Yesterday I spent the morning sitting in the cool white tiles of a Laundromat. We’ve been having one of those months where everything breaks. First the internet, then the oven, then the washing machine… A series of menial boring inconveniences that have shifted my daily routine. I sat with my back against the humming machine with a book on my knees and nothing but the sound of the cycle in my ears. I closed my eyes and I was transported back.
Back to when I was sixteen, when I was wild and free.
When I was sixteen years old I moved out of home. I ran away, if you will. I ran away from school and then home followed soon after… I was blinded by stars in my eyes and voices in my head that were fuelled by adolescent ego and a substance haze. I was going to be famous. I was going to be huge. I moved into a share house in the centre of the party district in Perth, there were hookers on the corner, a handful of 20 something’s as housemates. My bed was made of milk crates and there were often parties in my yard and guys on my couch, playing the guitar. I was completely out of my depth and for the most part I loved it. I walked a very fine line between complete and utter disregard for my own safety and total homesickness. I used to ride my bike to the local laundrette on Beaufort Street… my scuffed Cons and torn jeans held up by a piece of rope a uniform of both my age and my social indifference. I would have been listening to Magic Dirt or Jewel or Alannis Morisette… I couldn’t really afford to do my own laundry, so my 25 year old housemate used to pay for mine (plus some change for a drink and a snack)… if I would do his too. I would balance the enormous calico bag of laundry on my handlebars and make the precarious journey between home and the tumbling machines a few blocks away. I always fell off the bike at least once on the trip, almost always in the most public place possible. I’d put the clothes into the machine and line the coins up just so, always facing the same way, always in order… I’d squat out the front of the store and smoke a rolled cigarette, picking chipped black nail polish off my fingers as I watched the world go by.
I would often imagine where I would be in ten years’ time… I always imagined greatness.
A year or two later a friend of mine wrote a short film, called Laundrette, which I was to star in. I remember it as a witty, heartfelt film with quirky characters and clever dialogue… I remember a cold night at a fluorescently lit laundrette shooting turning the words on the page into a film. I don’t know if it even happened, the shoot, or not. I can’t remember. It was one of the many nights of my adolescence that were lost to a fog of beer and emotional instability… the discovery of self (for me) was not without its massive road blocks.
I had a desperate crush on a much older actor who was playing opposite me in the show I was doing when I ran away from home. The show that I thought was my break into stardom. He was in his 20’s and handsome and worldly. Or so it seemed at the time… We flirted for years and ended up at some stage in an uneven relationship that was based purely on infrequent situational desire. I loved him, in a distant kind of way. We ate cheeseburgers and he photographed me in a laundrette, tucked inside an industrial dryer my eyes full of hope and youth. Those photos were swallowed by time. He came and went from my life over many years of late night run ins and interstate afternoons. The last time I saw him was on a warm Sydney afternoon many years ago, we were talking about the day, so many years earlier, in the laundrette. Things were always easy between us. Simple. Uncomplicated. I remember thinking that maybe there was a future in this and so I asked… he brushed the hair from my eyes and looked at me, his voice low and serious… ‘we can keep doing this,’ he smiled, ‘until, of course, one of us finds someone we love.’ I left soon after to walk to the bus, just as his friends were arriving for a dinner that I wasn’t invited to…
We accept the love we think we deserve. Until we know better.
Some of us are terribly slow learners…
There is much of adolescence that was terribly painful. Sordid affairs and twisted logic. Dark characters lurking in the shadows just outside of the candy coloured lights and deadened glow sticks of a three day long party. There were days when I felt like nothing. And then there were those moments, sitting in the back of a car, music blaring, windows open, doing laps around a round-about and thinking about nothing but the dancing lights in the sky… where I felt absolutely invincible. If only for a moment.
I don’t ever want to forget what it was like to be 16. Or 17. Or 18 for that matter… drunk on insecurity and cheap beer. A beautiful balance between adolescent angst and childhood innocence… lugging your dirty laundry around with you in public with nothing else to do during the spin cycle, but dream of the future.
Now here I am ten years later. Not one bit of the person I thought I would be… but fond of that fiery creature that is my past, fond of her fierce determination and her tough exterior… fonder still of her gooey scared and insecure little centre… knowing now what she didn’t know then. Knowing all of the terrible things she will do and the mistakes she will make and all the times she will fall… and loving her for it, all the same.