The Art in Kmart



I spent the closing minutes of today’s session with my therapist trying to remember something. It seems to me that in life, in general, I am stuck trying to remember something. In this case what I was trying to remember was redundant, in the sense that the lost memory simply referred to a motif that had arisen in previous therapy sessions. In other words, I was not attempting to recollect an event or feeling or other construct which had taken place outside of the therapeutic context. Only after an afternoon interval of reading, errands, pornography, more errands, do I remember it now: smokescreen of truth. There is a heatwave and I’m preparing dinner. I have decided to write in this luckyescapes place because I like the expression a lot, and have nowhere else to use it (other than in therapy, where the moment has already passed). I originally used this expression about a year ago to describe one of my key social tricks. By means of candour, I make myself supremely readable, or legible, and behind this authority I can continue to hide. Tell life story, retain, untouched, the actual story. I had only then, a year ago, become aware of my smokescreen of truth.


Another thing I’ve been trying to remember is the name of that diner Kmart used to have. The name of the diner itself is not important to why it is important that I retrieve this memory. I could ask someone from that time and place and we could wax nostalgic, summoning ghosts of our young mothers (for me, always an image of a grey calfskin ankle boot) and the lurid phantasmagoria of cafeteria food in the eighties: garden salads, pre-prepared plates of hot chips, jelly (red or green) accompanied by whipped cream from a can. I could google all this so fast. And then there would be no reason to keep writing, when I could simply scroll through the images of the uniforms worn by the staff at this eatery, an ersatz Australian take on an ersatz American take on something else. French maids, but with a Laura Ashley colour palette. I’m closing my eyes and going from memory. I won’t look. I love that when I try to remember the name of the diner in Kmart I remember that I have already both forgotten and successfully retrieved the name in other years. That is the memory: it is a memory of forgetting, in anticipation of a certain, eventual satisfaction of full recollection. All I need is the (unnecessary) name. I won’t ask. I also love that marvellous false name my mind throws up: ‘Culleys’. Culleys, if that is the correct spelling, was, and probably still is the name of a tearoom in Fremantle that comes to mind in this moment because This Was Another Place I Was Taken To By My Mother. It’s a shit hole now, or at least, it was five or so years ago when I coaxed my mum and utterly unsentimental sister in for tea and scones. Mums and their tea rooms. Mums and their rooms. Culleys is not the name I’m calling for, yet it rushes to attention. Culleys! I don’t want to go to you.


The Kmart diner did not have a room of its own, and I believe this quality was what made it special – that there was simply an arbitrary boundary between Kmart proper and the booths of the sit-down eatery. The magic threshold was probably described by waist-high perspex: you could never not see the aisles and tables of the store, and the gentle shopping these engendered. But sitting in not-Culleys, you were partaking of an entirely different form of pleasure, sucking on an iced chocolate or lime spider, paused in the mother of intervals.