Before the episode in the clink between leaving school able to read but not spell but having some money, Ernie, I, and some others, managed to learn to crack a few cars, doing a bit of hot wiring with joy riding but always returning the cars. Getting a license was easy in those days. I wrote and filled in all forms with the help of Aunt Bellum who kept saying, “I worry about you”. How come you can read but not spell?
One day while trying to get the attention of a girl who kept kind of standing near the window while I chucked the Herald in the garden, I had the gall to ask her for a date. She was outside near the gate and I asked her name, “‘Kelly” she said. What’s yours? Frankie, I answered. Want to see a movie? I dared the second time, when I managed to chuck the paper at her feet. She stood outside again. Its”Clockwork Orange.” Kelly was nice, had cheeks like Jonathans and wore a nicely filled bra of which I could see the straps showing through her blouse. The experience I had with girls was limited to looking at pictures in Pix and Post while dangling with mates from the Muswellbrook Bridge. As I grew so grew my eagerness to explore the opposite of myself. Aunt Bellum always said, “Girls are nice but don’t get taken”. What did she mean by that, I wondered? I wanted to be taken, would dearly like a girl, and this might even be better than pinching cars or nicking the milkman’s money. Has someone ever taken Aunt Bellum, I wondered?
‘I was getting ready for a ‘first time’ and it could not come soon enough, especially as Ernie had already experienced ‘first times’ twice. The first time wasn’t much chop, he explained. The girl wanted some ‘romance’ first and he didn’t really know where you could get this or where you could learn romance. I explained that my dad sometimes came home with a special wrapped gift with a nice ribbon around which mum liked. He even treated her sometimes to nice meals at a Greek Cafe in town. As far as I could fathom, mum was always very happy when dad showed he loved and cared by given her presents, sometimes even flowers. I think that might be ‘romance’, Ernie, I said. Well, I can’t give presents and I can’t take her out to a cafe. I don’t have money. But I shouted her to a strawberry milkshake with extra malt before last time, Ernie stated solemnly. How was the second ‘first time’, I asked? She cried and did not think the milkshake was ‘romantic’ enough, Ernie said. I told her I loved her and she said, “If that is so you would not want me to take my bra off.” “I don’t take that sheila out anymore”, Ernie said and I am buggered if I am going to walk on the street with flowers.
He remained troubled by romance and the apparent link to the monetary cost of it. “We need to get some money together”, he told me, while flicking his ciggie butt away.
After the movie I had finally experienced a first time with Kelly leaning against me with her well filled bra and giving me a first but lingering kiss on the cheek. I was overwhelmed with it all. She hurried through the gate afterwards and waved to me with a smile that stood me in good stead throughout Long Bay and Goulburn jails afterwards…The bone cold in winter with those grey weeping concrete walls condensing into tears that none of us dared to show.