Photo: Matto Lucas

Photo: Matto Lucas


(of a body of water or the atmosphere of a confined space) having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence.

"a stagnant ditch"

synonyms:still, motionless, immobile, inert, lifeless, dead, standing, slack, static, stationary; More

  • showing no activity; dull and sluggish.

    "a stagnant economy"

    synonyms:inactive, sluggish, slow, slow-moving, lethargic, static, flat, depressed, quiet, dull, declining, moribund, dying, dead, dormant, stagnating

I HAVE never particularly enjoyed summer.

The sweat that gathers cloying and damp in the small of my back. Sunburned flesh too pale for this southern land. Hair that curls at the forehead. It's just not for me. For others, the gentle warmth of concrete beneath the feet, the elongated nights tempts them forth from their winter hibernation. Seemingly overnight the air has warmed. Lightened. It carries ambition and the scent of fruit icy poles, the sounds of bike spokes spinning and skipping across the tarmac, coasting far away from winter and towards something newer; better. 

There are things I enjoy about summertime. White nectarines. Windows thrown open late into the night. Cold showers. Naked feet clad in sandals. A beer at the pub in a frosted glass. Air conditioned trains. That delicious 'end of school' feeling that late-December possesses. The promise of anything and everything riding high on the salted air; an infinity of ambition. I dream about wearing denim cut-off shorts, eating Frosty Fruits out the front of a milk bar and riding around on a bicycle with no helmet, my hair that has sprouted an inch in the muggy spring air streaming out behind me. My feet swing beneath my computer desk with anticipation and agitation. I write lists of things to do in the coming months; notes from an encroaching summer. 

"Let's take a road-trip this summer," I say to him. He agrees. Canberra, it is decided. We've been watching Annabel Crabb's recent ABC documentary about Parliament House. Three days in our nation's capital in the height of summer. I think about seeking refuge among the cool marble and constrictive suits of the Members of Parliament. Then I check the website and read that parliament won't be sitting while we're in town. I look up what nature walks and hiking paths are nearby, instead. I may buy new denim cut-off shorts. We will drive past Gundagai, stop in to see the dog on the tucker box. It is just assumed that this is what we will do. It's tradition. And white middle-class Australians grip their traditions tightly like metal fastenings swollen with rust and heat, holding on with swollen knuckles. 

A fight with friend, similarities that normally unite the two of us threaten - briefly - to tear us asunder. A brief butting of heads that triggered the thundering acceleration of my heart. I hunch over my phone, thumbs poised ready to retort but instead of defence I just feel sadness. I feel the seasons shifting around me and wish that I could change, too. The urge to strip down, to tear away and to replace with something stronger. The desire to rise early in the morning, gently warming as coffee cools on a window sill. Dusty light bouncing off the desk, ideas streaming and pooling on the page like ink. The urge to be lighter. To strip away flesh and fat, matter and being until there is nothing left at all. 

The fight ends, dissipating like summer rain evaporating off hot tarmac. 

I ride my bike home from the gym after dark. The chain - freshly oiled - whirrs silently. I glide like a ship across the inky black ocean of road. No street lights. No brakes. I smell the warmth in the air, fragrant with jasmine and cherry blossom. I sense all this, I can see it. But I struggle to feel it. A rhythmic worrying burrows into me, keeping time with the cadence of my cycling. Push down, fly around the corner. Carried on the hot night air comes a creative dissonance. A change. Instead of unfurling in the warm spring air to photosynthesise, I harden into a husk, all brown fuzz and empty space. I think about work.

My job - for a newspaper - makes me listen to the voices of others. I tell their story, writing down their thoughts, their worries, their joys and their sadness. I fought for this job. I love it dearly. Yet the constant outward focus has silenced the inner voice that once ran through me, loud and as constant as a stream. In order to be a vessel for others stories, I first had to empty myself of my own. I sit, silent and stagnant like a water tank. Golden circles of light floating on the surface, and if you listen carefully, the whispers of ideas and thoughts that drift to the surface before dissipating into nothingness. It's like I can no longer hear the sound of my own voice over the thundering chorus of cicadas that chirrup as the sun sets. I can't hear my voice, or I've just realised that it is no longer there. The warmth of September has done nothing to revive me. Instead I fester, water standing still, harbouring bacteria.


Made StuchberyComment