In June of 1998, a lifelong dream finally came true. After an eighteen-year tour of the best and worst of Queensland’s rural hotspots—charming hamlets, desert mining towns, coastal gems, bigot strongholds and far-flung peripheries—we moved to Queensland’s capital city: Brisbane. A place I had literally dreamed of living in, but had barely dared to hope. It was the 18 months spent in Toowoomba—tantalisingly close to Brisbane, only an hour and a half-ish by car—that gave me the freedom to fantasise about perhaps, just one day, moving down the hill into an actual city.
And then it happened. We decided to go to Brisbane. From the day the decision was made until the day we moved the boxes into the house, I held my breath: it all seemed to good to be true. My life thus far had made it very easy to assume that everything would turn to shit; everything turning to shit was kind of our default position. Our family crest is an image of a second shoe falling, and our motto is “Giiiiive it a Minute”.
It was particularly easy to assume that moving to Brisbane was too good to be true given that the street we were moving into was our own stupid surname. It was all too surreal, and it made ordering pizza for delivery very difficult.
Living in Weldon Street as a Welldon really helped to fuel the fantasy that I was a fancy person. I could pretend to be so important that I lived on a street named after me. The horse-owning six-year-old me would have been so proud.
In reality I was a dumb, poor, first-year journalism student who was too lazy to transfer to a Brisbane university, and so instead kept travelling to Toowoomba three times a week to attend classes. I was too in love with the concept of living in Brisbane to realise how stupid it was to commute to Toowoomba from the outer south-eastern suburb of Birkdale: A twenty minute walk to Birkdale train station, a fifty-five minute train trip from Birkdale to the Roma Street bus terminal, a two hour bus ride to Toowoomba, and then another twenty-five minute bus trip from the Toowoomba terminal to USQ meant I was taking a seven hour and twenty minute round trip every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. For three hours of class.
Unsurprisingly, this soon got super tedious, and after three months I just stopped going. I didn’t defer, I didn’t drop out: I just didn’t go anymore. No classes, no exams, no assignments handed in…there’s probably still a “MISSING” poster with my face on it in the refectory.
It was while living on Weldon Street that our family also continued its odd tradition, spearheaded by my mother, of taking in family friends and stray people and building unconventional family units. Aimée had moved out on her own and remained in Toowoomba, but Mum’s good friend Natasha had moved from Toowoomba to Brisbane at the same time as us. Naturally we all ended up living at the same house. There was a downstairs area at Weldon Street that was essentially just a rumpus room, but functioned as a self-contained unit. She was excellent to have around, both as a fun and lively addition to the house, and also, as a built in mum-distraction, which meant mum spent less time asking me to do things.
One Sunday afternoon there was a knock at the door, and Natasha answered it. A young English guy, presumably a backpacker, was going door-to-door selling—wait for it—encyclopaedias. Literally. Sure, they were interactive CD based encyclopaedias aimed at children, but still. DOOR TO DOOR ENCYCLOPAEDIA SALESMAN. Had we moved to Pleasantville by mistake?
Mum and Natasha immediately rejected his offer, despite all the wonderful discounts available to them. He took the rejection graciously, turned to leave and then sneezed. The sneeze triggered a cough, which led to a coughing fit, which led to another sneeze. He sounded like an idling two-stroke engine. He apologised, mentioning something about pollen and allergies. It was hard to understand him with all the coughing and sneezing. Natasha offered him a glass of water and a chair to sit on to collect himself while he tried, unsuccessfully, to keep all his air and spit on the inside.
Polite conversation followed, and it turned out that Casey (his name) had not had much luck selling his children’s encyclopaedias, and really didn’t enjoy trying to sell them. We didn’t blame him, it was an awful job: we knew because we’d just seen him do it. He wanted to quit the job but his original plan had been to quit only when it was time to return to the UK, and he didn’t want to do that. A lot of suggestions and advice and lengthy discussions about plans and travel flew back and forth, and that afternoon Casey quit his job and moved into our spare room, where he stayed for three months.
Hey, if you’re looking to move into Weldon Street, we were the people to talk to. Check the name.
Despite the fact I have no idea where Casey went after those few months, and I in fact had to ask mum what his name was before writing this story because I had forgotten it, he did have something of a lasting, positive impact on me. He is one of the only people to have done this. And he did it in the most innocuous of ways.
I was seventeen, a bit dumpy, right in the middle of some excellent acne, and I had stupid hair, very few friends, a dental plate that physically covered the fact that I was missing three teeth from a car accident but did not offer the same service on a psychological level, and worst of all, I had a giant mole in the middle of my neck. Exactly halfway between where the chin ended and the chest began, a disgusting brown sphere the size of a peppercorn mocked me endlessly.
I would cover it up in photos, I would stare at myself in the mirror with a finger pressed over it, trying to see what I would look like without it. I would fantasise of living somewhere cold enough to wear a scarf all the time: day and night. Of all the things wrong with me, it was in hindsight the least problematic, but it caused me the most grief.
It depressed me so much that one day I made an appointment with the nearest GP and went to ask how I would go about getting removed. I had no idea how these things worked, besides some vague notion of plastic surgeons charging thousands of dollars. But I had to at least ask the question.
I must have seemed pretty pathetic to the doctor, because he offered to remove it himself, the following week. He also mentioned some stuff about biopsies or something technical; I can’t remember what it was, but it meant I could even claim it on Medicare. He could make me pretty and he could do it for free.
A week later, the disgusting mole was gone. In its place was a white bandage the size of a playing card covering up a row of stitches, but in a fortnight they’d both be gone and my neck would be free of debris and I would be beautiful. Or something.
I raced in the door to tell everyone what had happened. I was so super excited about the new lease on life I had just been given. (This sentiment should highlight exactly the kind of vain idiot I was, and remain to this day.)
The first person I saw was Casey, who noticed the bandage immediately.
“What happened to your neck?”
“I had the mole removed!”
“Yeah. Mole. THE mole. The Mole. THE MOLE. My mole?”
That motherfucker had never even noticed I had a mole.
I couldn’t actually grasp the concept. This hideous disfigurement had dogged me every second of every day. It felt like a second head to me. It was all I saw when I looked in the mirror. It was all I thought about. And now Casey was telling me that he’d never even noticed this thing that was the bane of my existence?
He taught me a very valuable lesson about perspective without even realising he’d done it. I mean, it wasn’t that life-changing: I, like everyone else in the world, have never stopped being annoyed by my physical flaws. Casey did teach me to stop assuming everyone else was as annoyed as I was. It helped lessen the torment.
Well. I mean. having the mole cut out probably helped more. But the Casey thing seems emotionally healthier? I should focus on that.