One o’clock came and went. The street was empty. The sun beamed down its February rays from a clear sky. Neighbourhood motor mowers sputtered and roared in the distance. The giant eucalypt stood silently in the backyard waiting for an unsuspecting victim to stand too ong under one of its over-extended branches. No breeze. No voices. No visitors.
Tired of guarding the front louvres, my brother joined me in the kitchen. We stood surrounded by ghosts.
The neighbourhood was changing. On the surface things gave the appearance of being the same. Only one of the neighbours bordering this sixteen perch block remained. As if to reward my patience Mrs Balcock made an appearance at her rotary clothesline. I had an urge to make my way to the back fence to resume a twenty year long conversation between she and my mother, but I hadn’t spoken to her in thirty-five years and the once bare fence was now overgrown with creepers and wild undergrowth. What once had been a connecting point between neighbours had become a barrier.
She looked the same and I could hear her strange nasally voice repeating familiar phrases in my head. And then she disappeared.
The Hebleys and the Bubblers had gone. As had my beloved Dawn, the blonde girl of my childhood dreams. Dawn, my siren. Dawn who had seduced me at the age of five with a game of ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ in her mother’s bed one night during a sleepover while my parents went to a wedding.
That was my one and only sleepover. But it had worked its magic. Perhaps my parents saw something different in my preschool eyes the next morning and knew that I was hooked. For it was then I suspect that they put in place a subtle management plan for I rarely ever ventured over that side fence again -though I hurdled the back fence to wrestle with the Balcock boys every day for the next decade.
Dawn, my blonde siren, representing all women, had me mesmerised. My sexual orientation was defined. My secret ten year infatuation had begun.
From time to time I would find an excuse to play with her in her backyard. Occasionally on a lay day in our backyard test series cricket there she’d be bouncing a tennis ball off the side of the house nearest ours, clapping once, twice, three, times and so on between each throw and catch; her bouncing pony tail flicking and challenging me to match her skill.
Invisibly, silently, I’d climb the fence and join in. Words were not necessary. The mere sharing of a concrete path and a mouldy tennis ball satisfied my longing.
Of course eventually my brother or the Balcock boys would emerge calling for me to come and play. Sometimes, hidden from their view, I would guiltily choose Dawn ahead of the bike ride and momentarily be overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and then one of immense pleasure at the audacity of my choice.
It was the beginning of my fascination with women. Still fifty years later I reluctantly admit that no game of cricket, no bike ride, no wrestling match has ever quite measured up to that game of catch and clap.
Dawn was older by eighteen months and as time passed she showed no interest in my puppy love, no acknowledgement of our almost consummated night as five and six year olds. She was always a step ahead. Just out of reach.
She grew to be a tall blonde beauty who fell pregnant (much to the shock of the neighbourhood) at the age of seventeen and disappeared from my world. Sadly I knew that, deep down, my love for her could have saved her from teenage parenthood. My love, while carnal, was ultimately of a much higher order.
Abruptly my brother interrupted my dream. ‘Someone’s here’ he said.
The invaders had arrived.