ESCAPING CORONAVIRUS P.3 #VANLIFE

PART 3. Planning Our Escape

Thank you for making it this far in my journey, I am glad I have caught your attention, and it has consumed at least 10 minutes of your time stuck in solo-isolation. I am grateful for your patience along the way; I love a good cliff hanger. But I must admit Jeremy is a nice guy, and it was one big (late) April fool.

Only joking… let’s get back to where we were.

While we were waiting for the other two to arrive, we sat around and chatted while Jeremy told us his life story. He worked as a bouncer who did security for basically every famous person ever to exist, at every music festival ever to take place. He wasn’t afraid of a fight; in fact, he spoke openly about how much he enjoyed them. He was a competitive surfer and was known by all the locals in the town. Jeremy spoke about himself an awful lot, trying to get a word in was a challenge in itself. 

The very first question he asked me about myself was, whether or not I am a lesbian and continuously referred to Tom as “His bitch.” 

He told us he was hoping Tom was a “white, scrawny guy that I could boss around and make my little bitch.” Unfortunately for him, Tom is quite the opposite of this description, and you could immediately tell that Jeremy felt intimidated.

He also threw in a few sexist and homophobic comments now and then. 

Here are a few examples of his chauvinist behaviour, so that you can see what we were dealing with here:

  • “Doing the washing up brings out my feminine side.”
  • “The men will get the firewood and go hunting, and women will make the tea.”
  • “If the men don’t collect firewood, it makes them a woman.”
  • “There was a young girl on the beach wearing a swimsuit, and the old men wolf-whistled at her. She got upset, but it was clearly her fault for wearing a swimsuit.”

When AnneMarie and Tom arrived, Jeremy placed all of our vans where he wanted them. Telling us what to do was one of his favourite past times, you could tell that it made him feel powerful and in control. He made Melon and Tom move their van down by the billabong, while Tim, AnneMarie and myself stayed outside the house. Tim would move to the billabong in due course, “Anything that can be done today, can still be accomplished tomorrow” he would say. 

When I asked if I could take my van down to the billabong, Jeremy creepily told me that he wanted my van to stay right outside the house so that he could “look after me” if I needed him too. He mentioned a few times that he would “look after me.”

When AnneMarie asked to move hers, he said the same thing and then parked his van behind hers, blocking her in.

Jeremy liked to drink. He would make a cocktail of goon (boxed wine) and juice—a backpacker dream. Melon and AnneMarie both said they were not drinking during this period, to have a detox. When I suggested I may do the same, Jeremy instructed me that drinking is a way to be social, everything in moderation was fine and advised against it. Then poured me another drink.

Jeremy didn’t “want there to be any rules.” Other than having dinner together every night, watch movies together, have morning coffees together, go surfing, fishing, drinking and spend all day every day together.

But other than that, we were free to be our own people.

Melon, Tom, Tim and I had an early night, which was against Jeremy’s wishes. Unfortunately for AnnaMarie, but to Jeremy’s delight, she was left in the house alone with him. AnnaMarie stayed and did some of her work in the living room, while Jeremy sat and watched TV. 

They spoke about the house and the architecture he then told her, “If you’re good, I will show you upstairs to my bedroom one day, if you’re lucky.” When AnneMarie questioned; “If I’m lucky?” He replied, “No, I’m joking. I’ll definitely show you upstairs.” 

In the morning Tom, Melon and I decided we wanted to go to the town to have a look around and message our mums to tell them we were safe as we couldn’t get phone signal at the house. When we told Jeremy, he started sulking, saying he wanted to be the first to show us around the town and was annoyed we were going without him. He begged for us to go later all together, but I knew my mum would be worried so I jumped in my van and off we went.

When we got back, things seemed a little weirder, I felt more uncomfortable, and the thought of potentially spending up to 6 months in his presence turned my stomach. Jeremy kept telling us that in a few days he would lock the gates to the house and no one else would be allowed in.

He started to get more and more inappropriate. He would poke me in the side, tickle me, and when I was cooking brought out a step for me to stand on so, I could reach better. This also made me “the perfect height for hugs.” There were a few times where he would come up behind AnneMarie and I and request that we hug him. When I was cooking, he would not leave my side for more then 5 minutes, and if he was not next to me, I could feel his eyes fixated on me.

I wasn’t the only one experiencing these inappropriately intimate and unwanted moments. If AnneMarie were sitting in her van with the doors open, he would come and stand in the doorway, shirtless, body sprawled against the door, blocking any means of escaping, while he tickled her feet. If that’s not an invasion of someone’s personal space, I don’t know what is.

He continued to tell us about all the other backpackers who had stayed at his house. He explained that he only takes in girls or couples to stay, no single men as it causes a lot of drama. Supposedly he had had hundreds of thousands of travellers come to stay with him at his house, many of which he had fallen in love with.

Sex was another main topic of conversation. Although, even if we were not talking about sex, Jeremy would somehow make the subject sexual. I don’t know about you, but a man in his 70’s with no teeth speaking dirty is not a turn on to me personally.

Do you know what? I’ll write up another list, just in case you’re ever considering taking young women into your home, and you want to make them feel comfortable. Here’s a list of what not to say:

  • Did you ever find your mothers dildos as a child?
  • Mel would look great in knee-high, black leather boots holding Tom on a leash.
  • He once fell in love with an English girl who got annoyed at him for not having sex with her.
  • He would go out clubbing and get any girl he wanted; sometimes it wasn’t only one.
  • He currently had lovers in France, Switzerland, Germany.
  • When Mel and I were swimming in the billabong one afternoon, Mel jumped in nude. He came down “looking” for his cigarettes. They were in his hand. 
  • He asked the men if they give head because if they do, it makes them less of a man.

The list goes on and on, but thinking back to it makes my skin crawl.

During unknown to him, our final supper together, we were speaking about making a house band, I explained that I wanted to learn to play the didgeridoo, he replied saying “I have a long brown thing you can wrap your lips around and give a good blow love.” 

This, for me, was the final straw. There was no stopping this man; he was only going to get worse. There was absolutely no way I could spend the next weeks or months with this man. I told Melon and Tom I wanted to leave tomorrow.

I woke up in the morning too nervous about getting out of my van if no one else was awake. I creeped out, went straight to the kitchen and there he was, waiting. He had already made me a coffee, “just the way I like it” and demanded cuddles for his good doings—a great start to the morning.

Jeremy was supposed to go to Bundaberg today to do a shop. This would be the perfect opportunity for us to leave and find somewhere safer. The problem was we had nowhere else to go. There was now a travel ban as the virus was spreading quickly in Australia. We had to find somewhere fast before the country went into complete lock-down, but time was not on our side. 

We decided to go to the beach where we could clear our heads and come up with a plan. Once we were at the beach, I messaged people who also offered for us to stay on their properties. Unfortunately, we had no luck. Everyone kind enough to let people stay, already had people staying, and there was no longer any space. 

AnnaMarie and Tim turned up at the beach too, and we explained that we were planning on leaving when Jeremy was in Bundaberg. They agreed to come with us as they were feeling uncomfortable too.

While we were trying to come up with an idea of where to go next, a lady came out of one of the houses opposite. She was concerned as to why we were sat as a group as it was now illegal to have group gatherings of more than two people. We explained our situation to her, and she said she might have a friend who could help us out. She gave us the number of her friend Amber. I spoke to Amber on the phone; already, she sounded awesome. She said she would come down to the beach in half an hour and have a chat with us. 

While we waited for Amber, we got talking to another local we had met the day before. We asked him if he knew our new mate Jeremy and he explained he did. He told us that he sometimes comes into the town and starts on people in the shops and the car parks. 

So when Jeremy told us he knew the locals, he wasn’t lying, just maybe not for the right reasons.

Anyway, a woman to her word, Amber arrived at the beach for a “Fat Yak.”(That means a chat in the Aussie lingo.) We explained our situation, and she told us we could come and stay with her on her land. Amber also advised she had a private indoor toilet; this was the selling point for me. 

I’ll tell you more about the legend that is Amber soon, but for now, we needed to plan our great escape. We would go back while Jeremy was still there, wave him off on his travels, and we would leave while he was gone. Easy right? What could possibly go wrong? 

Or so we thought… 

To be continued… 

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