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I opened my eyes and there was just white. My mind wasn’t there, just white light. Then, these shadowy shapes slowly appeared. They were floating in slow motion.
“Claire. Claire. Do you know where you are?” I heard a reassuring woman’s voice ask. “You’re in hospital.”
I could hear it in real-time but my mind was in slow motion. Huh? I had no voice.
“Cl-aire,” I recognised my mother’s accusatory tone, “I can’t believe what you have done to yourself! The doctors said that your blood alcohol level was…”
Beep! beep! beep! beep! beep! beep!
My legs tensed up. First it was my feet and calves. Then, like a wave, it moved to my knees, and then my thighs were completely tense. The wave kept coming to my hips, then my stomach… That was when I started hyperventilating and became aware of the tubes in my face, on my body, and in particular, in my arm…
Doctors and nurses came running. One nurse put a paper bag over my mouth, and another injected something into my drip.
Between convulsions I managed to whimper, “Wh, what are you putting in there?”
“Just something to make you calm down and go back to sleep.”
And then there was darkness.
It was around 4.00pm on 24th December 1995, the day after my 18th birthday, and I didn’t know it yet, but somewhat inebriated, I had fallen six meters and fractured my right pelvis ring in three places. I was going to be there for a while…
Wait, how did I get there?
Cheers to 18 years
All I wanted to do on my birthday was go to a nightclub legitimately for the first time without any hassles because my driver’s license said I was now legally allowed. That’s all I wanted to do.
It wasn’t to be.
Having a birthday two days before Christmas definitely takes the shine off it. When I was in high school, I worked hospitality jobs so never got the day off during the busiest time of the year. That year I had the night off though (I worked during the day) and was going to celebrate.
I remember Mum and Dad were upset with me for something. I can’t remember what it was, and that wasn’t unusual, but it did affect my mood. But, they gave me the cool new jeans and underwear I was wearing, so that counted for something, right?
Felicity^ turned 18 about ten days before me, so she was my only close friend who could come out to nightclubs that required ID with me. Just before we left, I got the SOS call from Andrea.
“Claire, I know it’s your birthday, but I’m having a party at mine and I need you to come,” she instructed.
“Andrea… Normally I would, but tonight I just want to go out to a nightclub and show them my bulletproof ID. You know I have been planning to do this for ages,” I said.
“Well, the thing is… Grandma is not here and we need you to buy the alcohol.”
Andrea lived just around the corner from me, and we became fast friends when she left her private school a couple of years after I left mine and joined our local high school. Andrea’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s or dementia so OCCASIONALLY we would assist her at the bottle shop as she unwittingly purchased us a few bottles of $5 Carrington Blush Pink Champagne (hey, we were teenagers, alright?)
“I’ll pick you up, then you can go into town whenever you want,” she pleaded.
Damnit! Totally bro-coded. You can’t leave a mate hanging like that when you have the power…
Felicity was dropped at mine, Andrea picked us up, and off to the Kenmore Tavern bottle shop we went. There we were, buying up a storm for Andrea’s party, and it seemed stupid not to get a bottle of something for ourselves, right? I mean, we were at LEAST going to stop there for a drink on the way, right?
Okay, a bottle of vodka for me and Felicity went into the stash, we breezed through the checkout (FINALLY! HOORAY FOR BEING 18!!) and went back to Andrea’s to enjoy the spoils.
Of course lots of lovely people turned up, we stayed for longer than planned, and consumed the best part of that bottle of vodka… But no! I was determined!! We were getting on the 587 bus, we were going into town, and getting into a nightclub GODDAMNIT!
I dragged Felicity out, and we went to wait at the bus stop. When the bus arrived it was totally empty, but the bus driver seemed young and cool… and we were drunk… so we got to chatting.
Felicity mentioned a few times already about this party in Milton, a suburb on the way into town, a bunch of kids from her school would be at. I started high school at that same private school but hated it and left after a year. I would know people there, she said. It would be fun, she said. She was stating her case to the bus driver.
“NO! All I want to do, is go into town, and go to a nightclub without any bullsh*t. We’re going!” I most likely slurred.
Although Milton was on the way to town, there wasn’t a stop there on this bus route. But, we were the only passengers, probably quite obviously drunk and rowdy, and he likely would have been happier to get us off the bus before we caused any more mayhem.
So at Felicity’s request, he stopped on the main road at Milton.
“I’m not getting off the bus, Felicity.”
“I’m not getting off the bus Felicity. We are going into town,” I said with determination.
“Come on Claire, we will just go for an hour or so. Then we will go to town,” she said, knowing, as I did, given our current state and the time, this was not going to happen.
“I’m not doing it,” I proclaimed.
Felicity paused, and in a moment of genius, grabbed my bag and threw it out of the open bus door.
“BITCH!” But well played… That bus driver was shutting those doors the moment we got off that thing.
Damnit! We were going to this @#$%ing private school party…
FLASHBACK: My year of private schooling
From the first day I started high school at Brisbane Girl’s Grammar, I knew it wasn’t for me. My parents were lucky to get me into the school as one usually had to have their name on the list since birth, but we moved to Australia two years prior and they kept spots for immigrants like me who could prove their ‘pedigree’ background. At the time it was the most expensive school in Brisbane along with our next-door neighbours, Brisbane Boys Grammar School.
Quite a few girls from my primary school went there too, so I was initially fine about going, despite the ridiculous uniform requirements. Everything was regulated from the brand of socks we wore, and if we were out of the school grounds, we had to wear our hat at all times.
For whatever reason, the uniform shop hadn’t ordered enough of the school’s hats or coat of arms tie pins that year. I got a special note letting me off until the new stock arrived, and I could comply with these completely ridiculous regulations.
There was a lot of stimulation that first day; new people, multiple new classes, and tonnes of new rules and regulations to follow. By the end, I was ready to go home.
I walked out of the gate and there were two prefects checking our uniform compliance. One of them motioned me to come over to her. Great! I knew her! Her sister and I went to primary school together, had today been assigned to the same home class, and we used to play hockey at the same club where she was also a great hockey player and coached us sometimes. Maybe she wanted to say ‘hi.’
“Where are your hat and tie pin?” she barked.
“Oh! They had a shortage in the uniform room. I should get them in a few days. Here is my note excusing me for the time being,” I said, handing it over to her.
“Hmmm. Your socks aren’t folded correctly,” she said, clearly looking for anything she could find to save face.
“What?” I asked.
“Your socks need to be folded like this,” she gestured towards hers and her companion’s folded socks, “And you are not allowed to leave the school grounds like that. Fold them now.”
I watched as many others filed out past me with socks at various rebellious levels. But this girl, who had always been friendly to me either at the hockey club or when I was at her house playing with her younger sister, seemed intent on making a point.
I bent down and folded my socks as instructed, stood up and she motioned I could now move on.
“You’re going to make a really great prefect this year,” I muttered as I walked towards my bus.
“What was that?” she called out to me.
“Have a nice day!” I called back with a big smile on my face, and continued walking.
When I got to the bus stop, the bus was already there. Some of the girls were already sitting in their designated positions. When I say the positions were designated, I don’t mean by the school, but by the immediately evident social hierarchy.
The cool seniors took the back seat, anyone who was outcast from being cool from any grade sat towards the front, likely for protection from excessive bitchiness, and everyone else was in between. I sat in the middle of the back part of the bus and waited.
Brisbane Boys Grammar was next door and they finished school about 15 minutes after us to avoid the chaos of boys and girls seeing each other at the gates, and so we would get the seats on our designated transport home.
When the boys streamed out of the gates and onto our bus, the Senior girls took on a whole new demeanour. They preened themselves, started showing off, and even bullied some of the quieter girls.
I spotted a boy I just spent the last two year’s in primary school with. He was always a little shorter than everyone else, but made up for it with a big personality. As a kid he wanted to be Alex P Keaton from the television show, Family Ties and even brought a briefcase to school instead of a school bag.
“Sam!” I called out to him.
It wasn’t that crowded yet, so I knew he could hear me. He put his head down and went and stood in a corner. I called out again and his head hung lower.
Okaaaaaaaaaay. What the hell happened to this kid today to give him such a personality transplant? Then I looked at the older boys getting on the bus and I had an idea…
Who were these people? The bus was now packed to the hilt with many boys standing packed in the aisles now too. I looked back at the senior girls on the back seat. If I stayed at this school for five years, would I be one of them?
The School did not grow on me as the weeks and months followed. There was just this real bitchiness and attitude I couldn’t get past. And every day on the bus home I saw evidence of why boys and girls should be in classes learning together, not separated as though they are some alien gender.
I knew if I stayed there, I would go crazy and start rebelling against this. I told my parents I wanted to go to my local state school. They said no.
Most of the other private high schools in Brisbane were religious schools and Mum and Dad knew they couldn’t send me to one of those. I had a history of disrupting religious classes. My primary school decided during the different religious instruction classes, I would join the the non-denominational kids, and the atheists planting trees. I started off in the small Catholic class and quickly became unwelcome there for, you know, asking questions… Then, the much larger Church of England class took me in, only to move me on shortly after that. Things would not end well for either me, or the school if it was religious.
But we lived in a good area, the local state school had a good reputation, I knew heaps of people there, and they even let my brother, who was supposed to be the smart one, go there! But they stood firm. I had to stay at Grammar.
Towards the end of the year, I really had enough, and was sick of my parents not taking me seriously. I sat them down.
“I’m not bloody going!”
“Look, you can pay the ridiculously high school fees and everything that goes along with that, but you will also have to pay a private detective or security guard to follow me and make me go to classes, because I’M NOT BLOODY GOING!”
That seemed to finally make it through. My brother was doing fine at the local school. It was a good school. I would be fine.
Sam had quickly gotten his personality back, and happily chatted with us on the bus now. When he heard I wanted to leave Grammar he couldn’t believe it.
“She doesn’t have the guts,” he said before making a $0.50 bet with Felicity I wouldn’t leave. Felicity knew it was a safe bet.
Others thought I was ‘ruining my life’ and throwing away this ‘huge opportunity’ to spend my days with the bitchy and entitled. This made me surer I was doing the right thing for me. Ruining my life? Really? How self important and brain washed were these crazies?
I’m not going to say I loved the remaining four years of my schooling either, but Kenmore High was MUCH better suited to me. Don’t get me wrong, I did have a lot of fun and made great friends, but I always knew I was not going to be one of those people who thought their school years were the best of their lives.
FLASHFORWARD: The scene of the crime
There we were, walking into this private school party and some familiar faces emerged.
“Claire!” called Jo, a Grammar girl who also went to primary school with me.
“It’s Claire’s birthday too!” Felicity called out in an attempt to make up for the bus hijacking, bag-throwing incident.
A bottle of champagne found its way into my hand for that privilege, and Jo and Felicity watched in horror as I necked the entire bottle in one go. Needless to say, things got pretty hazy for me after that.
I saw some familiar faces and some unfamiliar ones. I don’t know if I met the boy whose actual party it was, but I presume I did at some point. One friend said they saw me on the tennis court working my way around the fence slowly trying to find the way out at one stage.
I have absolutely no recollection of any incident at the party that lead to me breaking my pelvis. One minute I was sculling champagne at this party I didn’t want to be at, the next minute there was that white light, and hospital shapes forming in front of my eyes.
To be continued…
Stay tuned for Part 2, when I fill in the blanks of what happened between when I lost my memory, and woke up in hospital that afternoon… Let’s just say, my parents were not impressed…
^ Name changed on request to protect her privacy
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Until next time!
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