Angels By Day

Devils by night.

Perhaps it was the screaming, maybe the tension, perhaps even the physical altercations we had as kids with our Father's mainly that drove us onto the street. Blight Street, Kirrawee to be exact.

As teen kids do, they congregate, gesticulate, fornicate. With parents away with work or with lax parenting-come-alcohol fuelled pool parties, there was always room in our neighbourhood to hide our true selves in.

We had a whole range of experiences that would put a teen vampire movie to sleep. Whatever drove us to steal cars, drive them into shops and ram raid our way north up the Pacific Highway at 180kms an hour can only be put down to sheer outrageous anger and misguided ambitions.

Drug dealing, drug taking and drug induced psychosis were an ever present non-reality check-in as we careened between each others houses, collapsed on trains all the way to Thirroul South or locked off trains that terminated in Heathcoate. Till sunrise. Cold steel seats for beds.

Juxtaposed by Sunday School classes in the day, gracious acts of mowing lawns for each others parents, polite breakfast conversations about politics and religion. Lord knows which parent was sleeping with others but what little we knew we kept to ourselves. It was easier to get things done that way.

Every second home it seemed had a pool or a spa or some gigantic boudoir which we made good use of. Consequently I lost my virginity to a beautiful girl who was 2 years my senior. I was 15 at the time and all I recall is that my life changed the moment I awkwardly navigated my way around like a blind drunk teenager...which I was.

Discos, trips to the local mall where we got drunk on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night bled profusely into the school week. Fights erupted, outrageous couples and triples started to slip through perfumed mornings, salt water sticking hair to teeth, pizza boxes cascading off bonnets of cars.

Well ...of course it wasn't all chaos but by the time we had hit 16, the homemade pipe bombs, chlorine and brake fluid bombs were emerging from E block science labs. Banned, our master mischief maker sat at a lone table only allowed to look at texts for the semester.

He still topped the form. Jailed, years later I met up with him and his Wife and conceived a child with my girlfriend at the time in their bathroom, on the sink. Our little Daughter, Jonti Maya passed away in utero at 22 weeks in 2005. How times mix and stories merge. It will be another chapter I promise.

There are stories of known protections we should have taken that would have prevented abortions, there are stories galore of MDMA induced psychotic episodes across most of our 30 or so strong peer group with representations from most walks of life. Ecstasy was rampant as was Lebanese hash from the back bar at the Bexley Hotel or the Sylvania Inn.

Cracks began to appear. Life shimmered and we careened between school, part time jobs and handouts. Strays started to hang around and we soon found ourselves amidst the seedy bowels of smack, speed, coke and trips. Even under the under lids.

Running naked through Hyde Park, Sydney. Breaking into the police headquarters in down town Town Hall. Cars,. Bikes. Burnouts. Our streets were one mass of black snakes screaming their way over hill tops. Parents, terrified began banning me and others from frequenting their homes.

At 17 a fair proportion of use began the "who can get a bigger tattoo than the other" contest. Grabbing the gun at Greg Ardens in Kings Cross I began what was surely the stupidest thing you can do to your body. Fingers, toes, arms, feet, this day I look down and see what I speak of right now and shake my head almost in disbelief.

Like every story, the seediest and blackest of chapters speak of suicides, stabbings, murder and mayhem. I could detail every last part of the beautiful young men and women who pointlessly passed away before the age of 25 across our peers.

More than 50% of that peer group I hung around with are dead. Buried. Not forgotten. This book is a testament to those who with resilience pulled through what for many communities out there is sadly everyday. Neckings, picks in arms, kids careen around, screaming like mad banshees seeking love and inclusion.

Not for a minute would I do it differently but what I am determined to admit, to be vulnerable and to say that I am sorry to those reading this who felt that I was responsible for the mayhem that they experienced. I was a clever one, never got caught, did the worst, seemingly consumed as much as anyone but often commandeered those stolen vehicle from the relative safety of the back seat.

Through suburbs with Ramset guns in hand, side swipes, drive buys with thrash metal blazing, Judas Priest and Megadeth cutoffs clashing with westie flannies, Alley boys, Bra Boys and a whole host of inner city mob we clashed. Smashed. Two sets of braces later my Optometrist smiled in relief.

Not to mention the Royal National Park. Jumping coal trains and hitching free rides with boards to far flung beaches. Orchie bottle bongs for breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. The vast expanse of park allowed us to grow our own forests. Bag them. Smoke them.

Without social media, we did everything without the gaze of authority except for the odd ride up and smack the cop on the back of the helmet and ride off dare. There are actually so many recurring flashbacks I sit here astounded I can actually sit up.

To be frank, fuck knows what happened really.

It was a mass blur of angels by day and devils by night. We fought, we fornicated, we somehow kept close to each other and above all we formed a bond that stands true to this day (or night depending on when you read this.)

I pay homage, grieve for and atone for my part in the deaths of numerous young men (and one woman) who like me went as hard as the rest of us but lost the battle to heroin, respiratory arrest, suicide and deliberate acts of self harm. I pulled through in the nick of time.

I chose to do one thing just in time. Sitting on the back balcony of a friends house near Kirrawee Railway station, with one mate passed out on the concrete, one friend lining up yet another line of speed and my knuckles covered in blood from folding a punching bag in two without gloves I did something I never regret.

I carefully wrote in cursive script the single word 'Perth' on a piece of cardboard.