A couple of drinks with friends. We’ve all done that. Some nights, I have more than a couple of drinks and still walk down ill-lit streets by myself. Mostly, I have a pre-set arrangement with my best friend to check in on the way home but then there are always the impromptu nights.
Saturday September 22 2012, Jill Meaghar was out having drinks with friends in Melbourne’s inner north. From one bar to another, her colleagues from the ABC enjoyed convivial times with alcohol. I do this. I’m still here. At 1.30am, she left the group to walk a short distance home to her husband waiting for her in the bed they shared. It was probably a cool Spring night and she would be looking forward to leaning against his warm sleepy body. She never made it there.
She spoke with her brother on the phone on the way home. I pretend to talk with people on the phone to deflect unwanted male attention or exude a false sense of security. She lived close to the bars and it wasn’t worth getting a taxi home. The spendthrift in me understands this. All she had to do was walk down a well-illuminated Sydney Road, turn the corner into a now ill-named Hope Street and make her way home. Adrian Bayley wouldn’t let her. Adrian Bayley had other plans.
At 29 years old, I like to think of Irish born Jill as a strong, intelligent, feminist woman in the early stages of a promising career in Melbourne radio. Her disappearance was widely reported and for a small time women of Melbourne were hopeful she would be found shaken but alive. Social Media campaigns circulated, well over 12 million Twitter references to #helpusfindJillMeaghar. Ten years older than her, newly single and eagerly dating, I walk along less illuminated roads after more than a couple of drinks and I am still here to tweet about it.
I put myself willingly, and unwillingly, into vulnerable situations and have not met an Adrian Bayley. Maybe I have met an Adrian Bayley with circumstances or his own internal situation thwarting any malicious actions. What separates the men I date and Adrian Bayley and how can I tell the two types apart? Is there a checklist I can download or an app that will sift potential suitors for me? Should I just give up now meeting people? Is online dating really any riskier than meeting someone in a bar?
Jill was happily married (if there is such a thing and now we will never know anyway) so she wasn’t putting herself out there as I am. Jill was just walking down the street, keeping to herself. Maybe she spoke to Adrian Bayley. Maybe Adrian Bayley was following her and that’s why she called her brother as someone to speak with to avoid interacting with Adrian Bayley. Maybe she had to talk to Bayley. Maybe he wouldn’t allow her not to. Maybe she played nice to avoid escalating the situation. I’ve played nice to avoid scaling an interaction. I’ve smiled and nodded and said, “A-ha. Okay. “ meanwhile stepping to the side and trying to hold my line.
Women, adult women, have learned to play nice to avoid situations. I don’t want to play nice but I want to survive.