To read the hand written letter click here.
Tuesday, 24th April, 2012
I’m sorry if the last letter was a bit much to digest. I shouldn’t have written while drinking – not that I was drunk. It was that Pat Benatar song which did me in. then I heard it three times in different places in the space of 24 hours – in car park in Coffs, then later in the servo and the following day in “Blue Valentine.” Ava has a bit of a thing for Ryan Gosling at the moment and thinks if she inflicts enough of his movies on me I’ll join the sisterhood with her.
I thought about you and your folks on my birthday, mainly because Ava and Matt gave me the most stunning black guitar for my birthday. I remember your folks getting me a guitar for my 16th birthday and your Dad trying to be serious, saying you’d never improve if you were sharing your guitar with me. And you Mum looped her arm through his arm and they both smiled…the smile of truly generous people. I walked home clutching that guitar thinking it was the best birthday ever, wishing I had folks like that. And Mum forced me to walk back before dinner and make me give it back.
“Just play it here, love,” your Mum said and kissed me on the cheek. I sat between the hydrangeas, my back pressed into the side of your house because I couldn’t bare to go home. And I heard your folks talking.
“We didn’t mean any harm,” your Mum said.
“We know that,” your Dad said.
“What kind of a woman-“
“It’s not our place to judge, Marion.”
And I wanted to go inside your house and never leave. Sit by the gas heater in your room and pick out “American Pie.” What happened to it when I left for Sydney?
Anyway, that’s the long way of saying I had a great birthday. And Ava and Matt’s generosity took me back to 1991…only I got to take the guitar home…when I finally made it home. On top of the guitar, they threw me a surprise party…truly a surprise because I didn’t think I knew enough people to invite to a party, but it seems I do. It was like the entire townie refugee community came out to celebrate with me. Any excuse it seems for them to get to party.
And I sat there nursing my first bourbon and Coke since my Melbourne days, soaking it up and went to ask myself why…why would Ava and Matt go to all this trouble for me? And I realised two things. 1. I’ve never thought I’ve been worthy of anything good, so I always question people’s motives (my old job didn’t help with that). 2. It doesn’t matter why someone does anything. All that matters is they did. For the first time in almost two decades I just relaxed and enjoyed myself. Danced and drank like there wasn’t a care in the world. Let this little adrift community of new Benders (their joke, not mine) take me in. I’ve only ever wanted to belong somewhere. And now I do.
I always wanted to belong to you, but you don’t ‘belong to’ anyone, anymore that you ‘belong with’ someone. In the swirl of conversation and hugs, dancing I realised that. I’ve been clinging to this stupid ideal of you as y saviour all these years and assuming you owed me something for it. That because you grabbed my arm that afternoon at The Point, that first time and I didn’t go over, that there was some kind of divine plan for us.
I’ve been trying to piece it all together, going backward to try and work out where it all went wrong. Like you can pinpoint that one moment and putting you through the wringer as I did. You just confused me so badly, Jude, back then. I thought maybe there were answers but for every answer there are 10 more questions.
If we had our time again, would you do it any differently? Would it have ended up the same anyway?
Matt pulled out DJ decks (Ava said ‘dusted off’) and he did sets at the party. And he played this song ‘Ten Times.’ Zeke af from the surf club grabbed me and we danced and it was this perfect moment. Not because I was dancing with him, but with a light heart – my body connecting with the music…a moment of elation. And it didn’t matter what became of the past or the future, there was only this moment. And everything which had ever happened had lead me to this moment of bliss.
Matt played ‘Ten Times’ every hour and everyone danced. Even Bryce which Ellie loved to tease him about the next morning.
I’m not living my life for other people anymore, Jude. I haven’t drunk since I tried to do myself in while living in Cairns. With Jakob dead I thought with enough reckless disregard I could probably die too…but it didn’t happen. And I never drank again until I moved here. It was partly work, but it was mostly for Jakob. He gave up drinking when he met me – not because I wanted him to clean up his life, but because he wanted to. He’s been dead a long time.
I studied criminology and went chasing bad guys to try and avenge Mum. Like I was some lone vigilante cleaning up the streets from drug dealers. And when I got sick I stuck at my job rather than get treatment to finish the project. And I almost died!
I didn’t pursue you the way I wanted to because there was all the Mum and Nan baggage over boys and sex. And then I walked away and left you behind because that’s what you wanted – whether or not it was what you really wanted.
I’m not entirely sure where it leaves me – cut free from the past and waiting to wash up somewhere. Who knows, maybe I’ll fashion a paddle, learn to navigate by the stars and steer a course. A course for myself.
For now I’m content to paint the inside of my cottage, tear up the carpet, polish the floor boards and stop feeling like I’m living in Mrs Bennett’s house. I’ve found someone to fix the combustion stove and ordered a load of wood. I haven’t split wood since Piper’s. I used to love it when you came over and helped me split the wood. I’d try and wrangle it for a sunny day so you’d take your shirt off…but even in March the weather conspires against you in Piper’s. Still…I never regretted it. You were poetry in motion, swinging a splitter. Stacking wood I think I’ll be hiding in the backyard where no one can see me making an arse of myself with the brand new shiny splitter. Hopefully this time next week I can invite Ava, Matt and co. for moussaka.
Ava and Matt have decided to run an open mic’ at the café once a month, on the last Friday of the month. I have a sneaky suspicion the guitar was no mistake present. I’ve told Ava I’ll sing but I’m shit-scared of making an idiot of myself – even if it’s Coranderk Bend’s open night. What would be your Top Five open mic songs to sing? (Ava gave me ‘High Fidelity’ to read and we’ve been plugging the Top Five gag for a week now!) You still play I’m assuming? Trying to imagine open mic in Piper’s!!
Before I forget…your letter. I’m glad your Dad is doing better. If his occupational therapist plays Beach Boys during his sessions he’ll be up and at ‘em before you know it. Give him a hug and a kiss for me
Tell me…how do you manage to be a marine biologist if you can’t stomach boats? I remember you trying so hard not to hurl the first time you and Adrian took me out for the Lantern Festival. I think Adrian was going out with Mandy then.
Grace had a boob job? I guess a great rack is essential for selling real estate. Or perhaps it’s for the guys at the cricket club. And I just realised…I don’t want to know you were up close with her breasts…and not mine! Like Bart’s tongue, some things best forgotten.
And my back…I know I shouldn’t but I can close my eyes and imagine you tracing your finger down the road map of scars on my body, and I’d sit there and know I’m not battle worn…that they make me different on the outside, but I’m the same on the inside. I still sleep with my hand tucked under my cheek, refuse to wear high heels and only eat chocolate ice cream. I still dream of growing up to sing, or dance, or act. I still keep myself locked inside me. But I’m getting better.
The day I settled on this place I went into Pitt Street and retrieved the stuff I put in a security box. In there were your letters and photos, the Nirvana satchel and some other bits and pieces I didn’t ever want to lose. I locked Ella-Louise inside that box. I didn’t want to be her anymore. I’d lost you, Mum, Jacob – hell, even Paul Halligan died within a year of spending the night with me. And I became Ruby-Rose Mackay. Ruby because it was your favourite Rolling Stones’ song; Rose for Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and Mackay because that’s what Jakob called me.
I got the scars from falling through a window – a plate glass window. I wish I’d lied to Ellie but I can’t, any more than I can lie to you. It’s easier to not say anything. So I’m not sure about the reunion. After all – what do you do at a reunion? Stand around talking about the last twenty years? If you haven’t noticed, I’m not too good at that. I want to see you, but I’m not sure a reunion is the right place for me. Maybe I can meet you after at The Point.