The Flaming Kimono

Published On: June 5, 2023

Any queen who’s had to wait for a train at Granville Station knows the dangers involved. Even some of the staff there are homicidal! Then there’s the junkies, loiterers, all the thugs from Granville Boys High; it’s not a safe station. Full stop. And if you’re stylish, like me? Forget it. But, taking my chances there, was going to be preferable to being stuck in our Vauxhall a second longer with my dad. He was sulking again. Giving me the silent treatment. ‘If it was up to me,’ he said, finding his tongue, when he dropped me off, ‘You wouldn’t be going.’

‘I know.’

‘Don’t forget to call your mother.’

‘Sure Dad,’ I said.

I got out of the car and forgot about him.

I sashayed up the ramp to the ticket booth, while idiots, who didn’t even know it was 1975 already, stared. Looking straight ahead, I walked through the barrier, and breathed a sigh of relief that at least the state rail employee, who calls me a poofta, whenever he sees me, was nowhere around.

On the platform, I stuck myself to the wall with the graffiti. I lit a St Moritz, and waited for my three friends to arrive. We planned to spend the whole night out at Kings Cross. And as we were way too young to be allowed to do that, we had tricked our parents, into believing that we were having a dress-up sleep-over, at each other’s house; where we would stay up late, eat takeaway Pizza-Hut, and play records. Just like normal kids our age might.

‘What will you be doing at Mark’s all night?’ Mum asked, for nearly the tenth time.

‘We’ll be playing records,’ I repeated. ‘Nothing much, talking, you know.’

My Parents weren’t sure about my friend Mark. Not because he came from a bad family – because he didn’t. But he was twelve months younger than me, and his face, that anyone would fall in love with at first sight, coupled with our tendency to talk on the phone every single afternoon, made them weird.


Wearing my jeans, tucked into my brand-new-high-heel-knee-high-black-vinyl- boots; a camp t-shirt, with a large human eye printed on it, and a billowing black-silk, Japanese kimono, with orange embroidery on the back, I was singular in my glamour.

‘You look strange,’ my younger brother said when he found me trying on my outfit in our bedroom, earlier in the week.

I ignored him. He has no style whatsoever.

‘Why are you going to dress like that to stay at Mark’s?’ Mum asked, from the doorway.

‘Because we’re going to be playing records,’ I groaned.

I’m young after all. I guess she remembers being young herself, and how young people like to look like other young people. Though I must admit, I looked nothing like the other young people in our street.

A couple of creeps, who didn’t seem right in the head, arrived on the platform, and walked toward me. Like graffiti at risk of being cleaned off the wall, I stood real still.

‘Fair dinkum,’ one of them said.

I expected trouble. But then my friends Gina and Mark arrived. I hurried over to them, and we all hugged and kissed and, because we were nervous, probably over did it a bit.

How sly we were. How cool we were. Me, in my chosen outfit – as I described earlier – did I forget to mention the glitter in my mullet? Gina, with her short-cropped hair and dual ear piercings, wearing a boy’s white pin-stripe suit with red stilettos. And then, beautiful Mark – the prettiest boy in all of the Parramatta/Granville district, in his four-inch-two-tone-ox-blood-brown-brogue-platform-wedge shoes, teamed with high-waisted Stagger bell-bottom jeans; his flares falling over the toes of his shoes, when he walked, in a way that was so fashionable. His blond hair, so beautifully styled, and which always bounced on a few steps ahead as he sashayed. Kids have been bashed and murdered too many times to mention for being much less stylish than we were.

But we were still missing Joanne. Where is she, we wondered? The next city train was due any minute, and the service is so irregular on a Saturday afternoon. Surely, she wasn’t going to hold us up. But as the minutes passed, there was no sign of her. And when our train arrived, we were annoyed we wouldn’t be able to catch it. But we just had to catch it. Because even though Joanne wasn’t there – the retarded creeps were. And they were hovering. So, at the very last second, we jumped on the train anyway; without the fourth member of our gang. The nicest member of our gang. Who has never been on time a single day in her life!

She’s bound to meet us at Town Hall Station, we said.

Yes, we all agreed. She’ll meet us there.


We arrived at Town Hall station and sashayed upstairs to Woolies Corner. We were a controversially sophisticated sight even there, but at least we were far away from Granville, and there were plenty of people milling about, so lots of witnesses, if our glamour caused a rumble to break out. We found a phone booth and called Joanne’s house. There was no answer. My legs started to ache and I suggested we move to a nearby bench.

‘No,’ Mark said. ‘I don’t want my knees to spoil the line of my jeans.’

‘Really?’ I asked.

So, we stood.


When it began to darken, and Joanne still hadn’t shown, we wondered what we should do. Maybe she’s gone straight to Kings Cross someone said. Yes, maybe she has, someone agreed. So, with Mark leading the way, we sashayed right up William Street to Kings Cross.

Arriving at the base of the giant Coca Cola sign, and seeing it illuminated for the very first time, we were so excited. Come on, someone said, let’s get a drink. We fell into the stream of interesting looking people who were dressed up to enjoy a night in Sydney’s famous red-light district.

We went to the Persian Room Disco, because it opened at 7.30, and we’d been told it was a place where they’d have no problem selling alcohol to fifteen-year-olds. And even though it wasn’t a gay disco, it was a place where we could sit in safety, and drink and laugh, with a cigarette. Like our parents. Not my parents, certainly. They’re not big on drink and laughter. But like other parents. Parents who like to party. Like Gina’s. Her father is the manager of the Parramatta T.A.B, and they do quite a bit of entertaining. Particularly over that six-month period that Gina spent in reform school.

Gina suggested we drink Cinzano and lemonades. So that’s what we ordered. Because it was so early in the night, we were the only people in there, except for some man, who was by himself in a booth. We were feeling a little nervous as we sipped, and so, we chatted about things that nervous people might find themselves concerned about. Like how brave we all were. How good we all looked. And in Gina’s case, whether her stiletto heels would survive till the morning. We smoked and tapped our feet to the music. Then the man sitting by himself, came over. ‘Hi there,’ he said, ‘Mind if I join you?’

‘No,’ we stuttered. Though it was obvious that we were all in agreement; he was not a good-looking man.

‘Big night out?’



‘Not really.’

‘Kind of.’

‘We’re just waiting for a friend.’

Little nods and sips followed.

‘I’ve never seen you three around Kings Cross before.’

‘We’ve only been here during the day,’ one of us said.

‘Oh well, it’s nice to see some new faces here.’

‘We’re going to Costello’s later,’ one of us blurted (probably me).

‘Oh, of course you are,’ he said with a funny wink of his eye. ‘You three will fit in there, really good,’ he added, with another wink. ‘But you’ve got to be careful, some of the queens you get in there – I wouldn’t trust ‘em.’

‘We can look after ourselves,’ one of us said (probably Mark).

‘Don’t doubt it,’ he winked again. ’So, listen, how about I buy you drinks a kid?,’ he asked.

We all looked at each other.

‘I mean,’ he corrected, ‘How about, I buy you kids a drink? Looks like you could do with one,’ he added.

‘Oh, we can’t,’ someone said. ‘We’ve got to get our friend.’

‘Just one?’ He nearly begged.

But we hurried out, and fell back into the stream of people on Darlinghurst Road, who were looking for things that kids our age, aren’t usually considered old enough for. ‘Are we really going to get Joanne?’ one of us asked.

‘We have to get Joanne,’ one of us said. ‘It’s not going to be the same without her.’

‘But she lives in Cabramatta,’ someone complained.

‘So what?’ someone said, ‘it’s too early for any fun anyway. Come on let’s go.’

So back down William Street, we all sashayed.


On the train ride to Joanne’s, the buzz from our solitary Cinzanos, wore off. And we became kind of thoughtful. Particularly as the train neared Granville. It was like, if we wanted – not that we did, but if we did – we could just call it a night. Our plan to trick our parents was so brazen after all – surely, we’d be caught. Maybe we should just get off at Granville and say goodnight until school on Monday. It was obvious we were all thinking the same thing.

The train stopped, with a great steely clunk, and we all looked out at the poorly lit railway platform. Such an ugly dump Granville is. Potentially life-threatening for people like us too. And the station is just the tip of that iceberg! So, when the train pulled away again, we were still in our seats. And what became clear was that we were all relieved we hadn’t got off. Because even though we couldn’t be certain we were having a good time yet, what we were certain of, was that we were missing Joanne. And everything would be okay – we just knew – so long as we found her.

At Cabramatta Station, we phoned her house again. Mrs Benetel, Joanne’s mother, answered; ‘Joanne is so upset,’ she said. ‘She waited and waited for you, and when you didn’t show she came back home. She’s in her room crying.’

‘Tell her that we’re coming straight over to get her,’ we all said, into the phone.

‘Come on,’ someone said. ‘We’re in a hurry!’

So, a mile away to Joanne’s place, we all sashayed.


When we got there, Mrs Benetel opened the door, and while Mark waited at the front gate, Gina and I went to her room to find her. Red eyes, and puffy cheeks aside – Joanne was looking fabulous, in a 1920’s inspired flapper dress, with matching gold stilettos. Joanne has the wildest hair you ever saw, and she had it fanned in kinky waves all over her broad shoulders. ‘We’re sorry Joanne,’ we said.

She dabbed at her eyes with a hanky.

‘We thought you’d just follow us into town. We’re not gonna have any fun unless you come. Please, please, please,’ we pleaded.

But Joanne’s really sensitive – like I said, she’s the nicest one in our gang – and she took a little persuading. ‘You look so glamorous. Come on. We’ve come all the way out here to get you – doesn’t that tell you anything?’ one of us said, convincing her finally.

‘You’re going are you, Love?’ Mrs Benetel asked as we walked to the front door. (She’s the coolest of any of our mothers.)

‘Yes Mum,’ replied Joanne.

‘Be careful.’ Mrs Benetel smiled.

Then, Joanne’s s step-father, Eddy, arrived home: ‘What do we have here?’ He sneered, as he pushed in the front gate with an eyeful of Mark.

Eddy is a nasty piece of work as my mother might say. His face is hard and flat like a brick wall, and his shoulders are wide like heavy rafters. ‘Going somewhere with your little faggot friends?’ He asked. Then he noticed Gina: ‘The lezzo’s here too. You’d have more cock than these two put together.’

‘Get inside Eddy,’ Mrs Benetel said.

‘Don’t turn my house into a haunt you little bitch,’ he growled, drunkenly, at Joanne.

‘It’s not your house,’ Joanne retaliated.

‘Eddy!’ Mrs Benetel repeated, loudly.

‘Just ignore him,’ Joanne said. And we all walked past him, as fast as we could.

On our way to the station, Mark who had never met Eddy before, said that he was a bit put off by him. ‘He’s really your step-dad?’ He asked Joanne.

‘Yes. He’s a real bastard,’ I said, answering for her. ‘And he leaves pornos under Joanne’s pillow. And sometimes cummy rags too.’

Joanne backed me up on that, and she squeezed me on the arm, ‘Thanks for coming to get me,’ she said.

‘I’m sorry we left without you Jo. It was mainly my fault.’ I said. We held hands as we walked to the station, and I could feel the relief in her. Joanne hated being at home whenever Eddy was there. I remember I asked her once, why her mother even stayed with him, given all the abuse Joanne was made to suffer. Mum has her reasons, she said. And though she didn’t know what they were, she knew they were all selfish ones.


Back on a train to the city – with Eddy well behind us – and the four of us together, as was meant to be – my thoughts skipped back to the day that we hatched our devious plan, for a night at Kings Cross. It happened on our first ever visit there. What a super-cosmopolitan day that was; marveling at all the ladies of the afternoon, the bars, coffee shops, porno theatres and strip clubs. Everything was so interesting. We even recognised an actor from TV. (Who looked as if he could do with a bit more work!) But, if all that wasn’t exciting enough, when we sat in Fitzroy Gardens to drink some milk-shakes, we came to notice that we were surrounded by men and boys cruising for each other. And then we realised, that Fitzroy Gardens was a gay park.

Overjoyed, Mark decided it would be heaps of fun, if he and I stood and kissed on the mouth. Right In Public. And so that’s what we did. It was the first time I had ever kissed Mark. And I will never forget that kiss. Though Mark broke it off, first – giggling.

Blushing pink, I pretended it had been a joke kiss for me too. Though all I wanted in the world was to do it all over again. But then a tall migrant guy – who looked like he might be a taxi driver or something even worse – walked up. He sat next to Mark, and told us about a disco we should all go to, called Costello’s. It was a place where kids went, he said, because they were always made to feel very welcome there. On consideration we decided we should go to this disco. And somehow, we should find a way to stay out all night, because the last train left the city at 1.20 am. And that would not allow us nearly enough time to feel welcomed.

We were all congratulating ourselves on our brilliant inspiration, and then, Mark decided to go off with the taxi-driver type. Because the taxi-driver type particularly liked to fuck fourteen-year-old boys. And, so consequently, wanted very much to fuck Mark. With his beautiful face, beautiful blond hair, and disobedient streak.

I was concerned when Mark suddenly went off with him. I was worried he might be murdered or something. Did we find out the migrant guy’s name?

No, we all agreed.

Do we know where he’s taking Mark?

No, we all agreed again.

But that was four weeks ago. And thankfully, Mark wasn’t murdered. He was fucked up the arse, for the very first time.


Feeling that at last we were getting somewhere, when we arrived back in the city, we sashayed right up William Street, to the Coca Cola sign, with more purpose than ever. The four of us all smiles, and loving ourselves, but maybe just a little nervous, about what adventures lay ahead.

In no time at all, Mark led us around a corner, to a very run-down doorway, that he assured us was the entrance to Costello’s. ‘Are you sure this is the place?’ we asked. Because it did not look as we had imagined. There was no sign – no lights – no anything! And it looked so grotty we wondered if it really could be.

‘This is it,’ Mark said.

We loitered, waiting for someone to enter. But no-one did. So, we started climbing the stairs, and that’s when we heard the music playing. And then we became excited again. Because it was the type of music, that we are all mad for.

Climbing higher, the walls of the stairwell were scrawled like the dangerous tunnels adjoining railway stations – with unintelligible scribbles, declarations of love, Bowie lyrics, and hatred of the cops. There was a man on the first floor, and when he saw how young we were he stamped our wrist but didn’t charge us entrance. We went inside, and as we made our way to the bar, we were already having heaps of fun.

We got some drinks, and followed the music through to the main disco area. There was a drag queen DJ, and people were dancing everywhere. The lighting was strobe, and we entered the crowded scene on a cloud of menthol smoke. While our eyes grew accustomed to the surroundings, people walked past us and looked. We looked back. Sometimes people smiled. It was just like the taxi-driver type had said. Remembering him, I asked Mark, what it had been like getting fucked in the arse.

‘It really hurt,’ Mark said. ‘But I know I’m going to like it.’

Nearby, there was a lanky youth, who had an orange dyed wedge, cut into the back of his short, claret-red hairstyle. He was wearing women’s tight black three-quarter slacks, and super-high cork platform shoes. And in his ears, wide hoop ear-rings. He looked like David Bowie’s even gayer brother. While we watched, he leant in toward the man standing next to him, and kissed him passionately on the mouth. And as I watched I saw. It did happen. Men kissed other men. And meant it.

A song played that Joanne liked, and she dragged us onto the dance floor, with our drinks. The ultra-violet light was doing wild things to the white stitching on our clothing, and we laughed a bit about this. And when the lights went strobe again, we laughed even harder. A tall drag queen, with long hair and dark painted eye-lids that shimmered like vinyl, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me deeper into the crowd. Because the song was one I liked, I wasn’t too out of my depth, but I looked back over at my friends as they watched on in amusement. The drag queen was nice, and, as we danced, she fingered at my black kimono, that fluttered about me like her eye-lids. When the song was over, she kissed my cheek and I went to join my friends who had found a table. ‘Dallas, likes you.’ Gina said, surprising me.

‘How do you know her name?’

‘She was at the bar, and introduced herself.’

Mark and Joanne hurried off to get another round of Cinzanos, while me and Gina waited excitedly.

Dancing on a small stage, near the toilets, was a naked teenage boy – who looked to be ecstatic. We laughed at the sight of that. And then, when the DJ played some Donna Summer, the people who preferred to wear clothes, whooped and squealed, and wriggled up a storm all around us. And Gina and me realised, that we were having the best time we’d ever had in our lives. With the best people we’d ever seen. In the best place we had ever been to. And Gina leant in close, and said, how great it was to be a kid living in the 1970’s.


But back, where it was still 1950 – Mark’s mother was wondering aloud to Mark’s dad, whether she should give my mum a call, just to make sure he was okay. She didn’t want him to think she didn’t trust him, but he had promised her that he would phone before 11pm…


Mark and Joanne returned with drinks. Isn’t this the best place, you’ve ever been to? – we all squealed to each other. Then, as we lit cigarettes, we determined we should come back again the following week. Not knowing how we could make that happen, but sure that somehow, there must be some way. We couldn’t bear to think of the magic ending…


Mark is only fourteen after all, Mrs Whitman justified, as she picked up the phone to call my mother – whom she had never met. When my mum answered, she was relieved to hear Mrs Whitman’s voice, because she too, had been feeling concerned. But when Mrs Whitman asked to speak with Mark, my mother was surprised: ‘Isn’t Steven over there, with Mark?’


‘He said that he was. Where are they then?’ Mum asked.

Maybe they’re over at Joanne’s, my mum hoped. Because Mrs Benetel is a relaxed unfussed type of mother – the kind of parent my mother doesn’t much care for – who might welcome having Joanne’s friends stay the night…


Back in 1975, we were all up dancing, and showing off the clothes we had bought with our after-school jobs. We were making friends with Dallas, and Queenie Paul, and Phillip the barman. Who just loved it when new kids discovered the unlicensed joint, full of other under-age kids. ‘We even have a fifteen-year-old barman here,’ Phillip said.

‘I’d like to be a barman,’ Mark declared. ‘Can a fourteen-year-old be a barman too?’

Phillip didn’t see any good reason why not. Costello’s was owned by crooks, and the police used to raid it a lot, he told us, coz without a fire-escape, it could get no liquor license. So, what harm in a fourteen-year-old selling it?

‘What happens when the police raid?’ I asked.

‘The owners cough up some cash,’ he answered, ‘and then everything is okay. Until the next time.’

We met heaps of kids that night. Kids from the western suburbs like us. Most of them had dropped out of school. And even though some were as young as thirteen, they’d been kicked out of home already. Though, some hadn’t even been kicked out, but were just plain runaways who didn’t like being told what to do by mothers, who were sluts, and step-fathers who were lay-about drunks. I can’t remember all their names, but they weren’t dressed up like we were. And they weren’t dancing either. They were looking for pills called mandies. And old men who would pay, to crack-it with them – so that they could afford to buy the mandies.

The mandies cost a dollar.

On the dance-floor, I noticed some small pimples on Joanne’s chin, and worried that the ultra-violet light might be showing mine up as well. Then there was a break in the music, and Joanne asked Mark and me when we were going to announce that we were together. My heart skipped a disco-beat.

‘We’re just friends,’ laughed Mark.

‘But what about that kiss in Fitzroy Gardens?’ Joanne asked.

My heart skipped another beat, like it always does, when I remember that kiss.

‘That was just joking around, wasn’t it Stevie?’ Mark laughed, even harder.


It was Eddy who picked up the phone, when Mum rang Joanne’s house.

Mum politely introduced herself and when she asked Eddy if Mark and I were there, he said exactly, these words: ‘No. Your little faggots aren’t here. They’re at some shit-hole in the Cross, where all the pooftas go.’

My young brother, who isn’t a poofta – and so finds everything he likes to do available to him in Granville – was sleeping, after a day of riding the streets on his bike with his mates, when my mother threw down the phone, upset.

He got out of his lower-bunk in time to see the way she looked at Dad. And he saw Dad pick up the phone. And he heard what Dad asked of Eddy, and what he then replied to Eddy. Before slamming down the phone on Eddy. Who just laughed.

After that phone-call, Mum and Dad were worried sick. And they seriously considered getting into the Vauxhall and driving to Kings Cross to try and find us, before someone unsavory did. But they didn’t. They called Mark’s mum, and told her what happened. And the lights stayed on in our little house all night. And as my parents talked into the very small hours – my young brother, learned quite a lot about his older sibling.


But at Costello’s, we were just getting on with having the best time of our lives. Dancing and laughing and feeling welcomed.

Then Mark met David.

David was thirty, and he worked at Garden Island dock-yard. And he lived in a terrace in Paddington. David was good looking and wanted to take Mark home. And Mark wanted to go home with him.

I hated David.

But because I was in love with Mark, and worried about him, I agreed to go. Joanne and Gina were upset with me for that. They pleaded with me to stay, because we were all having such a good time, and, also, because they would be two fifteen-year-old girls left alone in Kings Cross. But we said goodbye to them. Mark and I got into his car. And that night, while I tried to sleep on David’s lounge, David fucked Mark in the arse twice. Once, when they went to bed, and once again, when they woke up in the morning.

# # #

The next day I was in a really bad mood. I couldn’t wait to get out of David’s house. Mark and I hurried to catch a bus to Town Hall station, and even though the sun’s morning rays would have been doing amazing things to the glitter in my mullet, I could take no pleasure from it.

Kind of glumly, I asked Mark what it had been like getting fucked by David.

‘It was beautiful,’ Mark said. ‘When I went to the bathroom, I felt sad to be shitting out all his goodness,’ he swooned.

I thought that was a strange thing to say. But that’s how Mark talks sometimes. He can be a bit of a dick-head.

In town, we caught a train back to Granville. I was sad, and not saying much.

‘I forgot to call Mum last night,’ Mark remembered.

‘Yeah. Me too.’ I said; my kimono billowing in the breeze by the open train door.

When we arrived at Granville, I rolled my eyes, when I saw the rail employee who calls me poofta, waiting for our tickets. He glared at me and Mark as we approached, and when we walked past, he called me that name, that I was becoming more and more accustomed to being called. But I was in no mood that morning, and so for the very first time, I spoke up: ‘That thing on your chin, whatever it is, is really ugly!’ I laughed. Then I dropped the ticket on the ground. And I stamped on it, with my high-heel boot.

I phoned Dad, and while we waited at the bus stop, we were getting those sorts of looks from the retarded types, that had made us feel so uncomfortable the afternoon earlier. But in the clear light of day, having slept on a couch, with a broken heart, and a hangover too – they didn’t bother me. I couldn’t give a fuck about them anymore.

When Dad pulled up, he told Mark, that we had been busted. And that he had better go straight home, as his parents were worried.

I waved at Mark and got in the car, and Dad asked me where we had spent the night. I told him we went to a disco. He was really angry, and my dad doesn’t get angry ever. He said I’d worried my mother nearly to death. I’d worried him as well. I was grounded. I would not be allowed out again, for a long, long, time, he said.

Our car turned into Eve Street, and it seemed that all the neighborhood kids – my brother and all his mates – were standing at the side of the road, holding onto their bikes, and scooters, and making a point of noticing me in the front of the car, as I was driven past. In trouble.

In my kimono.

With glitter in my mullet.

I went indoors and Dad told me to remove my kimono. I took it off and he went down to the incinerator with it. And while he lit a fire, my mother told me how angry she was with me. And how worried she had been. And how she had been put through the worst night of her life. And my father too. And she really let me have it like never before. And as she poured me a glass of water from the tap because I looked thirsty, I remembered some of the kids we had met the night before at Costello’s. Their parents would never ground them for anything. They didn’t care what they did. Some of them were thirteen, and they didn’t even have to go to school anymore.

At last, when Mum was finished – and I thought she never would – I said sorry, and went to my room. Standing at my bedroom window, I saw Dad sulking by the incinerator, as the last smoke rose from my flaming kimono. Watching the forlorn figure he cut there, I felt sorry that I had disappointed him, like I had.

With a sigh, I turned away from the window. And I remembered I had homework:

Somehow, I had to find someone to fuck me in the arse.

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