She grew up with me. I guess I hardly even noticed her, a lot of the time. She was always there though. She and my Dad went out sometimes, mostly in the local area, and now and then I’d tag along. She was a pretty earthy kid, which was normal for kids in my area. We all spent our fair share of our time playing in the mud.
I sometimes saw Her at school, but I didn’t take all that much notice, there was so much other stuff going on. Going to a bush school does that I guess. Or maybe it’s just that there were so many other kids my age, She just sort of faded in to the background most of the time.
I went to high school, She didn’t, so I didn’t see much of Her during my ‘teens. Not that She wasn’t able to. She was definitely intelligent enough. Perhaps She thought She didn’t need to. I’m not sure. I didn’t even really think about Her that much.
My family went to South Africa in year eight. She was there, but I only saw Her once or twice, and She was going through a bad period. Her parents had left her, and She was down and out. Her situation was horrible, at least the side that I saw. She was so depressed at badly treated that She was taking it out on the people around her, becoming cruel and miserly, just as the system She was living in was to start with. Perhaps that was the problem. And unfortunately, She wasn’t in a position to change much, which just made Her worse. I wondered if She was going to snap.
My Dad tried to help her, with limited resources, but in the end it all came to little. He wanted to help her, and She wanted, needed help, but She wasn’t able to take it. She needed to learn, but She didn’t have time. She was too busy trying to feed herself. She worked for little money, when She could find work. Sometimes She had to turn to prostitution to survive. It was horrible, but as a fourteen-year-old I had no idea what I could do. And besides, Africa is so full of amazing animal, landscapes and weird animals, that I had more than enough other things to do, I’m sure I didn’t give Her enough attention.
My family travelled a lot that year. Through southern Africa, and to Europe. Turkey is an amazing place, if ever you’ve been there, you’d know. Such a diverse landscape, from sea-side to desert, moonscape to untouched plane tree forests. And amazing people.
We met up with Her in Istanbul, and She told me Her life story, or part of it. Apparently She was born in the middle east – not sure where exactly, but She moved west soon after, and Her first real memories are from the Grecian Isles. She recanted some of Her glorious childhood, of living in Athens amongst the tight-packed houses, and playing on the acropolis, and watching the world move by underneath, from between the Doric columns of the Parthenon.
After Athens She lived in Italy for a couple of years, and visited most of Europe. She likes it there. Something about the passion of the Italians I think. Every one of them lives with a roar in their hearts.
That was the last I really saw of Her for a long time. All through high school She and I were on a completely different course. I spent my high school years learning, and getting more and more angry at the world. And even more angry that I couldn’t do anything about it. What little news I got from the world through the filtered eyes of the Australian media fueled me. Disempowered, I did nothing but sit around playing computer games and getting stoned with friends.
Some time towards the end of high school I realised that if people like me who cared about the state of the world didn’t act, nothing would get better. And I resolved to get the fuck out of Wingham and do something to make the world a better place. Not that Wingham didn’t need help too. I guess that just wasn’t my fight.
I had already decided to go overseas before going to Uni. At the last minute, my Dad convinced me that one of the best ways that I could help people was to get back in contact with Her and try to figure out a way that we could work together. As luck would have it, I landed a job with friends in Germany that meant I could live and work there, and try to find Her again, as well as getting some practical experience.
I saw Her a number of times in Europe, but never to the point where we could actually sit down and talk. I had other things on my mind. She did manage to show me around some of her old haunts in western Germany, but I didn’t really see the point, I was just a tourist, seeking the golden souvenir. It’s a pity. It’s a part of my life I feel I wasted somewhat. Not that I regret doing it, just that I wish I had had my eyes open more.
When I did see Her that year, I was taken aback a little by Her stylism. Not that it was full on or anything, it was just that I never thought such a practical, pragmatic girl would go in for that kind of aesthetic over comfort thing. It surprised me.
Work in progress…