Barry Levy is a former South African journalist who moved with his Australian wife and two children to Australia in 1984 because of their abhorrence of apartheid. In 2004 Levy had his first fiction novel published – Burning Bright, a story of young love, hate and child abuse, which is also available in Italian.
Levy has been a winner of the Australian Human Rights Award for Journalism—for a multiple series of stories on child sex abuse, domestic violence and homelessness; a winner of the Anning Barton Memorial Award for Outstanding Journalism (Central Queensland)—for a series of stories on child sex abuse (incest-rape), and a Walkley Awards Queensland State finalist—for his series on homelessness.
In the cold wind there is no choice but for Gordon and me to spend a night with the kids out here, in the stroking but uncaring breeze, while Mick and Mum cool off, sort through another lost Saturday night. Everything so dark and groggy.
We seek them out, our homies, our bros, under the bridge, by the river in the Ipswich dark, and then as if of one large mind, like a single huge brain cell, hungry and in search of things to do we go seeking through the suburbs looking to fill our bellies and have some good, honest to God fun. Scouring the neighbourhood for targets.
And now we are here, all of us kids, in the blackness of someone else’s home, afraid to switch on the lights, but warm and comfortable in a way we can’t be in our own artificially lit homes. Seeing for the thousandth time that we have eyes that can see in the dark. Yes, it is true. It is the way we grew up. We did not need chandeliers or bed lights or even torches. We were brought up as marsupials. Our lives were the night. We bathed in it, drank in it, shat in it, ate in it. And it gives us a paradoxical kind of freedom. A kind of control. Superiority over our superiors. They say that you need light to dispel darkness. But the reality, we have found, is the other way around. Freedom lies in darkness, under covers, far from the seeing eye, from the light of day. Darkness dispels reality, the imprisonment that day imposes, that keeps you scattered, skulking, out of shit, out of the way. Darkness, as me and Gordon and the rest have found and see now, gives you a bond, like a huge connecting shadow, like right now in this house, in this rich, middle class home, no this palace, this palace filled with security and fermented spirits and chandeliers and books—books that we will never read, books that we can tear out of their shelves and covers and throw to the ground, books that we can rip into shreds without giving it a second thought, books that we can destroy to teach our teachers, our parents, city aldermen, state authorities, government handlers, supervisors, yes, all the supervisors of the world, imposed on us, who think we are just hoons, scum, dirty gravel of the earth.
Yes, we are all of those things: dirty, brown, thick gravel; we have been told so many times, even in the mess of our own grey-brown homes, and yet it is like a song, a requiem, a top of the pops blockbuster, a hip-hop street poem that fires our blood, that lights our minds with neon dreams, this drinking rich people’s grog, slinging their books and plates and vases across shiny lounge floors, ripping with pen-knives and bread knives into soft, tempting couches that you want to sleep on, so desperately want to rest your head and sleep on, that you want to spend your entire life on, that you want to die on. Yes, it is like a heavy metal, twisted steel guitar that sings inside you, that makes you feel kind of full, alive. Worth something at last. That makes you dance an Irish fling with Gordon, your brother, who has saved you yet again.
And I am singing, I think even with him hearing me, ‘Thank you, buddy. Thank you, bro.’
And he is swinging me round him, like when we were kids, except our own lounge was never quite big enough, right in the thick of this lusciousness, this impromptu Saturday night party that began with the promise of a family night of pizza and videos, and ends with this—me letting him pour a drink of something that cuts like razors down my shaking throat, seeing the curtains in front of me coming down, falling, tumbling on our heads. Ripped loose like falling screws from the walls, eight-foot high, at least, feeling that pure soft satin finish flouncing round my head, the kids in this new covered warmth embracing me in laughter, soft then loud, bowel biting, angry. But close, comforting.
Me, Gordon, Jamie, Kelly, clutching onto one another, hugging like children in movies of Christmas morning, a family, a happy family beneath these drapes. We, a family sheltering in that light that only darkness can bring, that special uninhibited intimacy, the dark glue that casts us together. Brings joy to the world. Lights up trees. And streets. And other people’s rooms.