Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jailbait

Bushfires pose a high risk to Eucalyptus plant...Image via Wikipedia
Just a memory that's been on my mind lately...

It's the summer of 1993. I'm working at a tree plantation, picking weeds. It's a horrible job, up at 4 to start work at 6 out in the boons, sunstroke every other day, dirt stains on your fingers that just never go away... the foreman was regularly stocked with that kind of speed that used to be legal at American truck stops, so we'd speed our way through the piecework, every now and then touching our heads to feel that tingling-handprint that cheap speed will leave on your scalp.

Anyway, I'm 19 and I'm working to save up a bit of money over the summer between high school and university. Most of the rest of the crew are men in their thirties and forties working their mandatory 90 days in order to go back on unemployment. A few weeks in, a girl starts. From the area where we were working (so small-town) and, as I recall, 15. Sweet at hell and quite pretty too. So she gets started, and she and I get along really well. You know, just share the same head-space, laugh at the same jokes, whatever. The other crew members, undersexed pervy old men, start talking about how she's 'jailbait'. They say it to each other, and they say it to me, in a watch-out-son kind of way.

So, properly spooked, I maintain that respectful distance and go all big-brothery on the girl. Spend the rest of the summer strictly hands-off and 'platonic' and whatever. I've been thinking about this because at the time it seemed so clearly the 'right thing to do' - 19 is an adult and 15 is a kid. In our rush to become 'adult', we go out of our way to draw lines between ourselves and people who are still 'kids'. Looking back on it now, though, I'm really not sure there's anything really all that untoward about a 19 year old guy and a 15 year old girl. Or is there? I'm not sure.

The one thing, though, that weirds me out is this: like it or not, I can come to terms with the fact that I'm 34 years old now. But to think that that girl is 30 now? That's just incomprehensible to me. It seems impossible.
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