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G. INCIVILITY GOT UNDER MY SKIN

January 28, 2009

Meh, it was nothing. Not a matter of life, death or football. Merely a surprise change to the show’s format. Patently though, what Layla viewed as ‘just another thump of incivility’ triggered her rapid tumble down the dark chasm.

Only moments before, she had jauntily skipped towards the large platform constructed in the middle of the Main Hall. As she stood expectantly in the spotlight, the hyenas hadn’t encroached stealthily as per usual. She wondered why.

That’s why. Suddenly, additional lighting revealed a number of circular tracks overhead… concentric and tight together. On each track was a screen. Puh, the screens looked ridiculous… they’d been placed in makeshift trolleys. Someone had glued pairs of plastic wings on them. Stuck to the top of the screens were items relating to past Layla events… some glorious, some not… all questionable – falcon, picture of Callo, pair of aces, slab of beer, Collingwood guernsey… she got the drift.

The screens were simultaneously turned on and a celebrity head appeared in each. Oh no, remote controls. As Jenny introduced this posse of politicians, analysts and journalists, they limbered up by practicing their remote controlling skills. They darted back and forth, stopping and starting. They hid behind and chased each other. The kitschy crap on top knocked against other kitschy crap. They were already looking askew and untidy. And the wretched screeching and squeaking grated.

Well, Layla had faked that jauntiness. Really, she was jaded and clinging to the rock face by her tippy toes. Today was yet another day she’d woken up wearing the skull face. ‘Jaunty’ was her excruciating attempt to snap out of it and integrate with normality.

This prank was disrespectful. Tiresome and clumsy. Embarrassing to be associated with. If they’d wanted to be technically swish they should have used holographic software and not this clunky system of metal and wires. Anyway, they should have told me. Am I not a person? The producers are idiots… and cheapskates. This inanity grinds you down.

Layla had given up, come down off her tippy toes and fallen into a tail spin. Her lips were pursed. She glowered. Lava Layla.

Watching in the hall, we became extremely apprehensive… on tenterhooks. What would she do? But we were puzzled. What was her problem? The set-up was gimmicky maybe… but just a bit of a laugh. This is TV after all. The girl’s taking herself too seriously. Maybe she should get out of the kitchen. But, but, she always looked so poised and vibrant.

None of us realized the extent of her depression and how irrationally it could manifest. The increasing frequency and depth of these debilitating bouts panicked Layla… which was counter-productive. She had expected… prayed… that they would evaporate once she declared her ‘hand’. Why still there… and worsening?

Well, there were plenty of reasons that she might feel overwhelmed, distraught or even afraid.

The Australian Prime Minister had informed her of an ultimatum received from a foreign government. Unless ‘the spell was broken’ a nuclear assault would be launched on Australia. Your joking! No, the Prime Minister, serious and stern, was at pains to ensure Layla understood that this was a very credible threat and, if she didn’t have a way to prevent the bombs from dropping, she should put things back to the way they were… immediately.

The foreign power, which couldn’t be named, was happy to give Layla what she wanted anyway… that meeting… just don’t be so monstrous as to endanger the whole species to get your way. That’s them talking… not me, your Prime Minister… I can only plead that you see sense.

And, of course, there were the assassination attempts which had brutally murdered ninety five WCA volunteers and one long standing mate – Callo.

These rather difficult situations could affect one’s mental health. However, Layla had anticipated that there would be these types of responses. They were probably unhelpful but it must have been something else that caused her deterioration. Maybe, the WCA.

Yes, the WCA had suffered for this cause… but they were also a source of suffering. Many of the high powered WCA positions were filled by people who were every bit as aggressive, deceitful and insufferable as the establishment they were now toe to toe with. They relished this unexpected opportunity to trade punches with their hand-tied foes and, rather disgustingly to Layla, often treated their counterparts contemptuously assailing them with lengthy, self-righteous speeches full of triumphant flourishes.

But Layla needed the WCA. It was said to her that a certain amount of payback was unavoidable but that policies and practices were now in place that would minimize offensiveness in future. That had to do. She found working with the bullies very unpleasant but decided it was more productive to put up with it than risk the whole enterprise by kicking up a fuss. It was her decision but she didn’t believe it was the right thing to do. It gnawed… the ignoring.

Or maybe it was predominantly her personal burdens that blew her brains. The secretive nature of her relationship with Joel and Cath… the diminishing bond with her step-father Graham… a niggling suspicion of Pippy’s motives.

Or could it be biological… a chemical imbalance? Yep, after Googling she was fearful that it may be and… she hadn’t sought treatment because it would apparantly jeopardize the planet project.

She had confided to David, a WCA PR consultant, that she might see a psychiatrist for help with her mood swings. He’d reacted with dismay… she couldn’t do that right now… those bastards would jump on any sign of weakness and use it against her and the WCA… the whole house of cards would be sabotaged. Anyway, she’d be fine after the agreements had been signed… the pressure would be off… and those head doctors don’t know what they are doing… they just put you in a stupor.

Layla wished she hadn’t revealed her vulnerability to David. She distrusted the sincerity of his vehement outburst believing the WCA agenda was to control her actions. She felt she was being strangled by them. He had a point though. It might be too risky. For as long as she could remember she’d developed strategies for coping. She could deal with it for a while longer.

What else? Well, unexpectedly for Layla, after the initial jarring shock of her intervention, her popularity had increased. WCA commissioned polls had found that, even in the least supportive areas, there were more in favour of her action than against. Better still, few of those in favour could articulate specific benefits of the ‘great meeting’ she had summoned. These fools were simply abdicating to super woman. This, the WCA felt, was a ‘free roll’ that should be used while it lasted.

When David found out that Layla was to appear on ‘Up Close, It’s Personal’, he ran in a rage towards his draft policy document ‘How Layla Should Comport Herself In Public’. As he hastily jotted down his third ‘thou shalt’ bullet point, an idea freed his seething mind into putting his policy back in its holster.

Here was an opportunity to monetize her free roll. Layla, what you need to do on the show is cajole the populace into actively supporting the cause of world peace and freedom… by sending money to the WCA. These funds would be used to lobby politicians who were seeking election into being pro-‘grand meeting’. How beautiful was that? We could use the sordid old lobbying system for some good AND millions of people can claim they were part of changing government policy. Power to the people. God I’m good.

Layla couldn’t deny that it was a solid argument and would, very likely, produce favourable results. Though she was hardly enthused that the strategy for bringing politicians around was to give them the resources to stay in power. David was adamant that it would all change when the new world order kicked in. David was a slimey shit but, in turmoil, Layla rationalized that if the plan had been presented by a more agreeable personality she would have far fewer qualms. What about that gut instinct, Layla, gut instinct.

Anyway, it turned out to be a chemical imbalance. However, the severity of the depression was greatly impacted by stressful situations and the environment. So, happily, everything got a guernsey.

“I’ve asked a question Ms Parkin. Please look at me.”

That was Sandy Hunt, Herald Sun columnist, who had scarpered round the back of her and braked. He’d been pleasantly surprised at Layla’s uncharacteristic fragility and was hoping to twist the knife in. Layla was boiling and would have loved to shut his smug face up.

“Anyone who wants to ask a question can come round here in front of me.” She snapped.

“Oh, turn it up will you. Thanks for the offer but no thanks. Already, you’re not sticking to the deal. You are required to engage directly with us… you promised you’d play ball… jumping through hoops if necessary. But that’s typical of your arrogance and your need to have the whole world accommodate you. Maybe we should just leave you to your devices and get back to our more productive occupations.”

As usual, Sandy was partly right. This show fed on incivility and, by agreeing to participate, Layla had implicitly consented to have it heaped upon her. The idea was to put you on the back foot and have you so disorientated that you forgot your own spin and said what you thought… not what you were taught.

Although Layla’s bleak brain couldn’t pick a positive, she knew that if she didn’t urgently find a way through this malaise she’d end up going ape. She had to detach from herself… think of something else… someone else. Her composure would return.

Oh Adam. What went through your mind way back then? We could see you were off-balance but you plugged away. I think your sincere efforts and your playing along should have earned you increasing respect among the pack… but it didn’t… only sneers and snorts. You kept plugging away. Proud of you.

The words “It will pass” came to her and calmed her down… gave her a changed perspective. In a moment she couldn’t remember what had agitated so much. That was unsettling in itself.

Good, back in the saddle. And she still didn’t want to acquiesce to this silly metal rail game. And David could go fuck himself too. Being managed wasn’t working for her.

Layla smiled at all of us as she gingerly lay down on her back.

“Ahhh, that’s much better. I can see everyone quite easily now.”

This action was roundly condemned by a number of the participants. Sandy fumed. Even Jenny thinly smiled that it wasn’t quite what she had in mind.

“Are you are lying down on the job?”

“Yes and no, Jenny. Of course, physically yeah… it’s been a long day. But it’s a marvelous vantage point. I’m best placed to provide full commitment to this dialogue just as I agreed. And, to please Sandy, I’ll be wearing my most pained expression.”

Jenny realized that further pleading would risk ruining the spectacle. She nervously laughed that there was never a dull moment and let’s make do as best we can. If the screens could have shrugged they would have. Several danced around the rails till Penny got it going again.

[Penny Tawts, entertainment reporter]:
“We’ve admired your superb skills on the playing field and now, in astonishment, have witnessed you perform the impossible. I’m left shaking my head and wondering what else you can do… how far does it go… are there limits? Tell us how you do it?”

That’s pretty soft Penny. Might as well have a parachute attached. It’s weird being here on the floor looking up at this nonsense buzzing about like… hmmm let’s see. Layla felt tickled as she tried out a number of endings.

‘flies round shit’ made her feel worthless and sick. ‘So many doting grandmothers’ evoked feelings of being loved and pampered.

Interesting. Different description, different demeanor.

Oops, better answer the question before Penny gets sore from all that head shaking.

[Layla]:
“I really don’t know, Penny. I mean I don’t know the science of it. I just think of something and it happens. I think Pippy has a lot to do with it though he never owns up.

The hand glow is my party piece, of course. People like it. I wheel it out because it’s pretty and non-threatening.

But, yeah, I’m good for more than contraception… said the actress to the bishop.”

Did I say that? I am a bit coarse at times.

“Errrrr…. I won’t list an ‘inventory’ of tricks or talk about boundaries or potency… that just wouldn’t be wise. I don’t want to give any ammunition to those who would prefer me out of the picture.

Look, some people suggest that I shouldn’t have bothered with this baby ban… that I should have just fixed the world so everyone has enough to eat and a comfortable place to live. I agree… and I’ve tried it but… nothing… maybe that’s a limit. Maybe I didn’t believe in it enough.

Oh, and let me, again, make it clear that I’m not God. And, as far as I know, neither is Pippy. I’m aware there’s a small group of people that identify as Layla followers… and say prayers to me. Ewww, it’s inappropriate.”

Layla was getting by. Getting by.

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