Friday, September 30, 2011

i was the wild card, the odd one out, never quite really sure of why i was there other than i had to meet my fate and my fear, these were real to me, i had adopted the warrior code although i was far from a warrior, i was just a happy go lucky adventurous open minded man who couldn't really do anything else. the idea of working for the man, in a bank or office just made me shrivel up inside, i had no interest in mechanical things, and no practical skills what so ever, i could not let myself work in menial repetitive factory work and i had no desire to take on anything ambitious or business like, this was it for me. working with people and their problems gave me perspective, it allowed me to feel relatively reasonable, that my own life was never as messed up as theirs and that i could just make it up on the run. i was smart and could talk my way out or into anything with all manner of people, i could leave them liking me and feeling good. that was my skill, big deal. 
two weeks into the training program i wanted to quit, what the fuck am i doing here i thought, listening to all this stuff, i can barely understand it let alone retain it and what i did understand i didn't like.
the sex offender is an enigma, completely different to clients i had worked with previously, their personality, method and crimes were fucked up and to be honest the only thing i found digestible was the coffee, i barely ate anything, i couldn't even sleep. i tried to focus my mind on the crossword or reading a newspaper each morning but my concentration just became infected with crimes we had case studied and the profile of pedophiles and children that torture and murder. i have a great imagination but it's not that good.
so i used my default option to daydream and look out the window and avoid eye contact with my peers who all listened actively and asked questions and generally intimidated me with their experience of the subject. they looked so at ease, comfortable as lydia lectured us on the peculiar personality traits of the children we would be treating. it was a rigorous month, statistics, myths, treatment theory and case studies were poured over us and it began to feel like the twilight zone episode they never showed. i really did feel out of place, in a room filled with phycologists, i began to think i was there by mistake.
in retrospect i imagine i must have looked like a total freak to these people, arriving in my strange outfits, with my nails painted and various women picking me up after each day. 
gradually i began to get a handle on the situation and my strange mind started building some sort of assessment, first impression images of these people. it's true we were all there for the same reason but it was hard to find anyone to connect with, something i have always had difficulty with but you would think in a situation like this the old dunkirk spirit would kick in, it didn't i had to really force it against my instincts which were screaming, get out of this, it's gonna end bad.
there was one stand out woman there called fifi who although looked quite stunning and sexy and i could not help but find myself imagining all sorts of inappropriate erotic thoughts about i actually found myself repulsed by her demeanour. there was something narcissistic about her personality and this made my whole interactions with her throughout the whole program quite curious as part of me wanted to fuck her and part of me wanted to slap her. she wore kinda sexy power suits and i could see her need to compete with lydia spilling over plus she liked attention from everyone, so i ignored her as much as i could but ironically this backfired, for she had me in her sights as a challenge and i was somewhat frightened that my defences would crumble given her provocative comments towards me later. i made a mental note to stay away but like all desire, my mental notes in that department kind of fell apart in the moisture of erotic need. i may be an up and coming spiritual warrior but i am just a man.
the other noticeable person was gary, who i liked immediately and felt i could relate to him. i knew he was an ex junkie, it's something that connects people subconsciously anyway, he smiled when i turned up wearing an iggy pop tee shirt and i figured him for a musician, i was correct. gary was a sweet guy, gentle and soft but like me trapped in a hard exterior. him and i became really good friends, i knew we would eventually but things like that take time for me, i'm slow and steady when it comes to letting people get close, always have been, which is why i have exceptional friends.
in some ways gary was the first casualty, but he was the smartest, he walked while we all sat in that car as it hurled towards a brick wall, he didn't even hang around to look at the car crash, he disappeared and in some ways i'm envious. i wish i had left with him.
the school teacher was a strange nervous type, mike. he was so serious, so straight. plus he was a christian type and he constantly attempted to make me laugh with his tame and very bad jokes, he presented like an eccentric boy scout and every time i looked at him it was hard not to envisage him in the uniform. but he did take a genuine interest in everyone, he really seemed to care for everyone and i guess was quite nervous about setting up an education program for the kids when they arrived. he was always keen to learn though and paid great attention to everything which was admirable as i pretended and spent my day imagining the surf conditions.
we were all nervous really, these were not normal kids, and the therapy was 24/7 which made the environment very artificial.
there was another person that seemed to stick out, caroline, an australian born lebanese girl who seemed to be some sort of academic. in her introduction she said she had a phd or something yet she behaved as though she was a teenager, totally free spirited, laughed all the time, shared the joy, very generous, would always bring in special cakes and sweets, generally just seemed to have a lot of spirit and was easy to be around compared to most of the others who were quite straight and unremarkable. caroline and fifi always sat next to one another and although they became friends, bonding in that girly way, every time my attention drifted and i found myself looking at fifi caroline would catch me and give me a cheeky smile. for some one with such an outwardly immature disposition caroline was the smartest of us all, she was one. i wish it wasn't her. how i wish it wasn't her.
there were about ten others, all players in this story but they don't have the kinda roles that would make interesting reading, suffice to say i was in a room with a bunch of experts being trained on sex offender treatment therapy by lydia and yes, it was as uncomfortable as it sounds.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

i sat the first interview, it was laid back and relaxed, lydia just asked me a few questions about my back ground and skills, my training and experience. it was nothing i couldn't handle, i'd been interviewed many times and acquired various strategies to use depending on the environment but the ones that worked effectively was telling the truth and being as honest as possible, failing that flirting had always proved a fail safe plan b, or if it was a male grilling me i would assume the submissive position, metaphorically speaking, and let them assume they knew much more than me. i had survived this long by people under estimating me, this was another fail safe strategy and had always worked when applied under the correct conditions. yes it was slightly manipulative but in an interview situation you need an edge. i had the experience and background but always needed an edge and i enjoyed pitting my wits in a challenge like this. i was adept with the human condition, power and control game, it exists through every level of society and no matter how evolved you think you are there's usually some power and control issue lurking in the background. however lydia was smarter than your average clinical psychologist, flirting would never work with her, so i defaulted to honesty.
the second interview was something else.
lydia sat with o hare and another person, a dr.fox from the management committee. he was a strange looking cat, obviously retired and somewhat frail, he had thin lips and bright blue eyes. they sat on one side of a conference table, i on the other. the questions this time were situational. if i am honest yes, they were confronting but not unexpected. i answered honestly because anything else would make me look ridiculous.
'what would you do if one of the boys in your care told you he had been raped by his step father?'
this had actually occurred in several other jobs i had held so i was quietly confident with my answer.
'i'd ask if he wanted to talk about it while informing him i would have to follow a notification process that would mean informing the service manager and the social services and very likely the police would be involved. i would have to follow the disclosure process and then notify. i'm sure you have a policy on this, i'd just follow that.'
'what would you do if one of the boys in your care was masturbating while you were running a recreational activity?'
'hang on, i haven't finished answering the first question.'
'sorry, continue,' fox said, looking slightly surprised.
'well i know that the child would need to feel safe and also be aware that i am bound by law to inform the joint investigation team, they would then take over and establish if there was any substance to the claim and then i would ask him or her to..'
'this treatment facility is for boys.' o hare said quietly, it was the only time he spoke.
'... well i guess i would just follow the procedure anyway. i hope the service charge the father with sexual assault.'
'okay have you finished.' the dr enquired?
'yeah.'
'the masturbation question?'
'ah yeah, well i guess i'd ask the boy to stop. ask him to do that in private i guess.'
'you walk into a bedroom and two boys are having sex, what do you do?'
'shut the door. i'd shut the door and wait for them to exit the room, i think. i dunno, how old are they?'
'one is sixteen the others eleven.'
'jesus fucking christ! sorry father o hare, i don't think that's legal is it? it's rape or something?'
'don't worry, it's unlikely to happen but it's a consideration, we need to know your reactions, if you were not shocked or disgusted we would be worried,' lydia said.
'yeah well it is disgusting, eleven years old, that's just far to young.'
'some of the kids will be eleven years old mr. mission. they will have committed crimes you can't even conceive. it's appropriate that you are disgusted.'
'so your testing my responses not the answers?'
'something like that. shall we continue?'
i took a deep breath.
'one of the boys goes missing. what do you do?'
i sighed.
i'm not sure if lydia noticed but i felt very tired.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

the first time i meet lydia was in the elma house complex, i turned up on time, dressed in black jeans and a purple tee shirt with a matching purple velvet jacket and a black peaked navel hat.
there was a button on the jacket that said, 'make love not war' in large letters underneath it said, 'ask for details.'
lydia wore some sort of green power suit and i immediately felt a detach from her, the green was a shade of vile and her professionalism felt artificial and made me nervous but as we wandered around the house i began to warm to her, she certainly knew her stuff. 
examining the rooms i could not help but be surprised at the quality of the facility, no expense was spared on furniture, carpets and d├ęcor, it was a very nice environment for a sex offender. i wandered through the corridors peering into rooms and looking out the various windows, feeling the energy of the place. lydia gave a brief explanation for each room, ending with 'i'll explain all that in the training.' i didn't feel to inquisitive to know everything at once, i guess i wanted to just absorb whatever i could in an ambient way, the cerebral stuff would come later.
as it happened we ended up full circle in lydia's office and i knew she was expecting me to ask questions but my mind was blank and my thoughts were being sucked into a void, if i asked a question it would be abstract and lydia would finally see that i was not quite the person she thought i was, instead i was thinking about that frisbee on the beach and surfing in the crystal clear avalon waters, i could see marnee's smile as her hair flicked the surf away like a shampoo commercial, and i could almost smell her skin, these images were soothing, anything but coherent words, anything but fucked up kids, murderers and sex offenders, i did not want to think about the near future, working in this place would mean responsibility and i had perfected my avoidance technique so well in the last year. here i was. lost the girl in a future that was unfolding faster than i could think about it and i felt somewhat helpless, maybe i should just tell lydia i'm not her man and she should continue looking. it was a moment of insecurity but it passed as she sat at her desk under a mountain of files and books and a telephone that never stopped ringing i felt this wave of obligation to be honest, i wanted to be honourable, after all she had requested i be part of her a team, so i sat there telling her my employment history as she photocopied my references and resume. 
she was young, in her mid twenties, she had a precise manner, attentive to details, meticulously she read my stuff, scrutinising each line, i leaned back and stared out the window at the trees in the sunlight, eventually i closed my eyes and fond myself in a deep meditation, my breathing followed a technique i had been practising called four by four, when i completed four cycles i opened my eyes only to find lydia looking at me and then my references with complete bewilderment. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

the call comes out of the blue.
i was on the mexican hammock half asleep quite content to let it ring out, i think some mad professor was playing in the background or some sort of weird dub music, emma threw the phone onto my chest, 'it's for you.' 
lydia introduced herself as i tried to find the remote to turn the music down, she had tracked down my contact details through various services and made some enquiries about me, she said she was impressed and that i must have made an impression on father o hare when we had met. it was on his suggestion lydia had rang me. i was not sure whether to be flattered yet so i let lydia continue, she was offering me a job, a part time position with the sex offender program which now had a name, turning point.'
looking back lydia was very sure of herself, no small talk, just kept it professional. she spoke at a million miles an hour, it was difficult to keep track of what she was saying, i was not used to so much information in sentences but she mentioned an interview process, a police check, (to unearth the skeletons in my closet, i thought) do various assessments and see if i was suitable to start the training program along with the other members of the team, apparently i was the last person to complete her team. 
for a part time position they were going to a lot of trouble, i hoped their police checks didn't extend to overseas, i had an outstanding weed issue in new york, but that was a long time ago and very minor. 
so in my new found optimism and relationship with the universe i agreed to everything casually, it did sound like a good project for a guy like me, after all when you have had a professional life descending the depths into human suffering and misery (i'd done enough work with survivors of sexual abuse and encountered various young criminal types) the lowest rung off the ladder must be sex offenders.
was this was my challenge? my appointment with fear. fucking sex offender kids, i laughed to myself, the universe sure works in mysterious ways. 
lydia finished up by telling me the program had been on hold for one year, until they had found a suitable location, the site was, yes you guessed it, elma house. the priest had fucking lied to a room full of people, he had fucking lied to the trust, he had set the whole meeting up and it was all a lie. 
i wasn't sure if i liked him a little more, the man was committed that was certain.
lydia requested that i tell no one about the program or the fact i may be working for it, she wanted me to lie to my friends and family, she said the project is off the radar and if anyone found out it could close down. she gave me an interview date and i scribbled it down and hung up as emma returned with a joint,
she passed it to me and i took a long hit, the gravity of the conversation with lydia suddenly took hold,'fuck emma, you got anything to drink?'

Sunday, September 25, 2011

lydia had her team except for one part time position, the priest had given her a number and a recommendation, strange name but she had done some background checks, he came with a very good reputation despite being somewhat unusual. 
father o hare had made it all happen despite his weird attitudes towards women and air of arrogance he was a modern day saint pulling rabbits from his hat, the project would be running very shortly.
her new office had been constructed within elma house and around her workmen made some changes, taking down doors and some minor renovations, dave had overseen all of this but yet again he had been pulled away so now lydia was developing the training program on her own, working out a timetable, it would take at least one month to condense all the information and get her team prepped. she had no wish to overwhelm them and it was predicted that some may even leave finding the information to confronting, she was worried about the teacher, he seemed the weakest of the team but she didn't have much choice now, plus there were other concerns that preoccupied her. nothing like this project had ever been attempted before in australia, each staff member needed to be aware of the significance of this, not only would they lead the way in offender treatment but they would be setting an example of how treatment can work. 
the phone rang, she answered with a concealed pride 'turning point sex offenders therapeutic treatment centre, this is lydia valenteno speaking.' 

she's running through the house waving a letter, her sisters following into the kitchen where their mother is pitting olives and chucking them into a large bowl.
'mum i did it, i did it, i got the job.'
mum hugged her daughter, held her gently and kissed her on the forehead, 'of course you did, they made a good decision choosing you my girl.'
;i can't believe it, i'm so happy,' caroline saw the conflicted look upon her mothers face, it suddenly became real, and she added, 'mum, i'll still help with the girls and the shop, don't worry. i'm not going to leave.'
'i know my love, i know,' but it sounded unconvincing.
later when she was alone she read the letter, written on official looking a4 with a colourful red letterhead, she could see the patrons of the organisation were all quite prestigious and some were very famous personalities.


dear miss mustaff, congratulations, your application has been sucessfull and we would like to offer you a position with our sex offender treatment program. training will commence on, blah blah blah...and it was signed, lydia valenteno clinical phycologist.


she held the letter to her chest and thought back to the harrowing series of interviews. ms valenteno asked her those all those embarrassing questions and that priest sitting there martin o hare, he didn't say a word but looked slightly strange, somewhat creepy as if his presence was just to intimidate her, but that's crazy, her mind playing tricks on her. 
she smiled, her mother would have a heart attack if she knew exactly what she would be doing, best hide this letter well in case her sisters find it.










Saturday, September 24, 2011

mark walked out of the interview, arranged by the headmaster and the priest, the priest wasn't there but there was a young woman called lydia who had asked him the most confronting questions he had ever heard. what kind of job was this, he was spooked.
the whole thing sounded very extreme, they looked at scenarios and he was disgusted by them, found himself in conflict, he was a practising christian, this stuff was difficult digest, he was repulsed and inquisitive, he was revolted by the whole process so far but there was enough curiosity to keep going, three bloody interviews, each one becoming more like a personal interrogation and assessment of his limits until he felt like he hated the kids he would be working with and thought the best thing to do is to shoot them and be done with it. he had not even met them yet. 
he was a teacher, he would be allowed to use what methods he chose and his prime role would be the academic education of these children not the treatment. he could do that.
besides working for martin o hare and BOTS would be an honour, the man was a true christian, well technically a catholic, but none-the-less he was easy to admire. 
mark checked the time, he was late, his brother would be furious, the meeting had already started, possibly finished and mark was still a little shaken from the interview.
i can't recall the details but it concerned the labour party of which mark and his brother were active members and they were at a discussion on the industrial relationship between peter reith the then minister and the striking water front workers who were attempting to hold the city to ransom. reith had called in strike busters and things were getting ugly fast down on the waterfront, it was disheartening for the faction and strikers and when he finally arrived his brother looked dejected. they went across the road for a milkshake.
'so how did it go?'
'it was awful, i was so embarrassed.'
'what do you mean?'
'the questions they asked were disgusting.'
'like what?'
'like what would you do if you caught a boy masturbating in front of another boy.'
'jesus, that's kinda sick.'
'yeah i know.'
'what did you answer?'
'i said i'd call the police?'
'call the police! isn't that a bit strong?'
'well i was stuck for an answer, i didn't know what to say, so i said the first thing that came into my head but it turned out to be a good answer as it's classed as indecent exposure and against the law in public.'
'well at least you gave the right answer. what are you so worried about?'
'these kids have raped tortured and killed people, adults, other children and even animals. anything could happen in that classroom, anything.'
mikes brother sat there stunned.









Friday, September 23, 2011

walking into a large room, i recognised a handful of people from the old days  but mostly these were new faces, you could tell by their eager enthusiasm. people who have worked in youth work for a long time are jaded and sullen depressive types, they have bags under their eyes and the girls all look hard and men look like they need a career change, no matter who you are the industry of human suffering will defeat you at some point and the thick mask of cynicism replaces any idealistic rational you may have possessed when you started. this is partly due to the incredibly difficult work involved and the lack of support systems, the model was primitive and underfunded and the people that work within it were all expendable. however it takes years to realise this and if your fresh out of university then you're going to have a totally different perspective, you're going to stand out with your unblemished face, clean fingernails, bright eyes, and eagerness, your politically correct sound bytes and your blue sky thinking.
me, i was an anomaly, in my years of working nothing had ever defeated me so when i walked into that room i made an assessment and apologised for my lateness, sat down and joined in the introductions.
the three older ladies who were speaking were from the foundation that ran and administered elma house, they were pouring the tea and offering biscuits while telling us that they had donated the house to the priest who sat in-between them smiling and looking at peace with himself as he gently sipped his earl grey. when he spoke he exposed a very subtle lisp, 'the reason i invited the local stake holders here is to do a little ground work and find out exactly what type of service is required in this area. i need to get ideas from you all and i hope that you would contribute. i'd like to to speak honestly and openly and make suggestions as i have the funds for almost anything the community demands.'
there was silence.
he shuffled some papers, 'speak now or forever hold your peace as they say,' he said.
suddenly the room was filled with discussion and debate, people advocating for whatever they felt passionate about, me i started wondering what i was doing in this room, i began thinking about frisbee on the beach, about being in the surf at dusk as the sun is sinking, my mind wandered and when it returned everyone seemed in agreement that the elma house facility would be turned into a crisis accommodation service for girls and boys, there were eight beds, that's four each. an air of satisfaction filled the room, it had been so easy until i remembered my brief. no one else had asked the question, and in a matter of seconds everyone would be leaving the table, the sex offender unit had not been mentioned once yet the whole of the local services were anxious and angry about it opening near them, many hours of discussions had been spent amongst them plotting against such a move by BOTS to open such a facility and yet when it came down to it no one said a word, except here i was with micro seconds to spare and a large obligation. even though it had just been decided elma house would be an accommodation service i figured i better get him to make some sort of statement about the sex offender program.
'excuse me, i'm here representing a medium term service that had a sister service accommodating young girls on the corner of this street,' the two staff from that service flashed me an embarrassed stare, 'this accommodates very vulnerable young women who are escaping sexual and physical abuse so environmental factors are a priority.' the priest stared at me, 'so what i would like to ask is this facility being considered to house sex offenders of any kind?'
that was it, it was out and everyone in the room was looking at me but it was the priest that gazed into my soul. he hovered there like a strange fucking disembodied spirit stealing light as his face smiled at me and disarmed me by saying, 'not at all, BOTS has another facility for the sex offender treatment program. elma house will be for crisis accommodation in the youth sector.' his gaze broke and he left my soul, still smiling, 'are there any other questions?'
i had done my bit and i returned to the orange frisbee flying through a clear blue sky on the beach, the meeting was over.
while everyone hovered in the kitchen clearing up i did ponder the idea of a sex offenders unit, i mean it was something i had never even thought about before and in my experience something worthwhile as i had worked with some pretty despicable and damaged young souls, many had been abused, i wondered if any were actual abusers, the idea of treatment as opposed to incarceration had an appeal, and it sounded challenging. it was very taboo, and before the accident my work had been progressively getting more challenging and demanding, sex offenders was about as low as you could get.
i wandered into the kitchen and the priest saw me coming, if he was angry he didn't show it, instead he offered me a biscuit from a plate.
from where i stood the priest was a short plump man, dressed in black, he had that johnny cash look about him, except the priest had rosy pudgy cheeks. his white collar looked as if it had been washed in nappy san, it glowed iridescently like a halo that had dropped down to the neck line. he was flanked by a group of women all sipping tea and nibbling daintily on their digestives as they gazed admiringly at the legendary father martin o hare. a modern day saint. o hare had a reputation, i had heard many stories about him, mostly from the media who loved him but i'd also heard some stories from kids i had looked after who didn't seem to like him that much. there was a conflicting narrative but it was always difficult with some of these kids, they often bite the very hand that fed them so i took everything with a pinch of salt, you an never be certain of anything and there's a large danger in assumption in social work. this man had set up an organisation that specifically dealt with the hardest kids, it was based in the city but had programs everywhere over the state, it was hardcore working with child prostitutes, drug addicts, juvenile justice offenders and now sex offenders. the service had a mixed reputation, some people stayed well away from it, the government would not fund it so o hare set himself up as a media profile and raised money through ingraining himself with very successful business people and celebrity. his patron's were the governor general and lady anna murdoch the wife of media mogul rupert, if ever he needed funds one of the newspapers would run a centre page spread on his projects or he would launch an ad campaign with some famous sporty or hollywood type. money was never an issue for this man. i admired him to be honest, i liked the idea he was walking the walk, working with these extreme cases, there was something about that i respected. he was a maverick, did things his way, outside the box. i kinda liked that in people.
anyway there we were face to face, him shoving a plate of digestives at me.
'i'm sorry i had to ask you about the sex offenders program, it was required by the service i work for and personally i don't have a problem with a sex offender treatment program, in fact it's a great idea,'
'who do you work for?'
'a medium term accommodation service, they really seemed opposed to the program.'
'yes well it's controversial.' the women all turned and left us alone, 'i will be opening it up soon, i have the staff and the lady running it has spent two years just researching it in america, this will be the first of its kind in australia, we are very excited.'
'yes well, i just wanted to wish you well with it, sounds worthwhile.'
'what's your name again?'
'mission, captain mission.'
that was it. my first meeting with him.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

out of the blue i received the call. they wanted me to work a few casual shifts at a youth refuge in chatzwood. i cut my hair, shaved, found some old presentable clothes, straightened myself up, it was time to run with the rats again. it had been a long time since i had done anything responsible, getting back to work felt strange and disorientating but i needed to pay rent and i had exhausted the charity of emma who had quite literally kept me. besides a man can only bear a certain amount of leisure time.
i felt different, more at ease with myself, certain of who i was and comfortable with that knowledge, i liked myself, this new captain mission. 
i drove in those days and 40 minutes later i was outside a large federation house with an overgrown garden.
the clients where typical adolescents who end up in these type of services, pretty nice, well meaning sorts who had had a rough time with family or a situation that resulted in them recognising home was not safe for them. this usually involved step fathers. none of the children i worked with in this place had a committed offences, they had no police or juvenile justice history, these were regular kids who just needed a roof while they studied and completed school. it turned out to be quite an easy role, mostly just chatting with them about responsibility ironically.
my peers in the house, the other staff were stressed out, there seemed to be some sort of issue that they were having difficulty with and the phone kept ringing and people spent long periods behind closed doors worrying about something and it was a few days later i found out why this was.
the four other staff walked out from the office, they had been in discussion for about two hours and they invited me to join them.
'we would like you to represent us at a very important meeting.'
'sure.' i replied, what else was i going to say?
they briefed me.
the meeting would be attended by all the youth and community services in the northern district and it was being hosted by father martin o hare and his service BOTS boys off the streets.
apparently he was consulting with the local stake holders in what kind of service he could offer the community, which all seemed reasonable but the crunch came when they said, most of the local services had heard rumours that he would be opening a sex offender treatment centre in elma house. the board members of the estate would be in attendance and my colleagues wanted me to ask the priest directly if he planned opening up a sex offender program in that specific building because two doors down was a refuge for young girls who where survivors of sexual abuse. they wanted me to speak on their behalf. what the hell, i thought, sounded straight forwards enough.
caroline would have written three resumes, she looked at them not knowing which one to send, they all contained the same information presented in different ways, it was a question of design, layout and aesthetics but she sent the one that was most straightforwards and presented just facts. she had posted the package but had not forgotten about it as had become routine now, no, this application stood out as different from her previous ones.
she had long stopped feeling anxious about job applications, she had applied for so many it had now become almost absurd but her drive to succeed was never diminished, it was just a matter of time, a numbers game, eventually something would happen and she would get an interview and the sex offenders unit sounded outrageous, it was something that would test her completely. 
she knew she was capable, just needed an opportunity. there was a career for her beyond the shop, she had worked so hard at university for four long years while helping her mother deal with her fathers death. family was everything, she knew that but she had her own ambition and independence was high priority. all her life she had been defined by her culture, her loyalty and heritage had never been questioned but she had a personal need to rise out from the male dominated lebanese conditioning she had grown up in. she was smart, feisty and knew exactly what she wanted. only the most difficult and challenging profession would satisfy her, and prove she was worthy and this was a job she really wanted.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

mark would have listened to the headmasters proposition and laughed to himself, it was confusing, this was exactly what he was looking for but it was not something he really ever thought he would be doing, working with adolescent offenders, sex offenders to boot. 
he wanted to speak but he was frozen, his jaw hung open as the headmaster continued. 
'it's a serious problem, i want the school to be progressive, we have a great opportunity here mark. your position at this school would be on hold, you would assist the program set up their  school, teach for a year and then return, but at least we would have one staff person skilled up in this area, and just think of the prestige mark, you would be part of australia's first ever adolescent sex offenders program. it's a massive task, only an exceptional individual could take this on, that's why i want you to do it.'
mark found his mouth dry but he asked, 'and this priest?'
'martin o hare, a wonderful man.'
'father o hare, yes, count me in, i'd love to work with him.'
the head master smiled, mark smiled, but it was not just the name of the most famous priest in the city that clinched it. there was something else about the timing of this, he thought of poe and it crossed his mind that the lord indeed does work in mysterious ways.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

marnee was gone. the fact was as certain as a rock plunging to the ocean floor, it had trajectory and one enslaved to gravity from the murky depth, when it hit the bottom it made a dull thud that no one heard, i accepted the loss.
things change, that's the consistent truth you can rely upon, the buddhist monk inside of me liked the poetry in this and eventually letting go of her became a mental process not an emotional one, and thus i found myself making enquiry's about work. 
i asked a few old colleagues about available positions, they promised me to get back to me as soon as something was available but the phone didn't ring for weeks, eventually months, and i spent my days smoking emma's grass and watching the rain that had settled in. i also began painting.
these were large action expressionist explosions of colour and words, i was obsessed with the idea of mixing writing with painting, and in some canvases i had written descriptions of objects rather than painted them, or i had written words in a narrative upon a background of paint, sometimes short slogans, single words or statements. eventually i began to feel the need to paint overwhelm me, no longer an enthusiastic energy but an obsessional one, something needed to be expressed and i could feel it coming as i attacked canvass with brushes and sometimes fingers and hands. hours would pass, time dissolved and as the light faded and emma began to start the fire i would find myself staring at my creation wondering how it got there and what it was. i had something inside me that i was attempting to capture or exorcise but i was always left dissatisfied until one day i found myself finishing something when emma walked in escorted by a hells angel. he was not exactly an angel but he wore bikers gear and his body was covered in tattoos and he looked like trouble to me.
he walked right up to the paining and stood there staring at it, 'this is fucking great man, you captured it here. this is amazing, i recognised it the moment i saw it.'
'who the fuck is this emma?'
'chill mission, scott this is captain mission, mission this is scott.'
'captain mission, cool, i like this paining man, it's captured it totally, you really did man, it's the fear, dune, frank herbert.'
suddenly i respected him, for anyone that was reasonably well read i could identify with, we stood there passing a joint and looking at this strange dark mass of energy with the words, 'i must not fear, fear is the mind-killer. fear is the little-death that brings obliteration. i will face my fear. i will permit it to pass over me and through me. when it has gone past i will turn the inner eye to see its path. where the fear has gone, there will be nothing, only i will remain.'
'oh yeah,' emma said, 'i can see it now.'
i had taken the quote from the book 'dune' and painted around it, almost obscuring the words,with dark swirls of black, deep cobalt blue and reds, apart from the words the whole thing had been an unconscious act and i was not really sure what i was doing but now looking at this painting i understood what scott was pointing out. the words were obscured behind the paint, they were barely legible and to be honest i'm not sure i understood why i painted them, they just lodged in my mind from years ago.
it didn't take long for us to become friends. scott told me about the fear, he was like a mentor and although i only knew him for about two months, in that short time he influenced me greatly. i had always been a loner, letting a handful of people in and very selective about who they were but scott got the gold pass. he was deceptively gentle but incredibly strong and over that period he trained me to become strong to. i never considered my own psychology before, i was just me, doing my thing, a different animal back then, quiet and somewhat passive, a surfer guy, keeping things simple, generally just living in the moment while people around me made plans and schemed about a nervous future. i never thought about attempting to face my fears, letting them dwell in my subconscious haunting me from their depths, i'd never really even considered this may be some kind of way to grow and mature, that it may be an initiation but scott told me many things about the nature of fear and how to deal with it, and step by step i went about quite methodically facing all my fears and one by one i conquered them. fear off people, fear of being in crowds, being alone, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of pain, fear of change, heights, moths, snakes, girls,social situations, being myself, the list is endless but scott gave me various challenges, and one by one i found myself doing things i had never considered before, jumping off cliffs into the ocean, fire twirling, going into crowded bars and talking to the most beautiful women in the room without feeling embarrassed or self conscious, talking to men in suits, challenging authority, scott showed me balance and equilibrium, he would teach me how to use the less dominant hand, how to balance, he gave me a sense of place in the world, i found my position in time and space, a new way of movement but mostly it was all about fear. everything was one fear really, an amorphous mass of fear that kept me somewhat frozen in a state of anxiety i had never really acknowledged because this is normal. 
now i am not saying i conquered all my fears during this period but i changed myself at a fundamental level. fear was now my friend, even death was something my attitude had shifted, my own ego was changing, i was adopting a somewhat spiritual focus without being trapped in dogma. eventually my physiology itself healed and as an outwards manifestation i found my body healing and my bones felt new and vital, i was agile, athletic, my mind was sharp and i was beginning to tap into an inner wisdom i never even knew i possessed but the real difference was in my spirit. 
i liked this path i was on, a self directed evolution. it felt positive and worthwhile, i liked pushing my boundaries, i wanted to test my limits and with scott's guidance i did. i trusted him completely, with my life, and one night i did a small ritual to establish my relationship with my newly discovered universe. i wrote down my desire to challenge all fear and burnt it at midnight and as i watched the sigil burning, i could feel some strange shifts occur, a door closing and one opening.

i was not yet middle aged but this period was like the rite of passage, it was the end of one stage into some new world, it was the transition of becoming a man, to me it was the first time my life really began to have purpose.
scott lived in a shack down on the beach with his biker friends, it was a wild environment, no doors no windows, the big tv had been gutted and filled with candles upon a big mound of melted wax and some circuitry, there was sculptures everywhere and loud music playing constantly, there were artists and musicians and fire dancers and freaks coming and going and they all accepted me perfectly as one of their own. in the evenings everyone would sit around playing guitars and bongos and even me a man with no rhythm would join in chanting or singing. the whole place had this native indian feel to it and scott introduced me to the cultures of these people, through their connection with a great spirit and the way of the warrior. although he subscribed to no religion or fundamental belief system he practiced being true to himself, but he always emphasised that one had to know oneself before you could do that. perhaps we were just egocentric fools, deluding ourselves, looking for something that was not there, filling our lives with something that was as illusionary as everything else but to me for those short months it felt very real. 
like all things in my life it ended suddenly, one day i wandered down to the beach shack and everyone had left, the house itself had been emptied and there was not a trace of anyone ever staying there, the rooms had been cleaned and cleared. later i asked emma where scott had gone, she smiled at me but never answered.

Friday, September 16, 2011

and lydia, surrounded by paper work, reports and files, in an office reflecting the chaos of circumstance on the phone to various juvenile justice officers and case managers from DOCS, the phone never stopped ringing, it was a tidal wave of referrals and enquires. even at weekends the endless demands on her time, all wanting to know when they could place their children in her unit. 
most were state wards, some lived with their families, some were in juvenile correction facilities but they all shared one thing in common, these kids were the worst offenders in the state and the agencies that had them couldn't wait for lydia's program to start operating because these children had no sympathy, not from their families, not from the various government departments involved with their lives, not from their peers, not from their victims. these children had committed the most insidious of crimes, a crime that everyone wanted swept under the carpet and no one could bear responsibility for. i warned you this is a dark story, and i said it would enter the darkest of places so if you feel like just opting out do so now because dear reader, i have no wish to ruin your day, i just have to write my story therefore i request if you don't want to know, avert your reading to something palatable and warm and fluffy, don't continue, exit now.
it's a decade after these events and i find myself practising a subtle detachment from well practiced exercise and discipline, my anger is spent and all that remains is a quiet introspection as i review the sequences and the strange path my life seemed to take at this time but i am aware enough to know that this will ruin your day and take you to a dark place by proxy, it's not my intent, that would just be a side effect. my intention is just to tell the tale.
so linda faced with the same demands, phone call after phone call, had acquired a polished professional response to answering the enquiry of when the program would be opening and what the referral process was.
'we have had the staff for about 12 months, a really good team, the best and most qualified experienced individuals in the whole state, they are really committed and ready to come aboard but we have to find the right property, then we have to make structural adjustments, environmental conditions are extremely important in a therapeutic program like this as well as location. i'll send you the referral forms but we are currently filled however it's better to get an application in sooner than later.'
it had taken two and a half years of very hard work, in another two days the response would be different and attempting to hide her joy lydia would reply,'yes we have a premises, in redfern, the builders think it may be ready in two months, i'm going to start the second round of the interview process now all the clients have been selected.'
the phone rang again, 'where's paul, jesus paul your never here when i need you!' she said aloud, but there was no one to hear, she picked up the phone. 'lydia valentino, how can i help you?'
it was him, the priest, the one who ran the whole network of agencies and services, he said, 'lydia, i don't want the redfern site to be used by you, that's going to be an outreach centre.'
'no, you can't do that, i need to get the program running asap, it's been two years,'
'two years of research and preparation well spend lydia.'
she fell silent, uncertain why he was like this, so compulsive and often contrary, she would work so hard towards something, he would offer support and be encouragement but at the last moment something would always come up and the plan would change, he was constantly sabotaging everything, but she knew her place and he was the man behind everything, well loved and respected, the priest had devoted his life to working with children, he was such a good man, he must have his reasons. so she let out an exhausted breath, 'look, i need to get the program running, everything is ready to go, i just need a building.'
'i have one, just not the crows next one. this one is in north sydney, it's called elma house, it's been donated to us. that's why i'm calling, i'd like you to come and see it, are you free?'
she smiled. jesus christ, she thinks, it's a fucking miracle as she searches for her car keys amongst the mess upon her desk.
the building needed some minor changes but it was perfect, a little to close to the school but i guess she was not in a position to be to critical, she was happy, for the first time in years everything felt as if it was coming together. the priest had cancelled so she wandered around the grounds, peeking into the windows, making mental notes and planning the next move, getting her team, after all they had been waiting nearly two years. she thought of paul, he had travelled with her to america on a research visit, he had assisted write the manual and filter out the applicants assessments, he should be there with her. where the hell was he. 
on her way back to her office her mobile rang, it was the priest again, 'lydia, there's been a complication.'
'what now?'
'i've been talking with the board of the elma trust and they have stated that they do not want the home to house boys, only teenage girls.'
'jesus, isn't that a little discriminatory? can't you sweet talk them.'
'no i tried believe me, they insisted. anyway i don't care what they want, it's not as though we have to tell them.'
'i'm just on my way back from the unit, it's really nice but it's going to be difficult to hide from them, maybe we should just wait. what do you want me to do?'
'well it's too late to do anything, i've already approved the candidates with the agencies.'
'you what?'
'the first clients will be arriving in one month.'
'but that's my role, i need to conduct more interviews and i also need to contact the staff team.'
'well it's done, i'm not wasting any more time and money lydia.'
she hung up. she knew better to be angry but her fury was building, he had no right to do that, there were processes involved. there was a structured plan in place, besides she was not even sure if the team would all be available, it had been over a year since she had spoken to any of them.
in her office the phone was ringing, she waited for it to stop, looking in her diary she began contacting her staff. most were still available and keen to begin, the school teacher had pulled out, there were two others that were now committed to new positions and one was no longer in the country but she had a small team from the originals, fining a teacher wouldn't be to difficult and that left two other vacancies to fill, not such a problem. she could talk to the priest he had contacts everywhere.
the phone rang, it was paul.
'where the hell have you been paul?'
paul was the program manager and appeared totally committed to the project but he been missing in action for the last two months.
'i'm sorry, he needed me over in cabramatta running the basket ball outreach program, there was nothing i could do you know what he's like.'
'jesus phil, i've been on my own, you never even answered my calls.'
'he told me not to speak with you lydia, come on, you know what he's like, he said he needed me here. i wish i didn't have to be, i heard we have a building, that's good news.'
'yeah it's a good building but i don't feel right about it paul, you should be here, i really need some help with this. you know he's rung up all the agencies and told them to send the kids. he fucking has no right to do that phil.'
'it's his baby, you know how he is. i've worked with him for eight years, you don't argue with him.'
'it's not right.'
'tell me about it. anyways at least we are going to start, it's been a long time coming.'
'your still the manager paul, i need you here.'
'i will be, i'll talk with him. promise.'
lydia hung up, she held her head in her hands and closed her eyes. at least she had brian, and climbing, her two loves. good old dependable brian had done nothing but support and encourage her, never complained about her long hours and overseas research trips, she could always could on him at the end of the day. roll on the weekend, they were going climbing again, the fresh air, the freedom, the rope that connected her to brian was symbolic, she smiled. the phone rang.





four of us, all living our lives independently of one another, four extremely different individuals, following our individual paths. there's plenty of debate about the idea we have free will and are in control of our own destiny but sometimes you find yourself wondering if there are other forces at work, destiny calling you with some strange magnetic resonance, some part of the brain corresponding with intuition makes you act a certain way, be in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place in my case, maybe. everything in alignment and you quite reasonably think it's a choice. what draws people to one another is sometimes not random, arbitrary or chaos but something akin to a pattern we can't really perceive or comprehend but the pull is so strong its hard to avoid, difficult to resist and impossible to ignore. what is fate?

fate is the inevitable.







so i guess by my reasoning around this time caroline would have been sitting in her families grocery shop flicking through the employment section of the newspaper. it would be her younger sisters working the business under her fathers direction while her mother was on the phone to lebanon talking to a cousin who would be arriving next week. it was short notice but the family was used to these visits, constantly having people arrive and depart from and to the old country. they were a close family and caroline could sleep in her sisters room, she had done this on many occasions, the three of them, staying up late and whispering about boys. 
a customer came in and started to fill their basket up with apples, pears and bananas, maybe some chinese vegetables, caroline would lift her head from the newspaper, she would have a big friendly smile and bright sparkle in her eyes, almost mischievous.
she transferred groceries from the scale as her first customer of the day, a regular inquired how the job hunting was going.
'the usual story,' caroline replied, 'hundreds of applications, very few replies.'
'don't you like working in the family business?'
'i'm a 90's girl, independent, besides the twins don't want me as their boss.'
'so what exactly are you looking to do?'
'i have a degree in psychology and behavioural science, i'd like to think i have something to offer. ideally i want to work with young people. that's eleven dollars.
while she looked through her purse for the dollar the customer said, oh my god, you can phycologise me. i've had this awful reoccurring dream that i'm turning blue, it's awful. what does it mean?'
'it means you need to eat more vegetables.'
'oh, more vegetables hey. i better take some carrots and how much is the cauliflower?
caroline would sink her head behind her newspaper to hide her grin while the twins giggled out the back under the disapproving stare of her mother who was now making some tea for them all.









Wednesday, September 14, 2011

about this time mark bronsky would have been standing in an over crowded class room jammed full of vietnamese year 11 kids who were eagerly awaiting the results of yesterdays mathematics test. he would be handing back papers making encouraging comments to an attentive classroom, these kids respected him, they always looked forwards to mr. bronsky's class, he was funny, always laughing, telling them silly jokes and making his silly faces, not like the other teachers who read from a text book and never smiled. plus he actually cared about their education, he encouraged learning and the pursuit of knowledge and he had a respect for them and where they had come from.
as he walked passed a desk he heard the sigh of disappointment and exclamation, 'i got a D minus!'
he spun around with a smile and leaned in on louis, 'louis, D minus is not a good mark granted but it was hard test and you tried your best. math is a complex subject and it takes time to understand numbers and you have plenty of time to improve. if you want to get higher marks you may have to study twice as hard but you can get there, and get straight A's. you just need to make time to study.'
louis looked sadly up, 'will you help me, uncles going to be angry with me.'
mark took the paper back and made some adjustments with his pen, 'yeah look let's make it a B plus but you have to promise me to do some extra study. i can help you if you're having trouble?' 
a girl next to louis yelled out, 'can i get my grade changed as well.'
'no rita, absolutely not, your smart enough when it comes to math.'
mark knew louis would probably get whacked over the head from his uncle, he understood the complex dynamic louis faced every time he went home with a grade less than B or A, the parents of most of these children had very high standards on the expectation they would achieve and do better than they had done, making the most of the opportunity they had been given. it was a balancing act, these kids were here to be educated but they were also just kids so changing the grade wasn't such a big deal, he could do that and louis was the kind of kid that would improve, he had poor mathematical ability but he understood the value of self discipline.
he walked past the empty desk where poe usually sat, he hadn't come into school today, this was occurring far to frequently, mark noted. 
it was poe that he really worried about, that kid had a very strange home life, living with his uncle who obviously neglected him, jesus, there were times mike felt really concerned about him, once poe had turned up in his pajamas to school sporting a welt upon his legs that looked very suspicious but poe insisted he was okay and mike reluctantly left it alone. however he always kept his eye out and started writing a journal of anything suspicious as he needed to be certain of his facts before he made an allegation that would disrupt poe's life further. 


mark had a deep satisfaction, after three years of teaching he knew he was good at his chosen profession, he was master of his domain, respected by his students and fellow teachers alike he was still in his mid twenties, and had his whole life ahead of him. 
gazing out from the window during lunch he would be looking at the children playing outside, he would miss them. at least he would be giving four months notice, that way he could see his commitment to his students through and in the meantime he could seek out something with a little more responsibility, something a little challenging.
oddly enough it was the headmaster who approached mark first.
it was later that week while mark was practising his resignation speech before the morning started when the headmaster knocked on his door and said, 'perhaps we could have a few moments in my office.' 
mark worried that the head had found out his plans and was about to circumvent them with some sort of persuasive discussion about becoming the department head. he followed him into the office where they sat in the academic ambience of leather upholstery and teak furniture. they made a little small talk for a few minutes when the head asked mark if he was happy at fairmount high.
'well it is funny you should mention that as i have been thinking about my career and what i would like to do. i do love the school but i have been thinking about my options lately, i do feel a little stagnant at the moment, a change may do me good.'
the head nodded in agreement and as mark spoke, he leaned back on his chair and smiled which made mark nervous and uncomfortable.
mark rambled on, filling in the silence but eventually stopped and waited for a response.
what followed, he could have never seen that coming.


even though i didn't know mark at this time, i could see the picture very clearly, i could see myself looking through his eyes at his classroom, expectant children with their strange little faces filled with joy, i can see the headmaster sitting back wondering what mark would make of the proposition he was about to make. i can see it all through the sad cloudy eyes of retrospect it seems like i have known mark forever.
  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

when i awoke i could hear some crazy trumpet music filtering through the walls. someone was up, the smell of toast wafted into my room. i noticed a half smoked joint and reached for it, putting on a gown i checked the pocket for a lighter and walked out onto the balcony where i sat and watched the rain.
emma, my house mate brought me a mug of tea,'i'm sorry mate, she left early, didn't want to wake you. she loves you, you must know that?' 
she sat down with me and i passed her the spliff, 'thank you emma, i appreciate it.'
'if you love something...'
i finished for her... 'set them free, right?'
'right.'
'yeah well whoever said that never had a girl like marnee.'
'you need to get back into work, you're all healed up now, it would be healthy for you to have some kind of structure and purpose, all this sitting around smoking weed and feeling melancholy is not going to get you anywhere.'
'are you my therapist now?'
'just your friend, you can't retire from the world completely, you're not the first to have their heart broken.'
i sighed, 'i know emma but not work, anything but work.'
'you're a social worker for god's sake, go and do some social work.'
'yeah, social work.'
truth was i was feeling flat, the rain didn't help, i knew emma was right and i knew that the last thing i wanted to be was a broken hearted clique. 
we smoked in silence, her words spun around in my head like a circus act, work, responsibility, routine.
the last year had been based around rehabilitation, getting my bones healed and being mobile again, becoming independent. the accident had destroyed my body, almost every bone smashed and the simple acts we take for granted had required assistance. emma had been my nurse, she had fed me, bathed me and seen to my most personal ablutions. it had been confronting to have to ask for help for almost every area down from brushing my teeth to feeding me. i had some hand made tools the physiotherapist had made for me but these were impractical and in the end i just accepted my limitations, focusing on healing instead of dignity. it had taken almost a year for me to become independent again and emma was quite right, i did need to get back to work, for was it not work that defines who you are. i think voltaire said this. i felt as though it was true of me and after such a long absence i had slipped into being the walking wounded at the expense of my own identity.
i had been a social worker for most of my career, i had a strange sense of pride when it came to my work, a quiet pride as i had achieved a remarkable collection of goals and even earned myself a very good reputation amongst my peers. i'd always chosen a diverse range of clients to work with, becoming more extreme and challenging. orphans, foster and adoption agencies, children in care, psychiatric units, mental health facilities, intellectual handicapped, autistic, challenging behaviour, drug and alcohol, homeless men, homeless children, crisis accommodation units and then management. 
then in one violent moment i smashed into concrete at 70ks breaking my bones and spiralling into chronic rehabilitation. 
when i left hospital i moved in with emma and while she helped the body heal i worked on the rest of me. because when your crippled like that you find yourself making a few re evaluations.
lets face it, as marvellous as the design is, it could be better. an exoskeleton, a tail, night vision, gills, maybe some chameleon type abilities, i began to develop a strange relationship with my body, feeling disgusted at the fact it was confined to a wheelchair for so long, then crutches and finally a walking stick. feeling ashamed that emma had to cut my food and feed me as well as all the other embarrassing and humiliating things a loss of independence brings.
eventually i was functional but it had taken it's toll and i was less confident, more cautious and somewhat frightened over the limitations my body came with. i knew i was lucky, all my life i had served people who had been less fortunate and now i had been delivered the great equaliser, i was never really sure how i would mend, only that it was a slow process and i would never be the same again.
i had finished my tea, i had been staring into the bottom of the cup, fixating. i became aware emma was still sitting with me.
'how does it feel to always be right?'
'oh captain, you get used to it eventually.'

Monday, September 12, 2011

the inscrutable chinese came up with that saying, 'may you live in interesting times' and us westerners have never really been able to work out if that is a blessing or a curse. 
me, i had my share of interesting times, my history was diverse, rich in experience and totally non conventional but here i was just about to enter that mid life area somewhat ready to settle into a quiet life of contemplation, ambition tempered by experience and disappointment, content with simple things. the materialistic drive had driven into a dead end and that big plan to change the world or have some impact upon it redrawn into the much more practical idea of just attempting to survive it and then marnee came along and i was unexpectedly happy.
marnee, investigative journalist, writer, political advocate, human rights campaigner,animal liberationist, an all round force to be reckoned with, it was in her blood, both parents journalists, her father responsible for asia's first english independent newspaper, her mother had written several books about american interest's in asia that were best sellers. 
marnee herself had written from the war zones and killing fields of planet earth. kicked out from china, indonesia, malaysia and south africa, wanted for spying in iraq and a fatwa from the king of saudi arabia or some big wig mullah, she had been in situations that were so extreme it was hard to imagine how this gentle soft soul had managed to coherently write about what she saw, let alone stay alive. tiny petite marnee, who would imagine she could cause so much havoc, the pen is truly mightier than the sword. 
where i no longer believed i could change the world, marnee never lost her own belief she could, she needed to make a difference. she had that beautiful sweet optimism and passion that makes up a good journalist, and who the hell was i to even attempt to take that from her just because i had lost mine.


she was apologising, telling me how sorry she felt, how special our love was and knowing her leaving was hurting me but the truth is i wasn't hurting like she thought, i wanted to keep her but i knew that was like clutching smoke, so i had kind of come to an understanding that whatever happiness i was going to get from life was fleeting and transient and marnee i guess was the embodiment of that, may as well enjoy it while it's here i figured.
i knew she wanted me to fill the awkward silence that had fallen between us but the words were stuck halfway down my neck, 'i want you to be happy,' i said insincerely and then added, 'lets just enjoy the next few hours together hey?'
we left it like that, sometimes words make a bad situation worse. we returned home, fucked for a few hours, slept for a few more, i cooked the fish and later in the evening we sat in candle light smoking a joint and listening to the rain, the last thing i remember about marnee was that sweet smell of her soft skin under my nose as i fell asleep.
when i snapped back into the moment marnee's lips were moving but it took a few seconds for the words to register, i knew i must have caught the tail end of something important by the expectant expression on her face.
'...so very beautiful' was all i heard, then she started up again, 'i'm leaving tomorrow, the new zealand herald want me at their auckland office for the feature story, i'm sorry i just didn't want to tell you, i know it was wrong, i just kept putting it off.'
i was caught between that moment, not sure weather to laugh of cry, the ground gave way and i could feel a strange surging sensation as blood raced around my body and somewhere i remembered to exhale as a series of options filtered through my brain leaving only one. 
time had taught me some simple lessons that i default to when i need and here was the one response i could offer. thirty five years had taught me how to move slowly, think fast and use my intuition, right action, right direction, yet i was conflicted by irrational anger somewhere in my guts, not at marnee but at this random universe that had taken her from me almost as rapidly as she had come to me.
'how long will you be away?' i found my voice failing.
'indefinitely, i don't think i will be back in sydney, london's calling and there's a whole heap of opportunities open in eastern europe.'
so i stood there, a swirling mass of contradictions, telling her i loved her and that i was very happy she had found her place in the world again, that i was lucky to have spent a few months with her and that things would be fine.
the clouds were overhead now, the temperature had dropped and people were leaving the beach. 
she held me tight and i kissed her on the cheek, 'are you crying?'
'rain sweetheart, we should get home.'