Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Her name was Georgina Grout and she was the most unfortunate looking girl I’d ever seen. She had an awful case of acne and the most unmanageable case of nasal hair I’d ever seen for a girl her age. Private school girls in eighth grade can be utterly vicious. It was in this very environment that I first learnt the phrases ‘hit with the ugly stick’, ‘robber’s dog’, ‘crater face’ and ‘uglier than a hat full of arseholes’. Georgina also had a bagful of nervous tics which only served to exacerbate her unenviable situation. It got to a point where even the dumpy and flat-chested girls were game enough to have a go. Being in the latter category myself and feeling awkwardly unattractive I could only look on her plight with morbid fascination. Our desks were arranged in such a way that her repertoire of tics was in my direct line of vision. I found myself studying her with earnest. She always seemed to be straining sideways to view something microscopic on her shoulder and whatever it was would invariably make her eyes twitch and her nose wrinkle. At other times she seemed to simply enjoy rolling her eyes into the back of her head to see how far they could go. The most alarming tic of all used to occur only every other day. Georgina’s whole body would suddenly convulse violently: her arms and legs jerking upwards as if someone had pulled a mat out from under her and she would make this high pitched crying noise in the back of her throat. It got to a point where my classmates didn’t even try to conceal their mirth. How I felt for her! I continued to monitor her from a distance and noticed that her tics ceased abruptly in year ten. I wondered if perhaps she was on medication. Without wanting to embarrass her by prying into her business, I decided instead to follow her when she disappeared each lunch hour. Georgina appeared to have found a secret hiding place. Our school (Lourdes Hill located in Hawthorne on the Brisbane River) was perched high up on a cliff face and a series of open drains sloped down that cliff at a sixty degree angle near the lowest point of the school oval. It was at the top of one of these drains, camouflaged by scrub and lantana that I discovered Georgina had taken up smoking. Maybe it was coincidental or perhaps the tics retreated in the face of an adversary that, despite the health risks, was much more socially acceptable than crying out in tiny voices. Were she not smoking, I’d say she would probably be on some sort of medication that would cost her parents the same amount of money but deny her the accoutrements: the lighter which she endlessly flicked on and off, the smoke rings to distract her and the actual cigarettes themselves that calmed her down and gave her something to do with her hands and mouth. It was as if she was born to smoke. Maybe her limbs just didn’t know it and were searching for an alternative? Curious indeed.