CORRIDORS OF NEW SOUTH WALES
I had this dream of being the number one corridor outfitter and salesman in the state of New South Wales. I came up with the idea when I was a young man, just finished schooling. I did my research. You hear nothing but other people's opinions when you're that age. I looked around and saw people making good money off kitchens, bathrooms, sunrooms, saunas, pools and sheds. Plenty of shops with plant pots and lamps for your bedroom. And nothing but fuck all for your corridor. Can you believe that? Your corridor. Where do you spend the most time each day? Whether you're trudging to the john or dawdling to the kitchen for a snack, or just stopping to enjoy the pictures on the wall, you're spending nearly the whole day in the corridor. It was a major growth sector.
I came up with a business name, which was Corridors of New South Wales, and a slogan, which was "Get to where you're going". And I took that down to the bank and I told 'em, fix me up. And they did. You could get a line of credit on anything back then. I said, "I'll be doing up corridors. You want to impress your guests, you want a corridor from yours truly." And the bank manager's wife heard that and said, "Aw, honey, could we? Get him to come on over." And I did. I showed up at their apartment the next day. She was the only one there. Turned out she wasn't his wife, if you know what I mean. I fixed up their corridor with some tasteful nudes, a bowl of ornamental hazelnuts, some coathooks that were a certain shape. I won't say what shape. That was my first job. I got a lot of referrals from that corridor. The bank manager's girlfriend had a lot of parties with people who liked how her corridor looked. I'd pick up the phone and say "Corridors of New South Wales," and they'd purr "Get to where you're going."
I bought a truck and drove around to all these fancy apartments with their drab white corridors and I made the corridors something special. It was the best business I've ever had. I didn't realise at the time I was munching through my salad days. I lived the high life. I started getting invited to premieres and galas. I was at a gala every week. Sometimes I didn't even know what the gala was for. I'd have to lean over to the stuffed shirt next to me and dig him in the ribs and say, "hey, what's this one for?" And then I'd give him my card. I got surgery on my chin. I got a dimple added. I had a lot of mistresses. I didn't believe in using protection. There was an element of danger to my line of work: corridors were not part of the status quo. As a result I attracted risk takers. I ended up getting in bed with some people who I shouldn't have.
One of them was Becky. Becky was mean as a snake. Then there was Tina. Tina was sweet but she was an idiot. Tina had no brains at all. They fought over me. Becky was evil and cunning. Tina used primitive animal instincts. She slobbered on everything. One day she slipped over on her own slobber and went crashing into a woodpile. We were on a three way date to a lumber mill at the time. The logs came crashing down on her. They fucked her up real bad. When we visited her in the hospital she had a cast over her whole body. I said to the doc, "hey, cut that off. I gotta see that tight body." And he told me "no sir." Said it was never coming off. I said what do you mean. He said she's in that cast for good. I said she's a god damn clam now is what you're saying. She's a god DAMNED shell fish and he said yes sir effectively she is. You may as well take her home because we can't do anything for her.
Between Becky and I we had to remember to drop a little soup in Tina's shell everyday. Sometimes we forgot and I'd feel terrible. At the end of the day Tina never really complained though. Tina hadn't talked much before the accident. She was dumb as shit. She didn't have the thoughts to put into words. All the same it put a dampener on business. No one wanted to buy a corridor from the guy with the mean wife and the human sized clam shell in his office. Course Becky wasn't really my wife, but you couldn't tell people that. They'd come in for a quote and silently judge me about how mean Becky was but as soon as I told them she wasn't my wife they'd start making excuses about how they didn't have room in their budget for an expensive corridor as they walked out backwards. I'd limp out to the carpark shouting, "Come back here! You have no idea what she's like!" As for Tina, it became easier to just pretend she was a clam. I painted her shell pink with lines on the side. Eventually it made sense to give her fish food. Tina never complained.
At some point the company slogan started to feel cloying. Every day I'd get to the office and look out the window through the decal that said "Get to where you're going" and feel bitter about how I wasn't. Becky got knocked up and stayed knocked up for once. Bad timing. The baby came out and he was no good. We called him Apollo. It was Becky's idea. She loved Greek myths. I said to her, Apollo was a loser. Unlucky in love. God of poetry and manly beauty and nothing works out for him. You want that for our son? I remember that moment. She looked me in the eye and said, "Better than being a corridor salesman." We were in the corridor at the time and she looked up at the ceiling, at the two close walls, at the floor, and it was like I'd awoken from a long sleep, disoriented. Like I was looking at something unfamiliar. I suddenly hated it. I couldn't remember what I'd once liked about corridors. The light was too bright and the ground was dusty. I realised I didn't have a single good memory associated with the corridor.
I went to work the next day and sat at my desk with my head in my hands and let the phone ring out. When I got home Becky was gone. She'd cleared out and taken Apollo. She'd even taken Tina. I sat in the empty lounge room and ate pinches of Tina's fish food out of the box. On the mantlepiece Becky had forgotten to sweep a box of nag champa and some loose change and a picture of Apollo into her bag. I fell asleep and dreamt of a conversation with 18 year old Apollo, newly emancipated from his mother's clutches, turning up fresh faced and curious at the old corridor showroom he'd been warned never to visit. Me withered and hobbling, my back hunched from decades of humping skirting boards and hall runners into long rooms, my face lined and careworn. "What happened, dad," he'd ask, plaintively, unblinking, looking straight into my eyes. Me: no idea. "I'll never know, son," I'd finally say. Him short and blonde. So different to me. So petite. "Were the corridors worth it?" he'd ask. No way to answer it. Years of simple repetition. Measure, quote, order, deliver. Doorway to doorway. Corridor after corridor. I'd survived, hadn't I. Not that that's impressive to an 18-year-old. He wants an old man who's a wreck or a wild success. Not this. "Not really," I'd tell him. He'd nod sympathetically, performing understanding. And he'd walk out of there and never come back. And I dreamt of Tina, who found her way in but not out, warm, dreaming, complete.