October 12, 2007

Yes, I’m Joel from Horsham.


The first time I saw Layla was very memorable. Me and a few footy mates (Port all the way!) were hanging around inside the St. Brigid’s College main entrance. It was the start of a new school year and we were waiting to get acquainted with year 9 personnel and protocols.


It was very, very noisy. There were so many summer holiday stories to relate and I wished the year 11 girls would just shut up with their singing.


We had all grown a lot, so there was the strength pecking order to substantiate. At least I imagined that’s why Bluey Rourke was trying to put me in a half-nelson whenever he thought I was at a disadvantage.


I turned round to scoop up the footy that Robbo had just thrown too far to my left. Turning and I got sucked into a peripheral glimpse. My whole world went silent. I could see and I could breathe… slowly. And I could feel my slow breathing. And I could hear my slow breathing. Besides that, no sense at all. Oh, except for a touch of heart as well.


I saw Layla take a final stride to stop right in the middle of the entrance. She stooped to drop two bags. Still stooping and holding the handles, she looked front on at me from behind her long, thick, luxurious brown hair that had fallen over her head.


Her colours were rich and strong and certain and confident. Her colours were real. The rest of St. Brigid’s turned flaky and dull around her. Her presence pushed so far into the foreground that I could smell my breathing. Rosewater. I would have curled around my breathing if I could have moved. Although my heart was now speaking ‘fight or flight’.


She was wearing normal Brigid uniform. The green V-necked jumper, the knee-length skirt, the white socks and the sensible brown shoes. She dominated the clothes and, in response, the clothes were exceeding themselves – transformed from their lumpy nature into muscular, fit for purpose fabric instruments.


She had her sun hat in her left hand scrunched around a bag handle. In her right hand her white hair band was scrunched around the other bag handle. She left the hat and collected the band and standing up straight threw her hair back pulling the band into place. She positioned the sun hat on her head, curtsied! with a mischievous grin and a reproaching finger that said ‘Anon, anon’. Then she moved on, squinting at signs, thinking other things.



Bluey said ‘bladdy hell’ and then nothing else. We all knew, at least I knew, there were things to think about, emotions and assumptions to test. Things like that. It was a bit unusual.


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