Why can't you afford a home?

Dilemma

Are you one of us?

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White chess square on tongue’s tip. Put it under your tongue. White chess square below tongue. Now just don’t think about it. White… don’t think about it. Okay. Thoughtless-Rahul and his best friend Jack walked to 7-11. Missenden Road, 7-11. Drenched in hospital white light. Freezer static with tasty chocolate milk and not so tasty mint milk. Red Rock Deli honey soy chicken? Nah, won’t need it. Just get coke and winnies. Cashier ding!

“Thanks mate, have a good one.”

Missenden Road towards St Andrew’s. Quick cocktail concoction of coke and Sailor Jerry’s in a 2L Mount Franklin water bottle. Don’t forget the spin. Got it. Let’s go. Thoughtless-Rahul started thinking again and tossed the white square around his mouth. It felt like a tiny ball of hair, squashed and mollified, in a slow-motion spin cycle around his mouth. It will dissolve soon. Stop thinking about it. Okay.

Redfern Station opposite Gibbons St. Bus towards Botany. They got off near some obscure Italian restaurant that was closed and Rahul started thinking again for his tongue was now completely pink and they had to find directions to Sir Joseph Banks Park. Give it half an hour. He unlocked his phone and skimmed the list of directions. They turned off down the road and walked in an impersonal, menacing darkness. At the bottom, little red lights as fairy tale eyes beeped and stared; electronic guards for the mass of empty warehouses and lonely forklifts sitting unused like thirsty travellers in their own concrete desert.

Get to the gate and turn right.

Follow the steps all the way down until you reach the sand.

Walk on the sand trail for about fifty metres and take a left.

Keep walking and you will hear the music.

Vestiges of acid house lurked in the distance, vibrating in the airwaves that quietly rustled the ferns and trees flecked along the walk. They led to a rocky path that crossed a dry river and on the other side, oscillating in cubist portraits between the leaves, psychedelic neon lights and lasers illuminated the opaque sky. A recipe of synthesizer squelch and bassline thuds filled the clearing. At the bottom was a small stage. Two DJs, brooding and dressed in black, effortlessly played and twisted and scratched the decks that spat out an obtrusive, heavy concoction of ear-splitting electronica. Little groups were scattered around; some sat on logs with tinnies, others smoked under the giant, whomping trees; some danced mindlessly to the music, rubbing their noses, scratching skin under their sweaty shirts/sweatshirts. Rahul and Jack saw all this at the forked entrance, with one path leading to the stage, the other inclining towards a dimly-lit table with a giant bowl of punch on top and bags placed beneath it. It had a higher concentration of people with the choice of vice the same as those below. Ten minutes. Are you feeling anything yet? No.

Rahul and Jack ascended and dropped their tote bag below the table and surveyed the crowd. Little raves like this usually had a homogenous aesthetic of oversized American cotton tees from obscure Australian labels, sneakers (NB, Reebok etc.) with normcore scruffiness, wide-leg cropped second-hand suit pants and the occasional swag (?) lord (?) / flex mama (mami) / streetwear hypebeast donned in Crystal Palace or Gosha or Supreme. But lo and behold! What a rapid change had swept through the neo-emo rave sartorial-ness! There was a motley mixture of silk fabrics, glimmering jewellery and detailed stitching. Makeshift turbans, Tree of Life bindis, saris draped with Nike bum bags, painted monobrows, jutis with Vetements socks. Makeshift turbans, Tree of Life bindis, saris draped with Nike bum bags, painted monobrows, jutis with Vetements socks.

Rahul turned in consternation to his friend Jack, whose face was pale. A gurning girl churning gum stopped and stared at Rahul and shouted in a slur, “Where’s your costume!” before stroking his face, smiling and walking away.

“Sorry,” mouthed Jack.

A Bollywood-themed rave! That Indian-thoughtless-Rahul had not known about! Just yesterday, someone had shouted at his mother “to go back to where she came from,” and now this counter-culture was celebrating his… whoosh! Rahul mechanically looked upward to the sky, which was awash in an indigo film, glistening with the stars. The trees were still dark, but looked like 2D cut-outs pasted on top of the sky. There it is. There it is! He and Jack glided instinctively to the dusty dance floor. On the way, they were met by a pale, Caucasian girl with a big red bindi on the middle of her forehead. Her eyes morphed toward the bindi and then snapped into one giant cycloptic eye.

She spoke mechanically, “Did you swallow the white chess square, or not? If you didn’t, then where did it go? If you did, then my eye will turn into your eye… if you can see my eye then you yourself are one of us; if not, then we are you and you are not and will never be us. Therefore, if you swallowed, you are us. But if you didn’t swallow, then your eye is my eye and we are different. So, what did you do?”

Jack dragged Rahul to the dancefloor. What did you do? SFSKNF565230KVSVMSLSFSF1!!!4G,4G45G94IN51RG450G4FWD! The new DJ, a petite black-haired girl, spun very acute, piercing dubstep that entered like a toothpick fish and attached its spikes to every inch of his ears, digging its pins into the flesh and cartilage. Around him, smoke machines breathed a thick vapour that glitched in flashes of neon pinks and blues. Faces, wideeyed and ghoulish, slowly appeared as the smoke dissolved. The swell of the crowd, dancing ferociously to the aggressive dubstep, hauled him closer to the stage. A Jim Carrey mask stared at him. Rahul took a drag of Jack’s cigarette. The sweaty arm of a girl in a white Nike sports bra brushed his. They looked at each other and smiled. She licked her lips and turned away, throwing her arms into the air and shrieking a primordial “Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” A stronger body pushed between them and a very pale, muscly guy wearing a slowly unravelling turban darted a menacing stare at Rahul.

“Got a problem mate?”

“Your turban is falling off.”

The guy smirked and flung it off. “Problem solved. Now don’t smile at my girlfriend again, you creep.”

Rahul‘s tongue rolled around his mouth but he felt nothing unusual. As the music grew faster, the dark faces around him Munch-ified together in a swirling assembly of lights — an amorphous Scream wavering with each electronic cadence. The girl shrieked again, visceral like the howl of a husky.

“Let’s take a break,” he said to Jack, elbowing him in the ribs.

Jim Carrey faced him, not Jack. He couldn’t find Jack in his immediate vicinity. Jim Carrey’s big caricatured mouth smirked at him. The strobes suddenly blended into a blanketed film of green and Jim cackled and howled; a simulacrum for Stanley Ipkiss in all his fluoro-green playdough and yellow fedora glory. Rahul backed away and bumped into the pale, turban guy who had wrapped it around his mouth to protect him from the dust. He pushed Rahul away and snarled, “You don’t belong here.”

Rahul barged his way through the crowd. He walked to the table with punch and searched futilely for Jack. Text: not delivered. NO SERVICE. Opposite the table, people stood in a circle, unaffected by the dubstep, quiet and introspective as if they were at a wake. A big bucket was placed in the middle. Rahul walked carefully toward the circle and slipped in between one guy with a henna tattoo that read “OASIS” and a girl wearing a beautiful, red silk sari whose blouse had been ripped. Did you swallow the white square? Are you one of them? At a whistle, everyone mechanically moved their hands to pockets or bum bags. Then, a scream raw as a battle cry pierced the air and from their pockets, the participants began hurling coloured powder at each other. The bucket in the middle was also filled with the powder and within moments, the space was thronging with the mad rush of people, shouting and drowning and sweating in variegated pastel dust. Stationary, Rahul watched everything. The powder avoided him, as did the people. The frenzy of the colour-throwing was like a fast-forward time-lapse around him — a mirror of his mind, resembling his Holi experience as a child, the festival of fertility, forgiveness, forgetting and felicity — materialised by a group of white junkies. You swallowed the white chess square. The mirror shattered and everyone stopped and stared at him with dilated eyes, letting the colour fall through their fingers like sand.

“Why aren’t you joining in?” they said in sync.

“Because my mind won’t allow me.”

“Why aren’t you in costume?”

“Because I didn’t know about it.”

“Do you know anything?”

An arm aggressively clutched his.

“Rahul, what are you doing? I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

He turned around slowly and faced Jack. Jack pulled the cigarette from his mouth that had burned right to its tip.

“Did you even smoke that?”

“Where were you?”

“I’ve been at the stage! How long have you been sitting here for?”

“Don’t know. Did you see the Holi?”

“What Holi?”

“All the colour.”

“There’s no colour anywhere, this place is empty.”

Dark. Scattered with foliage. Sprinkled with cigarette butts.

“Come with me, some of my mates are here.” They walked to a long log in a grassy area on the right side of the stage. Seated there was a guy not in theme, and a white girl puffing sensually on a joint. Jack introduced Rahul to James and “Ma Shaaaaanti.” When they sat, Ma offered them a puff and Rahul, before Jack could stop him, took a long drag. Don’t smoke your first time. Little splashes of illuminations, like the needle-thin illuminations under the eyelids before sleep, danced in front of his eyes. They dissipated when Ma spoke.

“I’m getting a really negative aura from……………………… you,” she said slowly and with extended gaps between her words, as if she were a robot being programmed to speak hippie.

Rahul didn’t reply. He gazed at her orange turban and the red bindi implanted between her eyebrows. “Are you a sannyasin?” he asked.

“No. I just am. I am a person. Living. Breathing. Spirit… Osho is one of my teachers. But the world is my master. Here.” She pulled out a lighter and from underneath her, retrieved a stick with sage, lit it on fire and twirled it around Rahul, chanting incoherently before saying, “This… will cleanse you ah!”

“From what?”

“Your negativity.” She pulled the sage away and took another puff. “I’m smoking this as a contraceptive. I’ll only give birth to little earth children. Only the dust dirt leaves insects can fuck me. Arboooorgasms!”

“Okay.”

“You don’t talk much… don’t worry this theme is uncomfortable for me also. I hate people who disrespect the culture. One day I will just go bush with my own Tarzan and monkey children.”

Rahul stood up and walked off, ignoring Jack’s cries for him to come back. The DJ’s set was reaching a climax. Loud, discordant, metallic, like two swords crashing against each other. He wandered into the crowd and danced dejectedly.

Around him, Rahul saw faces —doused in brown and black paint — reeling to the music, fluctuating between the purple sky and the kaleidoscopic stage. He gulped and reached down to the ground, immersed his hands in dirt and continued to gather it until his face was smeared with it.

Are you different to us?

From his pocket, he cupped some remnants of the coloured dust and drizzled it on top of his face. The sky remained purple. The music slowly crept its way into the movements of his body.

If you swallowed.

Rahul again went to the ground and picked up a discarded turban. He brushed it off and wrapped it around his head.

If you didn’t swallow.

He flung off his shoes. Ants danced over his feet. Leaves were abrasive against his toes. Dirt clumped together beneath his long nails.

Can you see my eye?

Rahul ripped open his shirt, pointed to his chest and screamed, “LOOK!” No one acknowledged him. His shout was drowned out by the music.

What did you do?

The DJ reached the pinnacle of her set and the lights combined into a field of blinding white. Rahul eyes and head rolled and he dived to the ground. Naked to his underwear, he twisted around, ensuring every inch of his skin was clumped with the brown dirt. After doing so, he jumped up. A nascent cut formed between his eyebrows, which had been created by a rogue stick on the ground.

I did it!

He furiously started dancing, wildly flinging his arms and legs like an inflatable tube guy at car dealerships. By the time the music had stopped, Rahul continued to dance. The only sounds were of the crickets and of his feet rapidly kicking up dust. The other attendees had moved away from him, watching him, judging him as they smoked their cigarettes, snorted their ket and drank their drinks. Jack had realised what was happening and dashed over. He struggled through the crowd who had encircled Rahul like he was an animal trying to fight death.

“Move!” Jack said aggressively. Eventually, he got to the front of the circle and saw Rahul still dancing. His movements were growing increasingly fatigued and deranged. Jack didn’t instantly move towards him; he was momentarily stupefied like the other by-standers. This hesitation proved costly. Rahul, who was, by now almost stationary and only sustained by some indescribable impulse, fell to the ground before Jack could reach him. His arms and legs were sprawled out. Ants crawled over his stomach and a trickle of red blood stained the middle of his face.

This article appeared in the autonomous ACAR edition, ACAR Honi 2018.