Words | Saliha Rehanaz
As I was standing on the edge of a stranger’s pool, stark naked, in the middle of a very cold night, I knew I should have never joined Grapeshot.
2020 is the mark of a new decade, a completely new era for me to rediscover myself. So when I told the Grapeshot team I wanted to ignore what other people thought about me this year, I became the perfect sacrifice to do the Grapey’s List. Now, before the lawyers come at us to sue for copyright infringement, this is a disclaimer that the list is a slightly modified version of the original list taken from the book, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. I altered some of the challenges to make sure I was embarrassing myself to the maximum.
Now you might wonder, why did I decide to do a stupid middle-schooler list? To be honest, I don’t know. At first, I felt proud of myself for saying yes, but when I went home and actually read the list, a sense of uneasiness took over me. I was suddenly aware that I would be exposing myself, literally.
Growing up, I had been extremely conscious of how I looked. I was used to the constant “lanky, stick-like, and thin” remarks I received, but it didn’t mean I was resistant to them. So I had internally decided that I would skip the “skinny-dipping” task and make up some excuse. But when I showed up at a party that had a swimming pool, I was conflicted. I remember locking myself in the bathroom and just staring at myself in the mirror. Essentially, the decision was between living a life where I was worried about what other people had to say about my body, or possibly dying of hypothermia.
I stepped out of the bathroom and ran to my friend, who brought me to the party. He was quite drunk at that point of the night (like everyone else), so I had to repeat myself three times before he heard me say, “Do you think your friend will mind if I jump into his pool naked?” He looked blankly at me for a few seconds, before grabbing my hand and dashing towards the pool screaming, “Let’s do it!”
Now, I’m not completely sure on how the host of the party reacted to this, because as I started taking my dress and underwear off, literally everyone had caught on to what was happening and decided suddenly that getting into the pool was the best thing ever. I wasn’t complaining at all, because as I stood at the edge of the pool, contemplating what my strict brown father would have to say to this, a naked girl next to me extended her hand, and it was all the courage I needed.
That night was perhaps one of the best I’ve had since I moved to Sydney. It wasn’t necessarily because I faced my biggest fear, it was the response I received when I told that girl one of my biggest secrets. Under the dark starry night, I found myself thanking her for helping me jump and telling her that I was afraid I would be judged for my stretch marks. I still recall vividly that she simply laughed and said, “They’re not stretch marks, they’re tiger stripes.”
Just like the opportunity to go skinny-dipping came on its own, the other challenges crept up on me and presented themselves as if fate wanted me to do them. So when my housemate asked me if I wanted to break in and steal his former housemate’s Lion King ooshie collection, I didn’t stop to think for a second. I remember not feeling guilty, because I wasn’t the one who was actually stealing anything, but then that changed when I grabbed his Coles Little Shop collection on the way. I did feel a little bit terrible, but it looks better in my house anyways.
Earlier this month, I started working at a primary teaching centre. It is a tiring and hectic job, and my patience is being tested all the time. However, when I spotted a cardboard rocking horse at the centre, it felt like I had finally found my purpose. I have to admit, it was nostalgic to see and I was quite upset when my six-year-old student wanted to have a go at it. I went home fifteen minutes late after my shift that day, and I do not have to disclose why.
One of the challenges that I was most looking forward to was visiting 55 S Ave. If you search up the address on Google Maps, it shows you the directions to 55 South Avenue, Liechhardt. I’ve only been in Sydney for seven months so far, but trusty Google Maps was there to navigate me. So on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I set out in search for Mona. I took a train from Macquarie University Station to Burwood, changing at Epping. As a precaution, I asked my friend to track me in case Mona turned out to be a serial killer. From Burwood, I had to take a bus which travelled over Parramatta Road, and it didn’t make sense to me because I wasn’t in Parramatta, but oh well. I got off a stop earlier than I was supposed to, so I had to walk around twenty minutes before I was notified that I had “reached my destination.”
There were no distinct house number labels and I wasn’t sure how to figure out where house 55 was on this quite long South Avenue. I walked up and down, but it still didn’t make sense. So I did what every mother asks you not to do, I went up to a stranger walking by and asked where house 55 was. I noticed the elderly white man was quite sceptical that a brown teenage girl wearing fake Birkenstocks from Vietnam was potentially going to do some damage. I recall smiling to reassure him that I was completely harmless, and he grunted towards a house behind him, obviously not impressed by my pearly whites.
I bid my new friend adieu and walked up to this quaint house, which didn’t really have a fence like the other houses but had a makeshift hedge border. I could feel my heart beating a mile a minute and wondered what I would say when someone opened the door. I gingerly walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. I heard the ‘ping’ and quietly held my breath. One mississippi, two mississippi… twenty mississippi. I decided to press the doorbell again.
Unfortunately after ringing the doorbell for the third time, I did the next best thing. I took out the sticky note pad I always carry around, scribbled on it and gently placed it on the door. As I turned around to leave, I admired my work of art. A single yellow sticky note, etched with a simple: “Mona?”
One night, on my way back from dinner in the city, I decided it was time to pick up some apples. I arrived at Chatswood and made my way over to The Orchard. The idea of going into a bar alone was quite foreign to me, but it had to be done. I went and bought myself an apple cider and re-read The Kite Runner, while enjoying my drink. After many years, I finally felt comfortable with the best company in the world, myself.
I had moved into a new house at the beginning of the year and didn’t have a chance to decorate my room. Sometime in the middle of January, I finally had an epiphany and decided it was time to decorate it. I had put up family pictures on the wall over my bed head and one night when I was feeling homesick, I turned around and looked at them. Amongst all the pictures was one of my grandfather, who passed away a few years ago from cancer. I had grown up believing that people become stars when they died. It was in that moment I realised that I didn’t have to spend a night outside to sleep under the stars, because the brightest star was already watching over me every night.
It wasn’t very difficult to find a Jamie to hug, because I already had a friend with that name. But what made another challenge even simpler was when Jamie showed up with her friend from Italy. Like I said, fate was working with me on this challenge. In true Italian fashion, she kissed me on both cheeks as she hugged me and I returned the gesture, accomplishing my task of kissing a stranger.
In my final night of doing Grapey’s list, I decided to wear a low-cut dress which I had bought three years ago. As I said, I have been insecure about my body, and my lack of cleavage particularly. I could never muster up the courage to wear the dress, until it was my friend’s birthday one night. At the beginning of the night, I was conscious and constantly covering my chest with my arms. But as I danced the night away till we could hear birds chirping outside, I had become a completely different person.
In the original list from the book, Penelope is the protagonist’s fake ID name which she uses to try to enter a club. So the task “Penelope” involved being someone she wasn’t. Grapey’s List was something I would have never done before, but each task brought me closer to accepting myself. So for my final task, I decided to be someone I always had been, myself.