Romeo and Juliet: A Fibrotown Fable

Posted on July 11, 2010

They were walking toward me, past the wide, empty car park on a windswept street. She was blonde. Skinny, tight jeans. Skinny, tight top. Skinny, tight face. The nappy bag over her shoulder weighed heavily on her childish frame.

He wasn’t much bigger, barely filling out the shoulders of his hoodie, the wideness of his flat-brimmed cap exaggerating the slim youth of his face. Red, angry pimples were all the decoration he needed.

Before them, two tiny feet waved from beneath the wrap flung over the flimsy stroller. The collapsible kind that looks as though it’ll blow inside out in a stiff breeze. Kick, kick, kick.

They stopped. In the middle of the car park entrance. I couldn’t hear what was said. Didn’t need to. Her arms were crossed, her body was rigid, her toe tapped. He looked confused, gesturing to the pram. She shook her head.

Kick, kick, kick.

Moments later, a fully-loaded, fully-sick, fully-lowered, fully-ridiculous purple car screeched into the driveway beside her. Three older guys inside. She threw the nappy bag at him, got into the back, the door slammed and the car thrust back onto the road and drove off. Cue: screaming tires underpinned by the relentless doof-doof of a bass line.

By now, I was almost level with those tiny feet.

Kick, kick, kick.

The boy – for he was no more than 15 – looked lost. His eyes followed the girl, now far down the street, in another world. He hoisted the nappy bag over his shoulder, put both hands on the little stroller and began to push.

Kick, kick, kick.

Half an hour later, as I returned home, I passed the same place. He was slowly walking back toward me, on the opposite side of the street. Kick, kick, kick. Now, though, the light was fading. The baby was fretting. He looked worried and alone.

Where was he going? Would there be a warm reception for him and those tiny, pink feet? I couldn’t see it.

I think about those three often. Two kids with a kid. Her, fed up to a place beyond reason. Him, not knowing where to start. Once upon a time, they probably imagined themselves in love. Maybe.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has never been one of my favourite plays. All that angst, all that tragedy. But he couldn’t have written a different ending. The alternative is played out on the streets of Fibrotown – and indeed, all over the world – every day.

As that other great bard, John Cougar Mellencamp, put it in his seminal work ‘Jack and Diane’ – “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone…”


  1. Lady Jennie

    Painful. And beautifully written.

  2. misssrobin


  3. Shell

    How scary and lonely it would be to be them. Such a sad yet beautiful piece.

  4. Suzie G

    A touching story Alison, it is scary how often we all see this situation played out, in the streets, on the news. It makes me want to give them all a cuddle, the boy, girl & baby, and tell them it will be ok.

  5. Rhi@FlourChild

    So beautifully written, and so sad. And this just represents one of many many hundreds of similar stories, of similar little feet.
    Thanks for making me think and ponder this weekend.
    I want to know the ending too…

  6. deckchairguru

    I’m a newcomer to reading about Fibrotown, and I’m glad this was a Weekend Rewind – it’s just dripping with sad, and sprinkled with hope. The wrong way around, we all would agree.

    Very touching piece, and wonderfully told.

    Thank you.

  7. Dorothy

    I see families like this frequently where I live. I’ve heard people talk about generational poverty. These kids just have no idea about a different kind of life. And their babies will be just like them… It makes me sad and mad…

  8. Little Ted Canvas

    Oh boy! I feel so sad for that little family. I wonder how things have played out, I wonder how that baby is going to grow up, I wonder if those young parents will grow up to have regrets,or if they work it out & grow together, all three…I’d like to have brought them in for a hug & a good wholesome dinner…

  9. So Now What?

    That is some amazing writing. I watched a few kids I went to school with do this. Around that age. Some are still together, most not.

    So tough when you are still a kid yourself.

    Thanks Al. xx

  10. mamabook

    Love it. Not only the writing, but also the compassion rather than judgement you show for this small family… Beautiful piece.

  11. Lavender Luz

    I can just envision this happening on the streets of every town I’ve lived in.

    Lovely piece. And the backdrop of Jack & Diane will make it stick with me for awhile.

  12. Kymmie

    Oh, this is gripping. Beautiful poetry in writing. Yet so sad. Thanks for sharing. x

  13. Kim H

    I don’t know how, but I missed reading that post. So I’m so glad you chose it for yout Rewind. My heart aches for those 3, too. So worrying thinking about kids having kids. We can only hope they have some good support and that on that particular day they were having a bad one and that normally it’s not so bad????

    Oh, I also wanted to say how much I LOVE John Cougar. I grew up loving Jack and Diane. One of my fave songs.

  14. Stacia

    Makes my heart ache. And makes me wonder where those tiny pink feet are now, and if they’re doing all right.

  15. Naturally Carol

    It is a haunting tale…I would have been like that except he stayed with me and I have a great family and his family was great too. I wonder where was his or her parents or siblings…family often make all the difference.

  16. Lucy

    This writing haunted me then, and it haunts me now.

    Thank you for rewinding back to it for us.


  17. Cate

    I remember seeing a very young mum opening packet after packet of dummys in the supermarket and trying them out on her screaming baby. She almost seemed past being desperate and had moved on to surreal. I felt so badly for her.
    But I suspect there were problems bigger than just finding the right dummy.
    Great piece – no wonder you are so proud of it. Really great 🙂

  18. vegemitevix

    An incredible powerful piece Fibro. Almost made me cry. My own son is older than that. My daughter her age. I have seen this scene so many times in my life, it makes my heart shake with fear, for all of them, especially those little cold feet.

  19. Noel

    Poor little bugger. The cards didn’t fall well for that bubba. Didn’t fall well for any of them, really.

  20. allison tait

    @ecoMILF – yep, it all comes down to the feet.

  21. ecoMILF

    what a story. i feel for them all, but especially those little feet…

  22. Victoria @ Hibiscus Bloem

    A great piece of writing that paints such a clear picture. Makes me feel very sad. For all 3 of them. I do hope someone was at home waiting with arms outstretched to help him out. I fear not.

  23. Cate Bolt

    Ugh, this just makes me want to poke myself in the eye because I *know* had that been me I would have ended up with the baby and possibly the boy living in my house until they were 30 (I’m not sure whether thats the baby or the boy) and frankly, today, I’m sick of my need to constantly be Mother freaking Teresa.

  24. Fleur McDonald

    Elvis: ‘In the Ghetto’… Such a sad story but thanks for telling us. Somtimes it makes us realise how lucky we are and how to try and raise our children.

  25. LisaNReynolds

    Oh Al, you’re a gifted storyteller.

    When I started I hoped I was reading a piece of melancholy fiction, rather than a sobering tale of reality.

    I couldn’t even contemplate the responsibilty of having children until my 30’s, so am at a loss as to how a teenager can become a parent. Parenthood gets the better of adults, so how on earth do these ‘kids with kids’ cope emotionally?

    I also always wonder where the mums and dads of these young parents are. Are they offering support? Are they there for them 100%, even though things didn’t turn out the way they had hoped?

    I then realise it’s more than likely these kids grew up the same way, so don’t fully understand that their precious youth is there for travel, education, falling in love, being heartbroken and the plethora of other highs and lows young people experience.

    Then I also remember not everyone has the support that a lot of us are lucky enough to have. Otherwise there would be a brighter future for the three of them, most importantly that little baby 🙁

  26. Vivian Agios

    Oh God, I feel for him, I feel for her and the little baby. God only knows we all wish a purple car would screech into our driveways once in a while and take us away from reality – even just for an hour to get our sanity back and jolt us into realising how wonderful life is and can be again. Patience and a good attitude goes a long way. I hope they find each other again and work things out. Please let me know if you see them again.
    Thanks for writing it so beautifully and for sharing x

  27. Dovic

    has been 14 hours since I read this piece, and as expected, they are still very much on my mind. Sign of a perfect haunting piece of a very imperfect situation 🙁

  28. sharpestpencil

    Beautifully beautifully told. *sobs* and will stay up all night worrying about that poor baby

  29. Anj (@anjwrites)

    Wow – what an amazing and heart wrenching piece.

  30. Joli

    Heartbreaking… even more so when you later see those same kids with not one but two or more children and all you can do is worry about them.

  31. PinkPatentMaryJanes

    Oh, that’s just heartbreaking. Utterly sad.

  32. joanna

    such a sad situation and sadly too common – and yes, the cycle starts again.
    I really love your blog – I relate to it well, as I’m a mum with a toddler – we made a treechange to Leura from Glebe two years ago – what a big learning experience! Also love your realness about motherhood – I too feel that at times, I’m NOT a fun mum- too concerned about clutter and mess! And like you, I was a journo and PR writer in another lifetime. Thanks for making my day a bit brighter and less lonely.

  33. Maxabella

    Poor little poppits, all three. You wonder if they’ve ever experienced the thrill of living at all. That poor, lonely boy. He was pushing on, you know, he didn’t just walk away. I would have adopted the two of them on sight.

  34. Lucy

    I read this last night Alison, and went to bed haunted by it, and woke this morning still fretting about it. Enough said.

  35. Deer Baby

    Gosh I can see them so clearly – like they were right in front of me. You have painted that scene so well. So tragic. More tragic than star crossed lovers in a play. I wonder what became of them. And that dear little mite.

  36. Dovic

    Gorgeous piece. I was so there watching with you. And want to throw my arms over the three of them. I suspect you will see them in your mind often..they’re now pretty much stuck in my mind.

    Along with that little diddy too 🙂


  37. allison tait

    @Christie – I don’t know. All I can see is the whole cycle starting again.

    @Maria – Mine too!

  38. Christie - Childhood 101

    Heartbreaking and it probably all stemmed from two young people looking to feel loved. How do we get through to these children that sex and babies is not the solution?

  39. Seraphim

    Strangely enough today, my family and I heard screaming as we walked down the street. As we passed, we saw a mother holding her small daughter up against a wall yelling at her, while the father looked on helplessly. Seeing our shocked faces was enough to stop her tirade but I have spent the whole day thinking of her and wondering if I could have done more to help. And they all loved each other once too. At least, I hope they did.

  40. lifeinbalancesortof

    Fabulous piece. Chilling and sad. It’s a heartbreaking image. Can you imagine the desparation?

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