To read the hand written letter, click here: Jude Letter 2
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Grace Wyatt – that’s funny. She is still around town, well she’s the local real estate agent and is the president of the cricket and netball club. Not enough committee members for cricket; she doesn’t even play but everyone knows she’s a hell of an organiser.
To write my last letter I scrounged a few pages but now I’ve bought myself a writing pad. Nothing flash, as you can tell, but functional. We passed notes and letters back and forth from someone’s book or folder.
Your first impression to almost everyone seems to be that of lesbian – first me, now your new neighbour. You’ll have to explain the Ruby Rose thing. Actress name? Porn name? Not even going to google that one.
Why am I still in Piper’s Reach? Good question. The salt and the sea are born into you. At least for some. Others feel a call somewhere else. Paul Halligan for example. Once we finished school and university was about to begin, he left for Melbourne. I’ll come back to the event of the formal later.
If you ever make it back here to visit I’ll make sure Mum makes you one of her gingerbread cakes.
After school I headed off to work for a while. You left with purpose and direction; I felt the push and pull of the waves. I washed dishes, stacked shelves, mowed lawns; even tried a stint on a fishing boat. Total disaster. Spent more time hurling my guts up. But during that year I decided to study something science related. I went north to Brisbane instead of south to Sydney.
Eventually I finished after a couple of shifts doing environmental science, focusing on marine biology and ecology. Seemed a natural fit coming from Piper’s Reach. Worked around the Great Barrier Reef based in Port Douglas and Cairns for a bit then found a post back here. Trying to revitalise the fishing industry rather than simply a memorial to the whaling days. Still prefer terra firma than the rocking deck of a boat.
For me, it was always about the stability of the place. I know it’s “small town” mentality and some are busting to cut loose and get away. This is where my roots are deep and buried further than I can imagine. Like our place at the beach under the Norfolk Island Pine. About three years ago it was destroyed in a storm. After they cleared the tree and all the debris I bought a bag of hot chips from our usual shop and sat on the stump and reminisced.
Speaking of reminiscing… the formal.
I thought I was so cool in my MacGyver mullet and green paisley waistcoat. And yes, green is still my favourite colour. Apart from the vomit incident, I still have vivid memories of that night.
As an eighteen year old I thought you looked stunning. “Hot as” if I remember the vernacular. You needn’t have worried about embarrassing me or I never would have asked you to be my partner. Everything about our friendship was comfortable. Not the right word but to me it was a safe place, familiar yet pushed me to the edge of seeing beyond. Yours was the perspective of the future, the change, the way forward. Mine was of the present, if not the past.
The formal was a moment of critical mass. In the years I’d known you we were affectionate, flirting even, and I enjoyed the strength of your hugs. (And which guy doesn’t like the feeling of being pressed up against breasts?) Watching videos on the couch with you lying against my shoulder or my head in your lap. These are the things I remember, the memories I cherished then and now, and somehow the idea of kissing you would transgress the sanctity of our friendship. Even if I accidentally (sometimes on purpose) brushed your bum with my hand it felt in violation of something sacred.
At the formal after party I think I wanted to be the transgressor. Leaning in to kiss you I could smell the sweetness of the West Coast Cooler on your breath and imagined the tang of it on your lips. Then Paul hurled all over me and the moment was gone. The smell of Southern Comfort still makes me feel ill.
We went from the after party and just walked around town, reliving the night’s events: who wore what, the fact Amy’s boobs were more out than in her dress, who was making out with who and where everyone would be in five years’ time. It was then I realised to kiss you would have been a mistake. I wanted to, but could not quench, or risk it, the fire inside of you. Part of me always thought I would hold you back; keep you anchored to a place you had no connection to. No roots to put down.
That’s why, walking back to your place in the early hours of the morning, I took your hand. Not to hold on, but to know I had to let you go. At your door, one final hug, a last embrace. But looking back over your letter, did I do the right thing? Twenty years is a long time to second guess yourself, but back then I was sure I was doing the right thing. I knew you, like you said, more than you knew yourself. There will be a time when peace will come to you. It was one thing I knew I could not give you back in high school. I was there for you but I sensed parts of you that were shut away like letters in a suitcase, and that one day you’ll read them and find peace.
I hope you find it. I can still be there for you. I haven’t changed much in twenty years. They don’t call me the Patron Saint of Lost Causes for no reason.
And you always sang the “na na na nas” of The Beatles “Hey Jude” to either make me laugh, to get me out of a funk or to annoy the hell out of me.
Remember that pool party just before the end of school, at Johno’s house? The night we ended up skinny-dipping? We were at either end of the pool and you dared me to strip off. There was no one else around and it was about 2 in the morning. I watched you sink to your neck because you were in the shallow end and you dumped your cossie on the side of the pool. Didn’t take much more encouragement for me to strip off.
Anyway, you said you were going to make a dash for your towel and made me close my eyes and turn around. You always asked if I ever saw anything and I said “No.” I must recant my testimony. Risking being turned to stone, I caught a glimpse of your bum as you wrapped yourself in a towel.
Forgive me for I have sinned