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“Just Who Do You Think You Are”

During 2011, six diverse schools began working together on a very exciting year 10 student writing project

Collaborating online, the teacher-librarians, English teachers and students shared their personal writing and gained a broad understanding of the diversity of culture and experience across Victoria

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing some of the stories from the project here on the Virgule blog

GETTING A GRIP

By Claude Davies

From: Melbourne High

I have far too much time on my hands

It’s a warm Thursday in July, and my excess recreation is manifesting itself as late-night shopping

Shopping for comforting things, like chocolate and MSG-laden noodles

Confectionaries are grabbed from the shelves; sweetmeats and bribes to my appetite

I’m focussing my efforts on the grabbing

‘Carpe Diem’ – seize the day

That’s what Dead Poets Society told me to do

This ennui can be cured if the right opportunity is found, if something happens

So I’m reaching out to rope it in, but my fists are coming back stuffed with food

Filling my stomach is my best shot at filling this lull

Purchase made, I exit the store

The transition from the harsh halogen lighting to the dim streetscape triggers a mood change

I recall, despite my best efforts, how this empty interlude started

It was only a week or so ago: she walked away from me and left nothing but empty excuses

And, because I was the least popular of the couple, the inevitable side-taking in the fallout resulted in my ostracism from groups and gatherings

In the space of a few days, my leisure time was reconstituted from nights out on the town to room-ridden angst and procrastination

What I need is an identity – right now I’m floating in a social void, and my nights are spent watching television and doing the minimum homework required – I need something to latch onto; a stable surface to right myself with

To my left a peculiar storefront throws a tide of warm radiance out into the light-polluted night

This shopping strip is almost completely comprised of the bland facades of florists, bakeries and real estate agencies

The bright green paint makes this store stick out like a sore thumb

The spines of leather books are cluttered up against the window like plastic balls in a pit, and inside I can see shelves lined with potential purchases

The money in my wallet is begging to be spent, and I think I might be subconsciously attempting to postpone my inevitable night of ramen and horror movies – so on a whim I push through the squeaky door and into the store

The reek of incense and musty paper is overpowering

My presence seems a welcome surprise to the man behind the counter

This place feels unfamiliar, secluded – and for a second I contemplate turning around and leaving

However, I chant my mantra of ‘Carpe Diem’ in my mind, and seize eye contact with the owner, before politely asking for a recommendation

His eyes pass over me silently, and then his hands join them in motion towards a small dusty book sitting to his left

In golden print on the red front are the words ‘Collected Poems – W

B

Yeats’

“Perfect for when you’re a tad lonely,” he says

I’m not entirely sure if my manner is giving away my lonesomeness, or if he has just taken a lucky guess, or maybe if the kind of people that shop at second-hand bookstores late on a Thursday night usually feel bit blue, but he seems to be offering something which may be the cure to my problems

My money changes hands with all the recklessness and premonitions of regret that make an impulse buy, and I hurriedly exit the store and sigh at the onset of the fresh night air

****

The door to my room swings open and my hands eagerly pull my new purchase out of its bag

I grasp the cover of my Yeats compendium and peel the book open, disturbing decades of dust and dog-ears from previous owners

For the first time in months, I read

The void begins to fill with words

I pull in poems; relate to them

‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ reminds me of time spent in the country, of drowsy late night walks along rivers, and of campfires that stole the focus of rooms

‘The Second Coming’ makes me think of anxious episodes I’ve had before; of philosophies adopted and of beliefs shed

‘The Stolen Child’ makes me feel existential and melancholy, but ever gladder to be who I am

A rush of hope breaks through, and the stream of words washes through the still estuaries of my mind and brings a tide back to my thoughts

Finally, I reach the poem that makes the rest pale in comparison – ‘No Second Troy’

Despite the context being so very different – Yeats was writing over his unrequited love for Maud Gonne, an Irish revolutionary, not a high school crush – it still reminds of my problems

In the end, he was only writing about loneliness

About things that affect every human, about obstacles we all have to face and overcome

My view leaves the page and ventures out of my window

A smile creeps across a previously glum face

I’m still lonely

I’m still questioning my life

But now I feel safer in the knowledge that people have been through this before, and made it out alive, and gone on to write such works as these

It’s important to remember your ‘Carpe Diem’ – to seize what you can from life

But it’s equally important to remember that life has a grip on you, and it won’t give up without a fight

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