Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories.
Before we get into it, on July 18, 2020, I’ll be making a tentative return to the stage with three socially-distanced mini shows at Giant Dwarf in Sydney. The 5:30 pm show will be livestreamed with Auslan interpreters, so if you’re listening to this podcast from regional Australia or overseas, you can book for the livestream at giantdwarf.com.au. It’s a pay-what-you-feel situation including a free ticket for those without funds. The streamed show will stay online after the event for people who have other things to be doing with their Saturday night.
And now, Claire Christian is a playwright, author and theatre maker. Her first novel Beautiful Mess won the Text Publishing Text Prize in 2016. Her play Lysa and The Freeborn Dames debuted at La Boite in 2018. She directed Michelle Law’s smash hit comedy Single Asian Female. And her next novel will be released in October 2020. Claire has a pug named Midge, a deep affinity for garlic bread, and never has boring hair…ever. She performed this story at Brisbane Comedy Festival with a small and ridiculous cameo care of yours truly and Jordan Raskopoulos. Enjoy.
Hello, hi. Thanks, people over here. I don’t know who you are, but I feel very happy now.
So, my first novel came out in 2017 and I was 33. It had taken me until I was 31 to truly acknowledge that the dream to write a novel was very legitimate, and despite my insecurities, I owed it to myself to do it. So, I did. On the night of my book launch, my best friend from high school came and she gave me a present. It was a gift that I’d actually given her when we were 14, and I had completely forgotten about its existence.
It was a story that I had written: I’d printed it out, got my dad to bind it at his work so it was legit, and I’d given it to her for Christmas. She had the only copy that exists and she was the only person ever to have read it. A few weeks before my launch, she had moved house, and she had found it in a box, and thought it was only fitting to gift it back to me at my book launch.
The novel is called Dreams Do Come True and it is an adolescent masterpiece. I spent the following night trawling awkwardly through all 47 pages, equal parts horrified, embarrassed and deeply protective of the girl who had written these words. Some serious shit went down when I was 14 – well, for everyone I guess, when you’re 14 – but the kind of pattern-forming, intimacy-affecting shit, that I still navigate as an adult lady today, so, the girl in these pages, she is never far from my mind.
When I get asked to do anything like this, I can’t help but think about her, because this vision right now that you are all getting to marvel at – this queer, fat, bold, self-assured woman who has gotten to do and kiss and wear some amazing things and people, and who has the coolest fucking job ever – is so beyond what 14-year-old Claire could ever have comprehended for her life.
So, I thought, seeing as I’m safe with my community this evening, it felt right to honour 14-year-old Claire, by sharing with you parts from Dreams Do Come True. [loud cheering and applause] Thanks.
Okay, so to set the scene, I wrote this in 1998 and I am in Grade 9. I grew up on the Gold Coast as a quirky, chubby kid who liked theatre and hated the beach, so high school was really fun for me. I also went to school with only a class of 48 kids so the likelihood of me making out with anyone in my grade was really fucking slim.
So, I devoured romantic comedies with a feverish passion. The level of which I was invested in Mary-Anne and Logan’s relationship in The Baby-Sitters Club is intense, and my devotion to Pacey Witter is a deep kind of religious faith that remains strong to this day. Whose creek? Pacey’s Creek.
I wear my hair in multiple twists pinned securely with small plastic butterfly clips. And I am still a few years off acknowledging that my crush on Drazic from Heartbreak High is just as legitimate as my ‘celebrity crush’ on Sarah McLachlan. Folks, it’s just because her music is so beautiful and emotional. I’m also certain that all my friends have dreams where they make out with Lauryn Hill, so yeah, that’s not even a thing.
So, this is the context, and the complex cocktail of hormones, loneliness, burgeoning, very quiet, queerness and adolescence that cooked up Dreams Do Come True.
Can I add that re-typing sections word-for-word from Dreams Do Come True for tonight, was a supremely painful and embarrassing exercise that I went through for you, Queerstories, so, you’re welcome.
Okay, I think you’re ready.
He had a little bit of glitter on his chin, I lent over and wiped it off, it was still stuck, so I moved in closer. I looked into his eyes, and our lips met. There was no hesitation, it was like we were two pieces of a puzzle that had finally connected to connect this masterpiece. Our first kiss, I thought. I felt his hands in my hair. I was so close to him, I could smell him. I inhaled deeply.
I just, I just want to reiterate that 14-year-old Claire has not kissed anyone or been close to kissing anyone at this stage in her life.
As we come up for air, I looked at him and smiled.
‘What now?’ I whispered.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. I was trembling. He pulled me in closer, ‘I’ve got an idea though.’
He pulled me in again – I don’t know how far apart they were – and our lips met, his tongue danced inside my mouth. [audience cheering] I felt numb. This was too good to be true. The many nights I had dreamt about it, and now it was really happening. I would remember this moment forever.
I could hear the vacuum getting closer to my door, and I pulled the pillow from under my head and threw it over my eyes. Typical. That would have to be the best dream I have ever had. I rolled over and closed my eyes again, but no use, Mum was already yelling something from downstairs.
Another day in the life of me, Darcey. Thanks. Oh babes, wait, strap in.
I run my fingers through my hair and think about my dream, and smile. Who is he? I normally have dreams like this one where some completely romantic person, who just seems too good to be true sweeps me off my feet. What can I say? I wish it would happen for real. It’s like ever since I got to high school, and I became interested in relationships, no one has even found me the slightest bit interesting. That’s three years without a male in my life – how do I live, you ask…
Now, I’ve done something interesting with the form there, because I start to talk directly to the reader, which I think is a really bold creative choice. But I also like the question that I’ve posed because my answer is a clear indication of my newly burgeoning feminist politic.
That’s three years without a male in my life – how do I live, you ask? Quite simply.
Okay, so some serious shit goes down for Darcey, we meet her best friend Nathan, who is just like the hottest guy at school, who everyone fancies and wants to be with, but Darcey is all like, he’s my friend. So, then a new guy shows up at school, his name is Curtis. He has an eyebrow ring because it’s 1998, and lo and behold he thinks Darcey is amazing. But Nathan and her though, they start fighting, which she just can’t understand, and Darcey ponders the very serious question – why can’t everything in my life just go right for once?
Anyway, Nathan and Darcey are pissed off with each other, because Nathan thinks Curtis with the eyebrow ring is a wanker, and Darcey doesn’t care what Nathan thinks. So, Curtis with the eyebrow ring and Darcey get together, and they’ve been together for around two months when they have this conversation.
Curtis and I are sitting in my room listening to a new CD that he’d just bought, when the topic of sex just happens to come up.
I’m going to reiterate, I’ve not kissed anyone when I’ve written this.
‘Darce, I think we should take our relationship to the next level,’ he says, completely out of the blue.
‘And what do you mean by that?’ I say cheekily.
‘Well, you know, I really like you, and I know you like me, and I think we’re old enough to—’
I interrupt him. ‘You think we’re old enough to have sex?’ There was no point beating around the bush.
‘Do you honestly want to know what I think,’ I say as I take his hand and kiss it. Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous about talking about sex with Curtis, but it’s such a big part of being a teenager, so I am fully prepared for this conversation.
‘Don’t get me wrong, I like you, I like you a lot, but we’ve only been going out for like two months and plus we’re just still getting to know each other. And I think doing that would just point our relationship in the wrong direction. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve thought about it, and sometimes I feel like I want to, but then I sit down and I really think about it, and I want my first time to be something that I remember because it was special.’
Only if you fast forward four years, you’ll find 18-year-old Claire decide she’ll just get it over and done with because she’s the last one of her friends to have sex so she fucks the 24-year-old guy who works in the seafood department at Woolworths who wears a band-aid on his cheek like the rapper Nelly. Yeah, it was real special.
So, this is when shit really hits the fan: Darcey’s older sister, who we’ve never met in the story before this moment, is in a car accident, and this incident forces Nathan and Darcey back together to realise that their friendship is legit and they should stop fighting. Her sister is miraculously healed in a matter of weeks. Then one afternoon Darcey pops into her boyfriend Curtis’ house and finds him making out with another girl. [gasp] I know. It’s because he had an eyebrow ring. It turns out he’d had a girlfriend this whole time. So Darcey is devastated, mainly because she can’t go to the formal anymore. Nathan is there to comfort her often, which she is so grateful for. One afternoon she’s down on the beach and Curtis finds her.
I sat on the beach, thinking about the night Curtis and I met, it was so clear, but then I realise, he’d lied to me that first night, our whole relationship was a lie. I didn’t know Curtis at all.
‘Darcey?’ I look in front of me, he was standing there just like he was the first day I saw him. [audience heckles, inaudible] Yeah, that’s what I should have said but I described him as ‘like an angel’.
‘Darcey, I’ve been trying to find you, I thought you’d be here,’ he says looking me in the eye.
‘I guess you think you know me pretty well, don’t you, Curtis?’ I say looking at him. I’m so angry. Because I liked him so much.
‘What do you mean?’ he says, sitting next to me.
‘Two months, in two months I told you everything about me. I confided in you. I thought you were someone special.’ I pause. ‘I trusted you.’
‘I confided in you too, Darcey.’
It starts to rain, but I don’t care. ‘Don’t Curtis, don’t lie to me again.’
‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. But you have to believe me now, me and Brooke we’re over,’ he says touching my arm, but I push it away. He touched me the way he has so many times before, his skin is so soft and cold, but it feels hot – cold, I know – like his touch is burning my skin.
‘So, what do you expect me to do? Take you back?’
Anyway, they keep fighting. It keeps raining. It’s very dramatic. She storms off.
‘Darcey wait, I haven’t stopped thinking about you, I think I’m in love with you.’ He grabs my arm, turns me around and kisses me hard on the mouth but I don’t kiss him back.
‘Goodbye, Curtis,’ I say and walk up the beach. [audience cheers]
So, Darcey goes home, and Nathan is there and she tells him all about the fight on the beach. And she’s sad, and Nathan is comforting her, and then much to Darcey’s shock, he kisses her, and this kiss, folks, as she says, ‘the most intense moment of my life.’ And it hits her, full square in the face: I’d always had feelings for Nathan! It was like life had neatly slotted into place, just because of this small amazing kiss.
So, while Darcey is having the fucking revelation of the century here, Nathan apologies and he runs away, and they don’t see each other again until the dance, which she decides to go to after all.
Chapter Sixteen – this is the big finale, babes, and I feel like it’s only right, that because we have shared this experience together, that we bring this to life. So I’ve asked some people to give me a hand.
So Maeve will be playing Nathan and Jordan will be playing Darcey. So remember, it’s 1998 and they’re at the school dance.
I thought I’d do something to set the tone – Andy. [Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ starts playing.]
This is the finale. That’s when I feel his arms go around my waist. I turn around quickly and we bump heads. [audience laughs]
I say smiling, the speech I’d prepared to say flew out of my head and I couldn’t remember a word. We start to dance, we are so in tune, our bodies just flow together and I feel so happy.
NATHAN You look really nice.
I blush. He had a little bit of glitter on his chin – babes, it’s from the beginning – I lent over and wiped it off, it was still stuck, so I moved in closer, I looked into his eyes, and our lips met. There was no hesitation, it was like we were two pieces of a puzzle that finally connected to complete the masterpiece.
Our second kiss, I thought, the one that said everything was going to be okay, and that we understood each other. I felt his hands in my hair, I was so close to him I could smell him. I inhaled deeply. As we come up for air, I look at him and smile.
DARCEY What now?
DARCEY [whispering] What now?
NATHAN I don’t know.
He says, I am trembling, he pulls me in closer.
NATHAN I’ve got an idea.
He pulls me in again, our lips meet, his tongue dances inside of my mouth. I feel numb, this is too good to be true.
NATHAN I love you, Darcey.
DARCEY I love you too.
NATHAN I always have.
DARCEY I always will.
He wraps his arms around me like he’s never going to let me go. I close my eyes, then open them again, this wasn’t a dream. It was real. The end!
So, later this year my second novel comes out, and it is a romantic comedy, called It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake, and it’s about a fat, bisexual, woman in her mid-thirties, who decides she needs more pleasure in her life. Babes, they say you should write what you know. So, she writes a list of all the people in her life she wishes she’d had sex with, and goes on a quest to fuck them all.
Her bucket list, is actually a fuck it list – but, this doesn’t go so well, and through her sexual misadventures she discovers that her pleasure isn’t about people, and it’s about herself – about doing what feels good for her, and not pleasing other people.
It’s a weird thing to know that there’ll be sex scenes in the world that I have written, it’s strangely vulnerable, but at least I’ve have had sex now, so I can write from experience, unlike 14-year-old Claire. But, 14-year-old Claire was right about a few things: sex dreams about Lauryn Hill are always a real thing, and dreams can, and do, come true.
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