43) 2000-2001. Petrie Terrace, Petrie Terrace (Brisbane) QLD 4003

So, I had a job I hated. A job I’d already quit once, before hastily begging for it back again. What a perfect position I was in, then, to move out of home for a second time? And not into the relatively safe support network of a sharehouse. No no. I was ready to spread my miserable, barely competent wings and FLY.

For $105 per week, I found my haven in one of the most convenient places Brisbane had to offer: right on the border between the CBD and Paddington. Petrie Terrace was one of those streets you could just refer to by name:

“Where do you live?”
“Oh, *hair toss* I live on Petrie Terrace.”
Oooooooooooh.

(Full disclosure: Not once did anybody respond to my address with “Ooooooooh”. Frankly, there was a blatant disregard for my quest for socio-eceonomical status within the wider Brisbane community.)

The apartment was a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny bedsit. Not enough room to swing a cat. Not even enough room to hold a cat gently with your arms outstretched.

For reference: The balcony with the “FOR RENT” sign on it was mine. The entire apartment was only as wide as that bit of wall to which the balcony is attached. That other balcony at the front is a whole separate apartment. (Also, hi Google Maps: I don’t think Princess St goes in that direction at all, guys.)

But what did I need with space, anyway? It’s not like I owned anything of note. My only worldly possessions consisted of a TV and a PS2 (because priorities), and a small, cumbersome dining table. That was literally everything. The TV and PS2 sat on the floor, and the table was jammed into a corner; useless because I had no chairs to sit at. I slept on a foam cushion that I’d borrowed from the back of a friend’s wicker couch. It was a pretty meagre existence, until I got my inflatable armchair.

Yes. Inflatable armchair. This was a thing.

Christopher’s Early 2000s Fad Recap (For Anyone Too Young Or Too Old To Remember)
At the turn of the year/decade/century/millennium, there was a brief period where the pinnacle of home furnishings was your own breath shaped into household items. Photo frames, wastepaper baskets, fruit bowls, even furniture. This trend actually made it very easy for young people moving out on their own, because they could deck out an entire house on the cheap: all you needed was fifty bucks and some Ventolin.

So yes. Inflatable armchair. It was huge, and a horrible shade of purple, and it required blowing into no less than four different sections to make its complete chair shape. But once it was fully inflated and you could sit down (which you needed to, what with all the hyperventilating)? It was glorious. It lived inside, but every morning I’d carry it to my tiny, TINY balcony and have my morning coffee while I looked out over the suburb of Paddington.

Meanwhile, in what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one (but shocked the hell out of me), my job and I continued to be a terrible, terrible fit. Though saved from having to go to an outer suburban store (meaning I could still attend acting classes), I was moved to a different store in the city. The new store was much bigger, and contained Briony: a woman so delightful, whenever I picture her she’s always backlit like Monica in Touched By an Angel.

monica

Artist’s impression. (Well, Roma Downey’s impression, I guess.)

Sadly, Briony was not enough to fix either the horrible job or my horrible attitude towards it. The new store had a huge hobby section: gas powered, radio controlled cars that were built from scratch, model aeroplanes, and those tiny Warhammer figurines. Not learning my lesson from last time, I admitted to management that I knew nothing about any of those areas, and I was particularly uninterested in model car construction: within 48 hours the directive had come down from Springwood that I was to immediately start training—outside work hours if required—to become the new hobbies ‘guru’.

It was a miserable time. For 9.5 hours every Monday to Thursday, 13 hours every Friday, and 9 hours every second Saturday, I would drag myself to work. I felt lost and trapped. I would sometimes feel almost physically ill, like a sinking weight in the pit of my stomach, when I thought about work. I became too tired to do anything outside of work hours: between work and classes, I would simply go home and fall asleep on my sad little foam block.

Soon, the only solace I could find was during the ten minutes I spent in the very early morning, sitting on my inflatable armchair with my coffee, looking out over the balcony. I didn’t have much, but I had those few stolen minutes of me time, which I treasured.

One morning, as I went through this regular ritual of sitting with my coffee in my hideous purple chair-shaped balloon, I felt the familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach—the one that signalled impending work-induced misery. I tried to push it away. This was my BALCONY TIME, dammit. But it felt particularly acute. It was harder to suppress than normal. It was as if my entire stomach was folding in on itself; as if my body was involuntarily curling itself into a ball. I felt a hard pressure against my chest. Was I having a grief-induced heart attack? The pressure on my chest felt like it went straight through me; down my spine to my butt. Could I feel pressure on my butt as well? WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

In my panic, I failed to notice the hissing sound.

My armchair was deflating.

It was the floor pressing against my butt, and my own knees pressing against my chest. I didn’t feel a sinking feeling; I was literally sinking. It wasn’t as if my body was involuntarily curling itself into a ball, it was, in fact, curling itself into a ball. And as I sank, the torn plastic corpse of what was once my arm chair folded in around me.

I scrambled free of my lurid purple body bag before I completely Laura Palmered myself; knocking my coffee cup off the balcony in the process. I stood amid the wreckage, still in my pyjamas, and surveyed my life.

First my free time, then my spirit, then my armchair, then my coffee. The horrible toy store had taken everything. When would the misery end?

Turns out the misery would end that Friday, when my friend and former Tops! coworker Rebecca called me to ask if I wanted to work with her at a video games store in a shopping centre right near mum’s house in Taigum.

monica

Rebecca at that moment. (jk, it’s Roma Downey again.)

And that’s how I quit my job a second time, gave up on living alone a second time, and moved back out to mum’s place in Taigum a second time to work with Rebecca a second time.

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