Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cool Change

If there's one thing in my life that's missing
It's the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear waters
It's kind of a special feeling
When you're out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon
Like a lover
Time fora cool change...
I know that it's time
for a cool change
Now that my life
is so prearranged
I know that it's time
for a cool change
Cool Change - Little River Band

Is it me or is it conspiracy spurned on by Venus retrograde? The past few weeks, every time I visit my local Woolworths store they seem to be playing the soundtrack to my love life - like a lovelorn review. I thought it was coincidence (they simply had Savage Garden on speed rotation) or it was just that their music selection was stuck in bad 80's and 90's music.Tonight, however, it was set in concrete - it is a conspiracy and somehow someone extracted all the loves of my lives and songs associated with them, and sold them to my local Woolworths to torment me every time I go to shop. They must know even reining in an active and inquisitive three year old, can not hold back the tides of nostalgia.

Tonight's offering was 'Cool Change' from the Little River Band's First Under the Wire Album from 1979. No I wasn't falling in love in 1979 as a 6 year old, but in 1991 as I was completing high school I fell heavily in love with a guy who adored this song (he'd even sing along to it, as we trundled around Ballarat in his seen-better-days, dark green Urvan with bright orange stripes down the side) I'm sure that its been years since I actually indulged in a walk down memory lane with Duncan....

We met when I was working in a Christian Youth Cafe, just around the corner from where I lived in central Ballarat. The name of the cfe escapes me now. Walking past one day to the bus stop, I saw a sign advertising for volunteer cafe workers and I thought it sounded like a great idea. The idea of a a youth cafe was appealing - there was no where for teenagers to go. I was also 17 years old, had never worked in my life (other than the odd baby sitting job) and it seemed like a good way to get some hospitality skills before I finished school.

I guess I hadn't been working there long, perhaps a week or two after my training and the cafes official opening, when I sold Duncan our famous lasagne (I should point out at this moment that I have spent the rest of my life aspiring to be able to create lasagne like this - and I still haven't cracked it!) He was tall, incredibly handsome, older (which was a winner in my book!) and quite charming. He was back again when it was time for me to finish my shift and we got talking ... and I honestly dont think that we stopped talking. It was well into the early hours of the morning when we finally got off my front fence and I went inside to bed. We'd talked religion and philosophy mainly, and I was smitten - good looking and well read! And thus began an arduous and bittersweet friendship/unrequited love affair between the two of us, which spanned sitting last term at high school, final exams and then heading off out in the big wide adult world.

He was the first person to 'take me to church' - something I had to repeat three times to my Dad and sister before the believed that I wasn't having them on - as I was a devout critic of established religion. Going to a Catholic school meant mass at least four times a year and I loathed every second of it. It seemed inconceivable to either of them that I would willing get up early on a Sunday morning and go to Church. As it turned out, this became my Sunday morning ritual through the final term of high school. Yes, it definitely put a big dint in my social activities (not as many nights at Troopers with my best friend Michelle and other underage punters!) and my sleeping in patterns, but very quickly Duncan became the centre of my universe when I wasn't at school.

My bestfriend called Duncan 'basic' (which was pretty rich coming from her!) and didn't like the territory that he was coverting for himself in my life. He was basic in the sense of being uncomplicated - what you saw was what you got. Michelle spent hours annoyingly singing 'Love to have a beer with Duncan' at school, particularly as we walked down the corridors between classes, laughing at her own joke because Duncan didn't drink. He was legal to drink and he didn't, to Michelle that was an abomination.

My week from Thursday through to Sunday revolved around Duncan, his friends (who all came from the same Christian community) and a taste of life on the otherside of high school. More than anything I just wanted to be Duncan's girlfriend ... but as time got passed, it seemed less and less likely, rather than more so.

Oh yes - I'd forgotten to mention the age gap of six year. At times it didn't seem to matter that he was well and truly 'grown up' and I was just embarking on my life as an adult. He turned 24 a few weeks before my 18th birthday (which was spent with Mum in Cairns) As intellectual sparring partners, it didn't really seem to matter to me if he was older - I adored him and I didn't get why age had to be an issue. Prince once sang 'Why is age more than a number, when it comes to love?' While I was oblivious to this being an issue, it was at the heart of it for Duncan.

Duncan's 24th birthday ended up being memorable - because for the first time I excitedly believed that I had finally cracked him, and he'd give into us having more than just the platonic relationship we'd been uncomfortably wearing for weeks. We'd spent the afternoon first at a gym, playing around in the spa with two of his mates and a girl that Greg had picked up along the way. Afterwards, we got fish and chips and sat down by the rowing jettys by Lake Wendouree.

We ate, we drank some alcohol, then Greg and Sophie went down on the jetty to get horizontal. I was mortified (not because it was the first time I'd ever seen someone having sex in real life) but for the fact that Sophie was a passing acquaintance of my sister, and couldn't have been more than about 14 at the time. She was also very drunk! I remember Malcom getting into one of his dark moods, and disappearing in a huff leaving Duncan and I alone ... and we kissed. I think perhaps it was the small quoff that had loosened up his inhibitions ... but it was a passing thing.

The next day when I saw him it was more uncomfortable then usual - stilted conversation and finally a declaration from him, that what had happend the previous night should not have happened and it would not be happening again. Crushed ... pissed off too if my memory serves me correctly, I disappeared out the stained glass front door of his parent's place in a wash of tears.

This became a theme. I was certain he was attracted to me, the kiss had sealed it, but he fought it and I at that stage hadn't learnt my feminine wiles. The kiss was pretty soon forgotten, in terms of being able to see each other, chat and carry on until my final night of school. I had gone out with my cohort to drink at Troopers, as cohorts had done the year before and the year before that. It was a Thursday night and we were all dressed up. I had on a black long sleeved body suit (yes well it was the early 80's) with a press stud crutch and jeans. I'd borrowed the top from Michelle.

I had a drink, but wasn't really getting into the mood. One of the girls was really drunk, got up onto one of the pedastal benches to dance and broke it. I left and called Duncan who came and picked me up. We drove around talking and then went back to his place. His parents had become used to my presence there. His sister, a gorgeous blonde hairdresser always made me feel uncomfortable but his parents were always incredibly pleasent to me. It was dark, everyone was asleep and we snuck inside to his room, which would have originally been a formal loungeroom or dining room. The doors opened in like french doors and had wide, thick opaque glass insets.

We went in to talk - but things seemed to steam roll in the opposite direction to which Duncan had firmly stated they would stay. There was much kissing, whispering and giggling as I explained to him the intricacies of a body suit. We were down to our underwear, on top of the bed clothes (for once a balmy Ballarat evening) and locked in each others embrace when foot steps came down the hallway. There was the flash of a torch. His father hearing voices (and not knowing that I was there) had come to investigate the sounds coming from the other end of the house.

I ducked under the blankets as Duncan pretended to sleep, just as the torch cut a swath of light through the opaque glass insets in the door. If my heart had beating fast, it was racing now. With a whispering, though heaving voice Duncan told me to get dressed we had to leave before we got caught. Scrambling around in the dark searching for my jeans and body suit I was terrified that at any moment I would be caught, rabbit in headlights fashion by his father, in my underwear and clutching a body suit that was never meant to be donned in panicked circumstances.

Dressed we dashed out the front door, leaving a less than quiet farewell of mischevious giggles behind. Emerging on the other sides we broke into cathertic laughter as we climbed into the van (hoping that it would start). We kissed tenderly as he dropped me off and I was on a high. Definitely, this time, we'd be together. On my last day of school I was sporting a huge grin from ear to ear, Michelle was sporting dinosaur bumps and scratches from her evening's escapes.

It was Saturday morning before we talked again, and it was a chilly reception I got at the front door. Duncan suggested that we go for a drive, that we needed to talk. My heart and hopes sank, as I realised that we about to dance the same tune as last time. Unlike the night before, the van didn't start this time. It needed a new battery desperately, but Duncan's dole cheque wasn't reaching that far this fornight (or last fortnight for that matter!) Between us we maneouvered it out onto the road, facing down the hill, and off we went on one of those hair raising jump starts. The first try was unsuccessful, as was the second and we came to a coasting halt into a car park at the bottom of the hill.

Duncan flew out of the car, slammed the door, swore angrily and then punched a huge dint in his door. I was so shocked, it took a moment to register what had just happened. Adrenalin kicked in, as I saw the white rage on his face, and I too flew out the door, landing running on the footpath, and ran away, sobbing uncontrollably. In my mind, it seemed that I was the next target of his anger - since I was already in his bad books.

He must have rung later to apologise and promised me that he would never ever hit me. He simply couldn't. He blamed his boxing training on is inability to control his temper (he had told me weeks earlier about the brainwashing that was involved in his boxing training - training them to either be happy or angry, and how to flick effortless between the two!)
Other than the constant sexual undercurrent, the other thing I remember vividly about Duncan was that he was always late. It was embarrassing because we would rock up to Church on a Sunday morning, half way through the service. And the looks we got! I have a vivid memory of sitting at my piano playing, the top of it strewn with pungent jasmine flowers, my bedroom windows open to the street and passing the time, waiting for him to turn up. After a while I too began to run on Duncan time - which was always a minimum of 20 minutes behind the rest of the world. It took years to kick this terrible habit of always running late.

The time eventually came for me to fly to Cairns to have Christmas with my Mum. Duncan had decided to go north to, to Lismore to spend some time with friends there. We arranged that on the return trip, I would catch the bus as far as Lismore and then we'd drive back together to Ballarat. I was looking forward to the road trip, to the freedom of not being on a bus, and of course to spend time together. My hopes that our differences (whatever they were, because we never spoke about WHY we couldn't have a relationships, we'd just accidentally have moments and then Duncan would repeat the spiel about how it wouldn't happen again!) I guess it was my wish that some kind of an understanding would be forged on the trip home together.

The week before I was meant to leave, having organised my return ticket, Duncan rang to say that he had would be leaving in two days time and he wouldn't be able to give me a lift. I dont remember now if he actually came out and stated that he didn't think that it was a good idea for us to be together for all of that time, or that's what I deduced. This was the final straw.

I returned home to Ballarat a few days before I headed off to do volunteer work with Edmund Rice Camps. I was going away for five days to Shoreham, with 20 odd underpriveldged boys and about 30 leaders. It was the necessary distraction. At that camp I met Leon, who would become my second boyfriend and with whom I lost my virginity. I was grateful for Duncan having dropped off the radar ... the certainty of what I had with Leon was the balm I needed after Duncan.

It all came to a rather melodramatic end. In mid January (after I had refused to take Duncan's calls and had done everything possible to avoid him) I was hosting my first ever dinner party. Present were my good friend Regina, her boyfriend Eddie, Leon, myself and my Dad. I'd spent the day preparing chicken cacciatore from scratch and had prepared a chocolate pudding. We'd had some champagne and then some wine. Between mains and dessert there was a knock on the back door (we never used our front door).

The door was open so he let himself in the and before I knew it Duncan was in the kitchen, decked out in his grey tracksuit pants, Hawaii 50 t-shirt and tongs. The kitchen, lounge, dining area was tiny (we lived in a turn of the century miners cottage!) so there was no escaping. He muttered that he was sorry, he'd interrupted. Dad said no, invited him in. I pushed past him and screamed 'You can't be here!" and went to hide in our outside loo (which comes in handy for occassions like this)

Sometime later I came out, went back inside, went to my bedroom and continued to sob. Leon came in and said that he completely understood if I wanted to go back and be with Duncan, he could go home with Eddie and catch the train back to Warrnambool in the morning. I resolutely said no, told him that Duncan had had months to sort out what he wanted and it was too late now. At the time I thought it a pretty admirable quality on Leon's part to be so understanding and willing to step aside, what I really didn't understand was that it was a reasonably clear indication that Leon wasn't particularly committed to our fledgling relationship. But that's the joy of hindsight!
Amongst the tears and the angst, I made some chocolate sauce for the pudding, we got the Tia Maria out, ate dessert, played Trivial Pursuit and later on in the evening, feeling rather merry and more than a little rebellious I lost my virginity to Leon.

The next morning Dad told me that he and Duncan had had a long chat outside. I turned out that the age gap had been something that he had never been able to broach - he'd felt compelled to be honourable and act more like an older brother towards me, even though that's not what he truly felt. Yes - he was confiding this to my father! It came to pass that night, that he'd finally got it into his head that he was going to come around, plucked up the courage to put things right between us - he'd come around to ask me to g out with him ... he'd realised that he really did love me.

"Well he was too bloody late," I remember replying, feeling angry all over again. Angry that I had spent months waiting for him to come around, and when I had finally given up and moved on, he'd finally come around to it. That was the last time I saw Duncan face to face - him with the bunny in the head lights moment, as he was slapped in the face with the happy scene the confronted him the instant he stepped through the back door. It also turned out that he had been visiting Dad while I was away, and that was why he rather casually let himself in through the back door. I would see the green van driving up and down Sturt Street sometimes, and I'd look at the ground believing, like little kids do, that if I couldn't see him, he wouldn't see me. I would have mild panic attacks when I did see the van, worried about what I would say if I did indeed see him.

As I look back now, I find it telling that a young man, born in the sign of fire, would yearn for the promise in a song that stated 'I was born in the sign of water and its there that I feel best'. I can understand now why Duncan was so drawn to this song (though I did muse a few months later about all the sailing references that seemed to be coming into my life when I stood with my third boyfriend at his Nan's funeral, as they were playing Rod Stewart's 'Sailing) I can see his desperate need for change. He was stuck at home with his parents, with an unfinished plumbing apprenticeship (that he'd done with his father and only had another 6 months to do to complete it), no job, his boxing dreams were still unrealised, he had desires that he couldn't be at peace with and perhaps beliefs that really weren't filling his life with all that they promised.

I hope that Duncan did find his cool change, and found love, peace and happiness. And, I hope that I find that next time I set foot through the turnstiles at Woolworths, that they are not playing my tune. There is only so much romantic nostalgia one woman can handle.

4 comments:

Rach said...

So... like sand through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives!

I think I'd be with your friend Michelle singing in the corridors at school!

What a classic love story of youth. Mmmm, will have to dig a few memories up of my own. ;-)

Jodi Cleghorn said...

It has been absolute years since I've even ventured through this terrain - and it was lovely to do so with a little poingnacy, rather than bitterness.

Looking forward to hearing your own ... and you went to a dance party and didn't tell me about it! Bugger!! Can't wait to hear more about that

danae sinclair said...

Yes, Venus Retrograde for sure - are you feeling better now that it has gone direct?? Has Woolworths switched its musack yet??

Funny stuff, nostalgia. Great material though, I really felt that I was there in Ballarat and a kid again (probably helped along by the two years I spent in Hay as a teenager)...

..and when it comes to Duncan, seems you were spared..it never seems like that at the time though does it?? :)

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Danae - you know I never thought of it that way ... spared his angst and lost path!

Last year when we were sitting in our Women's Rites of Passage course our facilitator told us, that an alternate view of marriage, was the willingness to take on and share your partner's karma? But I guess that there is a bit of karma sharing in all relationships.

Thanks also for the thumbs on the details such as the glass - there was a little contention over things like that during the editing stage.

Hay as a teenager ... hmmm?? Have interesting memories of Hay, when I was living in the Riverina from 1996-1999. That was where we went for 'fun' when my partner was working at ..ummm ... name evades me - where they have the horse races ... starts with 'C' - so vague today!