Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: The Stories

My name is Christopher and I have moved house 60 times. In this blog I tell a story from every single address. I started in July 2014, and posted the last story in August 2015. Here are all the stories, in order!

1. Elliot Street – Christopher’s Bucket Mouth
2. Tirroan Road – Christopher’s Horses
3. Ruby Street – Christopher’s Tricycle
4. Erap Street – Christopher’s Attempted Kidnapping
5. Marion Street – Christopher’s Burglars
6. Miles Street – Christopher’s Escape #1
7. Mulgrave Road – Christopher’s Evil Teacher
8. Edmonton – Christopher’s Unit of Measurement
9. Weipa – Christopher’s Wet Feet
10. Seisia Road – Christopher’s Abandonment Issues
11. Masig Island – Christopher’s Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
12. Thursday Island – Christopher’s Strange Bedfellow
13. Miles Street – Christopher’s Memory Lapse
14. West Street – Christopher’s Electrocution
15A. Abel Smith Parade #1 – Christopher’s Barbra Streisand Feud
15B. Abel Smith Parade #2 – Christopher’s Call to the Police
16. Marlin Way – Christopher’s Popularity with Girls
17. Groper Street – Christopher’s First Fist Fight
18. Osborne Court – Christopher’s Questioned Masculinity
19. Hibiscus Street – Christopher’s Police Academy Obsession
20. Hart Court – Christopher’s Gonna Need a Smaller Boat
21. Hibiscus Street – Christopher’s Disney Re-enactments
22. Leitch Street – Christopher’s Religious Neighbours
23. Proston-Boondooma Road – Christopher’s Survey
24. Short Street – Christopher’s Least Favourite Town
25. Aralia Street – Christopher’s High School
26. Belyando Avenue #1 – Christopher’s Nightmare House #1
27. Grout Street – Christopher’s Terrible Christmas
28. Belyando Avenue #2 – Christopher’s Nightmare House #2: The Snakening
29. Post Office Road – Christopher’s Nightmare House #3: The Misleadening
30. William Street – Christopher’s Escape #2
31. Pennycuick Street – Christopher’s Friends
32. Smith Street – Christopher’s Mum Fights Back
33. Turner Road – Christopher’s First Kiss
34. Cavell Street – Christopher’s Dirty Jock Water
35. Canberra Street – Christoper’s Idyll
36. Weldon Street – Christopher’s Mole
37. Ainsworth Street – Christopher’s Landlord
38. Buxton Street – Christopher’s Almost Stepfather
39. Millsom Street – Christopher’s Felafel in His Hand
40. Upper Lancaster Road – Christopher’s Mansion
41. Liaw Close – Christopher’s Thespianism
42. Handford Road – Christopher’s Second Worst Job
43. Petrie Terrace – Christopher’s Inflatable Armchair
44. Handford Road – Christopher’s Bowling Mother
45. Amelia Street – Christopher’s Radio Career Starts
46. Chalfont Street – Christopher’s Sexuality
47. Ironwood Street – Christopher’s Radio Career Escalates
48. Simpsons Road – Christopher’s Arachnophobia Escalates
49. Upper Lancaster Road – Christopher’s Handsome Coworker
50. Guildford Street – Christopher’s Own Apartment
51. Challis Street – Christopher’s Radio Career Explodes
52. Barwon Street – Christopher’s Teeth Fall Out
53. Onkaparinga Crescent – Christopher’s Radio Career Ends
54. Yuroka Close – Christopher’s Grand Sydney Migration
55. Onkaparinga Crescent – Christopher’s Humble Sydney Escape
56. Brunswick Road – Christopher’s Grand Melbourne Migration
57. Pottery Court – Christopher’s Teeth Go Back In
58. Barkly Street – Christopher’s Happily Ever After
59. Smith Street – Christopher’s Sadly Ever After
60. High Street – Christopher Does Live Here

Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Fringe Show Update

I know stuff about my Fringe show only really applies to people in the Melbourne area, so if you’re not in this particular city or country, please bear with me! I just had to give an update on what is happening with Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, because it’s been a big few weeks.

Firstly, the show had a sell-out one-week season. Which is incredible. Secondly, owing partly to this sell-outedness, and partly because another show cancelled, the Melbourne Fringe extended my season meaning I’m on all this week as well! (So if you think you missed it you did NOT so please come to my show, it’s on at 5:30pm tonight, and 6:30pm Tuesday through Saturday!)

Thirdly, I had no less than three reviews come in for my show, all gob-smackingly lovely: from Squirrel Comedy, AussieTheatre.com, and The Age. It’s been a massive and hectic and ridiculous fortnight, and I never thought I’d be so grateful to have had things to so terribly wrong for 34 years.

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My poor photographer, Bodie Strain. Every time a new review comes in I make him do another edit to my poster to add more pull quotes. He’s soon going to start standing at the doorway to my venue and chasing people off.

And, of course, if you would like to see the show, you can buy tickets RIGHT HERE.

(If, however, you’re just waiting for this all to be over so I can go back to those videos I promised weeks ago…it’s just going to be another week or so yet. Sorry. JUST BE HAPPY FOR ME, GOD.)

PS: Yes I’m still living at the same place on High Street. Haven’t moved yet. Weird, right?

VIDEO: A Thank You, A Coming Soon and a Plug

So here’s an experiment: VIDEO!

I want to say thank you, and to tell you what I plan next for Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, both here on the intertubes and out in human-flesh-person thing.

As promised in that video, here are the details of the Fringe show:

September 18-25, 10:15pm (9:15pm Sunday)
Tickets $25 | $20 Concession | $20 Cheap Tuesday
Tickets can be booked by CLICKING HERE.

And if you do have any questions about any of the stories you think I could answer, let me know and I’ll answer what I can IN (YOUTUBE) PERSON!

60) 2014-Present. High Street, Thornbury VIC 3071

In May of 2014, I was sitting at work beside Cassie; my supervisor with whom I shared a desk. We were discussing Cassie’s plans to lease a commercial space in Thornbury from which she and her partner of ten years, Paul, could run their film production company, as well as live. They had found a perfect place, but the residence above the studio had one too many bedrooms. Cassie was toying with the idea of taking the place anyway, and getting in a boarder.

I guess you can see where this is heading: I became the boarder.

I gave notice at the Thornbury Crap Museum, and the three of us spent several weekends fixing up the new studio/residence. The shower and hot water system were replaced, leaks in the roof and holes in the floor were filled in, and the glass shop frontage was cleaned. We also ripped up the horrible carpets, polished the floorboards and painted everything. With free range of colours to choose from, I painted my room red.

Carpets, holes, sanding off layers of floor: with the exception of the painting, every task seemed to involve taking off a layer of something to reveal something even grosser underneath.

After nearly a month of DIY work, packing and moving, on the first weekend in July 2014, we were finally ready to move in. By Saturday afternoon, we’d taken up our new residence on High Street.

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My bedroom, before and after.

By Saturday night, Cassie and Paul had broken up.

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Me, at the time. And I assume you, now.

It was at this point that I realised, finally, in my 60th house, that I will never have control over this lifelong habit of moving around and having weird shit happen. So rather than panicking and moving out again, I leaned into it. I continued nesting. I set up The Thornbury Crap Museum II, and I stayed.

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Just so we’re clear: “Crap Museum” doesn’t refer to the quality of the building; it is a specific reference to all the crap I own and nest with.

I’ve now been living here for nearly fourteen months. That makes the Thornbury Crap Museum II third in the list of places I’ve lived the longest. And it is wonderful. Unconventional, but wonderful. Cassie and Paul both still live here; after the break up Cassie moved into what had been, for those first four hours after we moved in, the walk-in pantry. She still lives in that pantry, but now shares it with her new husband, who she married just this month, and who is also called Paul. (As a result of this bizarre coincidence, it is a house rule that I not date anybody called Paul, for fear the confusion would just become too much.) We share this place with a very large old dog who behaves like a cat, and so far it’s working out great. And that’s weird.

If anything, I think the weirdness of our situation has made us all braver. All four of us have taken huge leaps outside our comfort zones since being here. Cassie and I both quit our full time jobs in December last year to pursue our artistic endeavours; Cassie to run the film studio full time, me to pursue acting and writing as a real and proper thing. One Paul dove headfirst into an avalanche of projects, both through his regular job and through the film studio, and is discovering for the first time what parts of film production really yank his chain. And the other Paul is discovering, after years of travelling without any real grounding, what it’s like to put down roots and have a home. This weird, ramshackle box is both a sanctuary and a haven for weird ideas. The situation I currently live in could not be more unconventional, and yet I love it.

It’s also, obviously, impermanent. I mean. I have no intention of going anywhere in the immediate future, but by description alone it is clear this is not the place I’m going to retire and grow old in. There will be at least one more move in my future (and if my track record is anything to go by, probably several). But that doesn’t matter. If anything, it adds to the comfort of living here.

Besides, what better way to end Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore than with a story that is obviously not any kind of end at all?

59) 2013-2014. Smith Street, Thornbury VIC 3071

Moving house as the result of a break up was another first for me. The move to Smith Street happened in a blur of heartbreak, panic and a very real struggle with the “fight or flight” response. Considering that, it’s a wonder I found a place I liked as much as I did. I mean, during that first week I was barely in a position to get up off the floor, let alone look for a place to live: you could have advertised a cardboard box with “THERE ARE NO PAINFUL MEMORIES HERE” written on it and I would have submitted an application to live in it.

All I knew was that I need to live alone. I did not want to inflict my emotional state on anybody else, and besides: it had been nine years since my last solo dwelling, and I was ready to try it again. It was absolutely the right choice.

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The Thornbury Crap Museum (I was top right corner): It might not look like much, but to me it was a glorious haven I will always remember fondly.

That said, it was kind of a dump. The kitchen consisted of four different design patterns: the linoleum tiles, the contact on the cupboards, the contact behind the cupboards, and the splashback tiles were all different, and not a single one complemented the other. Nor did a single one of those things complement the rich maroon of the windowsills, so really the whole room was like some kind of complicated eye test you could only hope to fail.

Things didn’t get any better in the bathroom. The water pressure in the shower was comparable with being piddled on by an excited puppy. The only difference between the two is that puppy piddle doesn’t come out the temperature of lava. The only way the hot water could be adjusted was by touching the cold water tap: literally  only touching, like opening an app on a phone, because any greater movement and the water would go ice cold immediately.

Half of the light switches had been pushed inside the switch panel, meaning I tended to use my own lamps, because sticking my finger into a hole in the wall didn’t seem like the safest way to make lights go on.

I also had a weird neighbour who kept a folding chair in a comfortable corner on the far right side of the balcony. The thing is, said comfortable corner was nowhere near his door, but rather very close to both my door and the access point for all the upstairs apartments. This made it weird when he sat there, which he did a lot. Every time I came home, even before I made it to the top of the stairs to my front door, I could feel I was being watched. I started to feel like Atreyu at the Southern Oracle; this neighbour became known as The Sphinx.

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Admittedly, neither the breasts nor the wings of my neighbour were this majestic.

During the warmer months he was there day and night. He would either be reading the paper, or smoking what I can only assume were metre-long joints, judging from all the smoke that wafted in through my lounge room window. Yeah, on top of being a self-appointed weirdo sentry guard for the building, he also hotboxed my apartment for the entire summer.

Not that the flat needed his help being a hotbox: it retained heat like a motherfucker. During the week-long heatwave in January 2014, I discovered it was possible to reduce peanut butter to the consistency of gravy; a discovery as surprising as it was delicious.

So the light switches, the water pressure, the decor, the neighbours and the insulation were all bollocks. And this whole hot mess of bollocks was located twenty metres away from a train line. Sure, this was super convenient for public transport, but the trains crossed each other right outside my flat, and they always, always, always honked hello at each other as they passed. I mean, I was happy they had such a supportive camaraderie in their workplace, but shit.

train in the rain

I took this from my kitchen window. Note the passing train, and my proximity to same.

So yeah, it was a dump. But it was my dump. And just like all my dumps,  it was very satisfying. It didn’t matter that the place was falling apart; hell, I was so close to falling apart, we made an excellent matching set.

And it helped. Having the Thornbury Crap Museum as a sanctuary meant I didn’t let things overwhelm me at work. I resisted the urge to give up on this project and instead I kept writing the stories. I even started doing more theatre. If I’d been falling apart at the beginning, I eventually started putting myself back together.

So why am I not still there in that clearly wizard-like ramshackle cave? Well, there are some people who just shouldn’t live on their own for too long. I didn’t think I was one of those people; I thought I had a disposition that was more than suitable to long-term solitude. But around about the time I found myself trying to use a broadsword to dispose of the spider I’d killed because I didn’t want to get any closer to touching it than I absolutely had to…

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Get off your eight knees, you tiny fuck, I’m not trying to knight you. Oh okay fine I DUB THEE SIR LEGSALOT NOW GET THE FUCK IN MY BIN

…was the time I started to realise that maybe I don’t do well without adult human company.

58) 2012-2013. Barkly Street, Carlton VIC 3053

I left Brunswick after 17 months to do two things I’d never done before: 1) live in Carlton 2) with a boyfriend. Tom. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT. I know. It had only taken nearly ten years.

barkly

Cute as a button, right? A cold, brown, weirdly squished button.

The little house in Carlton was perfect for Tom and me. It had a private courtyard, high ceilings, a huge bay window at the front, and an archway at the entrance FILLED with dicks.

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I meeeeeeean…

We did not notice this when we inspected the property. It was not weighing on our minds when we filled out the application. Nobody mentioned it to us when we signed the lease and picked up the keys. But on the day we moved in, after we’d already moved our third truckload of furniture into the house, our friend Matt, who was helping us move, looked up and immediately exclaimed “HAHA, COCKS.”

And lo, Wang Manor (name #1) was born.

Here’s the thing: the idea for Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore came to life while I was living at Pottery Court, and there were still only 57 addresses. Back at that early stage I had no idea how I was going to finish it. But then I moved to Buckingham Phallus (name #2), and I realised I had the perfect, traditional happy ending: I’d stopped the sharehousing merry-go-round, and I lived in a little home with my partner. Everything was aces, and that’s how I was going to end it: I was chuffed as fuck and twice as smug.

So why would this blog be advertising sixty houses when clearly this is the happy ending and I’ve lived here in fairytale bliss ever since? Let me answer that question with a question: Is this your FIRST time reading this blog? Of course I moved again. Of course everything went sadly, heartbreakingly tits-up. Of course it did.

Ah, breaking up in the digital age: when even your saddest day gets a filtered Instagram photo at the intersection of “brittle” and “twee”. Millennials, am I right?

All the other sad stories in this blog have had, with the benefit of time, an emotional moat built around them. I can tell them in gloriously morbid detail without so much as a twinge. Not so this story: it hinges on something I still find quite sad. However, I am determined not to fall down a sinkhole of blues-heavy navel-gazing, nor do I want to focus on what led, once again, to me moving house because ughhhhhhh I’m not Nicholas Sparks. So I’m going to tell a happy story from my time at the Bitz-Carlton (name #3).

LUCKILY, my clearest memory is also the best. It’s about an activity we invented called “Rubenising”, borne of a habit we got into during the colder months (which, in the Taj Mahard-on [name #4] was all of them).

The bathroom at 10-inch Downing St (name #5) was small and oddly shaped. As a pair of gentlemen who were medium and oddly shaped, this made drying ourselves upon getting out of the shower a challenge. Perhaps the first solution would have been to shower separately, but shut up: it felt romantic. (Also our hot water system was the size of a Thermos, but mostly the romantic thing.)

Eventually we got into the habit of one person dashing to the bedroom, which required running past the gas heater installed in the the converted fireplace. Eventually one of us had the stroke of genius to just stop at the heater and turn it on. And so began a new ritual.

After we showered, we would race to the heater, and dry ourselves there, letting the heat assist the process. Over time, “vigorously drying ourselves in front of the heater” became “half-heartedly drying ourselves in front of the heater”. This in turn became “standing in front of the heater hardly moving at all” and eventually we gave up the pretence of even attempting to dry ourselves: we would simply lay out our towels on the carpet and lie on top of them, butt naked, and let the heater do our drying and warming for us. We became so reliant on this process we started factoring it into our “getting ready” time when we had to leave the house.

On one occasion Tom used the adjective “Rubenesque” to describe our nude, wet resplendence, which led to the verb “Rubenising”. This, in turn, led to the rule that you weren’t allowed to Rubenise unless you sang “Rubeniser, Rubeniser, Rubeniser” while you did it. Was there a melody to this song? OF COURSE THERE WAS.

I will always be a little bit sad that I had to leave The Hanging Gardens of Grab-a-schlong (name #6); not least of all for the reason I had to leave. But the time I spent there was pure joy from start to (just before the) finish, and I’m choosing to focus on that.

And while I was, for a long time, disappointed that I didn’t have the neat ending for this series of stories that I wanted—so much so that I did, for longer than I’m willing to admit, give up the idea of writing them altogether—I did learn a valuable lesson. Simply: you’re never at the end.

57) 2010-2012. Pottery Court, Brunswick VIC 3056

After six months of living with milk crate furniture and a park bench couch, I decided it was time to live like a grown up again, and I moved in with my friend Steve into an apartment in a reconditioned factory in Brunswick called The Brickworks.

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One assumes “Brick And Also Corrugated Iron Works” wasn’t nearly as catchy.

None of the furniture in our apartment had at any time been used to freight goods, so it was a definite improvement. And between the two of us we had an improbably high number of games consoles, so I called the apartment as The Arcade. This name didn’t catch on with quite the same ferocity that The Ponderosa did, but it’s still how I remember the place.

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Yes that is a 45 degree angle balcony. The apartment was made up of many of these non-perpendicular corners. It made for a quirky space, but it was a pain in the dick for trying to find a decent patch of wall to place a bookshelf.

It was while living in this apartment that a 19 year saga finally came to an end; a saga that started in 1993 when I face-planted into a catamaran on a six-lane road. But before things got better, they had to get worse.

It started one October morning in 2011, when I woke up and could immediately taste blood. My first thought was that I’d done something horrible in my sleep: As a child I had sleepwalked, sleep-talked, sleep-fed-the-cat and sleep-peed-in-the-linen-cupboard, so it wasn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility to consider I’d taken up sleep…vampiring. However, a quick scan of my bedroom showed no signs of murder, so it was looking more like the blood I could taste was probably my own. This was hardly comforting.

By mid-morning, after brushing my teeth ninety-seven times, nothing had changed and it was time for an emergency dash to the first dentist that would take me. One quick X-ray later, and the dentist had discovered the root (pun intended) of my problems. Want to see? Well you can’t, as their email was on the blink, so I couldn’t get a copy myself. But I did fire up MS Paint to draw a facsimile based on the description the dentist gave me:

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I don’t know which is more terrifying: the dental trauma I was enduring, or the fact that a man in his 30s still uses MS Paint to make pictures.

That was the state of my mouth.

So, why the blood? Well, the two wisdom teeth that were head-butting couldn’t move, but they wanted to, so there was a lot of undetectable jiggling. The disturbance was keeping all the gum above it nice and soft and susceptible to infection. Which, I’m told, I’d had non-stop for who knows how long. It seems my healthy immune system had kept actual infection symptoms at bay, but the bleeding and mild swelling were signs that stuff was going on down there that I had been unaware of for years.

The dentist went on to explain that the two buried wisdom teeth needed to come out, but were far too deep for him to do in his clinic: I had to go in for surgery. He strongly recommended—in a terrifyingly serious, dour, dentisty manner—that if I was going to have the trauma of going under general anaesthetic and having my head yanked apart like a victim in a Saw film ANYWAY, I may as well get all those rogue wisdom teeth (and the shy adult canine) removed at the same time. Having 6+ teeth removed might seem extreme, but he reasoned that there was no need to have my mouth prised open with a car jack more than once.

He also reasoned that the expense of the surgery would be pointless if I didn’t fix up the whole business with the hit-by-a-boat-on-dry-land induced gap in my teeth while I was at it. By this stage the dental plate I’d been using was 17 years old (which even grosses me out to think about and I was the one wearing it). The dentist recommended a bridge, which would cost me in the vicinity of $15,000.

So, let my mouth destroy itself or plummet into considerable debt? One option would most likely prevent me from being able to eat food, the other would prevent me from being able to buy it. But I was still super jumpy from the time I lost the plate in my sleep, so despite never knowing in a million years how I would afford it, I spent the subsequent few months preparing and applying for loans.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:

Fast forward to January 10, 2012, the day of the surgery. My mother had flown down from Queensland to look after me during the surgery recovery. The last of the pre-surgery fillings (and there had been maaaaany) had been completed. Every last divot in my teeth had been filled in, up to and including the divots made by the wires of my old false-teeth plate, which now no longer fit in my mouth. The solution to this was to simply cut the wires off, meaning I spent one very unsettled week with no way of holding the plate in my mouth besides the awesome adhesive power of my own spit. “I hope you already cover your mouth when you sneeze, and if you don’t you’d better start” was my dentist’s advice.

At 12:15pm we drove to the hospital where my surgery would be taking place. Not dissimilar to a Big Brother housemate, I had to sign a thousand forms, give up my electronic devices and put on an outfit that revealed far too much skin. A big patch was stuck to the back of my hand to relax me (pretty sure I was more relaxed before a giant, squidgy bandaid I wasn’t allowed to touch was affixed to me), and then my blood pressure was taken (causing my blood pressure to IMMEDIATELY skyrocket because I hate not acing every test I take). We then waited for just long enough for me to feel incredibly self-conscious in my hospital-issued ensemble of dressing gown, shower cap (head) and shower caps (feet): so about six minutes.

Nothing calms the nerve before surgery quite like being patched, tagged, stripped and then paper-bootied.

Upon having my name called, I was swept into a room that felt just a bit too big, helped up onto a bed that felt just a bit too high, and set upon by three or four nurses who seemed to be moving just a little bit too quickly.

“Okay, almost ready to start,” said my extraordinarily carefree surgeon, who was so fancy his official title had gone way past “doctor” and all the way back around to “mister” again, “Time to get those wizzies out.” I tried not to think about the fact that I was having surgery performed on me by a man who said “wizzies” instead of “wisdom teeth” and wasn’t called “doctor”. He stuck a syringe into the drip to which I was already attached. “This is going to make you feel like you’ve had three or four bourbon & Cokes. Then we’ll see how we go from there.”

I didn’t even have a chance to ask whether he could make it three or four Malibu & Cokes before I was out.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:

Several hours, or maybe three seconds, or possibly three thousand years later, I woke up. I woke up with no real recollection of what I was waking up from. Unlike waking from sleep, where the brain kicks into action and eventually tells the eyes to open, my eyes opened themselves while my brain struggled to catch up. And it didn’t catch up well. I felt like the whale in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, just suddenly being an entity and trying to figure out how that works:

“I…what? Wait. Good morning, I guess? It is daytime. What is daytime? Who am I? Pass. Where am I? I am in bed. Mum is here. What is ‘Mum’? Oh, Mum is that person who is your mum. I have a mum. Why is Mum here? She lives in Toowoomba. Am I in Toowoomba? What is Toowoomba? What time is it? What is time? Am I late for work? Do I work in Toowoomba now? Fuck, I hope not. Wow, that’s a strong feeling to have about a place I can’t remember. Wait, this doesn’t feel like my bed. Am I in someone else’s bed? And if I was in someone else’s bed that brings me back to one of my earlier questions: why is Mum here?” 

This continued for some time.

A nurse walked into view and, seeing me awake, asked if I wanted to drink something. The second she said it, it was all I had ever wanted in my life. Every moment of my thirty-one years on Earth so far had been leading to this point, where I would get to drink something. I was suddenly very aware of the space between my eyeballs and my neck: what were once cheeks, a mouth and a chin was now a lumpy, dry, misshapen slab of concrete. And I was the thirstiest thing to have ever had a thirst in the history of things that get thirsty.

I get handed what seems like a paper thimble with about seven drops of water in it, and a straw. I put the straw in my mouth, and nothing happens. I realise the straw is actually four inches to the right of my mouth. I get the straw into my mouth, and still nothing happens. I’ve forgotten how to work a straw. I fling the straw aside and drink out of the paper thimble. No part of my head moves in response to my brain’s “drink this water” command, and half a cup of water splashes over my closed mouth and down my front. Mum retrieves the straw and I try again. With agonising slowness, like a farm tractor being started after fifteen years rusting in a paddock, my facial muscles grind and pull and shriek and contort themselves in such a way that a tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny sip of water makes its way into my mouth, and it is the happiest I have ever been in my life.

After re-learning how to activate the parts of my face generally required for survival, I was upgraded from a paper cup filled with water to a metal cup filled with jelly.

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I was BARELY ready for that jelly. Cute headband though, y/n?

After what felt like not nearly enough time, we were allowed to go home, but not before we stopped off to pick up a) the variety of painkillers I had been prescribed, and b) every custard, jelly, and ice cream I could find, in the hope of sliding them all down my almost entirely unresponsive gullet.

This, it turned out, was a mistake. Why? Because I entirely forgot about actual food. Nutrients. Soups, mashed vegetables, pureed things. Six days of Yogo, ice cream and jelly added to a body that was already suffering from some pretty harsh transgressions (stress, anaesthesia, painkillers, half a dozen people violently plucking teeth from one end of it) causes some pretty disastrous results. Well, one pretty disastrous result: barfing.

And barfing.

And barfing.

And more barfing.

This is followed by a one-two punch of sobbing and whimpering, which is in turn followed by a bit more barfing.

Do you know how hard it is to barf through a swollen head full of stitches? Imagine one of those ready-to-bake roast lambs you buy from Coles, already trussed up in a tight little ball. Now imagine jamming a hose into one end and turning it on until water comes out the other end. It’s like that, only it hurts. And then there’s the aforementioned sobbing and whimpering.

FUN FACT: I had been dating someone for barely two months when this happened, and he graciously came to look after me. We are no longer together, and when I stop to wonder what went wrong between us, I am reminded that he met my mother AND watched me cry AND watched me barf AND watched me do both at once in only our seventh week of dating. That probably didn’t help.

I’m going to do us all a favour now and skip ahead to the part after the stitches dissolved, the swelling went down and I was able to chew again.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:

It is May of 2012. Four and a half months have passed since the surgery, and I have had many trips to the dentist to get fitted for my brand new porcelain (yes, like what toilets are made from) bridge. No more plastic, no more wires, no more ill-fitting denture that is able to be sneezed out of my mouth.

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I swear it wasn’t actually that discoloured: this photo predates Instagram. It was taken with an app that added its own filters willy-nilly, and it clearly settled on “Dental Dystopia” for this one. But it’s the only photo I was ever willing to take of the stupid fucking thing, so it’s what you’re stuck with.

I finally had, for the first time, adult, human-shaped teeth.

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I realise this photo isn’t as mindblowing to everyone else as it is to me, because I spent so long masking my teeth in photos, or smiling in a way that didn’t show the full extent of the damage, that evidence I ever had a problem at all is hard to find these days. But this is one of my favourite photos in the world.

For nineteen years I had that horrible old plate, and it completely defined my self-esteem for that whole time. So much of my identity was wrapped up in that little piece of plastic that acted as a mask for all of my formative years: covering the secret, disgusting hole in my face that I kept hidden from everyone. To be rid of it is to experience a freedom I wasn’t aware was even possible. To not be constantly reminded of a secret shame that sat in plain sight is worth every cent of the $15,000 I had to borrow to pay for it, and I don’t begrudge a single repayment because of how much lighter my soul feels.

JK I totally begrudge it, paying for things sucks.