My friend Bob and I are at an archery range at Ironfest, a giant medieval/ WW2 tank/ cosplaying affair and I have just discovered I have forgotten my wallet at my home, three hours away in Sydney. This seems fitting, another element of chaos in the bewildering kaleidoscope of random crap that seemed to characterise my life at the moment. As a man dressed as a very pert-nippled bare-chested Roman legionnaire made entirely out of Carlton Draught boxes chatted to an elaborate fairy queen, I kinda roll my eyes and look in my wallet-less bag and thought ‘oh brother, this figures’.
My partner and I have moved house only the day before, and our new house was a tightly-massed squeeze of boxes. I was trying not to think about it, but I knew I would never be able to relax until everything was unpacked and the floor was swept and all my things go in their prescribed places, ok? My health has also taken another turn for the worse, and I am now enjoying the thrills of a FODMAP exclusionary diet – basically I can only eat a limited amount of strange bland foods for a month, and then slowly, week by week, introduce new things into the diet to find out what triggers me into debilitating stomach cramps and bile vomiting and gut-crying. I am not enjoying the idea of taking this diet with me to the US. All I want is a moment of calm, a time to say ‘NOW THE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED, NOW YOU CAN HAVE A LITTLE REST AND EAT GRAPES LIKE A LAZY ANCIENT SENATOR’. All I want is to stop chafing at my problems with my mind. I know they’re not even big problems, they’re just irritants, but it makes me more enthusiastic to eliminate them, like when you spend all night stalking an annoying mosquito around your room, because it’s better to know you’ve dealt with the problem than lie awake and worry about it buzzing next to your ear again, and no Bridget, I can’t turn the light off, I’m hunting!
But there’s something about Ironfest which makes me feel like all these worries, even this new lack of wallet, is somehow irrelevant. And it’s not as if this weird thing puts everything into perspective, it’s more like it’s just the wrong place to get stuck racing around the worn track of your mind. Who can worry about medicare when you’ve just watched a grown man charge his horse at another grown man on a horse, and then that man gets knocked entirely off his horse by a stick? And this is all voluntary, this is a choice these people made. Who can feel trapped by their circumstances when suddenly it’s a fake battle happening with incredibly loud cannons and muskets firing giant plumes of smoke in the air and babies are wailing in horror and your ear-drums feel like they’re going to explode and the fat red man says ‘remember folks, while this isn’t the Battle of Waterloo, it was a few months before it!’ and you nod your head as if that’s a thing that makes sense. The French army sure is padded out with a lot of children or Tyrions!
Back at the archery range and I’m doing my best to do a great shot, with methods learnt from a million fantasy books. Straight back, tight core, draw flush to the jawbone, envision the flame and the void – and boom, my shots are going fast and deliberate, hitting the target, hitting a statue of a turkey. I turn to Bob and he’s looking at a Winnebago on the far ridge and he makes a face like ‘fuck, I think my arrow went up there!’ and this girl standing behind us starts laughing and says ‘Dude, I saw that! I saw that!’ and one of the guys running the range comes over and says ‘what’s going on?’ and sees what we are laughing at and says ‘haha! Oh well! Haha!’ and I feel like sometimes you just have to let yourself shoot the Winnebago.