I sit on a small scrap of cardboard among the dank darkness, among the smell of beer and urine and hiding in the smog that is captured in this little gap in the city. The sun doesn’t even try to penetrate where I lay. The sun has better things to do, better places to be, better people to lay its warmth on. So I sit here, on the cold ground and on the cold bricks. Under shadows that never move and on top of stagnate and rotting fruit that everyone has thrown away and forgotten about.
I feel that my mind is slowly leaving me. Slowly detaching itself from all physicality and making its way to a place of peace and reason. I know my mind is leaving me because whenever I catch my reflection, I see the blankness that has crept into the corners of my eyes. It’s waiting to settle into a state of absence as I slowly conform to the other vacant shells that wander the allies I lay in. Such detachment from life is almost as potent and poisonous as the hidden things inside the paper bags that the people in my new world carry close to their chests, as if a delicate child lay in their arms.
But there is nothing delicate about this place or anything in it. Nothing precious or sweet to feel, or touch, or taste. Everything is grey and obnoxious and bitter and painful. This world is fuelled only by the desperation behind the slow disintegration of everything inside it, a universe that lurks to the sides and along the corners of life.
It starts to rain. The drops stir up dust from the ground and the strong smell of hot wet garbage fills my nostrils, only to make the sides and corners of the life I now curl up in more grey and bitter and obnoxious. I lift myself up from my cardboard and make my way to a train, a place to sleep and to be dry.
The man on the train tilts his glasses downwards and squints at the Daily Paper. Business men all around click and clack, frowning at their laptops while the sky outside grows dark with grey clouds, the rain tapping at the windows like tiny fists.
Lights and lines pass by, in shades of pinks, greens and yellows. All of the signs and letters and words melt into the wall as the train picks its speed.
There is so much activity that I stay awake and watch as life continues around me. I try not to notice the stares from people that are making me uncomfortable and awkward. I can feel their thoughts penetrating and burning into my mind. That I’m dirty, that I shouldn’t be here. They don’t understand though.
I catch my reflection in the window when we pass through a tunnel and notice the blankness settling a little further over my face and in my eyes. I am almost looking forward to the oblivion now. As I think of a place free from people staring and judging, I start to understand the paper bags that the people in the sides and along the corners of life carry close, as if a delicate child lay in their arms.
Are manners a total material construction or are they simply the understood expression of our authentic emotions?
For example, I feel guilt if I do not let someone know that I appreciate their help. We have all learnt to say ‘thank you’ and when we should say it… but is the guiding force to this teaching some arbitrary marker of being ‘civil’, or just a way to be genuine in how we feel?
Sometimes with ‘manners’, I feel it can be very classist and is tied in to what is ‘proper’ (what is white and western). People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are seen as ‘rougher’ in their expressions… but is it that they ‘don’t have manners’ or that their way of expressing their genuine emotions different and not detectible from a different class radar?
I guess I’ve been having trouble reconciling the burn I feel from those who have been negligent with appreciation towards me (when I do someone a favour, go out of my way, help etc) and wondering if it matters at all or curious as to whether they have been thankful, and I just couldn’t see it.
Are manners an obvious manifestation of something inherent to living as a human who interacts with others, or just some constructed bullshit which means nothing? Would we even care if someone didn’t say ‘thank you’, if no one had taught us that they should?
My bee is actually a Leafcutter Bee - different from honey bees, they are a solitary bee that makes a little cocoon home out of leaves and petals with no colony or hive. I got the basic imagery just from a scientific illustration of one and then worked with my artist to incorporate some dot work of the seed of life, I worked with Swirly from Sacred Tattoo in Stones Corner, Brisbane.