A living room in inner west Sydney, 1975.
As Greta and I sit cross-legged on the plush beige carpet in her living room, I realise there’s heat coming from those vents in the floor by the walls. I lean over, putting a hand over a vent and the warm air tickles my palm.
“Central heating,” Greta shrugs, as if it’s been around forever.
I’ve never heard of it! At my house, we use fans in the summer and oil heaters in winter. And we’re only a few streets away! When will we get these modern features?
Greta’s parents are in the kitchen. Raised voices between them I haven’t heard before. But this is only my second time here. Their German shepherd is panting, pacing from room to room, but Greta doesn’t notice any of it.
We chat about school as Suzi Quatro’s Can The Can album spins on the turntable, and I half listen to Greta, half to Suzi. I saw her film clip for The Wild One on Countdown the other week, but I only have that on cassette. I drew a picture of her in my school workbook, too. I really want to be a rock singer when I grow up – just like Suzi! I’ve already thought up a new name: Ginny Quantro. My brother teases me; he thinks it’s daggy and I wish I’d never told him.
I can’t stop gazing at the album cover. There’s Suzi in black and white, in the middle: tight jeans and leather jacket, hands on her hips, body facing sideways but her face turned front, eyes staring straight at the camera. She doesn’t look up herself or anything, just confident. Not fazed by the three tough-looking guys from her band surrounding her, all in singlets – one’s even swigging from a bottle of beer! She’s not worried what anyone thinks. Cos she’s Suzi Quatro! Little like me, but larger than life!
I notice the tiny star tattoo on Suzi’s outside right wrist. I’d love a tattoo like that. It’s only small, but Mum would kill me. And I don’t think they let nine-year-olds in tattoo parlours.
Mum would kill me if I hung around with bikie-looking guys too. She often tut-tuts about the trouble they and those sharpies get into, when she reads it in the newspaper.
Ooh, Glycerine Queen! It’s only my second time hearing it, but it’s my favourite song on the album! Maybe Greta will let me tape it. I find it hard not to move my lips to whisper along with the chorus, but I know that would be rude.
Glycerine Queen fightin’ hard to win
Glycerine Queen, Glycerine Queen
What’s the matter, Queenie, won’t they let you in?
Glycerine Queen, Glycerine Queen
… What is a Glycerine Queen, anyway?
Greta’s voice wafts back into my consciousness, so I make eye contact, smile and nod a little, hoping she doesn’t ask me something about whatever she just said.
Greta’s different when Bridget’s not around. She’s warmer, friendlier … talks more. I feel relaxed in her company – unlike when I’m with Bridget, who’s all loud and talks too much. Bridget’s mum is loud too, but I like her. She and my Dad make each other laugh.
I don’t feel so short, stupid and insignificant with Greta, so I much prefer waiting here for Dad to pick me up.
And I’m thrilled when she lets me borrow her Suzi Quatro album that day.
Later, as we transition from primary to high school, Greta and I drift apart and I forget to give it back to her.
It’s still in my collection all these years later and I don’t know if I should track her down to return it.
Stereo Story #563