On the 13th July 1991 Chef and I caught a train from Sydney to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to attend the 21st birthday party of someone from his uni dorm.
Why I went with him is one of those quirky mysteries. He had brazenly invited himself to a dinner party I was holding a couple of weeks prior at which I had a group of uni friends coming over to give my (first) ex-boyfriend the once over and to either confirm I had made the right decision to dump him the day (or so) after he had popped my cherry (I could never quite get over how ugly he was – how gruesomely bad is that. Yes, I am shallow and heartless. He had a shocking underbite which Chef can replicate with alarming perfection). Chef will tell you it was all a ruse to set up a compare and contrast for my friends between Exhibit A – the ex and Exhibit B – Chef but that is simply untrue. Afterall, he had invited himself over when I was infact asking him if he’d do my shift for me (at Pizza Hut) because I had this dinner planned.
Where were we?
Oh yes. So there was Chef asking me to cover a shift for him as he had this 21st to go to and I was all, oh no, I can’t do that as I’m going to that 21st as well. Outrageous!
So, there we were, 18 and 19 years old respectively on a train to Katoomba. He was wearing this really ugly leather college-style jacket which he of course adored. He barely said a word the whole.entire.way. It was rather stressful. We arrived in Katoomba and it was FUCKING freezing. We found the venue and Chef looked through the window, turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know anyone else in there’. I was, by this time, possibly in the early stages of hypothermia and commented that if he didn’t know anyone then what were the chances I knew anyone? We stood outside the venue (a Church hall perhaps?) for far too long trying to decide what to do.
We bailed and went to the Katoomba Hotel. Quite the classy establishment*. It had an Italian restaurant out the back and we got to inhaling a significant amount of alcohol to restore feeling to our extremities and well, to just take the edge off and to hopefully start him talking.
There was one other table there – three women from New Zealand. After a while and several carafes of house red later we were all sitting together along with the Chef. It was quite a night from what hazy shadows of it my memory allows.
The choir of angels and blinding orbs of romantic light hit at some late stage when one of the women asked how long we’d been together and we answered, IN UNISON, ‘oh we’re not together. YET’.
I KNOW. Do you need a minute to regroup?
After that there was a very hasty discussion between us while the others talked amongst themselves which involved an exchange along the lines of ‘I roolly loik you,’ ‘I roolly loik you too’ and then – and this is what I have remembered for FOREVER, Chef said ‘I really want to be with you for a really long time’. How ODD and comforting all at the same time huh?
Then there was some significant sucking off of each other’s face and giggles and cheers and more alcohol.
Of course it was a little later the Chef asked us where we were staying for the night and we were all, ‘oh no, we’re getting the train back to Sydney’ and he was all ‘oh no the last train left about an hour ago’. And we were all, ‘oh shit’ and then, ‘well have you got any rooms?’ and he was all, ‘oh NO, there’s __ festival on at the moment and we’re booked out as is pretty much everything else in town.’
You can see where this is heading can’t you. Can’t you?
We SLEPT ON THE FLOOR of the New Zealanders. And if by sleep I mean basically had sex with our clothes on then yes, we slept on their floor.
I have this to say about that part of the experience: FUCK IT WAS COLD and the flooring was those weird carpet floor tiles that are really scratchy and OH MY GOD MY HEAD.
I know I know. I am one of the classiest women you have ever met.
I have no idea what really happened after that. We must have slept for some period of time, woken outrageously early as we sensed death from freezing was imminent and escaped to Katoomba railway station where we SHIVERED until a train arrived about an hour later.
Ahhh, good times.
Did I have any idea back then we would be here, together, 20 years later? Absolutely not.
Can I believe we are? Absolutely.
I remember back then being completely intrigued by him – he seemed so sad and yet was such a practical joker and was just adored by so many workmates. He was so freaking quiet – I mean how can someone say so little? It still baffles me. Of course, when he does say something it absolutely nails the topic or scene that is at play.
We have been through so much – we have, in essence grown up together.
There was quite a while in there when Oscar and Felix were little that I didn’t think we’d make it.
There have been many many many hardships and trials and hurdles.
But equally there has been so much laughter, so much good food, a lot of booze and well, look, we’ve virtually created our own race.