At midlife, change is a constant. And it’s not all pleasant. Trust me. Families change, domestic responsibilities diminish, bodies change, your mind goes out the window (at least temporarily), relationships fall apart … it’s all part of the Separation stage of the initiatory journey.
Fortunately, humour can save us from taking all of the above too seriously.
And just when it all seems too intense, contradictory, challenging, deep, complex, symbolic, psychological, mythic, metaphoric and archetypal, Jesse appears…
Here’s an extract from my book.
Deep Creek, 7 November 1992
… The sounds of breaking glass and metal striking metal stopped me before I could look back to check that Jesse was following. What I saw in my mirror was not a pretty sight. Jesse had revved up and backed at full speed out of his parking space, straight into the white campervan with its shiny new paint job. Its front fender and door were mangled; pieces of wire and glass dangled from the wreckage but that was nothing compared to the back of Sandy’s precious new utility. Its fender was unrecognisable: the tray gate and lights badly smashed, bits of orange and red plastic scattered beside the back tyres. Maybe two thousand dollars damage in all, my mind calculated, remembering a friend’s recent tryst with his insurance company.
I parked as quickly as I could and ran back to the scene. Was anyone injured?
The whole of Humpty Doo converged to watch what happened next. After a struggle with his damaged door, the driver of the van leapt out, a small dishevelled man in thongs and stubbies. From the other side lunged the passenger, who was easily seven feet tall, built like a brick shithouse and looking just as mean. He was barefoot, wearing paint-splattered shorts and sporting a huge belly. A screaming eagle decorated his left shoulder. The four fingers on his right hand spelled out L-O-V-E just above the knuckles. Must have been an old tattoo. He was purple with rage and very drunk. He’d rebuilt the van, all right, from the ground up. Took over two years. Just finished it that afternoon. And then they had been celebrating. He was telling the world about it as he hurled himself toward the ute.
The van’s driver followed the tall ugly one and they both started yelling. Sandy could have heard them in Bali. They were screaming about why the fuck hadn’t he looked behind him, what the fuck were fuckin’ rear fuckin’ view mirrors for anyway? The fuckin’ years and money that had been wasted on the fuckin’ repair job, the stupidity of fuckin’ people who didn’t look where the fuck they were fuckin’ going.
“You’ll have to pay, you fuckin’ little prick,” they screamed, one after the other, curse building on curse.
Humpty Doo stood still. Six o’clock on Friday night and everyone was there, leaning against their utes, sucking on their stubbies, waiting, calling their dogs to their sides. People in the laundromat turned in the plastic chairs to watch through the window. All the kids in the milk bar came rushing out. The driver, a smaller bald man of about forty, held onto the shirt of the giant, who continued his yelling as he pounded on the side of Sandy’s ute, like he was trying to keep him from picking the truck up and throwing it across the carpark.
During all this, Jesse sat quietly in Sandy’s crumpled ute, staring straight ahead, feigning deafness. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. As the two men from the van moved from the back end of the ute to the door, the tall one could see inside. The volume of his ranting increased. “Look at the crazy prick, Harry,” he screamed. “He’s got fuckin’ earrings through his fuckin’ nipples. Harry, can you see?”
I turned away, unable to control my laughter.
“The fucker’s got earrings through his goddamned nipples, Harry,” the tall one screamed. “Can you see them?”
Harry was too short to see this amazing sight, so the giant lifted him up. Clearly horrified, he hung from his friend’s arm, his mouth opening and closing like a fish’s.
“Who are you anyway, you crazy prick?” the big fellow screamed at Jesse. He dropped the little man and grabbed the door as though to yank it off its hinges.
At that point Jesse must have decided it was safer to exit under his own steam than be thrown across the carpark by the giant. With what could only be described as an elegant flourish, he opened the door and stepped down onto the pavement, facing them. A gasp was heard among the assembly.
Barebreasted, except for the gold rings through his nipples, Jesse was wearing a black lace skirt, tied at the waist with a long purple silk scarf. From below the lace fringe his hairy legs protruded. A flower closely resembling the lips of a vagina was tattooed on his left ankle. His shoulders were heavily tattooed. The effect reminded me of my father’s photo of the Christmas party at the Air Force Wireless Training School during the War. The barefoot airmen (Daddy included) were in drag, with hairy chests, leis and grass skirts, singing and playing banjos on a tiny stage, probably in the mess hall. With the headband, the mirrored sunglasses, the nipple rings, silk scarf and the lace skirt, the effect was dazzling.
The sight of Jesse’s skirt was too much for the burly passenger. He wheeled around in a paroxysm of rage, screaming and panting, his face the colour of beetroot, his chest heaving above his enormous belly. “He’s wearing a fucking skirt, Harry,” he screamed, his eyes bulging. He lunged at Jesse, who was now leaning nonchalantly against the open door. The driver caught his mate and held him, panting, just in time. “Who the fuck are you, you stupid poofter?” the passenger howled. “Harry, the fucker’s wearing a skirt! No wonder you can’t bloody drive, you assehole! What are you, crazy or something, you fuckin’ poofter?” he screamed again.
At that point I came to Jesse’s rescue. I stepped between them. I was calm; I explained my role as a witness whose evidence could benefit everyone, offered pen and paper to Jesse. I gave the driver my name and address and helped them exchange details. Sweet reasonableness, I reminded the driver he’d been driving on the wrong side, that he’d nearly hit me.
“We have been celebrating,” he apologized, some of the steam gone out of him, “the rebuilding of the van.” He stared forlornly at the damage. We moved to settling the matter pretty quickly and the two men sadly returned to their ruined vehicle. The giant still snarled a little but he’d given up on fighting.
After they had driven off and the crowd had dispersed, Jesse climbed back into the ute.
“Thanks, Wendy,” he said through the open window. “I’m feeling a little under the weather. Maybe I’ll just go back to Sandy’s after all.” He unscrewed the top on the Lambrusco.
“I’ll take a rain check, if you don’t mind too much, Wendy. You don’t mind, do you, Wendy?”
“Of course, it’s fine, Jesse.” I smiled graciously, my hostess smile. I excused him from his obligation.