Cast your minds back to a time that is now far, far away. September 1995 to be exact. It was a time when I began to learn the ways of the female species. The setting? A place called The Record Exchange, a spacious second hand store in the city that sold vinyl, tapes, shirts, bongs, clothing, boots and a whole lot more. The girl in question? Her name was Jewel and she was in town from the country visiting her aunt who, as it turns out, lived just a couple of suburbs away from me. Jewel was a bit of a hippy at the time. She had long, flowing, dark curly hair that reached halfway down her back. Her smile was very checking and she was tall. Almost 6 foot in fact but being quite thin, it made her look even taller! So how did this chance meeting come about you ask? Sit back, relax and let uncle Davey tell you the story…..
I was working part time in another record store which was just around the corner from The Record Exchange. During my extended lunch breaks, i’d go for a wander around some of the cities other stores to see what they had on offer. This one particular sunny afternoon, I headed up the stairs to The Record Exchange and made a bee line to the Bowie vinyl (where else would I start?) to see if any new arrivals had been placed on the racks. And there she was! My only previous experience with a girl was some two years before when I met someone at school whilst on detention (yes, I was a naughty boy) and we walked home to her parents house and made out in the pool room. We kissed for what seemed like hours though, it was probably closer to twenty minutes before her parents came home. Lisa was her name. Anyway, where was I again? Oh year, the Bowie vinyl.
So I moved in to introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m David”
“Oh hey, I’m Jewel. You like Bowie too?”
“You could say that? Where are you from?”
“I live her in Brisbane. It’s my final year of school so I work part time in the record store around the corner. You should come in one day and I will play you some cool music.”
“So, would you like to come and join me for a cup of tea?”
“I’d love to!”
I popped back into work and told my boss that I met a girl and wanted to get to know her and he, in turn, gave a cheeky nod of approval. So off we went.
The next three hours we spent sitting on our cups of tea was magic. We discovered that we both loved and enjoyed the same music, films and artists. It was the first time in my life that I truly connected with any member of the opposite sex like this. I was in heaven! As the evening progressed, I didn’t want to go. I could have spent days listening in on Jewel’s point of view and thoughts about the world we lived in. A few times, we gingerly touched hands under the table. My palms were sweaty as were hers. Eventually, the cafe closed and we decided it was time to head home so I got the bus with Jewel part of the way. The whole bus ride we just stood in silence. That magical silence where you feel nothing but a sweet sensation of bliss. We held hands too!
A few days later, we arranged to meet up in town to go to the riverside markets. I remember the day being incredibly warm and sticky. It didn’t bother either of us though. Once more the hours rushed by and with lunch and afternoon tea under our belts, our second day together was now coming to a close. I dearly wished we could have spent the night hanging out playing records. Sadly, Jewel’s aunt was very particular about her being home in time for dinner and it was too soon to have me over. A few days later though, that would all change.
The sad thing about all this was knowing Jewel would be heading back home in a few days so we decided to make every post a winner. We visited art galleries, book stores, alternative clothing stores and drank lots of tea and ate more cake than either of us could handle. Sunday came around and it was the day before Jewel was due to head home. School holidays were almost done with so we decided to spend the day at her aunt’s house and play music whilst fritting the hours away with endless conversations. I’d brought some rare Bowie CD’s over that I knew Jewel would not have heard along with a box of blank cassette tapes so we could make tapes for her to listen to on the long bus journey home. It was my first time making mix tapes for someone I liked so in a funny way, I felt loads of pressure to get the “mix” spot on. She later informed me in one of her letters that I nailed every tape to a tee. Phew!
As the afternoon sun began to set into the distance, we played a live CD of Bowie’s performance from Montreal in 1983. It was a soundboard recording released on the old Banana label that ran from Adelaide here in Australia. When “Life On Mars?” came on, Jewel loved it! It was her favorite song from Hunky Dory and this was the first time she had heard a live version of the song. She loved it so much that we decided to put it on repeat and listen to it over and over. It was around the fifth rendition that I decided to go for it! Our arms were wrapped around each other and eventually, we started to kiss. It was soft and tender, very slow with a gentle passion. I felt like I had died and shuffled on to heaven or some such place. Bowie on the hi fi, a beautiful girl in my arms and a moment that I remember as if it was just yesterday. These are the memories that you take to your grave with a grand sense of fondness.
I think it was somewhere around the 13th repeat of “Life On Mars?” that the CD started to skip as if the Gods were telling us to cool it. We moved to the couch and snuggled up into a ball as the rest of the CD played out. By the finish, it was time for me to go home so Jewel walked me to the train station and we sat in the darkness for another hour just holding on to one another. It all started to feel a bit sad because Jewel was heading home the next morning. I’d promised her that I would lag off school to meet her at the bus station in town. It still didn’t hide the sadness. This was after all the age before the internet so aside from the occasional phone call and letter, it would be a few months before we would see each other again. Sensing this, Jewel decided to do something that was completely unexpected and left me surprised.
We were both virgins and had absolutely no experience in that erm, area shall we say? Which is why I was a little stunned when Jewel decided to unzip my pants at this dark and secluded train station before going a little further than I had expected. You probably don’t want to know the full details but can I just say, it was incredible! I had no idea a girl could “perform” like that with just her mouth! I could have and would have gone on longer had it not been for my need to be on the last train. I was too embarrassed to call my dad for a lift so it was choo choo or bust for this little duck. I went home and barely slept a wink. All my thoughts were trained on the previous 12 hours or so. I would be lying if I said I didn’t put “Life On Mars?” back on the stereo and listen to it as I drifted away into a night of peaceful sleep.
The next morning, I was up and on the bus into town at an incredibly early time. Well, it felt like that but I think it was around 7 am so not really that early I guess? Anyway, I had to be at the station to see Jewel off. We met on the bus platform at Roma Street and waited for the 8:55 am Greyhound coach to arrive in readiness for a departure. I was hoping it would be running late but sadly, the driver pulled in right on time for a quick departure. We held a kind of nervous conversation. Not a lot of common sense was made out of anything thought Jewel did inform me that she had picked up extra batteries for her Walkman so she could listen to the mix tapes we had made together. Eventually, the time came for Jewel to board the Greyhound and head home. We promised to call each other and write on a regular basis until we saw each other again in December which, seemed like an eternity. As she pulled out on the coach, we waved frantically until the bus was out of sight and I decided to head into town and kill time in book stores for the rest of the day which, may I say, is a total blur.
Life is best when you build memories. Some 22 years on, I am still building memories. I saw Jewel again a few more times but she eventually settled down with a guy who turned out to be a wife beater in the coming years. Maybe one day I might look her up and see how she is but perhaps it’s best if I leave the memories of her as they were? I’ll never forget that tall, dark haired girl in The Record Exchange with a cheeky smile and an obsession for Bowie that matched my own.