Wednesday 3 April
I left you in the hotel room with my latest letter. I couldn’t stay in the same room so I’ve gone and found a cafe to keep writing because there are things I haven’t yet said in the letter you’re reading. I told you I would come to Sydney. I did not say why. I told you in that letter you could not come back to stay in Piper’s and didn’t say why.
Why am I not saying this to you face-to-face? Pen and paper are the medium I am most comfortable with. On paper I was safe, even though ink is indelible. The permanency of writing it down was always the way for me to communicate. Perhaps to the detriment of using my actual voice in person. In person it’s difficult and cumbersome. Silence is the default I have.
Why did I come to Sydney? I needed answers. I needed resolution. But I know I will not find them here. I came to Sydney to support you and protect you in your time of need. It’s a reaction to all those years ago when I never responded when you needed me, curled up at your Nan’s. It does not, in any way, make up for failing you.
Yet I had to lie to be here. I told Rebecca and Mum I was in Sydney for work. Is not unrealistic as I come to Sydney every once in a while, but the fact I have to lie about it makes me uneasy.
Sydney is not home for me and nor is it where I feel safe. Piper’s is my home, my refuge and safe place. Even though the storm is raging and it may look like a place of punishment and torture, is where I am anchored.
Over the weekend and during the trip to Sydney have thought about who I am, who I think I am, and who others think I am.
Who do you think I am? Does it matter who you think I am?
Nakedness is not the ultimate level of exposure in understanding who someone is. The person is revealed in how they touch, caress, look, taste, how they listen, how they give to someone and how they receive. Nakedness is still another level of understanding. We understand through the clothes someone wears.
If I was to lay out every event from my life like a display in a museum, who would I be? You can wander the exhibits, read the letters, hear the conversations and still not know who I am.
But I know where I come from and therefore who I am.
Remember how we walked the dunes and noted the shifts and changes in the height of shape, especially after the storms that chomped into the beach. But it always reformed.
I have been part of the dunes, shaped and reformed by the wind, waves and tempests.
And that is why you cannot return to Piper’s. I need to have the chance to reform after the storm.
I will help you in whatever way I can while I am here. For that you have my word. Beyond that, I don’t know. We will have to talk it over when we have a chance.
When I return home to Piper’s, I know I am returning to Mum and Dad and their past; returning to Rebecca and our present. This is what I have to return to. You can return to Coranderk with the knowledge of a clean start, free from the chains of the past except I know the memory will never disappear and that’s probably the hardest thing to live with.
I will always have the memory of the day you left on the bus to Sydney. I will always have the memory of our time together as kids. I will always have the memories of ecstatic bliss and wretched betrayal.
There goes my phone telling me you’ve finished reading. Time to deliver this one too.
Always and ever
Wednesday 3 April (Late night)
You accuse me of disrespecting you, unable to be a man and speak with you in person yet you’ve turned your phone off, denying me the chance to have the conversation. You keep telling me you’ll tell me everything but all I have is scraps falling from your hand when you choose to open your palm and let them crumble. You keep revealing parts of your life I do not know, have not known, have never known, and then expect me to be the same person you imagine me to be. You never came out and said anything straight from the beginning, hiding it all behind silence and reminisces.
And what right do you have to correct or amend my father’s wrongs? He is not some crusade to rally to, an icon to resurrect in the hope he will bring salvation to your cause. My father is my responsibility, not yours. Sometimes secrets and silence is the only response we have left.
And we are left hurling words at each other like stones, reaching into our shared and individual histories, looking for ammunition to cast the last stone.
Strike me now and be done with it; I’m laying down my stones.
I went out walking for a while to clear my head and cool off. When I came back into the room my letter from today and what I wrote were on the bed. Scattered pages of words like a downed albatross spread out on the blue bedspread. Words and silence are all I have. They were all I had when we were children and it seemed it was all you ever needed. We never really talked in any depth about what was going on with your Mum. I think it’s because we had no idea what to say, no vocabulary to carefully explain the unnamed emotions we felt in the pit of our stomachs. The page is where we were deepest, shared most fully, and trusted wholeheartedly. It was our greatest strength and our most intimate weakness. We preserved each other in letters, artifacts of our existence, a sacred codex.
But today was the first day I saw the true power of spoken words. I watched from the sidelines as you were interviewed for television under the lights and in front of the cameras.
On the note stuck to the door, you wrote that it’s not all about me, that it was too much to expect me to be here for you. Maybe it is, and only because of what I left to come here and what I have to return to. You make it sound like we are still eighteen and single, unattached and unanchored to anything but each other. It’s akin to emotional blackmail, a petulant tantrum to get what you want when you know the solution is more complicated than ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’
If I have acted selfishly, I am sorry. If it’s not all about me, which it isn’t, it’s not all about you either.
However, today was the first time I understood what your past has done to you, how completely and utterly broken you were. I recognise in the scars on your back the wounds that will never completely heal despite the confession you made in front of the cameras. You were made to be the scapegoat, the sacrificial victim to satiate and appease the bloodlust.
When I arrived this morning in my ‘bag of fruit’ as Dad would say, I was very nervous, petrified even about what to say, how you would respond, what you would say.
I hadn’t seen you since June but the tension quickly evaporated as you bustled about getting ready to leave for the interview. As we travelled into the city I felt the overwhelming presence of the buildings, an artificial claustrophobia brought on by the unnatural structures making jagged teeth indents in the sky as I looked up. Only the smell of the salt from the harbour sated the fear.
And then the awkwardness of Bryan’s arrival. Have never felt so uncomfortable around someone, especially knowing he read through my correspondence to you. But he was professional throughout our interactions, brief as they were. It was interesting to watch him orbit around you, fussing, trouble shooting, looking out for you and protecting you. He never appeared flustered, taking and giving direction, articulate in what he wanted and making sure you had what you needed. He observed throughout the interview, interjecting when he felt things were getting off topic or treading dangerous ground. He is your Superman – the man of steel, the man of action.
But there you were alone and naked under the lights, the camera a microscope to judge what you said.
I watched as you spoke, cloistered in the darkness beyond the illumination of the lights. From my position I could see you face. You answered the questions with honesty and candour, belligerence and aggression, humbled and broken. With every question another layer was removed, but only I saw it. While the media were out to make you their scapegoat you revealed just how broken you were. I imagined you laying out on a bed all the different costumes you wore during the past twenty years; different appearances to play a role, multiple roles as you ducked away to change and return. Each costume a skin shed or metamorphosis but at your core, a part of you that could never be changed. And as you continued talking I could see in my mind’s eye each outfit and costume disintegrating, decaying, patched and resewn until the cloth fell apart in your hands, wisps of fabric spun around you like cobwebs collect on neglected furniture and mantelpieces.
I have seen you physically naked but today I saw a true nakedness, one woven with words, a true understanding of the brokenness you have suffered through. You were branded as traitor and perpetrator, never as victim, yet the courage and hope within you never faltered.
In my mind I imaged the scars I traced across your back. I imagined the lines softening and reducing until your back was unmarked, untouched. But they will never heal and I am truly sorry for what you have been through for now I understand.
My only wish was that you had told me sooner. I understand why you couldn’t, what risk it would have put me in, but I still wish you could have said something, anything. Even just a hint of what you were going through so I could have been there for you like I was so many years ago.
When the camera stopped recording, after the last question had been answered I imagined you scooping up the threads of clothes laying on the bed, draping them over your shoulders and arms. You walked to the balcony of the hotel and stood there in the afternoon light. You stretched out your arms in a crucifix formation, the loose threads wafting in the air making them look like wings. As you raised your arms the light shone against you and you burst into flame. The clothes fell as ash and were borne away on the wind. You turned around, clothed anew in garments of your own choosing.
You were reborn from the ashes as you pushed yourself up from the interview chair. In your face was such a look of exhaustion; it drained the colour your face and eyes, weak as a newborn. The fire was there though slowly being kindled as you tested out your new legs. You looked at me and said, “Come along, Jude. We have things to talk about.”
Back at the hotel we sat in silence and drank tea. I knew there was no other time to give you my letter than now. I had to draw the line somewhere and it was here and now, as much as it hurt and pained me. I acknowledge your reaction is justified and appropriate, and I had hoped to talk it over with you. I even hid behind more words and pages while you read it.
I am not sure what I’ll do tomorrow. I want to be there for the other interview, to again be there for you like I promised; to give these letters and make restitution and gain absolution.
I wish you were here in this sterile hotel room, where I can catch a faint scent of you, to help you take the first tentative steps forward.
Always and ever,