And so it ends.
Farewell, X Factor! Au revoir, too, to the mask I've worn all these months. I'm done with it. It was a role, a character to engage the audience. I played a kind of idiot savant. Perhaps more idiot than savant.
Sweet, dim, monosyllabic, dipping into a bag of cliches and homilies every time I opened my mouth to speak - there were times when I felt I was killing the English language, beating it to a pulp with the calculated popular appeal of my "bro" and my "awesome" and my "youse".
Backstage, I read Proust, and the New York Review of Books. It kept me sane amid the pandemonium and hysteria of sharing a dressing room with Daniel.
"Hairbrush," he'd say. "I can't find my hairbrush. Where's my goddamned hairbrush?"
He'd smash things and cry and sneeze, and then I'd say, "It's in your hair."
And yet, and yet. As I sit in an old armchair in my library at home, restored to mental health, I confess I miss the show.
I never faked the pride I took in the contestants. I loved them for their talent and their courage. Jackie, Whenua, Benny, even Tom... Adieu! Adieu! We shall not see their like again.
We may not see them again at all.
Made myself comfortable in the old armchair in my library and took note of a reference to Ernest Hemingway's classic story The Old Man and the Sea in the New York Review of Books.
The book is about a fisherman trying to catch a giant marlin; the reviewer jokingly wondered whether Hemingway's first, modest draft was about the old man merely fishing for mackerel.
It made me think that I was a mackerel once. A nobody. But then I won Australian Idol, and grew into a wonderful marlin, glittering and special.
Fame is a sea. There's plenty of fish in it.
Made myself comfortable in the old armchair in my library and took note of this morning's announcement listing the finalists in the NZ Post national book awards. Who will take out first prize? There are lyrical novels, nice poems, rigorous studies, strange essays. It's a very strong field. It could be Emily, Kate, Jarrod, even Steve. I certainly don't envy the judges!
Was about to make myself comfortable in the old armchair in my library when I took note of the fact that the phone hasn't rung all week.
And so it begins.
It was bitterly cold when I left the house. I could see my breath. I tucked my hands under my armpits and drew in my shoulders. The sky was dark. It rained.
The room was full. It smelled of mackerel.
I pulled my hoodie down over my head, and put on a pair of dark wraparound glasses.
I took a number, and sat down. The clock ticked.
I wished I'd brought something to read.
Finally my number was called.
I went up to the counter, and said, "I'd like to sign on for the benefit."
A bored official said, "Need your name."
I whispered it.
I whispered it a bit louder.
"Listen, mate, just speak up."
I took a deep breath, and said, "Stan Walker."
The room fell silent.
I think they were asleep.
The official told me to take a seat. The clock continued to tick. And then the man next to me said, "Hi, Stan."
He took off his hoodie.
There was a hairbrush in his hair.
"Some reunion," he said.
"Yeah, bro," I said, "awesome."