Monday, 19 August 1996 9:10am
Ok, here it is, a solemn vow, and I want you to witness it:
I, J , do solemnly swear that I shall never again travel past the tram tracks in search of entertainment or any social interaction.
So there it is. Never, never and again, never. I am not going past the end of the tram tracks in search of a good time. Good times are just not to be found there. Just a bunch of fucking troglodyte monsters. I went out to Greenvale on Saturday night for a “sleep-over”. Oh God, here it begins…
Pippa invited Tariq and I out to her grandfather’s house in Greenvale for a “White Trash Video Night.” It was to be an evening of classist bitchiness, laughing at rotten movies and the whole Trailer Park Society. You know, the Roseanne’s of the world.
So, Greenvale? I hear you ask. It’s just the other side of Broadmeadows. Fucking miles away. We met up in Pellegrini’s at the top of Bourke Street at 7pm. I was seven minutes late, Tariq was waiting, Pippa was fifteen minutes late. We caught a Broadmeadows train from Flinders Street.
We arrive at “Broady” and wait in the freezing cold for a taxi. It’s actually snowing in the Dandenongs at the moment, that’s how cold it is here. We get a taxi through the wet night, zooming along wide empty freeways. Broadmeadows without cars is a huge expanse of tarmac dotted at regular intervals with shopping complexes and service stations. It was kind of creepy in a stupid way.
So we get to Pippa’s grandfather’s place on this unmade road, just over the way from a housing development that is at the absolute outer reaches of suburbia. Seeing as it’s night, we can’t get a good look at the place. We go in through the sliding doors and check out the interior.
It’s a large house, dating from the mid to late seventies. Pippa gives us a guided tour. Lots and lots of religious icons and prints of The Last Supper and all that. Knick-knacks from Papua New Guinea and similar places. I think her Pops has travelled some. Pippa apologized ceaselessly for everything, she didn’t need to. I think she was trying to pre-empt any bitchiness on Tariq’s and my part by condemning everything in this suppliant manner before Tariq and I could do it in a less charitable fashion. Made me feel bad.
So Pippa and Tariq cooked while I tended the fire in the wood oven. The meal ready, we sat down with our white wine and vodka and pushed John Water’s Serial Mom into the video machine. It’s a really good film, I like it. It’s funny. Best thing I think I’ve ever seen Kathleen Turner do, actually.
Then we watched… (wait for it) … Showgirls! What a film, Sister! O, it’s the Citizen Kane of sleaze, Sis. I cacked myself, I really did. It’s hilarious. We were kinda tanked by this stage, and none of us were really worried about missing any of the story line (there really isn’t one) so we cackled our away through the whole thing. What a pisser! Especially the topless kickboxing scene – you really must see this film!
Anyhow, we were half-way through Reality Bites when this van pulled up outside. I asked Pippa if she knew anybody with a white van, ‘coz they weren’t getting out, they were just sitting there in the car. Pippa didn’t know who it was, so she went over to the door. I told her to lock it. She did.
This guy with a goatee is at the wire door asking for Mark. Pippa tells him that he must have the wrong house, no “Mark” lives here. The guy just stands there, smiling and staring. Pippa asks him what number house he’s after and he says something like “41117”. It’s at this point that Pippa realized that the guy was off his face, high. Completely smashed, but in an odd kind of way. Like in a heroin kind of way. Anyhow, he wouldn’t go away and then started saying that he lived there, and he tried to open the door once or twice. Pippa walked away from the door and called the cops. The guy was now just standing at the glass sliding door staring at us. Tariq and I sat and chewed our nails. The guy called out again.
Tariq went over and yelled to him through the glass door. We weren’t taking any chances from here on in. Tariq spoke to him for maybe five minutes, telling him that no, it wasn’t his house. No, Mark wasn’t here. No, he had the wrong house. But this guy wouldn’t go away. He went back to the car once or twice, and Pippa and I thought we heard two or more doors closing on the car, so we were worried about other folks stalking around the house. The guy was back at the door, so I figured it was my turn.
I went up to the door and fed him the same lines that Tariq and Pippa did, and tried not to be too freaked out about the whole thing, especially the way he’d just keep staring at you with that half-smile on his face. Kinda like he knew something you didn’t.
So then it was Tariq’s turn again – Pippa was still on the phone. She called the cops twice, her parents once and gave the people at Chubb Security a call to ask how to trip the alarm if something happened. After Tariq had finished with him again, it was my turn again. This time he waved a bag full of powder at me, asking me if I “wanted”. That was all he said really “You want… ?” The guy was smashed, but not in a stumbling about, slurring kind of way. His eyes were wired but he couldn’t seem to function. He more or less understood what you were saying, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere.
So when I saw this bag of powder, I thought “Oh shit, it’s some bloody dealer who’s driven half-way across Melbourne to deliver this deal, and now the buyers are stonewalling him. That’s probably why he won’t go away. He’s smashed and can’t deviate from the course that he set when he was straight.” So I raised my eyebrows and shook my head and said “Nah, man. You got the wrong place. We didn’t order anything. You’ve got the wrong address” hoping that it might push him off once he realized that it was a mistake and not someone trying to pull one over him. Altogether a rather stressful experience.
We sat down and tried to relax a little, but I had a leg that wouldn’t stop jiggling, and Pippa couldn’t seem to get off the phone. I couldn’t stop thinking about the other people that I was sure I heard getting in and out of the car. Tariq sat there being philosophical saying “Don’t worry about things beyond your control. We’ve called the police. Let’s just wait for them.” Sound advice, really.
Then I see the guy’s van being lit up from behind and I hope like hell that it’s the Fuzz and not some of his buddies. It is the cops. The three of us collectively sigh, and then I start worrying about having the Showgirls video cover lying around. You want to give the police the right impression, after all.
I hide one of the booze bottles and we sit down to give a statement. The three of us are so stressed that we can hardly remember our own phone numbers. It takes two of us to come up with the number for work. One of the first things the policeman asks is “Now, you said on the phone that he showed one of you a bag of powder?” and I had to put my hand up to it. I really did not want to. I just wanted to say the exact same thing as the other two, but Pippa mentioned it on the phone to the police, so I had to tell the cop about it. I was worried that the bag wouldn’t turn up and it would become an “issue”. I tried to sound as pure as the driven snow saying things like “drug dealer” instead of “dealer” and “bag” instead of “baggie”. We recounted the whole thing to him, as I have to you, and then we went to the door to watch. They pulled a great huge bong out of his car, and one of the coppers came up to the one we’d spoken to and told him they’d found a bag of speed on him and that he was so out of it that he actually did not know what year it was. Really. No shit, he couldn’t say what year we were in. I think that may have been him playing up to them. So then we asked him how long he would be in custody and the cop was a bit sketchy about it. He put on a reassuring tone and told us he wouldn’t be bothering us again, but wouldn’t actually put a time on it. Then they left. It was about 2:30am.
One of the cops (there were three) drove the van off and we asked another one to just have a look around because Pippa and I were sure we heard two or three car doors slamming. Tariq said he didn’t hear that himself, so I don’t think the cops took it too seriously. They all drove off and we tried to relax by watching the rest of Reality Bites. As soon as I could focus back on the TV, I was OK. Pippa was still a bit jumpy. We stayed up until about 4:30am and then shambled off to bed. I slept in my clothes. I’d planned to get a taxi home at 2am or so, giving some phony excuse, but under the circumstances it wouldn’t have been a nice move, really. I was up by 9:30am and cajoling Pippa into making some coffee while Tariq and I cleared up a little. Oooh baby I enjoyed that coffee. I understand why people smoke cigarettes now. It’s that instant relief. That feeling of satisfying a certain craving, and that feeling of satiation flows on to relieve all the stress, not just the “I-wanna-coffee-stress”. Do you know what I’m getting at?
We called a taxi and Tariq and I caught a “Football Special” train back to Melbourne. I tell you Sis, being surrounded by not just football fans, but Broadmeadows football fans, Broadmeadows football fans with four or five squalling brats each – it was not the serene return to Inner City Life that I was craving. Tariq and I sat there in this freezing train, bitching about the suburbs and how we were never going out there again. Finally we arrived at Flinders Street around 12:15pm and went our separates ways. My tram ride was thankfully, blissfully uneventful. I got home and soaked in a vanilla scented bath and tried to unwind from too little sleep and too much junk food. I spent the rest of the day on the couch under the doona with a fire on the hearth and remote in my hand.
So I get into work this morning, ten or so minutes late, and Seymour from Accounts calls me and asks me to give a Mrs Stevenson a call, hands me a number, it’s quite urgent. Stevenson is Pippa’s last name, and I’ve met one of her brothers. A small itch of disquiet blooms in my brain. I call the number.
It’s Pippa’s Mum. She tells me that Pippa won’t be coming in to work today. The guy they busted on Saturday night came back on Sunday night with two friends. They broke into the house, but not before Pippa had time to call the police and her Mum. Then she hid. Thankfully, they didn’t find her. Pippa’s Mum called the house, and the guy answered. She talked to him, and then Pippa’s Dad talked to him, and then the cops arrived and busted the three of them. Apparently he’s a burglar and three days earlier, he had burgled a house not far away and viciously assaulted the occupant. Fuck, Sis, it could have gone all so horribly. I guess I’ve got a court date coming up, eh?
So my guess is that this guy was trying to get our attention while his mates went around the rest of the house looking for a spot to break in. I don’t know what happened, because realistically, they should have had time to get in. But they didn’t, or might have been on the point of it when the cops arrived and then legged it. Wow, it could have gone so horribly, horribly different. Aside from this, I can’t believe that Pippa stayed there alone last night. Why didn’t one of her brothers at least come up and stay? Or why didn’t she stay somewhere else.
Pippa’s not coming in today. I wonder what sort of state she’s in. I wonder what happened. Did they go around the house with knives chanting “Come out, come out wherever you are”? Perhaps I’ve seen too many movies, Sis. It had to be revenge motivated though, or why wouldn’t they choose another house? And how could they not find her? They must have been out of it again or something. I mean, it’s pretty stupid, isn’t it? To break into this place and then have a chat on the phone with your victim’s parents – that’s pretty dumb. He must have realized that if her parents knew he was there, then so did the cops. Are all crims this dumb? No wonder they’re always getting busted.
Anyway, I guess I’ll just sit tight and wait for her to call. I hope she’s OK. This is serious, innit Sis? I mean, it’s grown-up serious. Proper, real-life stuff. I may have to go to court like a real person and be cross examined for Christ’s sake. And how is Pippa gonna take it? I hope she launches a civil suit as well, for mental suffering and all that. Make the fucker pay. I wonder if he’ll go to jail? I guess the previous assault will put him in. If he pleads guilty to that, maybe they’ll drop Pippa’s charges. Who can tell?
Anyhoo, I gotta get back to work.