The city looks beautiful from here. The building lights, so bright, some going out as people finish their work day. Some never go out, they stay on all night. I can hear cars in the distance, but only a stray one come by here every now and then, whispering past the sleeping houses. My friend Jo showed me this place, when she was still alive. Its in the Royal park, near the zoo. Every now and then you hear some strange animal call out. But nothing responds. They don’t cut the grass very often, so it’s usually up to about your knees, flicking at your legs as you walk in.
Jo and I would sit here and just watch the buildings. All night. Sometimes we’d talk about our office jobs that we never had, working on the twenty first floor. We’d be having lunch out on the balcony, staring over at the Royal and laughing at how small the two people looking at us were. Once we actually went up to the top of the Rialto. Jo told me she could see Tasmania. Her hair was blowing all over her face. We each wrote our biggest secret on a piece of paper and put it into a balloon. Then we blew them up and released them into the sky, throwing them to make sure they got over the suicide nets. We hoped that somehow they’d float back to us one day. But they didn’t.
Other times we’d lie on the grass at the Royal and look at the stars and try to pick out the satellites.
‘They’re the same as stars, but they’re moving.’ Jo told me. She could always pick them out straight away. When she was still alive. Now I sit here by myself, most of the time.
I used to live with Mum, now I just visit. I went by there last week. Her flat was still dirty, messy. That ever present smell of alcohol. There was a guy sleeping on the couch, I’d never seen him before. Mum was sleeping on the floor, next to her bed. There was a guy in her bed. Mum had a bruise on her face, scratches on her arm, puncture marks on her veins. Mum smelt like marijuana. That smell that always reminds me of home. I decided not to wake her.
When I left, I’d had enough of being afraid of her friends. The drugs and alcohol they brought with them. Every time they tried something new, they’d take on a new character. Sometimes they’d just beat me up. They’re good people usually, and they’d do anything they could for you. But they’d take anything they could from you too. Jo told me once about being swung around in her sleeping bag as a kid. I told her about being swung around by the hair.
Sometimes I’d have to score for Mum. She’d be in a mess and I’d have to go to her friends and get her ‘medicine’. I didn’t realise what her medicine was until I was eleven or so. So I’d have to leave our commission flat off Lygon street and travel in to Flinders to score for her. The police knew my face, and they’d watch me closely. Sometimes they’d stop me. The bad men, Mum told me. Don’t trust them she told me. So I never did. The bad men would ask me questions and threaten me and Mum. But I never said anything to them. Even when I was thirteen and they put hand cuffs on me. I could almost escape from them too, if I could just get my thumb a bit smaller.
‘Things will get better soon.’ Jo told me. But they didn’t. I went to three different schools. Two kicked me out because of the people who came to pick me up. Once, one of Mums friends took me hostage in a classroom because Mum couldn’t pay up for something. He held a syringe to my neck until the bad men came and took him away. The last school, where I met Jo, kicked me out for carrying a knife. I didn’t even know why I had it. I don’t think I’d have known how to use it. But Jo told me everything she learned everyday after school and I don’t think I missed out on much.
Jo became my best friend. My first real friend. Jo would tell me about her life, her home. She talked about her TV, her teddy bear, her trampoline. It seemed the things she was running from were the same things I wanted to run to. And we ran into each other.
‘This is how to steal drugs.’ Jo told me. We planned to get away from everything. Go somewhere where the bad men didn’t know us and no one would come chasing us for anything and Mums friends wouldn’t scare me. ‘I’ve got two weeks left on my community service, then we can go.’ Jo told me. I waited till Mum had gone out somewhere to pack my things, she’d get upset if she knew I was going. At first I was going to only take the things that were not stolen, for a clean break kind of thing, but I had nothing. Everything I had wasn’t mine. So I left with my clothes I had on and a CD I’d bought, but never played.
Jo and I couldn’t get jobs with our histories, therefore being unable to get an apartment. It took hours of convincing to finally be hired, as a cleaner. Every now and then when doing a window I caught a glimpse of my reflection and the scar on my face, next to my eyebrow. I’d touch it and feel how smooth it was. My scar that reminded me of Mum. Jo kept stealing drugs and selling them. But she was using more than she used to. I put the needle in my arm once and let it hang there in the vein, ready to go. But I couldn’t inject it. Sometimes Mums friends would find us and ask for money.
The day she died, a guy caught Jo stealing his drugs and beat her up. He smashed a Jim Beam bottle over her head, took him two hits to break it. The noise was unexplainable. Then he watched her stagger across the floor before he raped her. I saw this happen. And I wished I had that knife. It was at Mums house, one of Mums friends. We’d gone there to steal drugs when Mum wasn’t home. There were five guys, two of them holding me back.
‘Don’t you ever steal from me, you slut.’ The man said as he held her half conscious body against the wall. Then his friend hit her with a cricket bat. Over and over. When they let me go, I dragged her out and tried to carry her to a hospital.
‘Where you off to?’ A policeman asked. They’d pulled over to check us out. I asked them to help. The bad men just joked about Jo being on drugs and how it was her own fault. They checked me for drugs, then checked Jo’s body, and told me to get her to a hospital quick. Then they drove away. Cars flashed by us as I carried Jo as quick as I could along the footpath. The red taillights cancelled out the colour of Jo’s blood, making it look black, gathering on her chin and dripping. The blood on my hands looked black too. A black trail led back along the concrete.
When I went through the electronic doors and into the bright, white lights of the emergency waiting room I remember they all looked down on me. They’d all judged me in an instant.
‘Stupid druggies.’ A man in the emergency room said.
‘It’s gonna’ be about a four hour wait.’ The nurse said. A young guy with a broken leg wearing a footy jumper was carried in and rushed straight through.
‘But…but she’s gonna’ die.’ I cried to the nurse. Two policemen came in and questioned me, the nurse lay Jo down on a stretcher. They knew my face. And that’s when Jo died. Her eyes fixed on mine as she went. I couldn’t hear anything. The world shut off, and I thought about us at the Royal. How those dead eyes could pick out satellites. The nurse pulled a perfectly white sheet over Jo’s face. And she was gone. And the police, the bad men, arrested me on suspicion.
Being arrested made me lose my job.
‘You don’t get second chances with a record like yours.’ My boss informed me. And I’m lost, I don’t know where to turn next. I have that feeling in my chest everyday. That feeling of something being missing, something you know is never coming back. Everyday I think of being arrested for trying to save the one person I loved. The person I loved but only realised after she was gone. The person I loved more than anyone in my life, but I never told her.
The day I died, I carried Jo to the emergency room and watched a sheet become the final curtain on her life. And for a moment I wondered whether I could throw myself out over the suicide nets, keep all my secrets inside, and float out into the sky, back to Jo.
I used to be alive, now I just visit.
The city looks beautiful from here. The building lights, so bright, some going out as people finish their work day. Some never go out, they stay on all night. I spot a satellite moving across the night sky, like a star but moving. My stars, my satellites, my sadness. My friend Jo showed me this place, when she was still alive.