Stuck In the Middle
There was this place that was only referred to as the ‘Buddy-Club.’ To enter this place, one would either be forced unwillingly by their parole officer or their family. No-one would enter this territory based on their own willingness to help themselves. It was somewhere, where no problems were left inside you, you push everything from your mind out into the open, and with some of the people I’ve experienced, I got to know why they are an inch away from being thrown into a prison cell and forgotten about. The thing about me, though, I entered this place on my own accord.
I had gone through a rough childhood, like most people did. Some things needed to be fixed that I had metaphorically, ‘duct-taped together,’ to go on with life as it happened. But, memories kept coming back. Times that I wanted to forget . Places that I knew would remind me of bad times. I rarely remembered good times, life was stale at the moment. School was over – for me at least – I wasn’t going back there. It cost too much money. I was living with my grandmother, she was living on a child support pension and life support. It wasn’t a life that I wanted to keep on living, it was my Nana that had pushed me down this route because she saw how agitated I had become over little things.
On my first day, I didn’t speak to anyone. Most of the heavily tattooed thugs were asked to sit on the outskirts of the circle, on the opposite side of the door, and their problems were mostly violence and drug abuse, which was expected. I went home that night, only having learned the recipe for top-notch crystal meth, information that could help me in the not-so-breaking-bad-future. I went back a week later, most of the thugs gone and most likely never coming back, it felt safer. I met one girl that day, her name was Mavis.
Mavis had grown up with her older brother as her guardian. Parent teacher interviews and excursions all became areas of his expertise. Mavis was born when her brother was six but but her mother left after childbirth. He was to care for her after he turned eighteen, and after the death of their Aunt June. But, when Mavis turned eighteen, she was diagnosed with stage 2 liver cancer. The reason that she sat next to me during those meetings was that she had turned to drugs for support in the aftermath of her battle, I know most fighters did. She wanted to rid herself of her abuse and move on with her life, move to back home Melbourne – where she grew up – with her girlfriend, Raeni. I told her that as long as she kept coming to these meetings, I would too. And she did.
A year later a newcomer arrived. He was tall, broad, and had a scowl etched so deep into his face that it looked as though all his trauma and memories had manifested themselves into his appearance. His name was Taron Gray. He was there to get out of going to jail, his parole officer believing that it was more beneficial in preventing another relapse than living with his mother. His story? He grew up with an abusive father and had gradually exploded with pent up aggression, then turned against the abuse. That’s why he was going to jail, and his father had been in the hospital with eight broken ribs and no teeth left to defend himself in court. Looking into Taron’s dulled hazel eyes you could see regret, but you could also see the accomplishment. He had gotten his revenge, and that was all he wanted. His enrolment was only to ease his anger and please his heartbroken mother.
Another man named Octavian Scott arrived. He was a mysterious figure, looming in the back of the room as if he weren’t almost as tall as Taron. Their complexions were the complete opposite. Back then he didn’t take much care in his appearance. Octavian’s black hair and pale skin made him look like a sad vampire from the early days of horror themed filmmaking. Whereas, Taron had obviously spent his days at the beach, as his skin was tanned against his sandy blonde hair, which was trimmed so it fanned out against his forehead, all thanks to his mother. In terms of socialisation, Octavian never spoke unless Taron had asked him a question. The two had known each other for years before their enrollment, and their friendship continued in the club. And even though he seemed comfortable, Octavian never spoke about what worried him, but you could see that something was wrong by the look in his eyes. A look that never left.
Redheaded Scotsman named Henry McDougall moseyed in soon after, with a friend frantically following in his wake. He was loud and obnoxious, but he seemed to get on well with the two friends in the back. He was pale with a face full of freckles and a lean figure. His story involved his ADHD. Apparently, his mother took him to the church to get an exorcism, even though the doctor had repeatedly told her that there was nothing spiritually wrong with her son. And, much like me, Henry left her to live with his grandmother who died a short time before his appearance. He said that he had gone into a dark place after her passing, and needed some tips on how to deal with loss.
His friend was Jarred Mullins. A boy that was the same size as Henry but characteristically, was completely different. He was dead silent, as he sat with his head tucked into his chest. He spent most of the meetings nudged against Henry. Another set of friends that stuck by each other most of the time, and rarely moved an inch away. Jarred didn’t speak about his problems either, much like Octavian, but he refused to even partake in activities that were meant to help you get along with the others.
One day, Mavis had decided not to show up, and I was increasingly worried about her absence, until I was informed through a haphazardly edited text message that Mavis had arranged a plane to France with Raeni during the week period we hadn’t seen each other. I didn’t get any more information than that, but I didn’t mind. Mavis had finally gotten out of her funk and moved on with her life, I just needed to do the same.
The only problem was, I had no-one to sit with during these meetings and was afraid of the others. I sat alone for half the next meeting when I saw a shadow loom over my chair. At first, I thought it was going to be a thug wanting whatever money I didn’t have, but when my eyes adjusted to the white light above me, I saw Octavian Scott. His blue eyes gazing at me, “Hello.”
I tilted my head to the side. “Hi,” I intertwined my fingers together in fear and began to fidget nervously with the hem of my hole-ridden ACDC T-shirt. “Can I help you?”
Octavian pointed to where only Jarred and Henry sat. “Taron couldn’t come today, he is meeting with his parole officer, so I was wondering if you wanna do a couple of activities with me,” his voice was as smooth as silk yet seemed so deep and raspy. He wasn’t nervous, he was never nervous around me. “You don’t have to, but you look a little bit intimidated sitting here all alone.”
I looked up at him, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t reminded of some bad memory, but of a bright new one that could mean a better life. An adventure filled one that would result in so many new friends, more open doors, and a family that would stick with me through thick and thin. “It would be my pleasure.”