Here is the next part of Purnima (Book 7 of Waldmeer).
Drunks and Bogans
Merlyn was the last one to leave the room after her weekly adult dance class at the State Ballet. She was in a quiet corner stretching and processing her recent visit to Gum Flat.
“What’s the matter with him – mouthing off like an idiot?” said a teacher entering the room with a co-worker.
Clearly, they hadn’t noticed Merlyn. She was about to make her presence known, but decided to shrink further into the shadows as they continued their conversation.
“He never used to be like that,” complained the teacher. “I remember when he was the golden boy; nice to everyone, caused no trouble. Not saying that he should he like that now. I mean, he is a grown-up and one of our head people. He can’t be a wimp, but he is acting like a…”
“It’s the piss,” interrupted the other teacher.
“He’s not an alcoholic,” laughed the first teacher.
“You don’t understand alcohol-dependence,” said the other. “You don’t have be lying in a hospital bed to be alcoholic. Many alcoholics function at a high level and appear fine. But, bit by bit, as the dependence gets more control, their life starts to unravel – their body, their relationships, their work, their ability to be productive, their mood, their self-respect, their will to live. I know because it runs in my family. His family too. For that reason, I don’t drink myself. I did when I was younger, but I could smell its joy in having me join the crew. So, I gave it the flick. There isn’t any other way for people who have that gene. Give it the flick or it’s gotcha. You learn that at A.A. Ben needs to learn it too.”
Merlyn’s heart sank. She had told herself that they were talking about someone she didn’t know, someone she didn’t love but, all along, she knew it was Ben. When she lived with him, he drank every evening. Just a wine to help me relax from the day, he would say. It was nearly always more than one. More than two. And on weekends, many more again. He sometimes made the comment that there was a line in his family made up of drunks and bogans. He said it with such disgust. Ben was not, and never would be, a bogan. But a drunk? Apparently, so. Sometimes, he would say (like all alcoholics) that if someone is a happy drunk then it is okay. There are no happy drunks. They all end up a misery. So do the people around them.
“Can’t someone tell him?” said the first teacher whose attitude had changed from anger to concern.
“Who?” said the other. “He was married for a few years to someone called Merlyn. That didn’t work out and she’s gone; not sure where.”
I’m right her, thought Merlyn with a fleeting smile in a deadly serious conversation.
“Then he hooked up with some shrink-chick, but that didn’t work out either,” continued the other teacher.
“If she was a psychologist, she should have been able to sort him out,” said the first teacher.
“She did call him out about it,” said the other. “He ended the relationship.”
On the way out of the building, Merlyn passed her least favourite person of the State Ballet. It was the Event Organiser. A woman about fifty who, with a lot of work and money, looked forty with her long, blonde hair and short, tight skirts. She was a highly manipulative person; full of smiles and full of venom. Unfortunately, she had taken the opportunity to pair up with Ben. Not as a partner, but as a social ally. In return for her “protection”, money, and social organisation, she got the privilege of being seen and photographed with one of the Ballet’s most prestigious people. She was anything but prestigious. Although a drinker (and probably drug taker) herself, she wasn’t dependent on it. It wasn’t in her genes and she was too calculating. She was an ugly person, and the partnership with Ben was equally ugly. It was the sort of dysfunctional decision that an alcohol-dependent person makes.
The woman knew of Ben’s past relationship with Merlyn and mostly acted as if Merlyn didn’t exist. However, on other occasions, Merlyn could see the woman look straight at her, laugh, and whisper something to those around her. The woman proudly credited her nastiness to “savage confidence”. Savage? Yes. Confident? Some of the most destructive things in the world are done with utter confidence.
As Merlyn walked out the double glass doors of the building and headed for the safety of Tom’s cafe next door, a verse started singing its therapeutic song in her mind.
Lashes and teeth,
long blonde hair,
leather and lace,
Smell of booze,
It’s in the blood,
In the bloodline,
organisers the pit.
Snakiest of all,
in her daughter’s outfit.
“Unconditional love” is
bandied about, but
the conditions are a lot
and the love is not.
Next door, at Tom & Hardy:
“Hello, my love,” said Tom. “How was Gum Flat?”
“I’m back,” said Merlyn.
Tom looked at Merlyn as if to say, That’s obvious, but how was it?
“Uncle Ochre hasn’t changed,” said Merlyn with a finality that let Tom know she didn’t wish to talk about it further.
“I’ll get your coffee,” said Tom.
When he returned, Merlyn smiled and said, “I’m in a performance!”
“Really?” said Tom looking impressed. “With the State Ballet?”
“Don’t be silly,” said Merlyn. “As if. With the Manipura Dancers at Ajna Temple.
“Oh,” said Tom clearly unimpressed. “That’s a performance, is it?”
Merlyn whacked his arm and said, “Yes, Tom.”
Last dance class, at the Waldmeer Warriors, Shambhavi announced to his devoted class of women that they would all be joining the Manipura Dancers in a special performance next full moon. He said he wanted them to experience, first-hand, the joy of sharing dance with others.
“I don’t care about your technical level or your fitness,” said Shambhavi. “Of course, I would like it to be as good as possible and we are going to keep working on that, but mostly I want you to know what it is like to take the dance inside you and present it in a way that other people can see and appreciate.”
With his perfect body, perfect training, and perfect career, Shambhavi could have been forgiven for being disinterested in the motley lot of country dancers, of all ages and abilities, that faced him every week in Waldmeer. Yet, there was none of that in him. That is why the women, without exception, said yes to his project, although it would have frightened the life out of nearly all of them. The one thing that inspires fearless devotion in followers is devotion from their leader.
“We have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks,” said Shambhavi clapping his hands together and demanding absolute attention. “Face the mirror. We will run through our little choreography, however, I want you to see your image with your third eye. Look at your body and imagine what your third eye can see, as an outsider, as an onlooker, observing from the balcony. Detach yourself from your own body and imagine it as someone else’s.”
At the time, Merlyn thought, That’s not exactly the right use of the term “third eye”. The third eye is one’s intuition; an entirely different way of seeing to the physical way. It doesn’t even see bodies. It’s not an additional eye, placed somewhere else, that can see things that your other two physical eyes can’t see. But, hey, what does it matter? He can use the term any way he wants. Maybe, that’s why Shambhavi is such a good dancer. He takes things and makes them his own.
Back in Tom & Hardy, Merlyn explained to Tom, “The teacher told us to look at our body as if it was someone else’s; to feel that we were in someone else’s body, not our own.”
“I like feeling that I’m in someone else’s body,” said Tom.
Merlyn whacked Tom’s arm for the second time that day and kissed him goodbye.