Hobo University: Day 3
Wake up, cross the sewage creek, dodge the angry plovers, say, “Peace out, Ms. Friz,” and head to the pool. A swim in the water normally costs you eight bucks; however, as I am riding the free train, there is no way I am dropping a cent to get submerged. A nine-foot gate and a pretty girl guard the entrance. I heard that a “fitness passport” grants you access to all areas of the pool and gym, so I tell Linda, “Hey – I paid for a fitness passport yesterday and they said it wasn’t going to be printed for a week, but it’s okay for me to swim.” She seems hesitant.
“Umm… okay, are you a student?”
“Yes,” I reply.
“Alright, I’ll just call my manager.”
My heart rate skips up a bit, but I maintain eye contact, smile and look confident. The manager asks through her if I have a student card. I do; she confirms and hangs up. She then prints me out a temporary membership to use until whenever I need.
I strip down and put on Frizzle’s pink goggles and dive into the delicious cleanliness. Somehow, while caught up in the excitement of getting something for free, I forgot that I actually hate swimming, and am super shit at it. The goggles fog up and are leaking chlorinated water directly into my eyes. I’m exhausted after two laps and give up and dry off. At least I don’t need a shower.
I skate over to my first tute of the day. The class resumes the eternal argument – politics, gender, feminism, neoliberalism, Clive Palmer, rights freedoms, welfare, sex, Simpsons and cesareans – and ends with nothing resolved. A nice young mum in my tutorial offers to let me house-sit her place for the weekend, but I refuse. I’m still not sure why.
Finally, I reach the Guild, ravenous and ready. I exploit its free toast and peanut butter and butter and muesli and tea and biscuits without feeling a morsel of guilt or shame. The Fijian who had the bananas on Wednesday is there too, and we sit down and toast up. I find out that he is the treasurer of the Guild and realise I’m eating a third meal because of him. He waves his hand past the two or three people in the massive open building full of couches and powerpoints and pool tables and says that he is bummed no one comes here. Only international students, as Australia is bullshit expensive and they are super cheap. We decide that Sunny Coast groms have this elitist complex where they would rather buy a sandwich then get a free one – consumerism.
I pound out my second 2000-word essay of the trip and chill out with a bit of Modest Mouse and Dorian Gray.
Ms. Frizzle finishes at six and we head to the Guild for another free cook up – also notified to me by the ever generous Fijian. We walk in and everyone is a little too happy, a little too silent, eager to feed us both a little too much as if life and earth and the sun depended on it, and then I realise it was God. The guy behind the burrito bench is actually a champ who froths on alternative communities and transcendental meditation and (whisper now) is a pastor… maybe it’s the food or the company but I’m feeling pretty relaxed as some jolly man tries to help me download backgammon on my shit Nokia phone – not possible by the way.
They ask us to stick around for a few songs, Ms. Friz is cool with it because she loves God heaps but is worried that I will freak out – I’m pretty indifferent and go with it. We move over to the other side of the room to a corner with couches. Now I am aware why Frizzle offered me a bailout pass. Hope written in a big cross is projected onto a screen, and Jesus insignia covers the table next to the band. Not really a band – more just the pastor with a guitar singing “Jesus loves you” and “Give it all up for Jesus” for 20 minutes, which is interspersed by a man who I spoke to moments before about him owning three Mr. Toy’s Toyworlds who is now shouting in ecstasy, “We love you Lord, thank you Jesus, oh Jesus.” I am afraid of laughing and concentrate on the bongos on my lap, playing a little tip tap tip tap rhythm with my fingertips which I envision sounds like rain. Tip tap tip tap. I try to block out the humming and all the weird sincere emotion, and the love and the pain, and then the big dude sitting next to me who attempted to help download backgammon starts speaking in tongues, like a mix of Latin and Jibberish, mmmgrooorrbbb. I try to block it out with the bongo rain, tip tap tip tap tip tap tip tap, but feel a giggle rising in my belly and a smile pulling across my face. I look across to Ms. Friz for reassurance, but she has her eyes closed, deep in prayer, and I realise that I am alone in the whirling spiritual engrossment, just me and my little bongo.
As we leave, the pastor asks us if we would mind getting prayed for, I’m totally down for some free prayer, and Friz seems pretty excited too. Everyone in the room stands and shuts their eyes in silence as the pastor stares into ours and wishes us good luck in our endeavors and tells us that he can see a bright light in our futures and that our seeds will yield good fruit. I am pretty fucking grateful for the free prayer – it’s nice to feel love no matter what shape or form.
Previously: Hobo University – Day 2