Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Mirrors

By Reg Elliot

I spent 1989 shedding my skin. For the best part of the year there was no looking in mirrors. There was no one home.  It was a year of upheaval and glorious turmoil.  Not really what my final year of Uni should’ve been. But fun. I shunned all my regular mates and hung out with Simon and his circle of friends.  This was a crowd from Balmain and the east.  Me, being from north of the Harbour Bridge I had three heads to them. 

On Simon: The most generous, up-for-anything bloke you could ever meet. Loved his weed.  Loved his food.  Generally wore his food all over whatever he was wearing. The messiest eater you could ever encounter.   

Weed was not the basis of our friendship, just a very big part of it.  But as I said, Simon and I were up for anything. Weed turned to hash, hash turned to trips, trips turned to e’s, e’s turned to coke.  Coke plus e’s required Quaaludes (or Rohypnol) and possibly more weed and so on. I’m sure you get the picture. If I did see my old friends they could see something was not quite right with me.

My 66 ‘S’ Type Jag and I left home for Woolloomooloo (Sure, I went east, but I still had three heads). I juggled four jobs to pay the rent and for my Kung-Fu lessons which, like my new weekend habits, I was every bit addicted too.  I was hugely impressed by all the great looking girls Simon knew. . . . who wouldn’t talk to me.   Eventually I won some of them over with my wholesome northern suburbs ways and by talking shit when I was drunk. Some I never wanted to win over.  One I did want to win over was Rachael.

Rachael was involved with Les an ex-cop who was now the group’s drug dealer.  Les was six foot three tall with a three foot wide smile.  He and I got on fine. Problem was Rachael and I got on fine too.  She would end up with whoever she wanted on any given night.  This got to me after a while.  If I went off to brood she’d find me.  In fact, Les would help her! It was all very strange.   It was about August when I sensed all was not right. I was failing Uni, nearly crashed the Jag, had weird stomach pains and strangest of all, I’d began to steal stuff.  I didn’t steal?  Simon did.  He was excellent at it.  But it was something I’d never done before. Booze,  sunnies,  amyl nitrite and even tiger prawns from the fish market.  How dumb is that . . . sunnies?

Still there was another addiction. If not high on weed, I was high on a rock face in Lindfield.  Rock climbing, Kung Fu, I was morphing into a drug-taking martial-arts monkey.  When we were out in town I’d find myself running my fingers lovingly along building surfaces as we went from club to club.  Before I knew it everyone was screaming ‘Get Down!’   I got so into climbing I did the Harbour Bridge with a mate. Twice! In one night! (When I returned to my car after the first climb I discovered i'd left my car keys up the top next to the gigantic red light).  There was no broken straws or screaming camels.  I just knew I had to change and didn’t want to be forced to.  I got out of town one week to try and get over Rachael and get the drugs out my body.

I checked into The Grand Hotel, Kiama which was anything but. After several schooners I attempted to fast-track getting Rachael out of my head by asking the barman if he could direct me to the badest bastard in the Pub thinking he could knock some sense into me.  Blackie was his name.  Fucking perfect.  He had mad black hair, leathery tanned skin, a wonky eye and forearms like Popeye.   I asked him outside politely enough, maybe that was my problem?  He wouldn’t have a go.  I pushed him. Still no go? He ended up buying me a beer.  Then we went to the RSL and had a boogie with his friends.  Nice bloke. Awful dancer.

I got Rachael out my head the next day instead.  I took a copy of ‘Still life with the Woodpecker’ by Tom Robbins to Easts Beach and somewhere in between reading, swimming, sleeping and just telling myself I was an idiot, Rachael drifted off pretty much forever.   Easy. 

I called Simon to see what the weekend plans were only to learn everyone was heading for Burrawang for two nights to dry out.  Drug free weekend.  Perfecto.

I arrived first and settled into the pub, which was right next door to where we were staying. In came two of the girls from our group who’d never spoken a word to me in over a year.  ‘This will be good.’ I thought. They said hello and asked for twenty dollars.  Jesus Christ, their fathers were millionaires.  I gave them the money instead of what I should have given them.  Rachael appeared and ran up to me and jumped into my arms and wrapped her legs around my waist.  Les was behind her smiling and waving.  I give him a wave, but with Rachael I really didn’t reciprocate.   She got the message and we all got on fine the whole weekend.

We drank, we cooked, we ate and we danced.  Me badly. It’s on film somewhere. Simon found a stash of drugs in my car.  For most of them the whole point of the weekend went up in smoke and up their noses. I just drank a little.

I have not told you everything on that year.  It was the year I decided I wanted to write. Indeed I had started to write, though only poetry. I’d told some of my new friends of this plan.  No one really paid any attention.  Or so I thought.

I was out the back veranda inhaling the freezing night air writing a poem when Sally came out and slumped down next to me. She was high. ‘Tell me a story.’ She said. Her final words that night.  She leant her considerably lovely head on my shoulder and listened as I put her to sleep inside forty two seconds flat with the mother of boring stories.  I stayed out there as long as possible. I liked having Sally close and I knew it would never happen again.

Eventually I picked her up and carried her back into the peaceful darkness of the old house and found a place for her to sleep.

I went to the dining room at the front of the house. There was a fire but no bed.  I made a pillow from my jacket and used a blanket I’d stolen from Les and Rachael.  A large mirror sat above the mantle-piece and I got stuck with myself for a moment. I think it was me.  I recall thinking ‘I’m not a finished product’. Opposite the mirror is an enormous window outlined by two heavy crimson curtains held fast against the window’s frame. Beyond the window the night is in the garden, its faint trees boasting blood-red flowers.  I seem part of this expansive portrait. Maybe to see yourself, you must be yourself. Suddenly I was slightly more finished.

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