To read the hand written letter click here.
I know what you mean about put something down and find it weeks later. I’ve only just found your letter in a pile of junk mail someone brought in at some stage in the last fortnight and left on the end of the kitchen bench. I lost my garage and several sheets of iron off the roof which, with all the rain, hasn’t been as much fun as carving up a tree with a chainsaw. Zeke and his Dad, Raph, are both members of the SES and came by my place on the way to the emergency centre so I got tarps up on the roof quicker than I’d guessed I would but the ceilings in my bedroom, the bathroom and kitchen are destroyed and all the new paint in my room is water damaged. Still the house is standing (unlike the garage) and there were people with worse damaged than me, so I have plenty to be thankful for (like not buying a house near the river!!)
Ava and Matt offered me a room at their place and Zeke and Raph, but I’m right here. Despite lighting every fire place and keeping them going the place stinks of damp and I’m worried it will be more than new ceiling and paint when the builders come and poke around. Zeke’s lined up some tradie mates to come and do the inside work. I got iron back on the roof late last week but I’m going to have to consider having the entire place re-roofed. I’d put money away for major repairs when I got the place so cheap (found out all the locals assumed I’d bought the place to demolish and rebuild on) just didn’t expect to have to dip into it so quickly.
The good news… yes, there is good news in this… I’ll be coming to Pipers for the weekend of the reunion. Zeke’s got his tradie mates coming that weekend and for however long it takes them to do the work… so my decision about coming or not sort of got made for me. I’ve rented the old McCracken place (which is now a shiny, new double-glazed, split-level). When Ava rang to make the booking the girl asked if she was part of the reunion mob. I’m apparently not the only one with the same idea! Perhaps it won’t be the quiet, deserted strip I’d hoped it would be.
Reunion or not, they were basically giving the place away, so Ava booked a week. Not sure what I’ll do in Piper’s for an entire week. Ava in true style will probably pack me off with a dozen paperback and Matt with a bag of obscure CDs. I checked and the house has a record player.
I’m not sure if I’ll come to the actual reunion. There’s a lot of stuff in the background I can’t write about, more than just the fear I’ll rip Grace’s throat out with my stealth ninja moves or feel out of place among those who have settled and spawned. I have a dress—a gorgeous technicoloured 60s dress I found in a second-hand store up in the back blocks when I was out searching for a new bed. Glad now I didn’t find myself a bed on that trip. It would have been ruined in the storm.
If it’s safe to come in, I will. You can save me a dance or two. If not there’s always The Point and you never made good on the promise to take me to Eden for a proper grown up dinner after Graduation. So perhaps you can make good on it while I’m down there.
Damn! Wish I was your lover. I haven’t thought about that song in forever or the special way we used to sing it. Didn’t it come out just after our Easter tryst at Nan’s… and carry a whole heap more meaning than either of us would’ve ‘fessed up to? Oh, how I hated that bloody skateboard then and your bung knee.
Don’t say you’ll stay
Because then you’ll go away
I think it was that song which gave me the idea to tell you I was going to leave at the end of the year… because then I’d stay… or you would at least tell me you wanted me to stay! I used to watch that film clip and imagine you as that topless dude with the rippling muscles dancing and before it got too cold, I’d lie naked in a sheet and writhe around in my best Sophie B impersonation.
Top Five love songs from Year 12
- The Rockmelon’s “That Word L.O.V.E”
- Patty Smyth and Don Henley’s “Somethings Love Just ‘Aint Enough”
- Peal Jam’s “Garden”
- Guns and Roses “November Rain”
- Wendy Matthew’s “The Day You Went Away”.
When I look at that list—I see how all the light “fun” songs came at the start of the year and just got darker and more intense as the year when on.
Those weeks lead up to the trial exams… I had pretty much blocked all that out. Mum and Mike were fighting non-stop. He tried to hit her one night and I stepped between and he hit me instead. He was a fucking useless piece of shit. Yet she stayed with him. She stayed after he hit me, after he tried to hit her. I think she thought she could save him. Turn him around. Get him off the grog, but he hurt her, over and over again. I was afraid of him after that night in the kitchen. Mum never stood up to him, but I did and he hated it. The few times we were alone in the house after that he would call me a slut—said he knew what I’d been up to with the surfer boys. I stole one of your Dad’s fishing knives and slept with it under my pillow until Mum finally kicked him out. That’s why he went to the pub and told everyone she was a junkie. I don’t reckon it would have gone any further if Grace hadn’t heard. Most of Mike’s drinking buddies had dropped him by then.
I guess it was during all that—and your mention in your letter of Ellie being a Daddy’s girl at heart—that I felt let down and betrayed by all the men in my life. My own Dad who deserted me, my Papa who’d lied about being my Daddy (I really was a Daddy’s Girl until I found that out), Mike who’d hit me, Bart who’d tried to force me to sleep with him and you who I needed so desperately, who was there but not there.
You’d sit me down on the floor in front of the couch and knead my shoulders and neck as everyone watched the ABC News… my belly full of your Mum’s cooking. And I’d wish just for once everyone would disappear, and you’d sweep my hair aside and kiss me on the neck. Each touch kept me tethered on this side of the darkness. Just. And the worse the darkness got, when Grace blabbed, it was all I could do not to go up The Point and just step off. And I’d oscillate between being furious with you and crying. Every time I went up there alone and stared out into the churning sea or at night, watching the sweep of the lighthouse light and think this was it, I was going over, I’d remember the way you reached out for me that first time, how you stopped me falling and I couldn’t do it.
One night up there; it was the night of the trials when I couldn’t sleep and I was strung out from no sleep, and stress of exams and nightmares about Mike which bled out through my dreams and into the waking hours… the light house light came around and I realised I couldn’t wait around for you to pull me out, for you to come and save me this time. That I couldn’t stay, that I was going as soon as the formal was done. And for some reason, the last summer at Piper’s, which I had clung to… the summer you realised I as the one and I didn’t have to leave… was just whitewash—foamy bubbles gone before the next set of waves came in.
The darkness didn’t go. I just managed it better after that. I put a smile on my face and feigned nonchalance just to spite Grace. And to fuck Mike over. My greatest performance ever and everyone bought it. Ever you. I couldn’t believe you didn’t see through it. And without you holding me down, it felt like you started to drift away from. You said nothing when I said I was late for the trial because I was booking my bus ticket to Sydney. And while you were never physically far away, you felt gone until the night of the formal. I put the bus ticket on my dressing table with a box of matches. Just one kiss…
This is far too intense for a Saturday morning and not where I want to leave off my last letter before I see you again. I’m going to go down and get a cheese and tomato toastie from Ava and give her a hand with the lunch rush and if the weather holds, walk down to see Zeke and Raph. I got them a fancy bottle of single malt whisky (scotch?) to stay thanks for all they did during the storm. I’ll come back with a clearer head. Too many things I’ve not thought of in a long time which need to be blown free…
I’m back again. The weather held and I got down to Zeke and Raph’s. Gratefully Zeke wasn’t there so I only had to spend five minutes doing the small talk thing with Raph. He’s worried about the Greenie’s lobbying to turn our strip of coast into a national park. The government handed out a license to a large Sydney-based fishing company who have no interest in maintaining the local ecology of the fishing grounds. Zeke’s the first first-born not to go the sea in four generations!
Ava’s been playing match-maker, egging Zeke on where she shouldn’t have and he’s been hanging around the house helping with the renovations. I was grateful for the help and the company and didn’t think more of it. We had a big fight before the storm and it’s killed my pride to accept his help the last fortnight. He’s decided he’s going to rewire the house—because apparently the place was a death trap before the storm and there was a dodgy assessment done to sell the place and I had no idea. I want to pay him, he says it will just end up in the pocket of his psycho-ex, so we’re at a Mexican stand off. Everything comes at a cost eventually and since I know he’s hoping I’ll change my mind about how I feel about him, it feels as though the cost will be expectation on his behalf of fairer winds blowing in his direction.
Ava thinks I’m mad. She says she’d give her left arm and her collection of Ryan Gosling movies to have a young, good-looking bloke keen on her. Zeke’s ten years younger than me. Feels like serious cradle snatching. Besides, my heart’s not free to be given away to the first guy who shows interest.
Open mic was a serious rush. I’d forgotten the thrill of performing… the combination of nerves and dread becoming passionate abandon when I close my eyes and let the music possess me. When I become a conduit and everything flows. And the sharp dislocation of the audience cheers and claps through the high.
I did as I said I would… took the list of songs with me and picked them to fit the mood of the evening. But decided on “Magic Carpet Ride” to kick off… high energy and fun. I remember your Dad pulling out a musty Steppenwolf cassette for us when we were first learning to play. It’s also one of those songs with an awesome groove that you always said my husky voice was perfect for. Went down a treat. Followed by “River Runs Dry”, “Endless Summer”, “Ruby Tuesday” and ended with “Release Me.”
Raph and his surf buddies want me to come and play a couple of sets on a Sunday afternoon when the weather turns. Says they can’t pay me a lot. I’m not sure but there’ll be a couple of open mics between now and then. Enough to build up the confidence to do something people expect you to be good at. July open mic I want to see if I can find someone who plays cello to play the baseline of “Never Let Me Go”. I reckon Jakob would have liked that. When we first started circling each other he gave me a mix tape with “Died In Your Arms Tonight”. He was a totally different man when he played cello. He said something like you made love to an instrument like the cello—guitars were like fast, cheap women. Part of me wonders what it would be like to learn the cello or double bass?
So I’m putting my Piper’s jam list together and when there’s time practicing ‘til my fingers burn so I’ll be good enough to play with you. Blow some life into that flame of yours. Take you for a walk on the wild side.
I’m planning to leave here the afternoon of Wednesday 27th June, after Ellie’s class have performed the plays I’ve been rehearsing with them. I’m going via Sydney and the real estate is leaving the keys in the letter box for me to let myself in.
I don’t have a mobile and I’m not sure if the house has a phone. You shouldn’t be too hard to find and you know where I’m staying. Surprise me!
I’m glad I decided to come down, despite the misgivings and fears. It feels like both a conclusion and a beginning.
Can’t wait to see you again, Jude.