Ally the circus girl and how she broke my heart

Ally was the sweetest vegemite kid from down the street. I was nearly 17 and she was nearly 16. I was living in a psuedo communist/anarchist/activist drug den in New Farm, just up the road from young Mr. Birmingham and that famous falafel incident and only a year or two after.
Someone OD’ed in our bathroom but I was away visiting family so I missed out on that excitement. Although surrounded by drugs I was never that interested in them, no more than a passing phase at least.
New Farm was so cheap back then, my massive bedroom in a dilapidated Queenslander was $35 per week in tree lined Moreton St and had it’s own sink and a large window that lead to the old-bed stoner front verandah.
Ally lived with her mum and brother in some taupe brick flats up the road. Her mum made her tidy packed lunches. I loved that. It was possible I was a vegetarian at that time so I ate pretty much just steamed silver beet. My mum was 8 hours away slowly succumbing to MS and the isolation of Armidale.
 
I met Ally through a stilt-walking troupe that I begged to join. Our beautiful charismatic mad leader would eventually have a terrible psychotic episode but this was when we were fresh and angry.
We’d dress up and recite political rants at every ZZZ radio/university/feral festival we could get our stilts on. I don’t think we got paid, well I didn’t. We did it for the love.
Oh and what love there was. It was wild crazy time. I was studying Lenin (seriously) at the DSP (Democratic Socialist Party) night classes (I didn’t last long. I’ve never been a good student) and in the day I was campaigning to save the forests of Borneo with the Brisbane Rain Forest Alliance. I much preferred the self-righteous drama of activism, to the self-righteous drama of socialism.
 
Stilt walking and circus was fun and a great release. Yelling rants at people about legalisation or the evils of television was just the sweet cheery on the top. We’d make these mad and elaborate costumes that took days as time had no weight, money always did but it was pretty cheap to live back then.
 
Ally and I became friends fast, she was kooky, fun and silly and she adored me. I was older so had that little advantage when you’re that age. I adored the adoration and enjoyed being a kid with her, as I was having to be much more mature than what I was and most of the people I lived with were almost 20!
 
We’d spend afternoons in the New Farm garden talking shit about music, boys and our crazy future plans. Ally was my best friend and I dearly loved her. Her thick beautiful hair, her dimples and her knobbly knees.

I met Rod my first love during this time, when his best friend moved into our house as the last of the lesbian communists had moved out.
Rod was the funniest person I have ever met, we’d all hang out laughing for hours and hours.
It wasn't long before I began to really like Rod, but Rod had a girlfriend so it was pulled into a fucking sexy slow simmer in the tropical headiness of Queensland's heat..
I eventually confided to Ally about my feeling regarding Rod and she and I both agreed it was bad news.
No one should EVER cheat or be ‘that’ girl. I knew the code and I knew it was wrong so I just quietly broiled.
I hooked up with a few guys but nearly every night would hang with Rod and the crew talking about changing the world and playing vampire roll playing games. Way before it was popular, we were geeks I suppose but we didn't give a fuck.
 
After 6 months and us actually getting our fangs onto each other (yup not kidding we’d bite until we’d have vicious purple chomp marks due to sexual frustration) we got together. I was in love, he was fierce, funny, irreverent and weirdly sexy. He made me swoon.

Ally was worried, his best friend was worried but I wasn’t.
I knew what we had. Yup, even if it involved him still having a girlfriend.
It was complicated after all. So complicated that he broke it off with me after 4 months and moved away to the Gold Coast.
I was fucking devastated but I was still an angry young man so I bottled it all up and tried to fuck the pain away with who ever.
Ally was so sweet and caring during that time that it cemented our friendship. We’d both been through this together and although I did the wrong thing, I did it for the right reasons. I learned my lessons and I got burned.
After a while Brisbane held little appeal and I upon learning of my favourite uncles breast cancer returning, I went to Sydney at the request of my mother, to help.
 
I walked in to see him in hospital and burst into tears. He was really sick.
So in Sydney I stayed and cared for him in a stark world of disinfectant and blue plastic bed pads. My other uncle Gary (his partner) and I would take turns nursing him.
New farm is a thousand miles away and my stuff is packed up under the house. Ally becomes my lifeline to life.

For 18 months I watch a man I love, who was more father than my father, slowly and bloody terribly, wither. It’s ugly. I am transformed by the looming tendrils of death.
Death burns away all bullshit yet leaves you empty but for heavy grief sodden gold.

I work and study but I am slowly eaten by the first major depression I can recall. My family are being fucked, hysterical and greedy, some circle like vultures and I am isolated.
They attacked me thinking I was there for the gold but to be really honest I wanted the glory.
Yeah, honestly I thought it would be an amazing experience to be there and witness death. It was amazing, but fuck off that it felt glorious. It didn’t.
It felt like the insides of me had been tarred with black sludge. I thought I was some kind of psychopath being there and ‘witnessing’ my lovely uncles death.
This may have been a symptom of depression but also might have been a symptom of something else, a symptom of shock and exhaustion from a really messy mad childhood.
I guess that’s why I clung to Ally. She knew all of this and she’d also had a tough time but in a different way. She was sunshine to me.
 
Eventually, David died but 3 days prior; his partner took his own life due to the pressure from my family and his own shit. Gary had HIV and had nursed two of his lovers through their deaths. His future looked bleak. This duo of deaths dug me into a dark 'lil hole for quite some time after.
 
My family and a friend moved in to the house where we all had lived did yet I was numb. I’d rock back and forth repeating softly over and over again ‘Ilona is dead, Ilona is dead’. I was pretty fucked up. The friend and family living with me, didn’t understand what was happening to me and neither did I. They weren’t paying rent and I felt so used and that they weren’t taking care of this sacred space. I wanted love and hallowed respect and they wanted me to be normal and to get a grip.
But I was just so fucking sad, then from out of the blue, Rod called and said he’d finally broken up with his girlfriend.

All I wanted was love and so into his beautiful arms I fell. I also wanted to smack the shit out of him for breaking my heart, but once in the bubble, I melted.
It was long distance and hard. I was depressed and he was distant. He tried and I tried. I fell pregnant and found out as I miscarried, while my sister and friend moved out calling me all kinds of names. I fell apart.
He moved down and I moved out of the house of death and we tried to make it work.
He didn’t understand my depression; he said he only felt happy or angry. I felt so much more. I always have. It’s like Inuit’s and their ten billion words for snow.
I have ten billion emotions except when I am depressed.
I have only none, only an empty black hanger of a hole.
However after time, my depression started lifting but my relationship didn’t. I wanted a break,so as not be under pressure.
He went back to Brisbane and in one call broke it off with me. I didn't expect or want that.
I tried to speak to Ally but she was distant with me and on one phone call was really angry about something I said regarding Rod.
I had a feeling that there was something more and I said so to my sister, years later Ally would confess that something happened between them.

So I stayed in Sydney finished studies and got my first salary job. Met someone else and……
Then I got pregnant. Ally was so angry with me. She said I was ruining my life, I said I’d be fine. Everyone else was happy. He was a charmer and I was a fool. Eventually the charm cracked off in a lovely drug induced violent way and well that’s a book in itself.

Ally and I stayed friends but we weren’t as close. Babies do that to friendships and some relationships as well. After a hell 3 years, I left my son’s father and moved back to Brisbane where I had more support.
Ally and I slowly became close again. She was doing so well and she was happy, she was involved in music and started inviting me out sometimes to see bands as she knew I loved music. I was a real loose goose. I was still only 23 but had been through a shit load and was almost manic when out. I had no idea I could still be considered pretty because as far as I was concerned I was a fucked up broken single mama mess.
Ally knew she was top now. I was a has-been and she was the queen of the new scene. Part of our friendship was the ribald mockery and put downs that were proof that we were solid. These became more and more personal and as I had the self-esteem of hemorrhoid, I’d laugh along, grateful I was part of anything. I was so fucking anxious and scared whenever I went out.
I’d find myself putting myself down before anyone else would, because if I didn’t care, no one could hurt me.
Then I met Freddie.
Freddie and Ally were friends, Ally really like Freddie. Freddie liked Ally. I wanted them to hook up but Ally had a boyfriend. So we had to wait and in that time…

Yup Freddie and I fell for each other. He was a sweet, funny, goofy boy who listened and made me laugh. He didn’t put me down and said nice things to me, in a shy way. We made a vow not to do anything until after we’d told Ally and he’d had his first gig.
Ally was devastated and I felt like shit. I think she was convinced that I did it deliberately. I didn’t. She cut me from her life and ignored all my calls.
She then made it her mission to get my old friendship group, who had all just happened to move to Brisbane, on her side. They already were on her side but they were old school friends and bonds are formed in schools and for some fucking stupid reason they stick. So they stuck by me. I, however was devastated for years, I would try so hard to win her back but she cut me off. She was cold and I felt sick with missing her.
I had hurt someone I loved dearly but it wasn’t frivolous. I really fell deeply in love.

Here’s a montage of my 5 years with Freddie.
Freddie and I fall in love. We have great sex, We have great sex, We fight, I cry, I break up, We have great sex, We fight, I cry, I break up, We have great sex, He has sex with someone else, We fight, I cry, I break up, We have great sex, I have to leave the country due to a scary ex situation, we cry, we break up, He has sex with Ally, I come home, We fight, I cry, I break up, We have great sex, He has sex with someone else, We fight, I cry, I break up, I have sex with some one else, We fight, We have great sex. We fight we fight we fight, Mum dies, I get depressed, we fight, we fight, We have great sex, we fight we fight we fight. He breaks up with me. It took me years to let go completely and I never thought I could stop the terrible ache but luckily it's been replaced with a wry softness.

That’s pretty much it in a nut shell. There were a few abortions and unpleasant band politics mixed in but this is a Hollywood montage and abortions and deeply ingrained sexism in popular music isn’t allowed to be broached yet, so we’ll keep that drama quiet.
 
I found about Ally And Freddie a few weeks after my mum died. Freddie was burdened with the guilt of his affairs and told me everything. I was furious because they’d both promised each other, not to tell me. I demanded he tell her, although it happened a few years before. I actually screamed it at him.
He though I was hysterical. I was a bit but I wanted the secret power bubble popped. I wanted her to know he told me. I was so angry that he’d betrayed me and decided to tell me at that moment, after everything I’d been through.

Months later I saw Ally out one night when I was drunk, I confronted her. She said I was drunk and I said yes, i was drunk but I even drunk would never do what she did.
Well, she did it twice actually with two separate loves of mine. I think about how much she'd must have been hurt to do that. I never got to sit down and talk to her as she refused to talk to me, year after year.

What ever her pain, she got me back good but to be honest, it wasn’t an measured fair response, I guess revenge isn't.
I never set out to fall in love with Freddie. In fact, I tried hard not to (he was young) but we did and for what it’s worth it was as bad as it was beautiful and it hurt like fucking hell.
I thought the break up with Ally was bad, it was nothing on the second love of my life. Love is love is love, eh.
The reason why I write this at 3am on a Thursday morning?

Well a few weeks ago on date night with my son (poor kid), I ran into Ally at the Byron Bay cinemas, with her partner. Ally is living in the wilds of NZ and she looked happy.  
It’s been over 13 years since I saw her last, in that drunken broo haha at the Zoo night club and I realised that I still loved her.
She was still the cute adorable kooky Ally, I’d fallen in love with 20 years ago and no matter what happened in the past, I've cared deeply about her and always will.
After the film I hugged her in that really long uncomfortable Byron Bay way and we made plans to catch up while she was in town.
We never did and that’s ok.
I got to tell her I loved her and maybe that’s enough.

*names have been changed to protect love.

2 comments

  • Jilly Fee

    Jilly Fee Adelaide

    Love this Ilona Harker so much resonates with me different times different places Youth I didn't do very well at all. Love your writing always have. Xo xo xo

    Love this Ilona Harker so much resonates with me different times different places Youth I didn't do very well at all. Love your writing always have. Xo xo xo

  • Tita

    Tita

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing Ilona x

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing Ilona x

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