Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Laura, as loopy as a magnificent man in his flying machine, was a Little Miss Chatterbox that probably inspired the Roger Hargreaves classics. She could talk the hind legs off a donkey at 50 yards, said donkey using its forelegs to cover its burning ears, said ears smoking after the continuous onslaught of noise.
Sometimes that noise made sense. Often, it was simply a jumble of words thrown together. It was as if a hundred monkeys were tapping away on typewriters in her head - eventually she'd either recite the works of Shakespeare or she'd say something that wasn't just a car crash of cacophony.
I was pleased, and surprised, to be there when such a one in a million (words a minute) occurrence... occurred. It wasn't necessarily that Laura was going to say anything of Earth-shattering importance necessarily - but you never knew. We all deserved at least one Eureka moment in our lives.
As it happened, I wasn't just in the room when she managed to string the words together in a daisy chain of meaning - Laura had actually chosen me to be the victim... I mean 'focus' of her tirade. I, being me, didn't mind. If she wanted to let rip the dogs of dialogue, then who was I to attempt to stem the flow? In most cases I switched off, the tone becoming a monotone that I could rest my weary head upon, drifting off on a diatribe of discord. Noise became white noise. Bedlam became blah-blah-blah.
As such it was a good few minutes before I realised I could understand what she was saying.
"Lights on, lights off. Lights on, lights off. It was like a scene out of the Karate Kid, if Norman Bates was Mr. Miyagi." she said.
That made me jump off my cloud and land with my feet firmly on the floor. I didn't want to admit I hadn't heard anything up to that point, so I simply nodded and raised an eyebrow.
What followed was an account of Laura's adventures in the land of Lunacy. How she went from carefree student, backpacking across Australia, to the delightful but disturbed walking fountain of furore. For three quarters of an hour I was, genuinely, held captive by her story. Its weaving way wrapped around me, not letting me escape and barely allowing me breath. How so much could happen to one girl - 21 at the time - and NOT taint her I couldn't imagine. How this particular girl, dark hair flowing as much as her tongue, managed to be sitting next to me, I could. Stalkers and crazies (more so than anyone in here) dotted her journey like a sewing machine stitching a hem. She mentioned friends, she spoke about places with something akin to awe, and she told me of times where she was so scared she didn't know where to turn.
It was times like that that unpicked the seam and redirected it to chair next to mine.
The final straw, the one that broke the backpacker's back, was the wizened woman who turned the lights on and off. The woman who stood in the middle of the hostel room and watched her sleeping. The woman who took photographs of you without you knowing - in the kitchen, watching tv, in the shower. The woman who cackled malevolently to herself, and had access to the knives in the kitchen drawer.
You try not to let her know you're awake and know she's watching you. You try not to move, to keep your breathing soft, to look through almost closed eyes, your eyelashes like bars on the windows of the prison you feel yourself in.
Then you see the knife in her hand. You see her move with a fluidity one so old shouldn't be able to manage. No more pretence. No more pseudo-sleep. Only reaction. Only self-defence.
Only an accident.
I think Laura talks so much because she's trying to tell herself it wasn't her fault, but she can't quite believe it.
Some tribes in darkest Africa or deepest Amazon believe that a photo robs you of your soul. Laura kept hold of her soul, but the photos the old woman took robbed her of her life.
I'd tell her so, if I could get a word in edgeways.
(This blog entry is based on the true events depicted in the book Secret Confessions of a Backpacker by Laura Watts. Find it here: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lkwatts)