After only a short stay in Ravensbourne, we moved into the township of Crows Nest itself. A very large house on Williams Street, completely free of any kind of nightmarish qualities (real or imagined: I swear that house in Ravensbourne was scarier when we lived there). It was just a home.
Not only did this home not cause night terrors, it was actually kind of cool. It was massive, for a start. As the oldest kid, I got a large bedroom at the front of the house: it was a converted sleepout, so my bedroom was actually a giant L shape. It was like having my own little pad. Plus, Robby and her daughter Taren came back to live with us again, and the house easily fit the six of us. I always felt like our family was complete when Robby was around. Despite this, Mum and Robby still stubbornly refused to even try being a lesbian couple, which strikes me as rank selfishness on their parts.
But the best part of the house was the phone cord. This was the first home I’d lived in that had an American-style loooooong phone cord. Just like in Roseanne, a wall-mounted phone hung on the wall in the middle of the house, and the cord meant you could go all the way to the kitchen, the front door, and the master bedroom. That’s what I remember most about that house: it being full of people I loved, and that long-ass phone cord.
Things outside the home, however, weren’t so great. The school I went to was the worst school I have ever attended. And by the time I finished grade 12 I’d attended twenty-two of them, so I say that with some gravity.
I had been bullied a lot at school throughout my years. Even as far back as grade three, when I was tortured by—and I’ve never admitted this before—a grade two kid. By grade 10, however, the bullying at stepped up a notch, and the school in Crows Nest was packed with horrible little notches. I don’t want to go into too much detail because that’s a massive drag, but I can say that the bullying got so bad that it made me actually skip class. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that one of the common threads of my childhood is that I was an insufferable goody-two-shoes, so this is a Big Deal. Not once, in nine and a half years of schooling, had I ever even considered not being in class. But on this particularly bad day, after being pushed down a flight of stairs, I simply walked off school grounds and didn’t return until the next day.
I’m not sure why it got so bad at this school at this time. Normally when I went to a new school, the sporty kids would find out early on that I was not one of theirs, and usually come after me. That was to be expected. But I would find, if not friendship, then at least an absence of torment in the bookish kids. At this school, though, it didn’t happen. Either the bookish kids were also sporty kids, or there just weren’t any bookish kids at all (he said, shadily).
Or, much more likely, perhaps we were all 14 year olds and all had preternaturally shitty dispositions and didn’t deserve any friends, myself included.
Truthfully, I know for a fact that I was certainly going through an objectionable phase. Hot on the heels of my one and only teenage temper tantrum (five months earlier), it was while living at this house, and attending this school, that I ran away from home. For the second time.
I swear I made it further this time.
After an extended argument with mum, I was in my room at the absolute end of my rope, and I decided then and there that I would leave. I had no long term plan, I was just going to leave to prove that I could. Though the term had yet to be coined, I was essentially ragequitting my life.
After fuming on my bed for a while, trying (and failing) to come up with a plan, and playing my Rednex CD as obnoxiously loud as I could (yes I had the whole album), I set to work.
I grabbed my school bag and emptied it to make room for all my belongings. I almost immediately repacked it with the same items because I didn’t own a lot of stuff: “my belongings” were primarily made up of my school stuff anyway. On top of that I put my uniform, so that I would be prepared for the next day: adolescent emancipation is no excuse to shirk on your studies.
To recap, I had so far prepared for my new life by packing all the items I would need for a school I hated. Though the term had yet to be coined, I was essentially emo as fuck.
Then, satisfied I had everything I needed to free myself of the tyranny of the horrible people to whom I was shackled, I left the house…
…by climbing out my quite narrow bedroom window and shimmying down the weatherboards. Look, I may have been an angsty, rage-filled teenager ready to run away and never come back and make his family sorry they ever made him so miserable, but you know. The telly was on. I didn’t want to make a big fuss.
Having freed myself from the William Street Family Prison, I gathered my bag, turned around, and just walked away. I walked for two blocks, and found myself in the middle of the town square.
I sat, aimlessly, on a bench: IGA to the left of me, Wingett’s Plumbing & Hardware to the right of me, Heritage Building Society at my rear. Nowhere to go. I tried to contemplate my options. Walk down to my grandparents at Short Street? They’d be no help. They’d side with mum without question. Go to my dad’s? He was too far away: it would be impossible to even get to Toowoomba on foot, let alone all the way to Brisbane. Run away and join the circus? I’d never been that good at hammering tent pegs.
I couldn’t even go hide out at a friend’s house because, uh, I didn’t have any.
I realised I hadn’t thought my plan through very well at all. When they did discover I was gone, they would find me immediately: the town was too small to hide anywhere. It occurred to me that all that would come of this was whole episode that I would get into trouble. BIG trouble. So much trouble that they might not let me go to line-dancing class anymore. Those Thursday nights line dancing with all the little old ladies at the Crows Nest CWA hall were sometimes the only bright spot in my miserable week.
I’M JUST GOING TO LEAVE A GAP HERE WHILE YOU LET THOSE LAST TWO SENTENCES SINK IN AND GET A SENSE OF JUST WHAT KIND OF TEENAGER I WAS.
So, I had spectacularly bollocksed up this “running away from home” thing. The best thing to do was cut my losses and go back home. However, I was so filled with embarrassment that I couldn’t bring myself to go back in the front door. So instead I shimmied back up the weatherboards and hauled my petulant self back in through my bedroom window. I briefly got stuck halfway: half in, half out, like Winnie-the-Pooh. But I managed to fold myself up and negotiate the narrow confines of the window: not without losing a shoe and getting a tremendous cramp in my left buttcheek in the process.
I half clambered, half rolled, half fell onto my bedroom floor, head first. I didn’t get up immediately. I decided I would hide in my room for a bit longer. I would even, perhaps, just stay on the floor a bit longer.
As I lay there, idly massaging my buttcheek and trying to figure out how I would sneak outside to fetch my shoe from the garden, I thought about the dextrous, gazelle-like grace I had just showcased and wondered if line dancing was actually doing anything for my coordination.
Note I didn’t give any consideration to what the line dancing was doing for my social standing. Just my dance skills. But honestly, who needs friends when you have the Boot Scootin’ Boogie?