I was going through a few things in an old jewellery box on Saturday and came across an old worn envelope. It was folded down into a strip, like it was keeping something safe. Unrolling the folds, I pulled the envelope apart and there clumped in the corner were a reminder of just how lucky I have been.
June 13th, 1986 was a Friday, a Black Friday, or so they call them. The dreaded Friday the 13th when everything that could go wrong, does. I was eleven then, innocent and happy. We were living on the ‘block’ at the time, winter days of thick fog and drizzling rain. As we bustled around the caravan getting ready for school, Mum hauled two huge baskets of dirty washing out to the old white Renault wagon and jammed them into the back, she would take them to the Laundromat after the school drop off.
My sisters and I scrambled into the car with our school bags, Mick sat in front, while myself and Lana jumped in the back. It was always a shit fight as to who was sitting in the front seat. My kids now whine about it too, like it matters. It doesn’t now and it didn’t matter then. The seats were cold and the windows fogged up thick. We wiped our sleeves across the wet glass as mum kicked the Reno in the guts. On our way to the bus stop we dropped by our “Block-lords” and grabbed their two kids Joey and Lozza. They were younger than me, happy and smiling. Climbing into the back seat the four of us sat squished in for the three kilometre drive to the bus stop.
The dirt road was corrugated and rough. You couldn’t go too fast or you would lose a mud guard or worse still, a wheel. The belting and bashing of the road was noisy, and mum had the cassette player cranked up and Lesley Gore was singing It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry If I Want To. We were all laughing and singing along, the heater blasting the interior of the car. The fog was thick outside but we could still see a little bit in front of us. It had that eerie mist feel. A car passed by us going the other way, a neighbour who had already dropped their kids off at the bus stop perhaps.
We drove up over the crest in the road and coming down the other side Mum murmured the words, “hold on” as she threw her arm across the front of the space between the front seats, reaching across at Mick. As I looked up I could see head lights and a tray truck turning in front of us. What seemed like minutes went by as Lesley Gore groaned about crying at her party and we plummeted bonnet first into the side of it.
Opening my eyes, the smell was the first thing I noticed. Iron and metal. I looked around me, Joey and Loz were already out of the car, the seat was bare to the right of me where they sat and Lana wasn’t on my left. Doors opened and voices called. It’s a blur, and fuzzy with yelling and hissing. I slid across the seat and stood at the side of the car, leaning against the door. I’m not sure who gave me the jumper from the laundry in the back, they pushed it to my forehead and I held it there. I was confused.
Looking down at the jumper, my red blood pooled on it. I reached to my head searching for the bloody source. dazed I spun around to see Mick sitting in the car holding her mouth, blood and saliva dripping from between her fingers, her eyes full of tears and confusion with more than her share of terror. I realised then what had happened and a rage pushed up from my stomach and purged out of my mouth. My vile voice of hate and anger shifted its focus to the man in the tray truck. With forced vigour I approached him, screeching at him, telling him to look at what he had done, what he had done to me holding the bloodied jumper in the air at him. I wanted to know why he did it? How could he do this?
I was ushered away from him. Were there other people there? An ambulance? It was noisy. Crying, and tears I couldn’t see through. The terror that surged through me, and where was Lana? I was so cold.
I laid on the hospital bed. Shaking. The smell of blood all around me. That iron metal smell, that dense, thick pungent and earthy smell, underneath the ether and disinfectant. A blue cloth covered my face and the sting and pushing of a needle punched my forehead. More than once. I sobbed under that blue cloth. My hand squeezed mums hand, I knew it was hers. The gritty cotton trickled through my skin pulling it tight, over, and over, and over, and over.
The three of us laid there on the floor in the caravan annex lounge. Cuddled up together in front of the pot belly stove under our feather doona. I laid there with my sisters that night, so afraid and so worried that it physically hurt me to breathe. I listened to their every breath, their every murmur, and we whispered about how we felt, our worries and how we were scared. I held them both until we all fell asleep. It was my job to keep them safe that night, there in the lounge, in front of the fire, where we belonged, together and alive.
The eleven stitches, that were snipped from my forehead 29 years ago, dropped out of the envelope and onto my hand. One for each year I had thus far lived he day it happened. I touched my forehead with some amount of gratitude. It was a Friday the 13th I will never forget and a day that began my superstition belief. A day I could have been killed, or perhaps one of my sisters just as easily. The fog still scares me a little, and I stay home if I can on Black Friday’s. Perhaps Lesley Gore predicted the gore and the crying that would present itself that morning and she was warning us? I don’t like the song… safe to say.
Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!