I had a strange experience this weekend. I travelled down to Melbourne with my boyfriend to attend the All Tomorrow’s Parties: I’ll Be Your Mirror festival. My previous ATP experience largely involved lounging on a grassy hill, eating cheese and watching Nick Cave perform over and over, so I had high expectations for this festival.
Things began going wrong the night before. HTRK were doing a secret show two doors down from our hotel and we had free tickets. When we got to the venue, the security guards kept going on about ‘no pass-outs’ – once you go in, you can’t come back out. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, like they wanted to trap me. I know that’s not what they meant, but the thought just got under my skin. I remained uncomfortable for the rest of my holiday.
The venue for ATP was oppressively hot and crowded. There were no grassy hills to lie on. There was nowhere to sit at all except the hard floor. My sense of being trapped persisted. I sought refuge in an air-conditioned beanbag-filled cinema, fighting back tears as I stared at the projector screen and chastised myself for not appreciating the amazing bands I was seeing.
A security guard crouched down beside me and asked if I was okay. I assumed he thought I was drunk or on drugs and he was checking to make sure I wasn’t going to pass out on his watch. It’s not the first time security personnel have regarded my occasionally uneven mental state at concerts with suspicion. I assured him I was fine, composed myself as best I could, and ventured back outside.
By the second day of the festival I was feeling slightly better and was able to enjoy myself a little more. Still, when it all became too much for me I would go back to the cinema to calm down in the dark for a while. One time, I found the security guard blocking my path up the stairs. He said the cinema was full, but as I turned to leave he stopped me.
“Why you always look so sad in the face?” he asked.
“You have very sad face. Yesterday you look like you in tears. And I wonder, why is that?”
I was so surprised that for a moment I was honest with him. “I’m always a little sad, I guess.”
“Why?” He asked again.
I didn’t know what to say. How could I possibly explain to him my history of mental illness, my struggle to cope without medication, my continued grieving for my little bird, my immense guilt that I was in the presence of universally revered musicians who had not graced my country’s shores for decades, if at all, and all I could care about was getting home to bed?
So I told him the same thing I have been telling everyone for my entire life.
“I’m tired. I’m just really tired.”
And he let me into the cinema.