Ballarat, traditional lands of the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung Peoples. 1985

“There’s nothing wrong with her,”  Stevo told the doctor and later, the doctor told me.

Good old Stevo (doctors need support from the whole community, even casual carpenters).

I remember the belt pulled tight around the top of Stevo’s arm, so tight that his veins popped. It was a beautiful arm. I remember him reaching with his other arm for the needle they all shared; Pretty Kerry had just finished with it.

Stevo told the doctor that I was just like all the other girls. But he was wrong. I was not like Pretty Kerry, and she was not like me, but the doctor nodded his head and Stevo nodded his head and soon they were just talking heads nodding, deciding for me.

“Sixteen-year-olds can sign themselves out of psych ward,” the doctor told me later.

Great news. But where to, fuckhead? I probably just smiled though.

What had I done to get here? I don’t remember exactly. I don’t remember what drove me into the bathroom with the parental earworms pounding away in my head: you’ll never get anywhere like that.

I do remember the moment of packing my memories away. I was back at high school in Year 10 and things were better when I didn’t talk about it. On the radio Madonna bleated on pointlessly about a holiday, but it was Cindy Lauper who really saw us girls. And it was the thought of girls who just wanna have fun that worried me: what if I blabbed about my summer in Riverside to my friends?

Right next door to my high school was the psychiatric hospital, Riverside. There was no river, but I guess the powers that be decided the inmates wouldn’t notice. Everyone at school thought that was crazy—of course they would notice. We even had evidence. When we played softball, or netball, or tee ball, or smoked behind the gymnasium at the back of the school, we sometimes saw people from Riverside wandering across the oval. They were looking for the river.

After Stevo so kindly triggered my discharge from Riverside, I settled in happily with a foster family and went back to school. I told no one about my summer, but I played And She Was nonstop.

See the lights of a neighbor’s house
Now she’s starting to rise
Take a minute to concentrate
And she opens up her eyes

The world was moving she was right there with it and she was
The world was moving she was floating above it and she was
And she was…

Everyone thought the flying girl was on drugs, but she wasn’t. They didn’t recognise her power to levitate and fly away and see the world. They didn’t recognise her personhood  beyond domesticity. She did though.

I was her every time I played it. I was her as I outgrew my town after high school and donned a backpack. As I boarded a plane and my power to levitate opened up the world.

Artwork by Kendrea Rhodes

Stereo Story #650

More Talking Heads stories:
Once In A Lifetime by Nick Gadd
This Must Be The Place by Chris Johnston

 

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Kendrea Rhodes is an artist and writer, passionate about storytelling in all forms. She is currently doing a Bachelor of Creative Arts Honours (Creative Writing) at Flinders University in Adelaide, but grew up in Victoria. Some of Kendrea's writing, artwork and photography can be viewed here: kendreart.com, salife.com.au/people-places/ring-me/, alongthegrapevine.com.