My GP recently asked where I’d met Michael. Before I had a chance to say anything she was eager to guess. She guess that we met in a psych ward. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to this one. I laughed hysterically before telling her the actual story.
It was the Young Witness newspaper where we met. I was 16, he was 23 (met not started dating). I had found myself in the office while doing work experience. Quite a weird thingy really, I sat going through the Yellow Pages the night before my form had to be in telling my careers advisor what industry I was keen to check out. I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to take photos and the amount of money I earnt wasn’t important in my career planning.
I was nervous the first day of work experience. Someone had told me that the editor was a complete prick and warned me to stay away from him. It turns out that I think this opinion was just an unfortunate timing thing where he had taken the heat from the previous editor.
I spent most of my time with Michael. He showed me how he did lay-out and the production of putting the paper together. The design process fascinated me and he told me that he rarely got out to cover stories because Quarking (the good ol’ Quark express days) and layout took time and it was like playing a game of Tetris.
I liked Michael. He listened to me. Nobody really listened to me at this point in my life. I wasn’t afraid to ask him questions either – something my parents had discouraged and tried to beat out of me. I tried giving him the impression I was a normal teenager that did all those teenage things.
I knew I wasn’t normal when I was involved in a creative process of writing a book. My experience of being a teenage was worlds apart from what the others in my class experienced. Work experience was liberating for me. It’s a strange thing to say because it’s the work environment; it’s not supposed to be fun. I could walk down the main street of Young. By myself. I could buy my lunch from the local bakery. I didn’t have to ask permission.
These small things made me excited about the world. Feeling free was addictive. I decided to go back to the Young Witness and do more work experience. I skipped one day of school each week, rode the bus over, walked about a km, and had to be home at the same time I would normally have from school. It was worth it all though.
It was this second time I got to know Michael more. We talked, laughed and it truly was the best conversation I’d had in my life. We spoke the same language it seemed.
Two years down the track from this point and I contacted Michael. I can’t tell you how nervous I was that he wouldn’t remember me. He did. I talked my mother in to letting me go and see him. I gave her the pretence of this is a good contact to have to get the job I want to do. I just wanted to see him though.
Sometime after this I summoned the courage to write a letter to him telling him I had feelings for him. I gave him strict instructions not to call my house but to write back. My father would’ve flipped because I was stopping business calls coming through and I didn’t want them to stand in the way of this small slice of me being an adult activity. I lied a lot to my parents to spend time with him. I stole postage stamps from them so I could post letters and I would race to check the post before my mother could. If there was anything for me I’d take it, stash it into my backpack, leave the rest of the letters in the post-box and read the letter while walking to school. I read them. I reread them.
I kept up the facade that I was the normal teenage but this became hard when he asked to see me on my 18th birthday. I had no idea how to do this. Every moment I spent with him to this point was all through a barrage of lies to my parents. I spent my time with him watching the clock and worried that they’d find out.
After school I got a job packing stone fruit in Young. I told my parents that the factory was the other side of Young and that it was a 5pm start. I moved in with Michael. My sister eventually found out I’d lied and told them though. After this job finished I stayed with Michael. I had escaped and wasn’t going back. Michael ‘paid my way’. Something that provoked the ‘she is getting fat’ from my mother and ‘she is a free-loader and needs to get a job’ from my father.
I have loved this man from the first time I met him. It upsets me to realise though that I have him and my children because of what my parents did to me. He was the first man that was kind to me.
A couple of years later we moved to Canberra, got jobs, played house and got married. I do need to leave you all with this though. In true Pittman style he married me with fly down. Yep, he had forgotten to do it up in the mad rush of it all.