Bridging the great divide

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Bridging the great divide

500 Words: Heartbreak!

https://open.abc.net.au/explore/60486

Buzzing quietness. Studious silence. The flick of pages. The white-noise hum of the photocopier in overdrive. Rows and rows of journals. Leather bound tomes and wall-to-wall edicts.

A place of reverence and yet a place to meet people.

A friend and I found a spare table and claimed it.The exams were coming and we needed to study.

The table opposite us became vacant and two guys who had been hovering around the edges grabbed it. Table space was at a premium at this time of year.When you’re being watched, you know. I’d look up and the boys would be glancing over at us. I nudged my friend, but she already knew.

He was handsome and well dressed, in that casual uni student way. Top quality stuff. Not grungy. He smiled at me and my heart took notice.

I did a bit of research.His father was a stipendiary magistrate. He’d been to a prestigious North Shore private boys’ school. He spent a lot of time in the library.

So, I started to, also.

We got past smiling and spoke to each other. We had finally formally met.

We began ‘studying’ together.He told me his school reunion was on soon. Would I like to go?

He admitted he’d never been over the Bridge before.

I offered to meet him halfway, but he said he’d pick me up. I felt honoured.

It took him a while to find me, the eldest daughter of a working class migrant family living in an inner western suburb of Sydney.

He picked me up in his father’s Volvo, a clunky yellow vehicle exuding comfort and class. On the floor in the back lay a big bottle of gin and a baby-sized bottle of tonic. He told me the function was BYO.Beautiful girls in beautiful dresses. Giving me the once over. His friends in black suits and ties, polite and courteous, their attention elsewhere.

We stayed long enough for one drink. He didn’t want to be there. Neither did I. It was glaringly obvious we weren’t mature enough to cross the class and culture divide.

He took me home and I thanked him for a pleasant evening.As he drove away, I felt like such an idiot. Had he used me just to save face at his reunion?

I still went to the library. In theory, to study. In reality, to see him.

But he never came and I didn’t see him much at all after that. I know that he sat his exams but took the next year off.I heard a few years later that he was on the way to becoming a stipendiary magistrate. Like father, like son.

My memories of that time are bittersweet. The heady feeling of being on the verge of falling desperately in love, tempered by the realisation that it would probably never have worked and that being dumped was really an act of kindness.Still, when I think back, I remember that sometimes a smile is all it takes.

 

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