Friendship Feelings, A Debut Drive & A Rotting Rodent (6-12 April)

Monday 6/4/87

A Life in Words
duotone doodle of Monique from a photo

I’m a glutton for punishment; it’s 10:45 – another late night & worse still; I did absolutely no HW again today & I have a frigging maths exam tomorrow. Can you believe it? I’m a total dickhead! [No, just a brilliant procrastinator] (Read my ’86 diary tonight getting frustrated like finding out things like – me knowing Monique 8 months ..hanging round her for ≈5 months & only 4 months of true [best] friendship. It isn’t fair… why her? Why this year? [The ultimate, unanswerable questions…] Good day with Mark. Fiona & Jemima are closer now. And I’m left out in the open I think Jemima doesn’t like me too much – wants to be my “best friend too” (that letter) [During my first week back at school, she gave me a letter about Monique. I didn’t actually say much about it in my diary entry other than “I cried” so I won’t include a link back to it. It was on Wednesday 18 March if you’re really keen to take a look…] HUH! What laugh – they do everything together & leave me out. . I don’t mind tho’ I spent the whole day with Mark & hopefully will do the for the rest of the year (see, they both went home at little lunch) who needs friends? I need Monique. She was the best MONIQUE FOREVER. Mark loves me (I mean [privacy omission] – this song by Cameo – he thinks is perfect for me “Candy” – so that’s my name now!” [Suffice to say this became one of my favourite songs. I still like it, but OMG the video… quintessential 80’s… ugh, those outfits!]

Tuesday 7/4/87

Mark told me (on the phone tonight) for the 2nd time ever “I love you” – I’ve said it countless (!!) [What, it’s a competition?] Nah, about 4 I think, or 5. […but still keeping count…] Today started off shaky .. barely talked to him before school & during bio (little lunch was O.K!!) & most of big lunch it was “wierd” – picking on me (I think!) I rang him & we talked about little in particular …oh, I love him so much. Friday night is Glyn’s party, now .. mima & I are goin’ to do something (as both our boyfriends are going to the “stag” party (!!)) (Lord knows what!) […talk about fickle friendships!] Anyway he’ll be at that & on Saturday night he’s working & Sunday leaving from Bramston Beach till Thursday. (I’m not going to school tomorrow – cross country) BOO HOO! I won’t get to spend any time with him! Aaargh – I’ll die [uh huh] Maths exam – big laugh (not really- I couldn’t do anything practically) Bio & english yesterday 56/80 and 6½/10 respectively→ so surprising! I was sure I’d fail (First “fine” day in days today! Still cool tho’.) Love you mark. started writing back to Tania today

Wednesday 8/4/87

What a wasted day- I stayed home from the cross country to “do chemistry study” (I wrote to Tania & Lucy, sunbaked – got burnt & listened to music. WASTED DAY) Julia deliberately missed the bus, after mum left, Mr H came over around 2:30 & put up the pelments [read: pelmets – the framework above windows, used to conceal curtaining fixtures] – the ones in my room (& Julia’s) are too big – for our long louvres. (Yukky) A Life in WordsWhen mum came home, I WENT FOR A DRIVE!!! Was so much fun! Unreal! (Tho I almost drove into Sandra’s car!!) [I vividly recall this: hitting the wrong pedal and speeding up suddenly toward our neighbour’s car as I was meant to be turning into our driveway. Luckily I found the brake in time. What a rush.] my problem is getting co-ordinated – the pedals & gears. Steering’s easiest (tho’ not easy – understand?) [Ok, this I need to explain: the ‘power steering’ that is now standard in all vehicles didn’t feature in the 1979 Toyota Corolla in which I was learning to drive. Those of you who were ‘lucky’ enough to experience driving vehicles without this smooth steering mechanism, will understand why I thought steering wasn’t quite the easiest thing to do. Without this creature comfort, kids, you literally had to wrench the steering wheel to make sharp turns. Upper body strength required!] Oh I’m tired .. man we have bad luck – hot water system broke down & we have a rat (or a very big mouse) in the house. I’m busting to go to the loo. It was a ‘nice’ phone call tonight – he was being more “understanding’ I think. A tease, yes, but being “gentler”. Hottish day! (only in the sun, that is) wonder how the cross-country run went? I’ll fail chem tomorrow. Haven’t studied at all. I AM STUPID. No- I’ve just lost interest in school – I just don’t care anymore. [Good correction there, Liss]

Thursday 9/4/87

The doctor wasn’t as overly excited about the progress of my leg as I thought he would be. [It’s funny how the attitude of a ‘professional’ (a superior, an elder) can affect you. There’s no doubt I’d’ve left that appointment somewhat deflated.] I missed biology & didn’t talk very much at all to Mark in maths. Chemistry exam I failed ..I really have lost all interest in school. At big lunch, Mark & I were more affectionate than ever – we both talked a fair bit (seriously) about life. He feels much the same as me . . nothing excites him anymore – wants a big change to happen so he can get on with life – the crash & its effects haunt him, too… feels, like me, that the crash spoilt possibly the best year of our lives ..definitely I agree. [So, I have to wonder… how many others felt exactly the same?] I also talked about my lack of friends – that’s also bothering me a lot. He seems more understanding lately. & gentle. I love that. Boring day- didn’t see jemima or Fiona after chem..probly left together again – I know they went late night shopping together – tried to ring them. A Life in WordsMark also went with Keith. I couldn’t get his chain [for his up-coming birthday] today, damn. Practised gears & clutch in the (stationary) car this arvy. FUN. Haven’t done english assignment -am not going to go to school tomorrow (Am so tired) Mark won’t be there – is going to the beach with Steven. Who knows about mima & fi they wouldn’t take me anywhere anyway [I’d always perceived I’d been more bitter about their exclusive friendship when I was younger, but I’m sensing some intensity here…] 

Friday 10/4/87

Boring day, indeed. I didn’t do my english assignment. After Mr. H came to fix the pelments, we left for town. I finally chose a silver-plated fob chain ($31), but now I think it’ll be a bit too short for his thick neck. [Masculine thickness, of course …not fat!] Oh well. [I know it doesn’t sound much, but $31 was a fair bit to spend back in those days…especially considering we weren’t financially ‘comfortable’. Forgive my ignorance, but I have no idea how that would compare price-wise to silver plated jewellery today; does anyone even buy silver-plated stuff anymore?] That’s another thing . . I’m missing him already. Am planning (if he doesn’t ring me first) to ring him & provided he’s not “dead” from tonight’s “party” at Cameron’s, will see if he’d like to do something. I so badly want to see him before he goes. We saw Nana today – feel so sorry for her – I hope she dies soon & I don’t mean that cruelly. I want her to be with God; feeling no pain. [She suffered brutally with rheumatoid arthritis. I wasn’t aware if there were any other underlying health issues contributing to her ill-health – Cancer was definitely never mentioned – but she had been a long term smoker.] Hottish weather. Is rainy (finally!) again tonight. Beka came over this arvy . . talked for yonks- I haven’t got her anything – her birthday tomorrow & I forgot completely. (till this arvy!) Mark, I miss you already. A Life in WordsThe mice or rats are getting in still: running along the beams on the roof. SHIT I hate them. Think I have another ringworm starting – back of right leg – near my scarring. Oh no. Wanna get brown these holidays- tan around my scars etc. 8:45 early night * * But I’m waking at 11:30pm to listen to the 4CCR Party Nite music

Saturday 11/4/87

Woke rather early.. boring-ish day ..I watched TV, covered my books & watered the plants. I ate heaps too. Went for another drive today! Much better than the  last time. . but still not quite perfect. Lucy rang after I rang Mark … had a longish talk to her Hope to see her Mon &/or Tuesday. Listened to approx. 1¾hrs of the 4CCR Party thing – stupid (didn’t know any of the music last night. Watched Countdown [yeah, that commercial stuff was more ‘me’!] after Lucy rang, then quickly got ready to go to Mark’s. A little late – everybody gone [?] & pizza man just delivered dinner- when I arrived. We watched TV mucking round- tickling mostly a few little kisses. After the TV movie, though, we got ‘down’ to business [Nope, still not what you think…]. . then mum came (dammit!) He said he’d ring & perhaps write (which means yes) Sandra was there quickly, earlier – I showed her & her (2) friends my leg- yukkypoo! Mum’s complaining about a smell (I can’t smell it) But thinks it’s the rat – no more scuffling noises. My blinds are up now. WOW! It’s 12:10.. gonna listen to 4CCR [Um, why? You’ve just said you didn’t enjoy it on the previous night… oh how much more beneficial sleep would be for you!] -in love with M.

Sunday 12/4/87

4CCR was better this week, [touché] but I had to turn off- I was so tired. Woke just after (or before?) 8:00 did nothing – the stench of the rat is strong now. Yuck. Danced to music before going to airport . . [to collect our cousins] Jodie, Michael & Auntie Hilary unpacked- Nana came over. A waste of an afternoon – they bought us [Royal Easter Show] show bags [from Sydney – their home] (I’ve eaten heaps already!) I ate & just lazed around. . . Boring! (Thought about Mark lots … his kisses last night were so beautiful – tender, romantic. Yummy. I love him, I’m sure.) Beka rang – I’m going to town with her & Lucy tomorrow- Jodie, Mike & Jules can come, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to. Oh, Mark I can’t stop thinking about you. Late-ish night – it’s 9:40. Gotta catch 9:00 train. (Big mess cleaning up Nana’s clothes this arvy – they found the rat full of maggots. Yuk. [Now this is confusing. My recollection of finding the dead rat was that it was wedged (of all places) between a ceiling beam and the roof insulation in a corner of MY bedroom. Perhaps this was a different dead rat scenario, one that obliterated my memory of this vom-fest in my grandmother’s clothes? A Life in WordsOh and just to clarify, I expect that we are talking about a garbage bag of my Nana’s stored/unused clothing rather than that which she happened to be currently wearing.] Windy cool & sometimes overcast today. J & M are hot at the moment. Can you believe ….?? [They hail from a place 2,500klms south of the tropics Liss… yes, I can.] Feel like a full, fat pig!

 

The Day After: Heartbreak (5 February)

Thursday 5/2/87

8 died. Monique has gone. Erica too, Mark F, Mandy G, Judy F, Jody & Lee-anne & Liz. 7 of them were sitting up the back [but notably, all 8 were sitting on the left hand side of the bus; that which would have borne the weight of bodies & debris thrown from the right-side side at the first moment the ground fell away beneath us]. I can’t believe Monique is gone. It’s unbelievable. I know she is, but I can’t comprehend it. Today was very busy. Heaps of people came. I have a big “hunk” out of my left knee, a small crack in my left femur and a huge gash in the back of my right thigh, where the bus was on me. […almost correct…] Mark is in intensive care. I hope he’s alright. I got a letter tonight – note he wrote before the camp. [privacy omission] I cried a fair bit today. Esp. when dad told me about monique. No one knew about her [in that, whenever I asked after her they all answered that they didn’t know, or hadn’t heard. I can’t imagine how hard that would have been for them: to lie to the face of someone to whom they knew the truth would cause so much pain].. didn’t tell me so I was kind of guessing.A Life in Words Rather late night. Food is disgusting. My head and arms are badly bruised. Cameron, Jason P, and Yru are next door [there was an adjoining ward to ours]. Fi (broken collarbone) Kay & Ms Bowles were released at different times today.

[There are 6 pages dedicated to this day in the scrapbook but they are mostly filled with clippings from a variety of newspapers; mostly from the local ‘Cairns Post’.]

Woken quite early to have blood pressure and temperature taken, then no one (except Fiona, of course) could get back to sleep, so we talked. I was quite determined to find out as much as I could…so asked lots of questions. I remember only Jacque, Ms. Bowles and Kay being interested in the conversation…however not seeming (Ms. Bowles, anyway) too happy to recall the events she remembered.  Jacque said she knew 3 of the dead, but refused to tell me when I asked at first. Eventually she told me Mark, Mandy and…Erica. A Life in WordsI said I knew Erica died (but I hadn’t really, had I?) When the papers arrived we realised exactly how major the event had been (we’d all missed the TV news the night before and had been wondering if it was ‘national’) The headlines greeted us:

“Cairns High camp ends in tragedy: 8 Die in Smash”

The Cairns Post reports virtually dominated the complete paper: front page headlines, continuing on pages 3 and 7.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s reports were very similar to some of the articles printed in the Cairns Post. [I knew nothing of media ownership (eg, Murdoch) back then.]A Life in Words

After breakfast, bedpans and bed washes, people began arriving: lots of people, mostly school friends, came throughout the day. The Brewers were one of the first to visit.  Mum had come, but left Julia [with me] when she had to do some business calls. Dad came.

I remember having asked Mrs Brewer about Monique, and she replied, “we haven’t heard” or “we don’t know”.

Strange: everyone seemed to have been saying that. I thought she was either so okay that she’d gone home straight away, or…but I didn’t think it was that.

I remember the nurses drawing the curtains around me, but, talking to Jemima (Mrs B, Polly & Julia standing nearby) I didn’t take much notice, or wonder why. [assuming more blood pressure tests or something of the like…] Apparently the whole ward was cleared of other visitors. [People have since confirmed this: all visitors were ushered out of the wards into the corridor, and it was jam-packed] I’ll never forget when my Dad came through the curtain: his eyes were quite moist. He said (and an eerie silence fell over the place) “They’ve released the names of the dead…”

I knew it…I had to accept what I had subconsciously known all along….what I hadn’t wanted to have to believe…

“Monique..”

I said it at the same time, my eyes brimming…

“was one of them.”

A Life in Words
Ink portraits of Monique traced from photos, in my scrapbook

The suspense was too much for Jemima, who broke out in (those, oh, so familiar) sobs, and I could sense every other person silently crying. I took a deep breath and wailed for the world to hear –

“MONIQUE, NOOOOOO, MONIQUE, MONIQUE…”

I don’t recall how long I cried for, but apparently, I was sedated and slept for quite some time…

[I have to admit I’m disappointed that my father assumed the role of informer before my mother had returned from her business calls. Knowing my mum, I’m certain she would have desperately wished to be by my side in that moment of need. It feels unfair to me, that the news was broken in her absence. In his defence however, he said he had consulted with the medical staff and it was jointly agreed that I needed to be informed sooner rather than later because of the sheer number of visitors: they expected someone would ‘let slip’ and they clearly wanted to ‘control’ the situation for everyone’s ‘psychological’ sake… the question is, can anyone ‘control’ anything??]

The rest of the day, after I woke, was a blur of people (SO many!) tears (over Monique) and flowers (the first of many I was to receive).

I had not yet a clear understanding of the injuries I’d sustained, thinking I had “a big hunk out of my left knee, a small crack in my left femur, and a huge gash in the back of my right thigh (where the bus was on me)” [clearly I pulled this directly from my diary] It was clear however, that my head and arms were badly bruised, and chest, hips and legs. [I have always bruised easily so this came as no surprise. I ended up with numerous contusions, the largest of which were in the soft flesh above my elbows. The haematoma on my left arm actually left a scar (another physical affliction to which I’m naturally pre-disposed) in the form of stretched and slight ‘greying’ of the skin.]

Fiona, Kay and Ms. Bowles were released at different times during the day…Fiona still oblivious to anything going on around her (still in shock).

In fact, I would have been in a deeper shock over Monique. The tears flowed nearly the whole day…and to any visitors I kept repeating and stressing how I needed friends now, because Monique was gone. They all nodded, eyes watery, in sympathy. [I had just lost the only real best friend I’d ever had. My very own best friend, who’d considered me hers too. It’s all I’d ever wanted, what I felt I’d lacked in my life to date. I was keenly aware that I was the ‘third wheel’ in the friendship trio with Jemima & Fiona, so Monique’s departure not only ripped open a gaping hole but infused it with past feelings of loneliness and alienation.]

Again, most visitors left after the close of visitors hours, including my mother and sister, who then went to visit Mr & Mrs P. [Monique’s parents] for an hour or so afterwards.