Three Months On.

I knew the dream had become ridiculous when Justin Bieber arrived. It wasn’t really Justin Bieber, it was my friend Michael, but everyone around me seemed to be convinced. It provided a hiccup, one of those moments in a dream where you lose your focus, a moment when amongst the fear, the guilt and the grief you snap out of it and think “that’s not Justin Bieber, that’s my friend Michael from Renmark”.

Throughout the dream the guilt was overwhelming, I’d driven a car after I’d been drinking and I’d hit someone. I knew the person, it was a boy from my childhood. He was seriously injured, and I wanted to go and see him, to apologize, to do anything, but my lawyer kept telling me not too. People were physically holding me back, telling me to calm down, but I knew it was all wrong. I’d really done it this time, and there was no way I could fix it.

I kept pleading with the lawyer to let me go and see him, I needed to tell him that my Mum still had the Charlie Brown coffee cup that he bought me in Grade 4. I needed to say thank you for the hard sugary easter egg that had smashed into tiny little pieces after I accidentally dropped it at his feet. He’d given it to me only minutes earlier, his face defeated after I walked away from the broken egg with little more than a shrug. I was a terrible friend to him. He was reliable, funny and adoring, and I was looking over his shoulder for something more exciting to come along. As we grew older and I started looking for options for school dances my mother used to shake her head “he’s such a lovely boy” but I didn’t want a lovely boy, I wanted someone naughty, someone a bit dangerous. I went to a school reunion years ago and he showed me pictures of his children, his wife was beautiful, he was madly in love. He was a policeman. If there was a goodness rating, he had to be in 99 percentile.

When I woke up in the morning it was intense relief. He was alive, I was absolved of my crime. The weight of the guilt was extraordinary, a few pounds stayed behind.  It was one of those dreams that sits with you while you eat your breakfast. I thought about it again at the traffic lights. And slowly it faded over the day.

The first little traveller returned to the orthodontist this week which meant returning to the Villagio area. This would be our first trip back to that road, to the looming tower that stands behind a now empty shopping mall. As we drove past we were silent, the building looked sad and dejected, its expansive car park empty and lifeless. Pictures of firetrucks and ambulances flashed through my mind. It’s been over three months since the fire, but in many ways, it feels like only last week. Conversations still take place and memorial pages are contributed to. There are still many questions, and we all remain bewildered. People bicker over the details, did they, didn’t they. Law changes are talked about and other malls have been closed and re-opened, but none of us are really sure what changes have been made, or how we’re going to make sure that this never happens again.

I read a news report during the week that two out of three of those who were charged, failed to appear in court. I keep wondering if I’m missing something in the story. Is this a cultural nuance that I don’t understand? Is this what happens? Do you not appear? Does it work differently here?  Is this the Justin Bieber moment, the moment where you pause, confused about where the story is going. I’m confused by it all and keep waiting for the voice of reason to explain it to me. There has to be an explanation, right? For how else could you deal with the guilt, the grief and remorse? How could you ever face those whose nightmares go beyond breakfast, because they never get to wake-up with the relief that it was all a dream.

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