a lost life
The last turn as you come off the downward bend and into Palm beach proper is unremarkable.
There is a white linen restaurant on the right, a vacant block on the left. The golf course straight ahead.
Next to the vacant block is an overgrown garage that has not had its green roller door lifted in over thirty years. The building sits quiet today, almost hidden by wisteria and star jasmine vines – like a covered bunker, a mound.
Fenced off from the neighbours and alone on an almost forested block the small brick building sits subsumed by time and jungle. The roof is weighed down heavy by flowering vines as thick as tree branches. Two mature lilipily trees guard the roller door and the exterior walls are deeply mossed and damp ridden. A long dark pond of stillwater stands black and deep along one wall by the shaded southern side and frogs burp at each other from amongst the reed beds there. Rare orchids blink their colours from the shade, yellow-jacket wasp nests ring the walls.
Two men and one woman are standing in a knot of indecision on the roadside as they discuss the implications of forcing open the the green door and going inside the old building. They are the Public Trustees, this is now a deceased estate. They are here on a preliminary inspection.
Jessica Adams once owned the land and the garage that sits there, and decades ago she went by the name of Gidget. Gidge.
She was a small and beautiful girl, a capricious and effervescent youngster whose light shone bright at Bondi – and the younger of us gazed at her with a mysterious longing, she could undo a young man’s moorings, loose as they were – as evidenced here – fifty years on.
– but how that innocence inflamed darker passions may be something a few old men may now regret.
A month before she disappeared she threw herself down onto the wet roadway of Campbell Parade and almost under a buses’ wheels. A sudden movement from the crowded pathway and there she lay between the tyres. The other girls retrieved her, took her away.
Perhaps she tripped.
With a rasping squeal the garage door opened and her dowry was exposed to the light.
A lost life.
Three dinged up balsa boards were stacked shoulder to shoulder along a mildewed wall, behind them a couple of surfing posters – 1961 showings of Slippery When Wet, Spinning Boards. A mossy bunk mattress was shoved up against its base, all fouled and peppered with mice rubble. Generations of them living inside. They scattered underfoot and into all the corners when sunlight displaced the decades of gloom.
A gas ring and blackened coffee mug sat by an ancient porcelain sink.
No signs of food anywhere, no fridge. A child’s sock under the bed.
One small window clear of vines, a box of Bob Evans’ Surfing World magazines lay by a wall, rotted out with damp. The top issue showed all the Wind ‘an Sea lads, their twenty young faces unlined and smiling.
We all knew her.
No carpet here, one bare bulb screwed into a wall socket by the bed.
In a wardrobe a rack of dresses was welded together with damp and rot and all of them without colour. Shoes placed beneath them were now just furred lumps, a small make-up mirror was glued to the inside of the wardrobe door and under it were pencilled three six-digit phone numbers.
An old dresser had cotton and silk wedded together in a pastry of funnel web spiders’ dens in one drawer and nothing in the other. Both were lined with pages from the Woman’s Weekly, 1956.
No diary, no letters.
They expected bones.
One day Jessica and I and Harry rode to Circular Quay in the front seat of his big Yank Dodge – away to see the first Australian surfers off on their trip to Hawaii, and every time Harry took a wrong turn up Bondi Road and through the Junction Gidge slid all the way over the benchseat and into my side.
Softly into me she slid, everytime.
– and we laughed, every time.
This is why she is here, now. That touch.
The First to Hawaii. 1961.
Jim (Geddes) wrote me from Oahu a month later and he tried to describe the massive forces of offshore wind and deepwater waves he was trying to deal with at Sunset beach – not at all like North Narrabeen he said, almost too much to survive – he managed to come back, Gidge though had disappeared forever.
From left: Owen Pilon, David Jackman, Mick McMahon, Bob Evans, lan Wallis, Ken Bate, Graeme Treloar, Jim Geddes, and Graham Henry.