME.”

K: “FUCK YOU I’M ALLOWED TO HAVE MY OWN LIFE.”

6 months later.

J: YOU AND YOUR NEW BOYFRIEND DITCHED ME.”

K: “FUCK YOU HE’S WONDERFUL.”

3 months later:

K: I was an idiot, I miss you.

J: Please, stop shutting yourself out.

K: I’ll try.

3 months later.

K: REMOVE MY FUCKING PHOTOGRAPH FROM DEVIANTART. YOU DIDN’T GIVE ME CREDIT.

J: YES I DID.

K: NO, YOU DIDN’T FUCK YOU.

J: WELL FUCK YOU. DON’T TALK TO ME ANYMORE!

K: FUCK YOU MORE! AND GLADLY!

J: (dammit).

On and on it went, where we dug ourselves deeper into our respective holes, shouting at each other “Dig up, stupid!” But eventually, Teenage Pride and the relationships destroyed along the way led us back in to each others lives… But it wouldn’t happen for a few years yet.

My first memory that sticks out of our reunion period is at a Hog’s Breath cafe in maybe 2013. For those not in the know, they’re these ridiculous steak cafes which charge you an obscene amount for beef. Give me a Hard Rock Cafe any day.

I arrived early, and soon after she came and embraced me in a way only the truly close or emotionally inexperienced can (trust me, if you don’t know what a GLOMP is, look it up).

We were in our 20’s now, and it had been at least a few months since I had seen her. She had a new boyfriend, Matt, a man of resounding plaid cloth and bearded like the pard. Matt was awesome, a man I considered a friend straight out of the gate. We talked Batman and ended up cracking each other up within 5 minutes of  meeting each other… But it was more than that. They were happy. Happy to the point that I knew if they didn’t fuck it up, they’d be together forever.

She was so different. She had garnered a new love for comics, was more open, honest and was finally pursuing her dream to be a Forensic Photographer. She glowed. She seemed to finally have taken my advice to love herself as much as I once did. She had changed so much.

And I? I dunno. I’m the worst at self analysation, my own worst critic. I can only hope that I was on my way at that point from the selfish lazy prick I had been as a teenager, to just a lazy prick. I set achievable goals.

Come 2015, right before I left town for Melbourne, I knew that we’d be in each other’s lives forever when she and Matt stopped me and as a couple, after having a lovely goodbye dinner, and handed me $100 to help me with my transition into my strange new land.

I was blown away by the generosity. Little did I know how much that generosity would save my life.

November 18, 2015. The day of my big move to Melbourne Town. I pack my PS4 into my suitcase, thinking it would be just under the weight I’d paid for on the flight, and let’s face it, I wasn’t waiting 2 weeks to play my game. I get into the airport, put the suitcase on the weighing machine and… it was 10 kilos over.

$25 per kilo meant that it would cost me $300 extra just to get on the plane or abandon all my possessions. I had to  be at the gate in 15 minutes. SHITFUCKSHIT! I didn’t have that kind of money!

Except I did. The $100 they gave me made me just able to make up for my stupid mistake. That $100 saved my life, and I am so grateful that Kerryn, or as I call the couple-blob that is Kerryn and Matt- Mart- exist in my life. I love you guys.

Today, we live in separate states, but I talk to her quite regularly still. I’d be lying if I said I went to her with everything, but like family, I know I can always count on her, and she me.

We’re planning to get tattoos together next time I come to town. Matching Mary Poppins tattoos. It’s that internal “WTF?” reaction you felt as compared to our internal squeeing, that reminds me why our relationship is fucking awesome.

I love you loads, my friend. Thank you for being you.

-Jack

Brotherly Tolerance

The year is 2001. I am 10 years old, my brother, Kirby is 8, and my first dog, Shadow, is 5 and still with us. I am in Kingscliff NSW, in a Caravan Park I can no longer remember the name of. The days are long, fresh, and filled with childish abandon, where the hardest decision was to take another lap around the park on my bycicle, to try and con my Mum out of another dollar so I can go play pinball, or to go swimming.

Kirby, sporting his ginger curls, almost like an Irish afro, long before he grew ashamed of them and kept his hair to a buzzcut, shouted merrily “LET’S GO CLIMB TREES!”

I looked to my mum. She was the boss, even though my dad liked to think he was. You know the phrase “Behind a great man is a woman?” that’d be true for her if the man was wearing a leash.

She smiled and nodded. “Just be careful!”

That was more directed at me than at my little brother. I was the bigger brother, it was my responsibility to keep Kirby safe. But in my history, I was categorically bad at it. In fact, I am 100% serious when I say it would likely have been better for us if the roles were reversed. I am impulsive, sensitive, and emotional. He is logical, with a thick skin and is very much the glue that has kept our family together through our drama.

So off we went into the green brush of Northern New South Wales, which interestingly enough, is not that far from the beach. I always say, if you’re filming a movie which requires multiple locations, Jungle, Beach, City, Shithole… You can find it all in Australia. Particularly the latter, but I digress.

Suddenly, a gigantic tree revealed itself, like a bogan Whomping Willow. We grinned and began our ascent.

Kirby has always been the more socially able of the two of us, which is hilarious considering our respective choices in careers. I, a fledgling actor, he a very successful personal trainer in business with our Dad, running bootcamps with equal dose of encouragement and asskickery that they deliver together.

Kirby in these days was always the one to go swimming with Dad, he on his boogie board and my father on his surfboard, while I would climb up the cliffs, alone. I liked the feeling of being the only person on earth as I scaled my Everest- add that to my love of being on a platform and I guess it certainly explains a lot. But when Kirby decided to indulge me and participate in an activity I enjoyed, I appreciated it quite a bit then, and a lot more so now.

Slowly, but surely we climbed and climbed, grabbing branch after branch on this seemingly endless trek. Up and up we went, Kirby below me, and I, his carer, and the person he trusted the most, above.

This story is about when I broke that trust.

As I stopped for a break at about 15 feet up, I felt something brush my foot. It was Kirby’s hand. His tiny, trusting hand, grabbing the branch to pull himself up to me.

In doing so, he touched my foot.

I didn’t like that. I never liked being touched, as a child, teenager, and adult; unsolicited. This has led to many altercations, some funny, some horrid. One involved a costume assistant on a film set and my bundle of anxiety and fear of her as she snuck up on me, and grabbed my waist to tuck in my shirt… But that’s a story for another day.

Kirby had touched my foot. In my verge of puberty, “THIS IS MINE” focused brain this was crossing the line. I tried to claim my territory, like we had both done a thousand times in the car. We shoved. We pushed. We had full on fist fights.

This time, I slammed my foot on his hand, gripping the branch. He dropped. He screamed.

Crack. Thud.

My world stopped.

The ambulances came some time later, Kirby had cracked his skull open, he was lucky to be alive. For years, I always wondered if he hated me. I knew for certain he didn’t trust me as much. Really, I should be glad I hadn’t been the accidental murderer of my own flesh and blood, but all I felt was guilt, loss and self hatred.

I held onto it for years. In petty future squabbles Kirby would use “YEAH WELL, YOU CRACKED MY HEAD OPEN” or some version as his Manum Opus for years to come, and as far as I was concerned, I deserved it.

I had asked for his forgiveness many times, as a child does, not truly knowing how badly I had betrayed his trust. Then, he would forgive me as a child does… Not really meaning it.

No matter what though, no matter how many times I approached the subject, and went through the song and dance I call “Jack, Don’t Worry About It”, I did. I was supposed to be his protector. I had failed. It tore me up.

The year is now 2008. I am 17, Kirby is 15, the last year of the Irish Afro, and our dog is dead. We are in a Vietnamese restaurant my mother loves to celebrate the visit of my Aunty Jenny and my two cousins. It is a happy affair, despite my poor table manners and my father’s love of talking slowly to our Asian waiter, who clearly didn’t need it, spoke perfect English, and was quite offended.

After our meal, I exited the restaurant, and for some reason Kirby and I were alone outside. I took a deep breath.

“Listen man…”

It all poured out. My guilt after all these years, my belief that I thought he secretly hated me, the fact “I” hated me for my idiotic, selfish act that could have killed my only brother.

“Jack… It was years ago.”

“I know. And I know it’s stupid, but I just wanted to say I was sorry again. I don’t expect you to forgive me or whatever, but I wanted you to know.”

“It’s okay, mate.”

Kirby was a man of few words. Has been ever since he thought that’s what a man should be. Now it’s part of his charm. He clapped my shoulder and smiled as we stood and waited for Mum pay the check.

Even though I’d heard it before, this time it was different. Maybe this time, I was just ready to hear it.

“Thanks, man”, I said with a smile that hopefully didn’t show how grateful I was. Men didn’t show their feelings after all, we show it through how hard we can clap each other on the arm.

HA! Had you going didn’t I? Remember, I’m the black sheep artsy one of the family. I’m sure I cried or something.

About a year later, I would leave the house after my dad hit me in the face for the last time, taking what little possessions I could cram into one suitcase and hitting the road. I didn’t talk to Kirby for a long time.

But you know, whenever I feel guilty, I remember that clap on the arm, his “It’s okay mate”, and I know that even if he doesn’t understand, he will always be in my corner, and that means more to me than he will ever know.

“Ready Freddie?” my mum said to me as she passed me on the way to the car.

“Yeah.” I said and climbed into the car, cramming into the car with my brother and cousins.

We played Corners all the way home.