One ‘Cup of Milo’ - among hundreds every night.
In Krakow in 1988 I was a ‘stray’ young girl and I partook of Peter Everitt’s ‘Cup of Milo’. I rarely think about what happened but Kennerley’s and Everitt’s comments have acted as a trigger, lobbed like a brick through the fragile memories of too many women. They excavated the encounter and compelled me to write immeadiately, my hands shaking over my keyboard.
What happened has much to say about the grey areas of casual sexual liaisons, and with what disorientating alacrity they can move from grey to black-and-white unless we are absolutely crystal clear about our semantics around rape. The message that needs to get through is that rape is a simple matter of a woman saying ‘no’ at any point in the proceedings. A man who disregard her wishes has crossed into entirely different territory, and he will leave her damaged. What also isn’t understood within the present fascination with opportunistic and triumphalist ‘footy chicks’, is that young women can be terribly vulnerable.
As a campaigner against sexual violence the thing I knew, with a pathos I could not contain, was that the damage done just isn’t understood.* So as I wrote I placed an asterisk at each interval it spilled out of me.
With ‘starry eyes’ I set off backpacking in Europe in 1987. I found myself in Poland after breaking up with my Beloved in Lisbon, meeting up with a German medical student and traveling with him. He kicked me out because I rather disliked the attitude he took at Auschwitz, which was to sulk and blame the French, so I found myself staying in a Pension in the heart of Krakow. It was high summer and in the late evening I took a stroll through the ancient square.
A young man, who looked something like how we idealise Jesus, ducked across my path calling me Bella. He walked me back to my pension and went to kiss me. But traveling Europe on my own had not been the experience of self-determination I had expected. I was beleaguered with male attention, which was occasionally gratifying, mostly bewildering, sometimes frightening.
So I politely refused his kiss, and he offered to introduce his friend, Olaf, the next day. Why did I agree?* Because I was in Europe to meet people, to make friends,* to see new worlds through their eyes. The next day I stood before a blue-eyed, blonde soldier on R+R who blew smoke out of his nostrils like a Prussian dragon and who did not smile, but looked down at me with an intensity that made me weak at the knees. I got him all wrong. You see, I was too young to read men, and to know that I was an offering between mates. I trusted and wanted to be admired and to have adventures. I was as open as a book. Why shouldn’t I be?*
Olaf took me to an exquisite café with wood wrought chairs and plush wallpaper where we discovered we barely spoke a word of each others’ languages. So he drew pictures and used song lyrics and book titles to tell me I was Tess of the D’urberville* and he then asked me in writing, would I have a ‘love adventure’ with him. I consented to this cup before me. Not Milo as it transpired.
We danced at a party later that night. He told me women who had abortions were whores and so were western tourists and I still didn’t hear the warning bells. God he was beautiful and god that shit matters when you are 19. He and I were laboring under the mistaken idea that beautiful young people harbour some mystical meaning that can unlock the truth. Tess my arse. I was a chick from Greensborough who didn’t know her Germaine from her Gerkins.
He took me to a friend’s house and left me in a room while he guffawed with a gang of men in the lounge. This was new and strange behaviour I still didn’t know how to read. He came into the room and onto the bed where I discovered that his idea of casual sex was to brutalise a woman. I’m talking fists for foreplay. So I stopped consenting. I told him no. I said stop. I tipped him off the bed 4 times. I told him unequivocally, This is Rape.*
The next morning I called him into the bathroom, ‘You think that was sex’, I said, pointing out the bruises he’d left. I leveled him off. ‘I could show you sex you would never recover from’. If I was a Western Whore that also meant I had the means to scare the living daylights out of him. I was clawing at the autonomy we all hanker for. But over the next days I wrote in my journal, ‘I can’t feel the chair I’m sitting on’, so disassociated was I from what was going on.* I suppose I was in shock and as events unfolded I fought to stay afloat with some Anais Nin - libertarian ideal of sexual adventure in which I had all the agency when in fact it had run out of my hands like sand.
Olaf stood me up the next night and I wandered around Kracow in the rain a few weeks after Chernobyl in a self-destructive trance. Things became surreal. A little guy accosted me in the dark, said he would take me to Olaf, took me to his room, put me in his bed and filmed me as he tried to undress me. Somewhere in Kracow there is a VHS tape where I deliver, in a moment of searing clarity, a tirade against the abuses of men, while trying to hold my dressing gown together. This fellow told me Olaf and his gang were notorious for ‘preying’ on young western tourists.
Olaf met me the next day. Yes, I am putting myself on the record as being even more stupid than Kerri-Anne could envisage of her strays, because I actually met him again. You see, I was frightened, young and alone in a strange city and I needed to understand what was going on.* After informing me that my video host was a member of the KGB, he took me to a citadel of highrise flats on the outskirts where a tubby, lonely man babysat me while Olaf went out, probably, to meet some other girl. In my journal I write over and over, in larger and larger capitals ‘He’s still staring at me’. When Olaf didn’t return his friend informed me, he’d been told he could ‘have’ me.
I finally came to my senses. No you cannot have me, I conjugated with an array of Germaine-lie expletives. I railed against Olaf. I explained I needed to escape. He also metamorphosed, into a sensitive young man who put me on a bus to Katowice. There I bought a fake wedding band, threw my suitcase at a man in the train station licking his lips and insisting I come to his flat, and tried to convince customs that their stricture that I must pay my way out with western money when it was illegal to bring it into the country was utterly absurd. I was getting on that train regardless, Just You Try And Stop Me. Bless you Germaine.
On the train to Berlin a group of even younger kids were so taken with my nouveaux punk attire, they photographed me, copied my address from my suitcase and sent me a tribute. You see they thought the way I looked harboured some mystical meaning, that could unlock some truth for them. I knew the way I looked was dangerous, it made me a ‘Stray’ in so many men’s eyes,* but at least one who could now pick her cup of poison from her Milo.
We need to wake up to the fact that the message is not getting through to young men. This might be because it is competing with an array of messages, from ‘strays’ to porn that eroticises rape, to men meshing as one homoerotic body as teammates. But nowhere in this confusion is the vulnerability of the young woman who called for help after the replay; her shock, confusion and disassociation. Nowhere are the asterixes that will interval the page of her life. You see, starry eyed and wanting adventure, she read it all wrong.* But the Collingwood footballers I was cheering on from the Rookery Nook Hotel in Wye River, they read her like the open book she was,* and will never, ever, be again.