White-centric

THE best description for Baz was foster uncle. It’s the title best fitted to a male mentor you crave, who was moody and sometimes volatile. He was never physically violent although like any man with a rude boy threatened to be so at times.

In the early days of foster care he had an Indian friend called Bert who owned a large property down the road from us. He was probably the first Hindu I met.

We went to Bert’s property once where I planned to earn some cash by filling in a dam with sawdust. I would get $10 for the work which took at least three hours. We had tea and banana cake in Bert’s caravan before we got started.

I hated banana. I refused the cake.

“Chris, it’s very rude of you to refuse,” Baz glared at me, but I didn’t comprehend the sensibilities of Indian hospitality. I was too fussy.

Like many of Baz’s few friendships I knew of, it soured. They got into an argument over some chooks, or over money Bert should have paid, or something like that. Baz threatened legal action.

I never knew Bert too much, but his presence and relationship with Baz affected the little things, from my social life at school to the events of my mortifying 12th birthday party. And the only thing more embarrassing than my 12th birthday party, was my 13th.

One time for some reason Bert’s family invited me to stay at their house. His wife cooked me hot dogs for dinner after asking Hazel what I liked.

I still don’t know why this invitation came out but it was random. It was a one time thing. I only remember the hot dogs, Bert’s wife cooking them, and Whats in the Box playing on the TV the next morning.

I left the house in the small town. It was round the corner from school. Two doors down one of my popular school friends came out. He saw me at the ‘token hindus’ house’ and smirked about it later. Even then in the early millennium the world around me seemed so white-centric, even if not quite nuclear or stable.

When I went home that next night Hazel asked what I had for dinner. “hot dogs.”

She gasped. “I told them that’s what you liked. But they are Hindus. They did a really nice thing for you there, Chris.” hindu meme 2.jpg

Welcome back, buddy!

I’m back and it’s been bloody ages, I know.

And I wasn’t sure I was going to come back to this blog. I’m here because I need a friend to talk to and I think it’s you. Don’t feel pressured. You don’t have to do anything except read what I’ve channeled.

There’s so much on my mind right now and I don’t know where to begin. But I suppose we should keep it relevant. See. The theme of the blog was to explore the small stories from my days in foster care. The days I thought I’d left so far behind that I thought I could open them up for public examination.

Vulnerability bruises but I’d go back to write another blog post, and another blog post, and another. It was courage, in a way. I’d write to make sure I had at least 12 blog posts scheduled.

I was caught up by the instant gratification of a couple of WordPress or Facebook likes. But it was getting in the way. I’m a journalist. I wrote for a living. So I had just enough energy for another project. It had to be the blog, or a book.

I chose the book.

There was a woman who wrote me a letter. And in it she said “I love you”. A grand gesture that I related to and had done to others myself. So I knew the energy and courage that went behind the words.

So what did I do to help her?

Nothing. I ignored the letter.

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Shut up Doctor Evil! I already know.

It terrified me and I didn’t know how to answer. I wanted to say I love her too but I knew it was only because I just wanted to make someone happy. Someone deserves to be with who they want. Yet although she was a great friend I didn’t feel that way. “Why not?” I considered. “Why don’t you love her back? What’s wrong with you?”

I procrastinated a day to gather my thoughts, and then another day, and another day, and another day, and another day. And then it must have been two weeks and I still hadn’t acknowledged the letter to her.

Her friend facebook messaged me and blasted me for my rudeness and about how, basically, she was too good for me and that I needed to get over my past and focus on my present and future.

The friend assumed that I felt all this self pity by my foster care blogs. That wasn’t why I was blogging. It wasn’t about showing off that I had a hard background. I didn’t have a hard background! Not really.

So this was the first example in which it felt like publishing my past was being used against me. And I suppose it was an incentive to cut it off. No more blogs.

But here I am.

A few Sundays ago I got really drunk with a hot friend in Brisbane and we were about to pass out on her couch. And she muttered, “tell me a story.”

It could have been any story. But my mind was blank. Blank. Blank.

A terrible moment for someone who feels his only purpose is as a storyteller. I said what was on my heart.

“Tomorrow I’m driving down to New South Wales,” I said. “A place called Kempsey. I’m going to catch up with my foster mother. I haven’t seen her in eight years. I haven’t lived with her in 15.”

Silence.

sleepy|awkward.

“You’re telling me what you’re doing,” she said. “That’s not a story of what happened.” A polite way maybe of saying ‘chill, dude. Way too heavy.’

Maybe.

I guess.

I suppose.

It took days to work out why I was troubled by that moment, which felt like a metaphor or life lesson to take hold of.

I’m a collection of stories.

Not a gatherer of future stories.

I have the past. Why do I need to hold off and concentrate on the future for more stories when I already have what I need. When I haven’t shared all that I can give.

I suppose maybe I feel I need to prove myself from the moment I blanked. For a scary drunken moment I thought maybe I didn’t have anything.

But I do.

Hello =) My name is Chris.

I write not for pity. I write because what happens to me seems to make bloody sense once the actions are channeled through my fingers onto this.

 

 

My Birds and Bees

LUCY and Adam sitting in a tree…

They were the hottest couple in year 6. I don’t think it lasted long but there erupted something within my heart. I might have been jealous for what they had. The attention they received. Or, perhaps, it drew attention to the topic, which we all began talking about.

Sex. What was it? And how could we get it. We were 12. But that’s how it was.

The couple were too young to sleep together. Surely. But back then they seemed mature, adult, better than the rest of us. Lucy didn’t say too much except she’d seem him without his shirt on.

I had questions.

My older foster niece Amber was happy to answer. We would walk to the bus stop alone and she would tell me anything I needed to know.

Like, how did sex happen?

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Until then I thought the dick stayed in while man and woman squirmed their arms around whispering “oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah baby, oh yeah. Oh yeah baby. OH GOD Yeah.”

And that was it.

TV lied again. That bastard.

Still, It seemed wrong, stupid, ridiculous that I had to move it in and out. Wouldn’t it be needlessly exhausting? The idea of sex was almost spoiled by the revelation that Amber explained.

She would tell me about her social life as well. She was seeing someone. She’d give me updates every few weeks. She told me she was sleeping with him. It’s amazing she shared this information considered I ratted out her out to her grandmother within minutes of her confessing she started smoking.

“Next time you both do it, can I watch?” I asked.

She gave me a peculiar expression.

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It was almost watchful.

The answer was no. And there wasn’t any negotiating.

I must see new nutters

POPCORN chicken was new on the KFC menu when the social worker broke up with me.

The Big, Fat, Hairy Man and I waited in his government car as part of the drive-thru queue when he made the speech. “It’s not you, it’s me,” the man said as he turned the wheel slightly round the first curve.

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We drove to the Kempsey riverside park as we munched fried chicken. “I’ve been moved to another office,” the social worker said. “There are other children I need to look after who need me as much as you used to.

“Chris,” he said. “You’ve come such a long way since I’ve known you. You know that right?”

Maybe.

The first time we met I was on my house roof. I threw rotten pumpkins at him when he came to visit. Then while he tried to wash the pulp from his salt-and-pepper bushman beard I asked if he could help me off. “I have no pumpkins and it’s been raining and I can’t get off,” I said.

He blinked as if to say “you’ve got to be kidding” but he did it.

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Later though.

When I was put in my foster home I ran away, was picked up by the police, jabbed with a needle and held down by nurses. Listen to the song Bullet with Butterfly Wings and you might know how I feel. I woke up in a hospital in nothing but a plastic dressing gown, a plastic band around my wrist which I believed may have been a secret tracer.

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When I returned to the foster home I was faced with lethargy and loneliness. I tried starving myself, and then the big, fat, hairy man came over. He took me to the beach. We flew a Pokemon kite. The weight of the kite on my finger, the smell of the salty breeze, hearing the sound of the burly chuckles of the man who refused to have a turn.

A happy moment. A transformation of my life. He was my friend. The man in my life. The hero. The one I shared my first subway with.

There were so many social workers, so many psychologists and teachers and parents who gained my trust and over time moved on and found another project. They sanitised themselves – I wasn’t their responsibility – they moved on.

“I will come to visit when I can,” he promised, as if knowing what I was thinking. But I was stuck on the part where he said I’d changed. Because I knew he meant it. I knew then. I was a different boy than the 10-year-old who banged his head on the bedroom wall over and over for the fun of scaring his elderly foster mother.

I was nearly 12, I was nearly in high school, I was the best speller in my year. We sat in the car, watching a few kids run along the rickety bridge on the playground. “Want to play?” he said. The big, fat, hairy man knew how much I loved climbing up the curly slide, getting in the way of everyone, pretending the slide was a giant worm with its teeth at the bottom.

“Nah,” I said, seeing an advantage in this break-up. “Let’s get ice-cream.” And he said okay and we moved on.

Ms Gameboy

ALTERNATIVELY named Ms Gameboy and the Awkies Trio.

Ms Gameboy would often say, “I will keep an eye on you, Chris.” Most of the time she said that because I was a bit of a delinquent and she trusted me like a traditional owner would with a mining company.

But once my school councillor meant it in a nice way. I think. Assuming she didn’t assume I would be a serial killer or a Wall Street predator. She added; “You will be on the bestseller list and I will read your book.”

Well, I hope she never reads this. And she probably won’t because you’re pretty much my sole readership. Also, I’ve changed my name.

And I’ve changed her name. It’s not really Ms Gameboy. It was the nickname the Awkies Trio gave her because her real name was a few vowels off Gameboy and it’s fun to destroy a teacher’s self esteem.

For example, Mr Stone the substitute teacher was Mr Stoner.

And our high school science sub was Ms Pike. “What’s a dyke?” I asked her once after I heard the word whispered far too many times around the Bunsen burner.

Fat Tony

Anyway.

I’m not actually sure Gameboy was the school councillor. She was sort of like a remedial officer who took on the Awkies Trio. The trio were the more anti-social of the Year 6 loners. There was Finchy, the ADHD kleptomaniac/compulsive liar. There was Whitey – this kid who often sat away from everyone and drew dragons. And there was me.

I was trying to fit in the school system,so that my crush Ellie would want me. Witchcraft wasn’t working, I needed to be in on the cool crowd.  Gameboy’s interest told the class I was a weirdo no matter how normal I acted.

I was hot and cold with this poor lady.

Because at least I could get out of class for excursions or get ice-cream.

Frieza, meds, terrorism

SO MANY things to think about when you’re in Year 6. Oh man, it was wild back then.

The parties you’re not invited to.!

The girls that freak you out for various reasons

The mean Irish teacher who is fucking insane 

Medication you have to take which supresses your hate for middle class society and the demountable school buildings and terrorists the hate is still there you’re aware of it but first you have to fight through the haze which hides the switch to your vocal cords so that you can’t make them scream

War on Terrorism – which begins later in the year.

George Bush, who I didn’t know existed until he announces War on Terrorism

Wheatus.

Dragon Ball Z. What if I sleep in or the aerial stuffs up the day Goku finally kills Frieza?

Frieza meme

What if my crazy teacher is a terrorist? 

My scary psychologist has three nipples

How the hell am I going to find and read all the 54 Animorphs books in order?

Impressing my friends who are more athletic and don’t invite me to parties because my socks don’t match. 

Being possessed by an alien slug

Making sure I get dressed in time since my foster mum threatened to put me on the bus in my PJs. Like she did to my foster brother.

Making sure my socks match.

Feeding the horses.

Homework.

Vampires. Do they exist? Or are Joss Whedon and Blade big fat liars? 

High school. Those kids look mean. What if I go to high school one day and I get knifed or flushed down the toilet or overlooked because I’m less than average in ability and looks and the teachers don’t care because their classrooms have too many students beyond capacity and I don’t learn long division properly?

What if I get tricked into smoking cigarettes, and before you know it the addiction strips my soul away and I become a total psycho like Christian Slater in that movie Heathers.

My foster mother gave me a visualisation exercise one day. She said “when there’s too many thoughts in your head, imagine a box.”

Okay.

“Put all your thoughts and fears and worries in the box.”

Makes sense.

“Close the box and put it under your bed. Come back later when you need them. Keep two or three with you and manage those ones.”

Okay! I’ll keep the epic fight between Goku and Frieza, the mean Irish teacher, and trying to sleep my way to popularity.

I find it difficult to think more than two or three ideas or thoughts now. Family, work, social life, it’s all been compartmentalised to when I need to access them. When something or someone tries to climb out the box I chop them up with an axe and swallow some medication with alcohol and  I put them back in and promise myself I’ll work on it later.

My first kiss

SO far I’ve kissed three women. Well, the first two kisses weren’t to women. We were too young.

Yeah. I don’t get out much. No way I’m telling you my age but anyone who knows a rough idea would surely be a bit…”wow, that’s just…sad.”

Anyhoo.

My first kiss. I’ve been putting off the story for a while to save for the right time. But it’s been weeks since my last confession blog post so maybe the problem would be solved with a story I wanted to dig up.

For years there’s been a sense of disgust about my first kiss. It affected me heavily I think because I was ashamed about it, so I didn’t talk about it. It’s why I pushed girls away I wasn’t sure of, how it’s affected all sexual views and attitudes.

All I knew about kisses then was from the movies. It had to be the right time, the right place, the right girl.

Her name was Maggie Olde and she wanted to go out ever since I knew her. She tried to bribe me with her Nintendo if I went out with her. She was my near neighbour. The cool guys thought she was ugly and fat. I wanted to do everything to impress them. I would not fit in ever if she and I were to go out.

There’s so many things wrong with that previous paragraph but these were my thoughts at the time. And there was a throbbing, a frustration in all areas of my body, a line I wanted to test and balance and the only girl I felt confident to do it with was Maggie.

I used Maggie for my own gratification, which I would do with a letter every now and then to tell her I had the hots for her. Then I’d get a letter and a rush of heat from the compliments she gave back to me. I’d regret it quickly and even more so with the little sickening comments my way.

Like, when everyone on the bus discussed hate and love. I said “I read somewhere that hate and love is the same thing.”

“Then,” she said staring at me so I wouldn’t miss what she was saying. “I HATE you.”

 

It was a messed up, toxic relationship. Years later I ran into one of my teachers, and she commented on it. “You two never mixed.”

About two years ago, I met Amber again (foster niece, friend, sort of a childhood crush) after a long time of lost contact. As we sat in the carpark of Nerang Train Station I told her about Maggie. Amber never knew because I didn’t even tell her.

“Oh my God,” Amber said, almost sounding horrified.

 

I hated myself for the weirdness. Confused, insecure, I didn’t want her, I wanted to experiment. I wanted to fit in. I wanted something else but then and even now I didn’t know what it was.

So one afternoon we went to her place with the promise of Nintendo. We were alone in her bedroom. She wanted to kiss. We did. There was no magic, no fuzzy feeling in my head or the excitement you might get finding a Pink Yoshi near the Forest of Illusion. I felt like I was touching something slimy and gross. I was queasy. I wanted to go home.

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“Now,” she said, sitting at her desk. “Let’s pretend you’re the husband and I’m the wife, and you’re coming home and you love me.” And she leaned out, lips puckered.

I should have got the hell out of there.

But I kissed her on the forehead and said “where’s your Nintendo.”

And then when I found out she didn’t have it anymore, I got the hell out of there.

Why sell the cow?

♦SOME kids had their own Nintendo. My little brother Abe and I each had our own calf.

Mum organised for us both to buy our own baby calves for $40 each. We would each raise them and after a number of years sell them back at the market price. It was a great idea actually, to teach us good business sense.

Abe named his calf ‘Princess’. I named mine ‘Coal.’ That’s probably why she hated me.

I didn’t have much to do with Coal when I was put in foster care. I saw her when I was on home visits but for brief, disinterested moments.

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Abe and I got sick of waiting for the cash return and we sold our juvenile cows to the postman with a profit of about $150. Actually, the profit might have been $110. I can’t remember if I considered the original $40.

$150 is a lot of money for an 11-year-old. Except I can’t remember what I spent it on.

For almost a year Abe watched jealously as I brought home my Game Boy Colour and played Pokemon Silver during access visits. As soon as he got his money he made Mum take him to Big W. He bought a new Game Boy and Pokemon Gold.

I decided I was going to buy Pokemon Crystal. ‘You can’t!’ Mum said. ‘Just when Abe bought all this.’ To compete with you, is what she didn’t say.

I bought Pokemon Crystal anyway because Abe needed to be taught a lesson, and it was awesome because although it was just an upgraded Pokemon Silver, I could choose to be a boy OR a GIRL character.

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Life was sweet, but I felt unsettled. I’d traded a cow I didn’t care about, but it was still a life. A life worth more if I’d waited for better cattle prices.

 

 

Ch-ch-changing

ONCE I ran away from my foster home, was caught by the police, locked in their van, escorted to hospital, injected with a needle and held down by nurses until I was drugged out.

That’s my worst memory. I’m proud that I can write it down in one sentence.

There was a man who made the decision to treat me like this. Col was the office manager of the Department of Communities.

I think he felt guilty about what he did. Because once he passed on a light hearted remark to my foster mother. “Still can’t get the farmers friends out of my socks”, referring to the time he chased me through a forest to negotiate with me. Farmers friends are black thin seeds that attach themselves to clothing.

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Col resigns from his job. I say “resign” but I’m not entirely sure. He is replaced by a man named Tony – someone I intended to introduce in another blog post.

About a year later my foster mother Hazel and I are on our weekly shopping trip and we’re walking the main street. We’re at that part where I’ve spent my money on Pokemon cards and resorting to window shopping. And then we see Col walking to us.

I stand there, coldly. He says hello, talks about the weather, asks us what we’re doing, how I’m enjoying my holidays, and so on. He leaves.

Good.

Later Hazel said he had been impressed with my “change”.

“He was amazed you just stood there. He was expecting you to attack him or at least stomp on his shoe,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

The tooth fairy is dead

 

ONE night, when I was 12, I put one of my baby teeth into a glass of water and went to sleep.

I woke with the door creaking, as the sun rose. I watched my foster mother tip toe across the room to the glass to replace the tooth with a $2 coin. Hazel was a short woman with some fragility and a bad back, having been paraplegic at one point in her life. And seeing her tip-toe was a rare sight.

I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

“I saw that,” I said.

“Fine then, I won’t be doing this again,” she said.

I thought she was joking.

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Months later I pulled out my last baby tooth. It was hidden at the back and had a hole through the middle like a doughnut.

I was with my real family’s postman – who had become a family friend. He said “I’ll give you 50 cents for that, and you should count yourself lucky.” I said nah, knowing the going rate for the tooth fairy.

And when I went back home I followed the same ritual. I put the tooth in the same glass, on the same dresser, and went to sleep.

To my disappointment, the tooth remained. There was no gold coin. Maybe the tooth fairy didn’t know.

“Wow!” I said loudly at dinner in the ad between Veronica’s Closet. “This gap between my teeth feels weird.”

Everybody ignored me.

The next morning, I woke for school. The tooth remained. I kept it there the next day, the next, the next, the next, the next week. I threw the tooth and the slimy water out.

Because the tooth fairy was dead.