Pinocchio said he wanted to be a real boy, and I echo those sentiments.
I lean over the rail of the ferry as it cruises upriver towards the heart of the city. The water of the river is brown, and curdles over itself in our wake. It is like looking into a river of cold coffee.
I think about that little wooden puppet, and when I do, I don’t see a doll of timber pieces. I see me. I am strung up by strings that reach into darkness. I hang there, barely touching the ground. I look like a thing discarded. Ask me what or who discarded me.
I discarded me. Somewhere above me, my reason watches. Every now and then, it gives a little tug on one or more strings, and an awful hope bores into me, spilling sawdust and wood shavings to the floor. If I was a puppet, I’d cut my strings and run away. If you asked me what I was running away from, I’d say me. Then you could say I’m running from my own reason, and I would realise I’m no better off than when I was a limp puppet.
I open my puppet eyes, and cold coffee whorls by. Ah yes, the filthy river. Whenever I travel by ferry, the river holds a manifest attraction for me. Just as I see a puppet in my head, I see something else when I open my eyes and look at the swirling waters below. There is more than mud and filth and human waste in this river. Above me in darkness is my reason. Below me, turning over in the murk to show glimpses of its serpentine body, replete with scars old and new, is my soul.
My doctor says there are doors in my head.
I like my doctor. He is a level-headed fellow who suffers my occasional ranting and raving with good grace. Sometimes he even thinks it’s funny. Which it is. I intend for it to be. I want to amuse him–to have his approval. He is aware of this, though, and tells me I have doors in my head, that I open them too wide to show people what’s inside.
I tell him I am not happy. I suspect he thinks I am a joke, but at a hundred dollars per session, why would he say so? I go to him, and he always manages to help me put things into perspective. I can calm down and understand the situation a little better. He tells me his own stories to illustrate how the things that happen to me, also happen to him. Because others feel these emotions, I stop persecuting myself for having felt them too. He says that in his opinion ninety-five percent of the people in our society have a psychiatric problem, and of those, perhaps sixty percent need medicating.
He doesn’t say what percentage of psychiatric problems puppets have.
I think of the many people I have referred to as morons. People I don’t even know. People I have tried to will to death, and those I have–regrettably–attacked in my more asinine moments. When I think about these people, I disagree with my doctor. In my puppet head, the percentages are much higher.
Sometimes, when I am capable and my depression has not debilitated me, I work.
Ask me what I do when I work.
I work as a puppeteer. I don’t have a Pinocchio in my ensemble, but I would like one. This will not do, however, until I have stopped being Pinocchio and become a real boy. And I cannot do this because I am convinced real boys don’t play with puppets. Real boys, I have learned (perhaps erroneously) don’t do these things. They don’t see their souls in rivers, or have doors in their heads, or talk to psychiatrists.
I have wanted to be a real boy for so long. But, in truth, real boys make me want to vomit.
So instead, I wander around these Brisbane streets. I have become many things: a goth; a thief; a myth. Always an artist, that irreplaceable brace for my sanity. This artificial boy has plunged his life into paints and photography and print and puppets. It has saved him. He has opened the doors and his mind has flowed forth like treacle on a summer day.
Ask me what this has achieved.
This treacle I poured over my daily grind, and with those wheels now oiled, with new puppet shows made and played, and the children beaming. This wonderment of ages past is a miracle to them! The Pinocchio puppets in my head step through those doors–a whole new audience is discovered. These children have the power to see past the coffee river. They see my soul!
Oh, what relief.
Children, I have always said, have the ability to cut through the crud. These progeny are now my miracles, as my puppets are their miracles. When I look up, I have the strength to see into the gloom and dispel it. My reason is revealed to me. And you know what? It’s not so bad.
If I can make your children laugh, and they can imagine new worlds into life having witnessed me imagine life into my puppets, then I don’t want to be a real boy. I would rather be Pinocchio any day.