Continuing with Kerri’s “My First…” Blogging Challenge here is her post about her first moment of terror.
Here is mine…
This is the moment that sprang to mind immediately when I read this challenge and while it is probably not genuinely my “first” moment of terror it is the one that clearly stands out. It is probably my first moment of real life terror rather than movie induced terror (for example the many nights my friend A and I would lock ourselves away in her rumpus room basement while her parents were out, turn out all the lights and watch the Evil Dead over and over until we were so scared we couldn’t even go down the hall to the toilet until her parents returned).
Anyway, I’m thinking of a night (and I could be wrong because my memories of those times are mixed up, people and events jumbled together, often randomly to form inaccurate pictures… perhaps my friend KG who has remarkable memories of this time in our lives can chime in) in early December 1983. I’m reasonably sure it was the last day of Year 10 and my friends and I had gone into the city to celebrate. I am fiften and I am about to start my first full time job the following Monday. I feel incredibly grown up, immortal, invicible.
Our main hang out at the time was the Central Markets Hotel which stood where the Pumphouse (if that still exists) stands near the Entertainment Centre. This was pre Darling Harbour and that part of the city was dark and rat infested and pretty bloody awful. Just perfect for a bunch of suburban teenage girls hanging around the outskirts of the Sydney skinhead scene.
So there we were at the Central Markets Hotel. We’d ordered schooners of beer and for some reason (was it a hot night? probably) we found ourselves outside, in the lane. My memory is of standing in that lane, or possibly sitting on milk crates and looking over at a group of the “senior” skinheads (Stretch, Spider, their underlings) standing nearby. These were the scary boys; probably they were only a few years older than us but they were big and mean and capable of real violence. We knew their reputations but we were not really in their orbit.
The moment that I remember and that still fills me with some sort of fear was when they turned around and looked at us. We had floated around these people for a couple of years but I had never felt them notice us. They were our dubious celebrities; we knew them but they didn’t know, or could possibly care less about, us. Suddenly they noticed us. But it was not a good moment. So clearly I remember being filled with dread because I suddenly and for the first time saw the situation for what it was. Big, violent grown men looking at a group of ridiculous teenage girls.
It had never occurred to me before that we were in danger but suddenly the possibility of that danger hit me very hard. It was almost like having a panic attack. I realised how vulnerable we were and how reptilian they were, looking upon as sport.
It’s funny that I don’t remember how that evening ended. I have a feeling we got out of there. Even thinking about it now I want to run out of that scene; did we run? I can’t remember. Did we stay away from the skinhead scene? No we did not. I know we stopped going to the Central Markets Hotel around that time but possibly that was because it was about to get knocked down.
This is the memory which makes me understand how and why young girls (and boys) get themselves into serious trouble. There is just no risk assessment mechanism in a teenage brain (at least there wasn’t in mine). I look back at this moment and many others which were to follow and realise how lucky I am to have made it to adulthood. It was certainly much more to do with luck than with any sensible behaviour on my part.