Chapter Nine: 1990 ~~ Making My Own Way
‘It is the opening of the communication with the external life that makes man wider. Then he does not say of his friend: ‘This is my friend, I love him, but he says: ‘This is myself, I love him.’ That is the time when he can say that he has arrived at the realisation of love. As long as he says: ‘I feel sympathy with him because he is my friend’, his sympathy is not yet fully awakened. The real awakening of his sympathy is on that day when he sees his friend and says, ‘this is myself’. Then the sympathy is awakened, then there is communication with oneself.’ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Early 1990, I gained temporary employment within the Marketing Department of State Super where I had taken work experience. I turned nineteen around this time, and loved the freedom from studies, assignments, and examinations, but this year soon became my most tumultuous and unsettled one yet…
Perfect timing for me to meet two lifetime friends…
Enriching my life from the moment he stepped into in it in April, was Stephen who I met soon after starting at State Super. Stephen was on a working holiday and because he was from England and wearing Doc Martins boots, I automatically assumed he’d go to parties—basing my assumption on the dance party influence of seeing Doc Martins everywhere, hearing cool English music, and a few English voices too. On meeting Stephen, and seeing he fit the bill, I asked, ‘Do you go to dance parties?’ ‘No’ he curiously replied not yet familiar with Sydney dance parties.
Stephen was the newly assigned Public Relations Assistant and I was the Marketing Assistant. With our desks within close proximity, our relationship blossomed working alongside each other. We’d look forward to each day where we’d work and mostly play, singing songs—especially KISS songs, both of us loving the band. He’d proudly tell me about England, which he’d call The Old Dart and I’d dream about visiting my mother’s birthplace when he was there to show me the sights. Our working highlights were organising marketing functions where we’d hire plates of gourmet food for conference attendees, pinching our favourite sandwiches to devour before the conference concluded. We both dreamed about food and another huge highlight for us were the many lunches held at Sydney CBD restaurants for birthday lunches, farewells, and events for employees of the marketing department. Such colourful everyday contact helped us develop a bond that has unconditionally bound us to this day.
Our friendship became so close I told him about my pregnancy, and about my secret wish to see a plastic surgeon. In my mind, I became fixated on regaining the original elasticity and ‘natural’ firmness of my breasts I had before the sad ordeal. I developed a sense of urgency to intervene in attempt to ‘fix’ matters before the natural course of time. I was confused and knew there was nothing natural about plastic surgery, but hoped to do something that would erase the incident. I knew this wasn’t possible, and beat myself up realising I should have been sadder about the baby. But, I believed I had had no hope of keeping my baby, and definitely no control of being able to give it a good life and I didn’t even consider adoption.
So, now I concentrated on something I hoped to have control of and found myself shocked by my rising body disillusion, insecurity, and physical attachment that developed from the admiration I’d received. On some level, I’d associated my identity to my physical appearance and berated myself, thinking I was no longer a carefree happy girl with the future at my feet. As I spoke, Stephen cried and cried, saddened by my experience, offering to assist by paying half if I decided to go through with it.
Ben had also agreed to help for my peace of mind. He came with me to the appointment and waited during my first and only consultation. The female plastic surgeon drew on my chest to gauge any disproportion, and confirmed that my breast tissue had undergone adjustments due to weight gain and loss. Then she affirmed that I didn’t need any work, though she may have proceeded if I’d been adamant, but that wasn’t necessary. I didn’t go back. She confirmed what I needed to hear; giving me peace of mind, and explaining that sometimes it takes a year for breasts to readjust from the unnatural process I’d put my body through. Of course, my punishment continued and my heart continued to break, seemingly beyond repair. I kept this secret.
Brightening my inner turmoil was a girl named Sharee, who soon began working at State Super. We fell in love the moment we met. Our friendship ignited so joyfully and playfully, with a natural spontaneous ease that helped sooth my heart from inner miseries. We held an endearing respect for each other in the workplace, at lunches, and we really knew how to let our hair down when we went for monthly State Super happy hours that went for many hours!
Sharee was a six-foot blonde beauty, and when we danced after having a few drinks, I would forget I wasn’t at a dance party and dance with her like Paul and I would. A movement where I held onto Paul’s sides and zigzagged down his body and up again in time to the music. Again, I must empathise that a girl dancing with a gay guy is a sensual event rather than sexual. Onlookers in the drinking work world viewed this with sexual eyes and so much interest came our way. Feeling cheeky and very alive sometimes we’d play up to it, becoming amorous, but not sexual.
Sharee and I didn’t work in the same department; but, we had lunch together everyday and went to nearby bars after work. We shared a loving, caring conversation that saw us through our highs and lows making us feel like soul-sisters. We knew our love would be ongoing and sublime no matter what! It was so good to have some certainties, especially when my home-life was being uprooted and my psychological heart was still in a mess…
* * *
As we know, when one is at a low ebb, external things come about to reflect inner miseries. At home, Fay represented this for me, as she had totally moved in by this stage.
The rift I didn’t even realise existed between Fay and me, re-sparked when David broke up with Kaz, and came back home for a while. I threw a spanner in the works when I went to visit Kaz as she’d called asking me to. I felt sad for her, knowing how much she loved my brother from all the times I’d shared with them in the past, and we’d built our own friendship by then. Of course, when I was there she told me how much she wanted to speak with Dave, and I reassured her it would be okay to call him.
Mistake! I told Dave on returning home, so he was ready when she phoned at dinnertime; but regrettably, I didn’t tell Dad and Fay. I told them about my visit when Dave was already speaking to Kaz on the phone and tensions rose, as they believed Dave and Kaz were no good for each other and saw no sense in contact. I understood, but didn’t understand Fay’s ferocity, as she dramatically left the kitchen and headed out the back. I instinctively followed her, without looking at Dad, who detested conflict of any kind.
Outside Fay wasn’t interested in peace-making. She seemed to want to strike me, so I told her to hit me if she needed to. Instead, she said, ‘Go, and ring your Mother’.
‘Your mother…really loves you—leaving you when you were seven’.
Knowing Fay had a problem with Mum, I chose to ignore her words, which was easy as they weren’t true. Mum may have left, but she never stopped loving me and nobody could tell me differently, so I didn’t react, and tried to raise the energy by bringing up the coming arrival of her youngest daughter moving into the house (a year my senior). ‘I’m so happy Di is moving in. It means that Dad has a child here and you have a child of your own here too’. Adding that I hoped this was ‘a positive thing for all of us!’
It was positive for a short time, but that was it.
Di and I had no problems getting along when she arrived, and just as expected trouble eased with Fay and me. Di’s presence brought happiness to Fay, and nicer vibrations were in the house for a while. Even still, a situation soon arose that was waiting to happen, due to the lengths some people go to for privacy.
* * *
We had an open door policy in my house when I was growing up, so when Fay had a double-lock secured to the main bedroom door, issues were bound to arise! (Dad and Fay slept in separate bedrooms as she suffered insomnia.) As I didn’t need to enter Fay’s room, the locked door wouldn’t have made a difference. As soon as I noticed, it made one.
Dad and Fay had driven to Brisbane for a marathon Dad was running in. This meant our four-bedroom house had two rooms vacant that I assumed were free when Julie and Louise wanted to visit the following weekend. Louise needed the main bedroom for herself, her husband Ian, and newly-born Bianca. My other niece Alana would bunk with me, and Julie sleep in Dad’s room—David’s old one. When discussing the set-up with Louise on the phone, I was inspired to go turn the doorknob on the main bedroom door that stood ominously closed. And for some reason, I just knew it was going to be locked snap shut.
I called Dad to ask if a spare key was in the house because Louise, Ian, the girls, and Julie were coming up, and all the rooms were needed. A family visit hadn’t happened for a long time, due to lack of room, so if Fay had the key with her then I asked him to have one cut and posted ASAP—dearly hoping she would agree. Dad said he wasn’t happy about the locked door and had felt uneasy driving away. We ended the call hoping for the best.
I dismissed the potential gravity of the situation in innocent hope Fay would be reasonable. Silly me! My call and request was enough to have Fay leave Dad in Brisbane and fly home! Worried she’d take such measures to assert herself, I rang home from work the next day to ensure she was still with Dad and couldn’t believe it was her voice on the line. Once recovered, I collected myself and stated, ‘Dad is the most important person in the world to both of us. You should not have left before he runs the race because he needs your support. If anything happens to him I’ll never forgive you,’ I threatened. Then as an afterthought before hanging up, ‘Don’t worry Fay, you’ve got what you wanted, I’m moving out!’ Realising it was the only solution.
I immediately called her daughter Di at work to speak about the situation and earnestly asked her to encourage her mum’s fast return to Dad, for his own peace of mind and health. Then very gratefully I said, ‘It’s wonderful we can still be friends regardless of what happens with our parents, unlike many other families’, adding that I didn’t want it to change! She seemed friendly and agreeable. I spent that night at Julie, Paul, and Daniel’s to give Di time alone with Fay.
Next day Di told me Fay was flying back to Dad. I felt better, but there was still no progress with the locked bedroom, as Fay hadn’t left the key. Because of this, Louise, Ian, and the girls went to Ian’s family house in Gosford to spend the weekend, and Julie came by herself. As Saturday night passed by, Julie and I were surprised to find our house did have an extra unlocked room free by way of Di’s, who didn’t come home all weekend!
Sensations of injustice took over me! I stated that they were actually family, not strangers, and I had used her bedroom from ages three to 15. I affirmed that Louise and Ian would not have touched anything, and they would have changed the sheets. She said she didn’t care and belonged in the house more than I belonged, as she paid rent. Previously unaware of her situation and not expecting a monetary confrontation of any type, I took the bait, for it was true—I hadn’t started paying board yet. In childish retaliation, I said she was lucky to own her mum’s brand new car, since her mum now used Dad’s. It went back and forth like this in the kitchen. A couple of friends were in the lounge room playing music so they didn’t know what was happening, but were aware of my unhappiness.
Once there she accusingly questioned, ‘What’s going on?’ My genuine reply brought fast understanding to her mind, ‘Absolutely nothing, I am not fighting with her! But I’m upset because she wouldn’t allow my family to sleep in her room one night, and we needed it, as there is no access to the main bedroom as your mother bolted the door’. Lea, seeing and feeling my honesty, softened and consoled me. ‘Mum and Di are very alike and very private people, and have always been like that. I’m more relaxed and laid back like your family.’ Then we spoke about David, as she had a soft spot for him—a conversation we’d had before.
The commotion of the Di quandary evaporated in our friendliness, and I offered to go make amends. Lea advised me it would be better leaving Di alone and thought she would be okay by the morning.
Problems re-ignited at the front door that evening. Normally only the security fly-wire door was locked, to which I had a key, but on this evening, the main door was locked also. I knocked several times, sensing Di was home. Receiving no response, I gained entry by walking round the back. Seeing Di propped up against the lounge, in pyjamas, eating her dinner with a smug expression, stirred my feelings. ‘Thank you for not opening the door,’ I said tongue-in-cheek while heading up to my bedroom. In my safe haven, I dispelled festering sensations of disdain with loud sighs!
Once out of my work clothes, and feeling somewhat lighter, I told Di I had friends visiting again, but she was welcome to be here, as we would work around her. Although I meant this, my tone implied differently because she had locked the front door and ignored my knocks. Di responded with warning of Dad and Fay’s imminent return, and the coming trouble. I immediately went to the phone to dissuade their return, but realised another call might backfire, like my first that caused Fay to fly home. Hoping this would not happen and that Di was fibbing, I retreated into Nanna’s unit.
Now that the ordeal was turning nasty, I relayed the encounter to Nanna. She looked serious and concerned, but didn’t say anything. In silent confusion, she tried merging my account with Di’s altered version. Then, suddenly, Di was at the sliding door. ‘Suzie you are very rude!’ and wailed accusations in front of Nanna, which was rude. I was standing behind Nanna and made jester-like motions, moving my hands about, making facial expressions, mocking her dramatic demeanour. Nan didn’t see this and was surprised Di grew even more upset, storming back in the house, then roaring off in her car soon after.
Di wasn’t to return that evening, but she left evidence of her wrath by taking the needle from the stereo player. Fay’s later model replaced our old family stereo, and Di asserted ownership by taking the needle. This was only the beginning! Alicia and I ventured into her room to see if we could find it, but no luck. The only evidence of our entry was the door ajar, which I left to annoy her. Not nice doing something for that purpose, but I was sick of being nice and misunderstood. Back in the lounge room, the tape player was undisturbed, so we listened to melodic tunes through cassettes.
I entered my home with trepidation the next evening and this time found the entire stereo missing! As well as, the electric heater, which was the only one useable because our oil heater wasn’t working, and since it was winter, I was certain to miss it. Other necessity items of her mother’s were missing. Any photos reflecting the Palmer family were backwards on the cabinet. A beautiful big photo of our Old English Sheep dogs was gone. It was so strange being in my home in a family warfare. The house was so odd, with important pieces of furniture missing, someone else’s family looking at me from the cabinet, and an air of resentment never so hostile even when David and Julie were at their wildest. I almost wished for those days again, because everything was familiar, even their arguments involved some type of family feeling.
As Di was a body builder/fitness fanatic like Fay, it wasn’t a surprise she moved the stereo and other items on her own. Except to where? Until I noticed, she too had a double security lock fitted on her door. With that, I gave my old bedroom door a swift kick with my Doc Martin shoes, leaving a small imprint of my anger. Although Dad’s response was a concern, I felt a sense of satisfaction leaving a mark in defiance of those locks and bolts! I readjusted and reversed the photos so her family portraits now faced the wrong way, and although I left them that way, I didn’t feel any better. Our Old English Sheep dogs’ portrait remained missing…
Di called me at work the next day. She was home, having stayed away two nights. ‘Suzie you’re in big trouble…you’re going to be kicked out! How dare you kick my bedroom door’! With that, she put the receiver on the bench, and raced around the kitchen banging pots and pans, making a mighty racket. Hearing enough I put the phone down, and cried from my mounting upset and weariness of it all. Stephen comforted me, as well as Mum, Louise, and Julie when I rang and later saw them. They all had a running commentary of the situation because there was no reason not to, and now the absurd had occurred, I breached Dad’s request for the silence he had asked me to maintain since the fight with Fay a year and a half earlier, telling Mum, Louise, and later Julie of the difficulties back then. They couldn’t believe I had kept this from them for so long, but understood my respect for Dad’s wishes.
I decided not to go to work the following day, and instead, guard the home front from what I saw as lunacy in every way. Fortunately, Ben also had a day off, because Di arrived mid-morning with a different sister from the other night. I called hello to them as if nothing had happened, but when Di stood on a chair and had difficulty unbolting her bedroom door, I couldn’t resist saying, ‘having a bit of trouble there Di?’ I should have resisted, my amusement and mere voice would have escalated her aversion… I couldn’t understand why she was feeling so much loathing, and believed her mum was a big influence. It felt eerie having such hatred thrust towards me!
Ben and I retreated to my room to give them privacy. What we did there was very naughty under the circumstance. We had a cone of marijuana, inspiring me to be frivolous and cheeky. For I decided, we should be downstairs in my own house.
Di had gained entry by this time, and as she was leaving the house, I refrained from asking about the missing items, even the heater that remained locked away in her room unused. As she walked out, she told me to get my things and go, because Dad and Fay would be home any minute. She then called me an ‘f-ing c’, which shocked me. Because I knew Dad would never kick me out, I said, ‘The ring isn’t on your mum’s finger yet’, suggesting Fay’s entire hold wasn’t over Dad yet. It’s a shame we spoke at all, for her sister Noreen then said her bit, which had Ben saying his bit—who was outraged over the treatment I was receiving and told them they had no right to talk to me like that. I appreciated someone standing up for me.
In the midst of this, and to end it, I played music through my little tape recorder, loudly. I was elated for Di to hear music playing despite the missing stereo, and happier still at drowning out useless dialect. My instinct was to dance in a careless, carefree way. This had the desired effect; they departed the house quick smart. At the window to see them off, my smiling, and dancing continued in seeming victory of such silliness. I was being silly, because the whole ordeal was just that! But I wasn’t happy, knowing my place was no longer in this home, being no match against Fay and Di… An all-in dispute was on the horizon and it wasn’t in Dad’s nature to stand up for me in the way I needed. I was also yet to know he would direct his rage towards me!
My main mission that day was to tell David and Kaz I was leaving, which needed to be done in person, as they had no phone. Yes, Dave and Kaz did get back together because of that phone call just as Dad feared, but that would have happened regardless of my input since they obviously had unfinished business. Alas, they weren’t home when Ben and I arrived and still weren’t when it turned dark.
We were waiting in the corner coffee shop when their car finally turned into the street. I was growing distressed with intense stomach pains, and the coffee shop didn’t have a toilet! We ran, as fast as possible, but on reaching their veranda, my body could wait no more. I raced around the side of the house utterly embarrassed in the throws of poohing my pants. ‘They don’t call me Pooey for nothing’, I declared, making humour of a bad and unusual situation. Once sorted and clean, I told David about the disturbing events and my intention to move into Julie’s for awhile, as Julie had lovingly offered her side of the bed. Dave had some insight into Fay’s nature because she often put Dad down in front of him. So, he had never really liked her, and was outraged about my ordeal but that was that.
We had a customary smoke and then returned home where the saga continued! This time Di locked me out of the house—lock, stock, and barrel. Front doors, windows, heavy sliding door (which was never locked), and each back door, locked! Nanna wasn’t home out the back, and my house stood in foreboding darkness, inaccessible and horribly bleak. Before Ben found access through David’s old bedroom window that was far too high for me, I finally broke down and cried. This cruel game had gone excessively far. The situation was foreign, and I couldn’t continue playing along with such craziness.
I went to the next-door neighbour’s house to ring Dad about the nightmare ordeal and current lock-out circumstance but again the memory of my last call stopped me in my tracks before reaching their door. I truly didn’t want to bring Dad more disturbance regarding these foreign affairs inside and now outside the home. Dad’s philosophy of not being disturbed on holidays—and holidays were rare—made me decide not to call him. So I did the right thing, I thought, by abandoning the idea of calling to complain. Later, in the wonderful light of hindsight, I realised I should have been true to myself, and reached for his support.
Ben let me in on return, and once inside the feelings of rage and despair continued to rise as I sat on the toilet with another bout of the runs, my stomach expressing the bombarding nauseous emotions I’d been feeling. Emotions that increased even more when we discovered the clothes dryer in operation, tumbling round and round without articles inside, making the laundry sauna-like.
It was ALL too much…and now my need to leave home was without doubt. Next morning, I composed notes to stick on Di’s bedroom door and the laundry (back) door. The first started with: ‘You Bitch, how dare you lock me outside my own house!’ written with angry strokes in thick black marker! Unlike my opponent, I left the backdoors open so she could gain sensible entry into a formerly sensible house, acting from lifelong commonsense, but still feeling like the victim of vengeful acts and words, and justified to express my torment by the sword of truth…that is the pen!
I plastered the notes on her bedroom door: ‘How dare you call me an ‘f’n c’. ‘How dare you lock up the heater, the… etc’, and so forth, knowing Di would show Dad and Fay these notes, which supports me having written only the necessity. But, I never imagined she would actually leave the notes to greet Dad and Fay.
Di set up the laundry scene for Dad’s benefit as well. That is, the light was on with the dryer functioning and no clothing inside, which Di said was ‘Suzie’s doing’. He was outraged to think his daughter could be in such a fury… me, who had never even been in a rage, let alone cause damage. I was also aware such an activity would be harmful to the environment; a drainage on electricity; not to mention the possibility of burning down my family house; Nanna’s place; the cats; and my beautiful dog Katie. Dad should have realised I wouldn’t do that, but the power over him at the time made it hard for him to feel his heart. So, although I was bewildered, I have never held it against him.
The sight of notes stuck to the doors and the crying shaking wreck that was Di—the apparent victim, overcame Dad’s intuition. He was wild! Luckily, I wasn’t home to stand to my defence as I’d had no other choice but to move out! The day after Di had converted my home into Fort Knox, I packed my boomerang-pillow, some clothes and loaded those into the boot of my friend Andrew’s car, leaving for Sydney with Alicia, Andrew, and Ben to attend a party at Ziggurats nightclub in the Cross, called Strawberry Fields… And, to begin a new life. I took some stimulants there, which helped to alleviate the distress of the past week, as well as relieve my reoccurring stomach upset. I can still see myself dancing in the midst of the crowd, feeling sad and stunned.
Julie, and friends Karla and Trish, arrived to collect me in the brightness of the morning, where the night was still going! A night filled with disco lights bleeping, music pumping, people dancing and moving about with vitality and joy, and others deep in interested conversation away from the dance floor, or some simply looking on. We dragged ourselves away and as we transferred bags from car to car, Karla expressed great sympathy having been in similar positions. It was a very strange feeling to me and so alien, as this sort of carry-on had never occurred within our family. I was sad to have left home in such a way and much sadder leaving Dad that way … Dad who had always been the hero of my life, Julie often called me ‘Dad’s little shadow’ when I was little. It showed me that not all things happen as naturally expected, especially if opposition wants otherwise. I comforted myself that things would change.
It was in this way I came to live in Sydney at approximately 19 years and five months. Julie, Paul, and Daniel, welcomed me into their happy apartment in Surrey Hills, directly across from the Sydney Show Grounds and the Hordern Pavilion. Never a dull moment, weeknights were also social nights, and the weekends now spilled onto the weekdays. I enjoyed every day anew. I was so lucky to be living with Paul and Daniel… my favourite gay couple! A very special time, and my relationship with Julie also grew especially since I shared her double bed! I was grateful she took me in so caringly, and began to believe that she really did love me.
* * *
Mum encountered the negativity I left behind in Woy Woy when she rang the house early the following day, not knowing of my sudden change of circumstance. Dad and Fay had returned early as warned, and Dad was outraged. Aware of the ongoing crisis, Mum tried to defend me, but he was too furious to listen, ‘You don’t know Susan like you think you do’ her ‘personality has changed and she uses drugs'. Fay had found for him a porcelain bong under my bed, I’d long forgotten was even there. I only remembered when Mum told me of Fay’s discovery, as it belonged to Andrew and was unused, hidden under my bed as a favour to Andrew as he’d bought the bong while still living at home and didn’t want his mother finding it. Obviously, it had been forgotten, otherwise, Andrew would have taken it the night he helped me move, or I would have taken it to Sydney if it was mine. Aside from that, I did indulge in drugs, but not heavily, and they hadn’t altered my natural demeanour.
Mum was shocked. She had never heard Dad speak in such tones, and especially about me. She could hear he was speaking out of temper, influenced by people who obviously didn’t know me or know our type of people.
Dad’s voice was calm and controlled when we spoke on the phone two days later and arranged to meet to discuss. Once we were sitting at a table for two at the Woy Woy Pizza Hut, I repeatedly repeated the entire episode and each time he would say, ‘Tell me again’, and again! This was the first (and last) time he exuded such distrust towards me. I couldn’t believe he simply wouldn’t believe me, and his confusion grew as he received a description so contrary to Di’s version. In Di’s story, I had physically abused her the night of the argument, pulled from her bed, and ordered her to move out. This reportedly occurred after my amicable conversation with Lea. Interesting that Di was a body builder, so for me to overpower her physically, sheer temper could have been my only emotion.
I inaccurately denied one thing. The name I called her that night, having wiped it from my memory. Di was adamant and distressed about me calling her a name, and told him I was guilty of this even if nothing else had happened. I was adamant about not calling her any names especially that one, having never used such a thing, shocked she had come up with it. Why out of all the fibs would she want Dad to believe that the most? Until months later, the memory hit me like a ton of bricks, the muttering of that wrathful, twisted adjective, which sprang from nowhere. I instantly sought forgiveness, but as time had lapsed, I didn’t wish to re-ignite it with Dad. I contemplated how to broach the subject, but couldn’t muster the courage, feeling justified that an innocent lie is better than wilfully manufactured ones.
THE REAL AGITATION in the Woy Woy brew was evident a few months after the ordeal, when Julie and I stayed a Saturday night. It began when Fay showed disapproval towards Julie for using the phone twice to call Sydney. In reaction, I told Julie that Fay and Di had two lengthy showers a day, so the accounts would somehow balance. Fay heard and her face quickly expressed vehemence, causing me to retreat hastily to the front steps. No escape, Fay was soon standing over me pulling my plaits, pointing, and saying fiery things I can’t remember. She was showering spittle on me in the process, so I kept saying, ‘Stop spitting at me Fay’. Julie hastily ended the call and came to tell Fay to, ‘stop pulling her hair, and ‘leave her alone!’ I remained placid and non-reactionary, relieved a family member was witnessing this. They’d heard of Fay’s outbursts, but no one had seen them, until now.
What happened next confirms the dilemma with Di was never between us. Moving from the steps to leave Fay arguing with Julie, I entered the house as Di walked towards me in the hallway. ‘Di, what’s wrong with your mum?’ I asked puzzle-faced, and she replied with empathetic bewilderment, ‘I don’t know’. That’s all we said to each other, enough to affirm truce, and highlight that the problem was never between us, or ours. Whenever Di answered the phone to me over coming months, we would be pleasant, and this remained so in rare and future encounters.
* * *
Counteracting all negativity, soon after moving into Julie’s, the most special thing happened one sunny, Saturday afternoon. Julie and I walked across South Dowling Street to the Sydney Showground stables, to go horse riding through Centennial Park. We found the riding-school section but no one was in sight, so we decided to look at the privately owned horses. After a time admiring and patting some horses, I was wonder struck. Suddenly, Alpine was before our eyes! That is my Alpine!
‘Julie, there’s Alpine!’
But, Julie didn’t believe me, ‘How could that be Alpine? It’s not Alpine.’
‘Of course it is, I’d know my own horse anywhere,’ and almost instantly a girl arrived, and for Julie’s benefit, I said, ‘What is this horse’s name?’
Her reply was as expected, ‘Alpine, and he’s so lovely!’
‘I know! He was my horse,’ I cried in elation!
As if time had never lapsed, I opened the stable door, and there he was—my long lost baby! I couldn’t believe my luck to be in his presence again. This was beyond coincidence. I questioned his confinement in a Sydney city stable, and although sad for him, my joy eclipsed concerns just then. Alpine didn’t nicker or neigh in recognition as he would in the movies, he simply lowered his head in gesture of familiarity; his energy was calm and trusting. Oh, it was a dream seeing him again, to smell, to pat, and love him! His coat was as soft and silky as I remembered and his muzzle was still like velvet to touch. Heavenly and bright, he stood like the incredible creature he had always been. Oh, my first love!
Julie watched in amazement, visibly touched, in her own tears of joy. I asked the girl about Alpine’s circumstance and she explained that Sue (the lady who bought him) had moved him in a share arrangement with a girl named Peta, who rode him regularly; adding she normally came Saturday afternoons. As it was Saturday afternoon, I asked her to tell Peta we’d be riding in Centennial Park, and I would love to meet her and see Alpine.
We hired our horses and had a nice canter around Centennial Park. Still in the park but on the home stretch, I spotted Alpine crossing the road coming into the grounds. He was still toey and bouncy, and I connected with his rider. Oh, to be back on his back again. The memory and desire evoked all the old sensations of excitement and risk inside me!
Peta was very friendly and offered me to ride him. Yes please! After an adjustment of the stirrups, I settled into the saddle on his back. Julie waited with Peta and the horses while we proceeded to circle Centennial Park! It was unbelievable to comprehend that I was actually riding Alpine again, and in my party stomping ground—the Sydney Showground/the Hordern were less than five minutes ride away. ‘Steady Steady, Steady Boy, Steady Alpine,’ saying those words after so long was a divine dream come true.
All around activity was aplenty, and the sensation from old days quickly returned. Like the wind, at any moment in any direction, Alpine could blow. To avoid sudden fright, I pointed his nose this way or that to divert his attention away from possible causes of anxiety. We managed a steady trot, but as always, he pulled and itched to move faster!
We turned into a clear paddock in the middle of the park so I could ride him without fear of dangerous distractions, and run through his gaits in our old style of play. When we moved into a canter, Alpine lifted his hindquarters in a pig-root/bucking action that surprised me! He had never lifted his hind legs before; he was far too well behaved. I thought such a vice didn’t exist in his nature! I didn’t know then that his saddle may have been ill-fitted and pinching his belly; instead, I worried about what had he been through to develop this naughty behaviour. My desire to continue working him that way instantly vanished. He obviously didn’t enjoy it anymore and I wasn’t going to force him into doing anymore workouts, after what seemed a lifetime of doing them together. We deserved an easy ride.
We continued on the track at a merry, yet careful walking-trot. The feeling was rosy until we approached a scary contraption to our left: a steel stage. Alpine didn’t disappoint me with non-reaction. On nearing, he increasingly became my dancing-horse again, prancing and dancing, drawing attention! Alpine still had it and it still did it for me; triggering my nerves and wariness, inspiring secret sighs of relief when I safely dismounted. Alpine was not a city horse; he should never have been brought to Sydney. He needed paddocks and mountain tracks, and given free rein to gallop the apprehension out of both him and rider! Alpine didn’t suit Sydney’s pace and that’s all there was too it. Unlike his old mum!
Seeing Alpine again was a blessing! Unaware at the time of just how incredible, I knew our meeting was more than special and more than a coincidence.
After that, I saw Alpine only twice more. I don’t know why! The second time was again with Julie, when we took Alana in the pram. Alpine was gorgeous sniffing her head so inquisitively. The last time I saw Alpine was with a friend named Matty, and we shared a beautiful time with Alpine in his stable loving him. Alpine hadn’t lost his placid, lovable nature, letting me pat him everywhere, move underneath him, and he’d kiss my face when I stood under his head. I loved all of him… his soft brown eyes, the glossy fur on his neck, stroking his velvet muzzle, and even the velvet around his bottom, underneath his tail! I didn’t visit him again after this, and the tragic reason escapes me.
Peta called me a few months later, offering me to take over the training and payments for Alpine’s upkeep. I couldn’t believe I had an opportunity to have him and riding back. But, I’d already moved on from sharing a happy home with Julie and the boys, to living over an hour south away at my Mum’s at Caringbah near Cronulla. It wasn’t possible due to the distance, and I now spent most my most weekends going out, and the rest of the time I was often with Louise, Ian, and my nieces. This was a self-indulgent period. The responsibility of keeping Alpine happy, healthy, and funded was beyond my realistic means. So Alpine or not, I couldn’t have him again, but dearly appreciated being asked. My decision ends up being a good thing for him, since he was soon moved back to the paddocks from whence he came.
* * *
Nightlife and dancing was central to my life, and friends were aplenty within it. During this time, I developed another unique relationship on the gay front. This was with Simon who was gay like Paul, but we were destined to share more. I felt like one of the boys when I was with Paul or Simon, and would often say, ‘I feel like a man inside a girl’s body’, ‘stuck’ inside even.
Paul and I danced and circulated throughout parties. I think he especially loved me because of my natural ease to dance with the friendliest, happiest people in the crowd. We gravitated towards fantastic dancers, and loved sharing good energy exchanges while moving to the beat of unbelievable, rhythmic tunes. The bass pumped penetratingly with every sound, simultaneously increasing the heart to pound in pace. Mind and body were enlivened, resulting not only from the nature of the stimulants inside me, but ultimately from the biochemical reactions created by the thoughts and feelings running through my mind. To be entranced by sounds, as well as by the potent energies emitting from so many dynamic people naturally caused you to buzz with sensations of bliss! It’s a logical, rational scientific reality.
Because of these effects plus those from ecstasy, partygoers often viewed the DJ with a godlike reverence; full of gratitude for satisfying dancing desires. The DJ’s would feed us the music of their imagination, intuitively able to sense what the party needed most, at what hours, and in what sequence.
I can’t discuss DJs without mentioning the glorious Brent who excelled at DJ-ing, and Brent can’t be mentioned without attributing the positive example he was to me at parties. He never indulged in drug taking, yet would stay up all night dancing happily and energetically. Brent presented opportunities for me not to partake with the majority, but at the time, I needed to experience and not renounce! I was so happy to be conscious of the presence of purity in its pure sense, even within the vibrating, sexy pool of the gay ‘thang’!
The euphoric effects of the atmosphere inside and out, enticed everyone to dance in absolute celebration of life! I always loved life, and at those times, I was in love with the wild glory of it. Fellow dance partiers glowed with that same ecstatic look; expressed through body language, in tune with the rhythm. A momentary look into a stranger’s eyes could send you off into a flowing vibrational exchange, whether by dancing, hugging, or just a beaming ‘Hello isn’t life wonderful!’ smile! I met so many potentially real friends in those times but too much was happening in every moment to opportune a number exchange. Many of the friends I did stay in touch with are in my life to this day… Dance parties were a celebration of life, people, and love, and for that, God couldn’t be angry!
At these parties, Simon and I began to share a strong connection. More laid back than Paul and me, we would travel around parties dancing in different areas, or sit on the bitumen amongst many other colourful people, away from the dancing halls. We loved to talk and usually we’d spend time admiring or talking about guys, usually gay guys. It was such fun treating Simon like a girlfriend, who although a man, was more like a girlfriend being comfortably in touch with his feminine side. And, I felt safe from the sexual pursuits of my special gay boys.
Until, out of nowhere, Simon and I did begin romanticising! It was at Lindy’s Girls Night Out, which I’d invited Simon too because he was one of the girls, when I noticed a different glint in his eye, causing my tummy to un-expectantly back-flip. From that initial sparking, it was only a matter of time before we kissed, which felt natural when it came, because of our affection for each other. From there, he would sleep beside me in bed where we’d kiss, tickle, and cuddle, but that would be all. It was only over one evening—the night of Lindy’s wedding—that we took our love further. We held this experience as very sacred and precious for we knew it was a love that could not be; Simon was definitely a gay guy and naturally unable to fill heterosexual shoes. Here is a special letter he sent to me quite a few months later:
You probably think it a little strange to receive a letter from me, but I’m at work with not a lot to do and as usual you are in my thoughts. Besides there are a lot of things I would really like to say to you. Things that don’t usually crop up in our every day conversation. Probably because they are feelings more so than thoughts and I find it difficult sometimes to convey my true feelings for fear of leading you into false hope or sounding vain. When I say vain, I mean vain enough to think that what I say may lead you anywhere.
I Love you Suzie, in a way that is so special. A kind of love that I did not know before you. A kind of love that is, I know, very rare between a gay boy and a good girl.
As you know, I have a lot of friends who are girls. All of these girls vary and alternate in their importance as friends. But you never vary. You are first on my list.
I have thought about this a lot just lately and now I really understand it.
I see very clearly a girl who is simply a better friend than any other, and on top of that your friendship has gone beyond friendship and I thank you for that with all my soul. I will always treasure it and remain very proud of it.
The one thing I treasure you for even more is honesty. When I am with you I can be honest and I feel honesty flowing from you, and it is this I love more than anything.
Suzie, you are an individual in the purest sense of the word and your importance to me is beyond measure. The way I see and perceive you is the way that you truly are, Gorgeous on the outside and beautiful on the inside. I know you will never change and I also know that the way I feel for you will never change.
The only regret I have is that I cannot change the way I am. Please believe me when I say that it is so confusing being able to feel for you the way I do and not being able to really do anything about it. I’m so sorry.
Really though my main message in all of this is that I hope that you feel as lucky as I do when we’re together.
Your Gay Boy Forever S xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox’