A Comic and a Sadist Walk into a Cubicle

Alice Chipkin  

The day Eyes Too Dry went to print, I celebrated by getting my dance on at a folk gig in the city. As I was peeing in familiar Toff territory, I saw a fresh word scrawled onto the back of the cubicle wall: ‘sadist’. Were the sharpie gods speaking to me? I had just completed a book that rehashed–in painfully specific detail–the most emotionally fraught period of Tava’s depression and our friendship. Was I a sadist?

In this spiritual-deer-in-the-toilet moment I suddenly remembered I had already had this conversation with Tava in Canada. Not only that, I had drawn it. Somehow, I must have forgotten to ink it because the ‘sadist conversation’ wasn’t in the file we sent to the printer that morning. I called Tava in a panic. She tried to calm me down by saying that the draft page got dropped in the editing phase, and that regardless, I should just buy myself a beer because there was nothing we could do about it now. Maybe Tava was right–maybe we decided to cut that sequence–but there’s also a good chance I just missed it in the piles of rough drafts still unceremoniously crammed into milk crates and washing baskets in my cupboard. Either way, it was already in the ether and out of our hands.

Over the last few months, Tava and I have spent hours pillow-talking through the pros and cons of publicly releasing this work. The book encases us as static subjects in a tangible object, while the feelings we are trying to communicate were anything but. Sadist page aside, so much had to be left out of the final manuscript.

What is terrifying about that kind of curation is also deeply comforting. The second the work gets lobbed into the wider world, the second our importance as creators diminishes. Our voices get muted in the much broader conversation that the book now enters itself into.

Countless people have reached out to tell us that they have used the book to start conversations with other people in their lives. To talk openly of heaviness–the everyday experience of it and the effect it has on us and those around us–can often feel intractable. To think of people hot-caking this book around in a bid to open dialogue with others, is the best feedback we could have hoped for.

Since launching less than two months ago, we have pretty much sold out of our first print run. This morning I stole a box of books from my mum’s private stash in Sydney and my game plan is to save them for our EWF event with Ronnie Scott on June 22. Come by to grab one of the last copies, a hug or a rewardingly firm handshake.

If you’re lucky, this sadist might even sign you with a sharpie.

PS. For those keen beans out there, here is some pre-reading that will enrich your understanding of the kind of work that informs us as writers, artists and thinkers:

The most remarkable interview I have ever read, featuring a ten-year art and mental health retrospective by my hero, Shira Erlichman.

The comic “I Was Just Trying To Be Alive” by Tommi Parrish.

An article on neoliberal self-care by Laurie Penny, that Tava is obsessed with at the moment.