Sydney Central Pedestrian Tunnel #4

For nine months of my life I walked this tunnel twice a day and sometimes I wrote down the snippets of conversation as a kind of random urban poem. I decided to do it tonight for old time’s sake. And something unexpected happened at the end.

central-station-pedestrian-tunnel-sydney

Two male office workers, in Friday casual:

‘Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah exactly.’

Twenty something female to friend, both with headphones:

‘And I was like, “My mum made the decision.'”

Man to women wearing hajib and looking skeptical:

‘Don’t know, probably.’

Twenty something man in high-spirits to two friends:

‘Yeah but actually she doesn’t live there anymore.’

Curly haired young woman on the phone at the bus stop:

‘I’ve just hopped off at Central and I’m waiting for the bus… actually I’m pooped.’

Man who approached quietly and is standing close to me:

‘ I don’t like to do this but my son and I haven’t eaten… I lost my job and… [hand out clasping gold coin].

Me: [reaching for wallet deciding with joy I’ll surprise this man with a note]. What’s your son’s name?

Begging man: ‘His name is Sean. S-e-a-n.’

Me: [Giving meagre $5] Well my name is Peter and I’m a Christian and God loves you whatever the story. [I don’t believe his spoken story and I don’t care].

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The Presence of God

After community breakfast yesterday I visited the home of a friend, clambered over belongings 60cm deep and took in his joy at his painting on the wall.

The Presence of GodEarlier he had arrived late for breakfast but we unpacked again so we could chat while he munched on a large bowl of cereal.

We prayed for his parents and he told me that Mary backwards stands for both

You’re Really A Mess
You Really Are Magical

because life isn’t static but we are always coming out of tough times, recovering; or doing better, enjoying life.

I said it reminded me that we are made in the image of God (magical) but fallen and broken and frail (mess) and that Jesus gave his life to forgive and heal our mess and to restore and discover our magical.

My friend thought this was a reasonable interpretation of Mary backwards.

And I still count it a privilege after all these years to be asked for the simple act of brotherhood of a shared meal and to be given the honour of a private artistic viewing and to discuss the profound meaning of words backward.

I know we in the church (and more broadly) argue a lot about the presence/reality/felt existence of God and some say we only need our faith in the Scriptures and others that we find him as we sing or pray and maybe others think that a pilgrimage is required and perhaps all are correct together.

But I remember Jesus said what you do for the least of these you do for me as if he would be intentionally present to renew and reassure us and that’s what I felt after just a few hours sleep, an hour of setup, serving 40 breakfasts including one home delivery, two after we closed, praying with troubled souls and discussing backward anagrams.

Not tired. Renewed, reassured.

And I know whose presence I was experiencing, right where He said He would be all along.

Likewise the day before nursing a baby in the cool of the night waiting for him to settle into sleep. Likewise the next evening being alongside a daughter and her aged  mother as they negotiated the challenges of daily life and shared grief with nobility and tears and laughter.

The presence of God is everywhere when we forget to look at ourself. Life is not one long selfie.

And just as well… I take a terrible selfie…

It doesn’t take a war to take a life

Anzac Day 1994, 9.15pm.

I am sitting on the side of the bed in our house in Calwell contemplating getting an early night.

The phone next to me rings. I pick it up and say hello, and hear my father’s voice.

My memory now shifts to a view of myself sitting hunched over, head in my hands, phone receiver to my ear, listening as my father tells me my sister Melissa has been found dead.

His voice is breaking, tearful, shocking and yet somehow still conveys an unshakeable sense of goodness and innocence that I cannot reconcile with the words he speaks.

There is something about her body being found, something about a dam, something about maybe it is suicide or maybe it something else. I’m not sure if he used the word murder.

From there I remember in snatches, my wife’s concern, my retelling of the conversation, her embrace.

An overwhelming desire grips me to drive right then and there to Newcastle and sort this out. Logically I know I can do nothing to change what I’ve heard. But instinctively I feel driven to protect, resolve, make good.

On days like today I still feel this restless urge, that if somehow I go and see and am present, Melissa will be ok. That’s probably why I am writing now. I’ve seen this grief response in others and at least this helps me understand.

On a day when the whole nation remembers the deaths of many, my family will, each in their own way, remember one. I’m sure we are not the only ones.

There is a murderer out there somewhere who has never been held to account. Maybe he remembers today as well. Or maybe he remembers a date a few days earlier when Melissa’s life was actually taken, before being dumped into the remote Burrenjim Dam only to be “found by a Sydney couple four-wheel driving with friends” on April 25.

I wonder who this couple is and the horror of what they saw? I wonder about the terror of Melissa’s final moments. I wonder about the police investigation and DNA reports and DPPs and cold case units, all of which seem to have vanished for us.

I wonder if my parents and Melissa’s children will ever receive justice? I wonder when we can reclaim Melissa from this act of violence. It is one thing to go on, to keep living, to eventually smile and laugh and feel again. It is another to feel the strength of justice straighten your back and lengthen your gaze.

I know that Melissa is with God because I know what faith was sown in her heart and what cry was on her lips with her last breath. I know this because of the hope within me.

But I don’t know who killed her and I want to…

PLEASE VISIT JUSTICEFORMELISSA.COM FOR FURTHER UPDATES ABOUT THE UNSOLVED MURDER OF MELISSA HUNT (HALLETT)

Vividness is in the eye of the beholder

Some days sights stand out like an artwork or cherished memory. They weave together like poetry and I wonder if this is the result of sunshine, a good night’s sleep or a trick of the eye.

Walking past the sandstone of St Andrew’s Cathedral, a man looking like a troubled disciple urinates against the wall, hidden by a low, non-burning bush. While some find comfort within, he’s found relief outside.

Two pastel green motor scooters sit side by tidy side on Clarence St except one is within the parking area and the other without. A female parking inspector stands upright in judgement like a robot from a sci-fi movie and separates the two on a point of law.

Later an office worker strides down Kent, security card swinging, and a hand held to her face, covering tears. She walks on looking sideways in anguish but not slowing, tears not moving a busy soul.

A young Indian woman with flowing hair sits on the ground in the foyer staring at a water bottle in front of her, lid off. I think she might be hit by the door if someone comes down the stairs but I leave her to her vigil.

Saturday stream of consciousness

“Time’s a goon” says ageing rocker Bosco in Pulitzer prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and I gain some insight into the title and I realise that this book and A Sense of an Ending that won the Booker prize this year both tell stories about the passing of time and of lives and how the choices of, especially youth, but of other times, reverberate and get distorted and misremembered but are unerringly true in their effects. And why is it that there are never any people in these books who were innocent and naive and married for love and lived what they believed and remained faithful always and raised children and worked through tough times and never gave up believing or loving but sometimes, for a moment, they feel they may have missed something even though the really have it all but feel that confusion because the world they have to live in is so mistaken. And books that win prizes never, ever tell their story. Read More »