For the good part of a year a friend of mine, Hannah, and I organised discos for disadvantaged people. That is, the sort of people that us normal people call: retards, disabled, slow, funny looking, crazy, quads, that poor boy that lives around the corner and that girl who was so lovely before that accident. The irony is, that these people are often some of the most down-to-earth, most sincere we could hope for. Many of them, have the battle scars but not the attitude to match. They often can bring our attention to the most mundane of things, making them beautiful again. Yes Kathy, that flower is the colour of that warm feeling you get in your chest when it’s your birthday. Sally, you’re right, that does smell like children and fairy floss. Sans the condescending tone.

John was a dancer. Mid-forties, with a zest for life, he was a fella with Down’s Syndrome. A smack-head…as some would call them, due to their appearance. The second Friday of each month was his night to shine. He’d don a new tie each time, tapping me on the arm so that I’d turn to see it. He would proudly spin around, with a clap of his hands to show off. And never noticed if I’d quickly dismiss it with an over-enthusiastic smile, a pat on the shoulder, just to rush off to the next crisis (usually spilled cordial). He’d twist and shout, boogie on down, rock and roll and could even do the waltz. He’d call Hannah and I, “my girls” and had a request for at least one dance per night. When it came to the Karaoke, he’d always be up beside the stage begging for a turn at the mike. My most vivid memory was of him getting down on his knee to serenade all the ladies in the hall with What’s New Pussy Cat, off tune but loving it all the same.

Carol was the chatterbox. As Hannah, the others and I organised the beverages (cordial) and chips, she’d sit perched beside the bar, ellaborating on which of the boys in the room had a “cute arse”. She always had troubles with her girlfriends, who had stabbed her in the back, or something of the like. As we poured the cordial, her melodrama would often lead to spilled cups accompanied by a raucous of laughter. She obviously appreciated our attention and our hugs. And she never noticed that just because we had red T-Shirts that read YMCA, that we were different. Her supposed superiors.

Monica was engaged to a new man every week. Although I only saw the photo of one, she spoke so vividly of them that it seemed that they must be real. She had an engagement ring, bought from K-Mart, but that was O.K because it was being replaced with a more “fancy” one later. A temporary certainty. She was by far the most dressed up for the occasion, every time. The full regalia. Shiny shoes, sequined ensemble with matching scrunchy and enough of that K-Mart jewellery that could blind us when reflected off the disco ball. Her smile was the most beautiful, and she usually only smiled when she was dancing. Looking like that, I didn’t doubt that she could have a new suitor each week.

With these people you could go on the most natural of highs.You could dance like no one was watching, because no one was. That is, no one that judged you anyway. However there were people who did.

The sad thing about these discos was the people behind them. They were the sort that did “good things” because of the attention, the wide-eyed community appreciation. The sort that pretended that they really really cared. At first Hannah and I had admired them because they had seemingly worked so hard. We wanted acceptance so that we could be part of this family that didn’t discriminate.

Slowly we noticed the sneers and the vulgarity. The facades began to slip. Was it because we were private school girls? Did we seem insincere to them? Needless to say, after months of bitchyness, innuendo and idiocy, we had had enough. This juxta-position between people we had grown to love and people we had grown to hate was something bizarre to observe. In any case, neither of us wanted to start hating this place and inadvertently its patrons, because of a small group of wankers.

I wanted to remember the Monicas, Johns and Carols because they had taught me about their lives. We didn’t say goodbye to them, and there were no thankyous. Actually I don’t even know if they noticed. But in any case I hold them dear.

Better to leave without looking over our shoulders, so as not to see the knives being thrown in our backs. And so as not to regret.

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