The Outsider.

outside-2

 

I have always been an outsider; a greaser, a Soda Pop.

A spectator. Never really fitting in, never really getting there.

A moth, butting its’ tiny head against a light bulbs hot glow, over and over again.

It has a lot to do with where I sat in the family unit, I suppose. The last one; the littlest, 6 years behind everyone else. Always trying to catch up, to join in, to feel included.

Making myself as invisible as I could, at the long Christmas table, before I was discovered and exiled to the kids card table in the corner, away from the murmuring, adult magic.

Completely cocooned by inclusion; What a moment that must be.

I want my voice heard, my personality accepted; my skin, my bones, in uniform with others around me.

At school I was sidelined a lot of the time. ON the edge of a giant stretch.  A bright, rolling green lawn, scattered with lunch tables and ball games. A petri dish to observe; girls under my microscope laughing together, bonding, adoring each other; from class room letters and invites to sleep overs. I never considered myself one of them.

Growing older it became parties. The first taste of drugs and alcohol and sex and breaking of curfews, we were all cementing friendships and bonds even further.  For some reason it felt like it was all without me. I was a bystander. I had no idea why and it hurt every spot in my body, my joints creaking like Tin Man with no oil, if I only had.. a place to fit.

What was so wrong with me? I didn’t lament this tragic state of woe in a pathetic way, more so it was a genuine question filled with curiosity….why?

Why could I not bask in the hot glow of light-bulbed connections.

Standing on the outside looking in, is how it always seems to go.  Gnawing at my brain matter.

How lucky to be part of such a close tribe, with inside jokes and team mate pokes.

I have had it fleetingly in my time here and there, flecks of gold amongst the rocky pools. I was sometimes able to turn my pink lady leather collar up, cigarette dangling.

I think it has been harder still with the type of work I have found myself doing. The life of a contractor. Flinging from one office to the other, like a pinball. Watching everyone else connect while I look on, studying them with my binoculars as if they were some rare bird.

Working hard at a job I loved, with people I adored; feeling like my gang, my team. Until I am suddenly tossed aside and not spoken to again, reminding me to sit in the stands where I belong and not join the pack on the field. Collecting bruises and feathers along the way.

On Christmas cards sent to our family of 6, I was always the very last name on the sentiment. It always bothered.

When picking sides for games, I was the last one usually selected. My skin would always turn a prickly, burning red.

I notice I am the last on an email list always, my ideas are always plan b or c, no one ever fights over who gets to sit next to me and no one has asked if we can take a photo together, wide smiles, arms around each other connected.

Boys pushing me away after the chase, I have no idea why. Why did they pick the next girl and not me?

People talk over me, around me, behind me and not often to me. It slaps and slaps gently, like the tide finally reaching the shore; tiny grains of sand;  underneath eroding.

It all sounds so sad doesn’t it, every inch of me has always felt this way. I don’t think it is anyone, though, intentionally causing this anymore. I think it is all me and how I see myself; judge myself.

When I forget this though I can be so mad at life, picking me last for all of the giant stuff too; travel, love, wedding bells and pregnant bellies.

Did I do something wrong? Am I somehow missing something that everyone else signed up for without me realising?

I remember once I was on a school excursion, the cool kids of course all wrapped up in each other excitedly as the bus roared down the Oxley Highway knocking us from left to right. I recall studying the kids at the front of the bus. I knew I didn’t belong with them and it made me angry that I had no control, no choice in it at all, that’s where I was dumped. It was the sparkling group at the back of the bus I wanted in on and I intently watched them; trying to join in as best as I could craning my neck to the truth or dare game being played. Patience paying off as I was finally invited to play before realising it was only because I had become the dare, a kiss on my lips a mortifying punishment to the boy with the green eyes and tanned skin. What hope did I have, as I trudged back to the front of the bus where I apparently belonged.

We all sit on our porches and view the same sunset at the end of the day, are we really so different.

I somehow find myself on the edge once again, at the front, looking towards the back where the cool kids have gathered. Although I am now bobbing up and down on a boat at high tide and not a bus side to side. A new job, with new team mates, at a new Christmas table. They are all sitting together and I have never felt more out of place, wishing I could jump overboard and swim back to shore where I now belong; to people that I have managed to collect along the way, eventually.  Who, actually think I am worth choosing first, who find me funny and lovely and a good friend with interesting stories.

Oh, to walk past the cool girls at the Christmas table, at the back of the boat, bobbing up and down as they giggle and dance and leave me out of it all so easily. To be able to finally shout at the top of my lungs that none of it actually bothers me at all anymore.

To whack a big smooch on one of their lips.

To stride past them all, as I take a flying leap off port side, grabbing the life ring as I go.

Yelling over my shoulder as I hit the water, ‘Stay Gold, Pony Boy, Stay Gold.’…more to myself than to anyone else.

Em xoxo

Them and Me.

2

What they all must have been thinking, as that tiny single engined plane hit the dusty runway on the outskirts of our small country town?

It was a sunny September day; a slight chill in the air. Winter still lingering.

Dad along with our grandparents, my brother David, 12, my eldest sister Lisa 11 and the youngest of the group, Trish who was 6.

They were all huddled together waiting to catch a glimpse of my mum, who they hadn’t seen for over a week. While my older siblings had enjoyed the fish and chips with Dad for dinner and later than normal bedtimes…everyone silently agreed it was time for mum to come home.

I often wonder, how they must have felt when I came home from the hospital that day.

I had entered their world with some complications so was quickly whizzed off in a plane to soar above the bright city lights of ’78, without getting to meet any of them. Despite all of this and my grand arrival via sky, into their tight-knit family unit, I was immediately one of the tribe and I took my position no questions asked; the baby of the family.

SO being the baby, I actually ended up with 3 mothers.

Well sort of.

I had my mum of course; the one who birthed me (and thank goodness that happened), raised, nurtured and loved me. But, she also recruited 2 offsiders, 2 cadets, 2 right hand men.

My sisters.

Those 2 had a lot of input in my upbringing; shaping my sense of identity, where I fit in the world, my sense of humour and any lingering neurosis. They also taught me all about go fish, elastics, roller-skates, slip and slide detergent ratios and what was going on with Boy George. They taught me how much better a trampoline could be with a sprinkler underneath it, how you could even make it more interesting by putting it up on its side and running and jumping on to the mat swinging it down with a thud. They were the main cause of laughter when we were kids, and a main source of tears.

I was forever trying to be one of them, to catch up to them, and they were always up to something, some adventure or bright idea. I followed them gleefully everywhere, wanting to be part of it all, willing my bones to grow so I was not left behind.

It was so hard when I was 4, watching helplessly as they would all march off to school together excited for their day ahead. I would stand at the gate and cry and then head back there at the end of the day, by the old galvanized fence covered in jasmine until they finally returned, dumping their school bags at the door along with my loneliness.

I got my first pair of roller-skates when I was 5 and I attached each one to my feet in seconds. Realising this meant I could now join their pack with the other neighbourhood kids as they skated down to the end of the street, to the ice cream truck and back again.

As soon as I heard that familiar ice creamy music wafting down the road and through our window to find us all, I was up and ready to join them. ‘You don’t want to come with us’ my eldest sister Lisa casually stated, ‘Mr Whippy doesn’t like little kids, he has big fangs and fiery red eyes and big claws’ and with that off they rolled laughing down the street.

I didn’t sleep for weeks, and I hid every time I heard that ice-cream truck tune from then on.

Once I could finally join their school uniformed march to school, they often had to babysit and look after me on the school bus which they hated. They scolded me like little mothers if I didn’t do what they told me to. I would always yell defiantly, ‘you’re not the boss of me’ as they gave me a good chinese arm burn to prove just how wrong I was.

My sisters also had a list of tactics when mum and dad weren’t around. One loved to terrorize me by putting on scary ‘I’m going to kill you’ faces and then switching off the lights, as I screamed with half delight / half fear for my life, as she chased me around the house. The other liked to wrestle me to the ground and pin me so I couldn’t move from the big long string of saliva she had skilfully spat towards my face before sucking it back up again, over and over.

On days when they decided to let me live, we would learn the words of songs together and record our duets on a little tape recorder in my sister’s room. We would include sound effects and jokes and lay across our polly pocket bed spreads and laugh till tears came. When my sister felt she had the directors gig in the bag, she broadened her repertoire, challenging herself to write and direct little plays for us and our cousins to perform together for the adults. She came up with pearlers like Lucy Licks Lollipops ( I was Lucy) and The Moon Men ( I had to be a moon man).

When they had grown bored of impressing the adults, on one particular hot summer day in our back yard; they directed their attention to me. Before I knew what was what, I was told to chew a whole 2 packets of Hubba Bubba bubble-gum – so like 10 pieces were encouraged into my 8-year-old gob and then handed over so we could join each fat, sticky wad together, stretching it to see how long we could get it. That thing went across the back yard and into the paddock next door. We were stoked! I then tried to impress them further by blowing huge grape bubbles, which didn’t go down too well with mum, who ended up cutting it out of my hair. It was worth the warm glow of my sister’s attention though, heating my skin like the sun above us.

There was of course, as with all sisters, major clothes fights too. Mum tried her best to be a UN Ambassador and work a peace treaty but usually ended up siding with me, the baby – which resulted in my teenage sister Trish and I in matching outfits. I was so very happy, my sister was so very not. Things got so bad sharing a room with Trish when she was around 15, she ended up putting a line down the middle of our bedroom from the A-Ha poster to the gold sparkled knobs on our dresser draws; my rainbow bright and care bears and I were not allowed to cross her line and tough sanctions were to be adhered to. I still look back at our bedroom and it sums us both up indubitably; chalk and cheese. She was chalk..and I was cheese. She was neat as a pin, nothing out of place..and well..I was cheese. Trish crossed her line eventually, to braid my hair and sing along to our new Wham record. Soon the line faded and we were a peaceful United States. On nights when I was scared of the wind howling outside, she would come over to my side, get into bed with me and read Dr Seuss to me until I fell asleep.

Despite our bond, the age difference sometimes got to poor Trish especially (being the closest in age to me). I was the pesky little sister, cramping her style. That poor burgeoning, hormonal tween even got given a barbie Ferrari for Christmas at aged 12, just so I would have someone to play barbies with…she was ready to hitch hike it out of that family and boy do I remember her clearly telling me just that. She actually did calm down and end up playing with me though. We sat together for hours doing Barbie hair do’s while she taught me how to spell my first words. Granted it took a while. ‘Trish, what does GRFQP spell?’

‘Nothing, it spells nothing.’

‘What about RFGDSCEI?’

They were and still are the best sisters I could have hoped for.

…despite them telling me all the time I was actually adopted. They used to love telling me the old gigantically fat lady down the road with no teeth, who smacked her kids with a cane rod and who couldn’t walk on account of her being so fat, was my real mother.

 

They are pretty good though. My sisters; my little mother hens who are still looking after me. There are 2 people I call when things get tough or if something needs to be celebrated. They are the first…even sometimes ahead of my husband and mum..the real one.

I went through a very bad day a few months ago and told a close friend, how I had called only one person, my sister. I was in a fetal position ready to give up on everything. My friend frowned and said ‘I wish I had of known and you called me when you were so upset.’ I smiled, warmly, at her kindness but explained, ‘I can’t help but call my sisters.’

They have been my refuge since the beginning. They are who I crawled under the covers with when the storms rolled in, they are the ones who held my hand all through the night if I couldn’t sleep. They were also the ones who I hid behind as we walked past the rough kids at the bus stop opposite ours..

I still find myself trying to catch up to them, to be an adult just like them. When they talk to each other at the kitchen table and give each other advice, I still notice I take on the role of the baby sister, whingeing to pay attention to me, whining that they ignore me still..

To be honest I don’t really mind all that much now, as being the baby sister comes with a lot of perks. It means mum usually still sides with me…which means I also get out of the washing up 99% of the time too.

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Em xoxo

Torn (in a Natalie Imbruglia kinda way).

I came across some old journals at the back of my closet the other day. The kind from my 20’s that had me shuddering in horror and turning bright red. Once I finished reading them I hugged them none-the-less, and carefully placed them back, like an offering to an ancient shrine.

It took me back to a time I hadn’t given a second thought to in many years. Back to someone from my past, who I used to spend a lot of my early 20’s thinking about obsessively, naively….

The first time I shrugged his irritating hand from my shoulder I was on a crowded dance floor; under flashes of coloured light. Black dress; eyes sparkling; head spinning.

A brief hostile connection, in the middle of a grungy, underground pub. What a dive.

Paint had peeled off the cracked, yellow, smoked stained walls and feet stuck to the once bright red carpet, now melted black from drunken shoes scuffing their way around sweaty, lithe bodies.

I was in my third year living in the city I had moved to.

My first year of having a job, selling travel. On my own trip of power, with a head set, red lips and dark bangs.

I don’t even know where the anger came from that night.

It felt exactly the way I imagine pots must feel as they boil.

It launched at the base and slowly bubbled its way up to my throat, before I could do nothing but glare at him with detestation and the dark bangs. I remember it as I do, because of how confused I felt with my reaction. I actually liked him a lot, maybe too much. More than I could handle.

We first met in a parallel setting months before. On a crowded dance floor; summer heat radiating off the walls and the floors. Bodies sticky with sweat once again. My girlfriend and I had taken haven under a giant industrial fan, as we sipped our drinks and checked our red lips. I didn’t even notice him approach me before he had. Suddenly he was just there.  Smiling wide, shirt loud, voice soft.

The Hawaiian Palm Trees on his shirt and the effects of the drink in my hand, had me feeling brave enough to say what did I have to lose? I ignored my girlfriend’s eyes rolling all around, upset that he had dared talk to us. I could do nothing but focus on his warm eyes and smile at his certitude. He told me he had been watching me from afar for a while. I had been noticed; admired. He had a crush, just like the movies.

The rest, as they say is history.

Not quite.

That first night ended in him throwing tiny rocks at my bedroom window yes, but our time together over the following years ended with him throwing gigantic rocks at my heart, just as determinedly.

The weeks after the window, he serenaded me with a guitar and song. He showed up in odd moonlit places, on shoes with retractable tiny wheels, like skates..not quite.

Every word, every smile, every tap on my shoulder; It was clear, he was falling. My inexperience and fear had me fighting against the magic of it all. So I pulled away. I did what all 13 year old’s trapped inside 20 year old’s bodies do.

I ran for the hills and I hid. I told him ‘no’ a million times over, while inside I was screaming ‘yes’.

I didn’t understand the complex feelings and sensations burning through my body.

The way it sizzled under my skin.

The world faded away, blurred almost whenever he appeared; like a drug. There had been other boys, but nothing quite like this.

The way I would always watch for him to enter a crowded room. It was more than just a dull butterfly’s flutter; it was electric and intense and without my headset and supervisors badge, I had no idea how to control it.

That is why suddenly, in the middle of a grungy dance floor, black dress and dark bangs.. despite wanting to yell at the top of my lungs that I wanted to run away with him and live happily ever after. I instead flicked his hand away and yelled at him to leave my shoulder and my heart alone.

Despite this latest display of my indignant efforts, inevitably, we would always end up somewhere, intertwined. A chemical reaction I could never douse.

Until, it was all gone, just as suddenly. He stopped tapping my shoulder; stopped making my skin burn.

The initial game grew mundane for him. The chase was over. The rabbit caught.

He was suddenly too busy for a relationship; too focused on work. Having me whenever he wanted me, he was able to insist on casual connections. He went from being him, to being me, and I went from being me…to being him in a cat and mouse state. The only difference being he wasn’t confused, he knew what he wanted now and it wasn’t a love story with me. I also wasn’t confused, I knew what I wanted now..and it was the love story with him.

I persisted.

I forced it to last years beyond it’s shelf life; confident I could change his mind. The game of it all consumed me and the drug of his love the ultimate reward. I tapped much harder on his shoulder each time. I longed to feel it all again and I regretted every moment I had pushed it all off the dancefloor. I was happy to take whatever scraps he wanted to throw my way…dignity dropped on the floor as quickly as our clothes.

It is such a funny thing to look back on now. How young. How foolish. How desperately in love I thought I was. I have pages and pages of Dear Diary’s to prove it.

To me it was the complete turning of the world on its axis, that I was suddenly doing all the hard yards; the chasing. I know that is so clearly what I got caught up in.

He wasn’t magic. He was smoke and mirrors.

I don’t even know why I have chosen to remember it all as I have, as I am sure it was all uglier than I now recall some 15 years later.

Oh what a lucky girl I am to have ended up here. I could still be out there roaming the streets on my matching skates searching for him, thinking I loved him.

Begging him to tap me on my shoulder in a crowded room, if I promised not to snap at his fingers.

Real romance was discovered eventually of course, as the story often goes. A complete explosion of chemistry and fireworks and happily ever after, smiles and deep love in front of fans, and on sweaty dance floors, skating around the streets holding hands. Red lipped still (always) but now drunk on proper love. The kind that gives back a million times over. With blue sparkly eyes, and a smile that melts me still.

To think back now on what I thought I knew.

If only I could see what was on it’s way, to know that a spectacular, fulfilled love life was ahead of me.

I don’t actually regret a single thing at all, as I am sure you wouldn’t either. Well ..maybe I do.

I wish I had of let things go when it was time to. Dignity still in tact.

Maybe I also wish I had of spent more time on dance floors with girlfriends; instead of under gigantic fans checking my makeup, talking to no-hopers in Hawaiian shirts.

Windmill arms and Destiny’s Child mandatory.

Em xoxo