In Melbourne in the late 80s, when I was 22, I left Bohemian Fitzroy and moved to a cute worker’s cottage in seaside Albert Park.
I insisted that my then fiancé Carlson move in with me. In a matter of weeks, however, it appeared that living so far away from his other ball and chain (his hippy clothing shop on Brunswick Street) would never work for him. Consequently, in my mind, our relationship was over, though admittedly, in my subconscious desire to maintain my Brunswick Street connections; I was vague in my efforts to make this clear to him.
Of course, I needed help to pay the rent… Enter Mira, the ultra-aloof, short-haired, freckle-faced journalist for Cosmo magazine. Mira came complete with a boyfriend, Gabe, a lanky six-foot-something muso and a jaded ex-lover slash bestie, Nigel. To add to the intrigue, not long after she moved in, I would peek through my bedroom curtain to see an older man place elaborate bunches of flowers on our doorstep with a card that always read, “To Mira, Yours forever, Ming”.
Nigel lived close by and would visit often. He always arrived unannounced, leaving me obliged to entertain him as Mira was usually out. A thirty-something, ultra-conservative environmental scientist, Nigel seemed fascinated by me though he remained ignorant to the signs that I was mildly repulsed by him. Despite this, I found his intelligence engaging and eventually got used to his company.
Gabe was a curious animal. Against my conscious will, his dark eyes, shoulder-length wavy hair, and black leather jeans pulled me in. I even noticed the particular way the gate squeaked when he came to visit Mira. As the Summer months approached that year, I would sunbake in the rear courtyard in my bikini, the bathroom window positioned just behind me. Though I didn’t turn around, I knew when Gabe was in the bathroom, I could feel his eyes on me.
I had no idea how desirable I was to men then, and that was probably a good thing. My low self-esteem and cheeky nature might have gotten the better of me, tempting me to play the games often plied by immature women. I wasn’t expecting his attention, so when it came, it was disarming, and that he was spoken for made it taboo and all the more thrilling.
Sitting in my Banana Torana with the engine running (the 1979 yellow Torana Sunbird my mother bought for me), I contemplated the suspicious red light on the dash. I got distracted by the sense that someone was near and looked up to see Gabe approaching. The car would later meet its demise in Fitzroy Street St Kilda when the engine blew up. I remember how smoke poured from the bonnet as I surrendered to the situation’s futility. I climbed onto the roof with my guitar and strummed away until my mother’s boyfriend (by chance or cosmic intervention) discovered me.
With a glint in his eye, Gabe approached, leant through the passenger side window and said, “Howdy! Can I sit for a while? After weeks of excruciatingly covert flirtation, my poker face cracked, and my cheeks betrayed me. I leaned over and swung the passenger door open, so he could climb in. We chatted with the door open and the engine still running until I was seized by an impulse to flee. I hit the accelerator hard, causing the door to slam shut as we sped away. With a cheeky grin, I glanced at him sideways and said, “I bet it’s not every day you get abducted by a strange woman…”. He replied with a look of titillated calculation, “It should definitely become a thing!”.