Garbage Bags

The night my mother died I was placed with a foster carer about an hour out of Melbourne, Mums two bedroom flat chaotic with Paramedics, Police, DHS workers, people in suits and my mothers boyfriend bumping into each other. They were all trying their best not to look at the body or at the confused six year old sitting on the couch who had unknowingly just become an orphan.

I didn’t understand what was happening, my six year old brain couldn’t comprehend that Mum wouldn’t be ok in a few hours, all I knew was that I had to stay somewhere else again. In the chaos I was able to pack a change of clothes into a garbage bag but my toys had been locked in a toy chest by my mother a few days prior and no-one could locate the key.

It was almost pitch black as I lay on the lounge room couch at my new foster home, my surroundings completely alien. I didn’t know where I was, what the rules were or what was going to come next. My entire world was spinning and I didn’t have a single person or object to hold onto that felt familiar.
I was petrified and trying desperately to keep myself awake, my six year old brain unable to make sense of my mums death and so I thought if I fell asleep I wouldn’t wake up either.

What was meant to be an emergency overnight foster care placement turned into weeks and then months because there was nowhere else for me to go. My foster brother held a growing resentment for me invading his home and this showed itself in escalating violent threats and bullying tactics. He was trying his best to turn his mother against me and get me kicked out so he could have her and his home back to himself again.

After school one day the car ride home was so tense it felt like all the noise and air had been replaced with the ticking hands of my foster mothers watch, and the whiteness of her knuckles as they gripped the steering wheel.

In slow motion my foster mothers key turned in the front door and as it opened I saw black garbage bags stacked on the couch, my orange basket ball resting in the pile.
My foster mother let out an extended sigh as she made her way towards the kitchen “your worker is on their way to pick you up, they’ll be taking you to your new house” she hadn’t stopped walking to break the news to me “All your stuff is packed on the couch and ready to go as soon as they get here”. My eyes were instantly magnetised to my scuffed shoes, I hoped she wouldn’t look at me and see the tears welling up in my eyes or the black-hole painfully breaking apart my chest.

I was in another government sedan filled with that new car smell I had grown to distrust, all my worldly possessions stacked behind the cage in the boot in black garbage bags. Trees, power-lines and houses raced past the car window, each house that passed  felt like a countdown on a bomb, I was getting closer to my new placement with each one that disappeared from view.

Nights at the Resi unit

In 2007 I was living in a pretty stock standard residential unit, a purpose built house filled with locks and a pervasive sense of darkness.

To go to the bathroom I had to ask a staff member to unlock it, to get something to eat I had to ask a staff member to unlock the pantry, to get a cup of hot water for tea I had to ask a staff member to boil it in the office and supervise me putting it to use.

There wasn’t much choice, it felt like every single aspect of my life was restricted and controlled. As if I was in a prison for which my only crime was having parents who were terminally unable to look after themselves, let alone a child.

I felt trapped, isolated and hopeless to the absolute. I was thirteen turning fourteen, a kid who had been in the care system since they were just ten weeks old and who had been accumulating a collection of personal shame and responsibility from every single placement breakdown and trauma they had experienced.

After months of my mental health worsening to the point I would sit in the hallway overnight because the darkness held terrifying thoughts of people breaking in through my bedroom window. I was so hyper-vigilant and anxious that my brain started creating the sounds of them drilling into the window pane next to my head.
I was terrified, alone and dead sure that every night was the night the ghostly apparitions of my traumatised brain would finally solidify and become real enough to serve out the punishment I was due.

It got to a point one night where I was so utterly terrified that I knocked on the office door, seeking some kind of comfort and safety from the staff member working.
I felt like I knocked for hours, the fear came flooding through even stronger. What if my knocking was a signal to those outside the window to come and get me? What if they had already got the staff member and they would be the ones to open the door?
The staff member finally came to the door, her hair messy, eyes tired and face looking beyond irritated. “It’s 3am” I knew that, every second that passed during the night was like a day marked off the calendar, I knew exactly how long it was going to be before the sun rose again the next morning.

“I’m scared, I can’t sleep” I told her, hoping that somehow she might hold the answer to make it all stop, that she would help me make it through the night but instead her face grew more frustrated than it already was “I’m off shift at 11pm, there’s nothing I can do” “you need to go back to your room and try to get some sleep, morning staff will be here at 8am” she shut the door and I retreated back to the corner of the hallway where I could see both the front door and the door to my room. My back against the wall of the office closest to the staff member, this was as close as I could get to the comfort they could have provided.

The darkness felt even more solid than it had before, it felt like the single lifeline I had left had been snuffed out. I still had two and a bit hours of darkness to fight my way through until the sun finally started shining again and I had no idea how I was going to make it through. I was completely alone and isolated in my petrifying terror, I almost wanted them to just come in through the windows and get me so it would be over with already.

Welcome to Driftwood Passage

“Driftwood is a 25 year old writer, presenter and consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. Driftwood developed a love for the written word shortly after his mother passed away in 2000 and he was gifted a sympathy note inside the first Harry Potter book.”

I mainly write short memoir pieces and non-fiction reflections on life, some of the topics I have written about are quite dark so read on at your own discretion.

The way the host website works is that the newest posts are at the top, so if you would like to read my writing in order of the date published you will need to scroll to the bottom and then work your way up the posts.

– Driftwood