From the Vault: Homecoming

homecoming clock

A post from my old blog about of a collection of experiences from a summer at home, a taste of what’s to come.

December 22, 2011

These stupid pretty girls on the bus, shrieking and giggling in their tiny blue shorts and leggy summer dresses. They make me ashamed to be a teenager, but looking at them I realise I never really was a teenager if that’s what it is, and I certainly aren’t now. I always was a child, a mature, responsible, sometimes sceptical child, but a child nonetheless, until at 15 I was thrown into a new world populated with teenagers just like these, and rejected by them I spent two dark mournful years and another three happy ones transforming into an adult. And so I never was a teenager, or maybe those five years were it. But if that was it, it wasn’t the same proper teenage time that these girls are having. I am envious of them, yet I pity and despise them. Whatever those years were, whether a bypass or my own strange teenage-hood, I know it is over now – never to be again. I am grown now; alive I have ripened in the sun, or was it the dark, I’m not sure. Either way it is gone now, I am me. I think I’ve just had an epiphany.

As I place him down Sampson brushes his soft flank against my leg, his tail adapts to the curve of my calf as it too brushes softly past; his thank you for my rescue, for choosing him over the dog, as if I could betray him for another.

“Family heirloom”, she used those words when describing this stranger of a clock. As if this were my grandmothers clock (which it were) which we had admired every weekend, wishing it were our own, hoping to inherit (which we had not); in fact I have never seen this clock before. I do not accept this clock of Nan’s as a family heirloom, maybe of her family but certainly not of mine. A family heirloom to me would be Grandma’s egg slicer which I have admired every lunch at their home with its strong wires and metal frame, or indeed Mum’s clock which has lived on the mantelpiece since I was young, which I have lovingly wound and listened to the familiar ticking and half hourly donging for so many years. If given this stranger clock myself I would sooner throw it away than have it upon my mantle. If it were Mum’s clock, well that would be different – even though it is not as attractive as this stranger – because Mum’s clock is a family heirloom.

And just as soon as I have accepted the past five years for what they were, reconciled my dark past and put to rest my anger – I am confronted almost immediately with the very girl who changed everything. The one individual who my teenage experience depended on, who had she not been a shallow, plastic bitch could have embraced me, or been gentler in her rejection of me; the girl I was assigned to on the first day of grade ten all those years ago, the pivot day that changed everything. In the beauty salon, a haven of sorts where I have previously been free to talk about myself, my hopes and my dreams – I am suddenly in fear. She works here now. Most of the other girls are busy with clients, and my appointment time approaches. Heart pounding in my chest I hide my face in my book and pray don’t let it be her, don’t let it be her, please don’t let it be her. It was her. We pretend not to recognise one another and she leaves me in the room to change. I wish I had worn make-up today, had dressed a little better; why didn’t I put on any eye-shadow, why did I wear a singlet, why did I wear a green bra with a blue singlet? She returns and we begin. She punctuates the silence with the usual standard questions; are you sorted for Christmas, what are your plans for the rest of the day, so you don’t have to work then, are you doing anything for the holidays? I manage to tell her I’m getting a haircut later on, I work casually at the hospital in Hobart; it’s a good job for me because I’m a medical student, and I’ll be spending new years in Sydney with my boyfriend. She asks me whether I went straight to uni after college and I know we have reached that critical point, the point where we ‘accidentally’ find out we know one another. I tell her yes, she asks what college I went to, and then we reach the finale; what high school? ‘Kings’, ‘me too’, ‘oh… well I was only there for grade ten so I didn’t know many people’. Awkward silence. ‘You’ve got a little sister right who went there too’, ‘yeah’, ‘yeah I thought so’, ‘yes I thought when I saw you; I recognise that girl’. I’m careful to call her a girl because that’s what she still is. Silence. ‘So did you go to Newstead then’, ‘No, straight into beauty school’, ‘of course’. And it’s over. She finishes up and I pay – grateful it was only my legs I was getting waxed. She bids me a good time in Sydney and I leave, victorious. I’ll never be as skinny, tanned, or as well made up as she is, but I’m going to be a doctor, I have an amazing boyfriend, and I’m happy. I don’t resent or pity her, and realise this chance encounter has only further consolidated my acceptance of the past as nothing more than the past.

Walking through Launceston now I am beautiful, a butterfly finally erupted from within the girl who once lived here. I want to show her off to the whole city; show her around and say “Look here Launceston, look at what she has become! This girl she is a woman now, look.”

I think I’m ready to turn twenty now.

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