“Are you gunna go with my Gran?”
Jesus kid, you’re breaking my heart here. You don’t even know who I am, but you’re looking at me like I’m the same old same old, aren’t ya?
You’re breaking my heart.
There was a time once when I thought well of people, you know? When I thought that good intentions would overwhelm all the evil shit that happens to people like yourself. A time when I thought that someone like me might actually make a difference. So to respect that younger, foolish me, I’ll answer your question.
Am I gunna go with your Gran? Well, let’s look at this reasonably. Let’s ignore that your Gran is well, a gran. Let’s ignore that she’s probably 50 but looks 70. Let’s ignore that’s she’s lost most of her teeth, and she’s pissed at 11.30am, on a Saturday. And let’s face it, she’s a bit worse for wear. Even ignoring all these things, the answer is still, undoubtably, no.
Now this isn’t to say that no-one I know wouldn’t go with your Gran. Because your question, asked by you who is obviously no older than 7, reveals two interesting things. First, people going with your Gran isn’t outside the boundaries of your everyday reckoning. Second, blokes who look like me are obviously the type of bloke who do drive up that long out-of-the-way road to go with women who live up here.
So Gran, you’re breaking my heart.
Why I’m here is something I undertook even before you were born. Your sister here might have been perhaps two or three years old when I first same here to speak with your family, and the people who live round here. And she’s giving me this look like, “if not my Gran, then who?”, and I’m looking at her like, “love, if you were a boy, you’d barely be shaving.”
So the three of you, you’re breaking my heart.
But here I am, all the same, a bloke who’s seeing something he’s seen before, when he came up here the last time, acted out all over again. And the sadness it laid on me then was burnt out in the kitchens of the big city while I slaved to finish this, a book I brought up here to give back to your people. And you look at me with the eagerness of a group of people somehow conditioned into thinking that blokes like me come up here for one real reason, to lay with a woman old enough to have birthed me, and or a girl still with the flush of innocence on her cheeks.
And you’re breaking my heart, again, while I stand with book in hand, trying to fulfill a promise, one I made long ago to people who aren’t even living here anymore. A promise that’s dug into my conscience for three years now, while I grow fat and content off the Degree I made out of knowledge I took from here. And I know that once I ditch this copy I’ll get back into that rented car and drive that 4 hours back into the big city to a cushy hotel room and sleep comfortably while out here the cycles we all hear about, and all hear about needing to be broken, are repeated endlessly.
And it’s not guilt that twangs on my heart-strings, it’s anger. Anger that’s breaking my heart because I know that years of work amount to nothing out here in the wilds. A place where 7 year-old Aboriginal boys find it usual that blokes are coming up here to treat their women like a convenience. A place where all my work amounts to nothing but an avenue for a bloke to take a step ahead, while you take the step backwards. A place where the word ‘sorry’ is a meaningless nothing spoken by well-meaning liberals.
So I’m looking at your sister, and I can see the intelligence in her eyes, and I pleading with her, gently, to read it. Just read these pages… Please. Not the whole thing I’m saying, just this bit here, because this is your history. The history of this place that’s been scattered to the winds over the years because blokes like me can’t see any worth in writing it down. A history that makes blokes like me get fat off the proceeds of books and talking tours while up here you have a life like your Gran’s to look forward to. Abuse. Alcoholism.
So I’m looking in her eyes and I know that once I leave that that big ugly dog in the corner will eat this book, and I’m trying to hide my desperation, because I know that education and knowledge is the way out, and I know that this thing making the difference to just one person would make all those years worthwhile.
But you’re breaking my heart, because I know, in the end, it’s futile. Blokes like me never make a difference. We take what we need, the way we always have. And people like you three keep living on these mission stations, the remnants of a once proud people destroyed under the genocidal policies of the blokes who now come up here, for fun.
And the anger, it will always break my heart. But I tried. And I cared. Which is something I need never regret.
(PS. Cross-posted over at Public Address)