FROM THE BEGINNING to the end of my twenties, I hated Sydney. It was a city whose high prices dictated the terms of its inhabitants’ lives: a week of fast-paced, stressful labour, ending with a short bout of frenetic spending. I was trying to be a writer, an occupation that gradually consumed more and more of my time until there was scarcely any left for work that earned money. At my desk, I knew that what I was doing had value; away from my desk, in my capacity as, for example, a job-sharing receptionist at a disposable nappy delivery company, I was worth approximately one hundred times more than I was as a writer – though it soon turned out that I was not worth even twelve dollars per hour, and I was sacked, either for incompetency or for not wearing deodorant, or both.
In a relationship, especially one that is turning bad, certain trivial events or exchanges can come to represent everything that had previously been formless, though unsettling. In a moment of apparent clarity, something all but material is born out of the swirling miasma of nameless emotions – a boyfriend sits in the driver’s seat without asking whether you would like to drive, proving his latent male-chauvinism; a girlfriend – proving her self-absorption – buys a block of Old Jamaica, although you have often told her how, ever since the year 12 after-formal party, you can’t stand the flavour of rum. These pieces of anecdotal evidence are recounted for the edification of a close friend or a psychiatrist – a partisan listener only for, although these pieces are supposed to conclusively reveal the truth about a third party, they ultimately provide insight into no one but the speaker.
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