First published July 10
As everyone knows our famous revolving restaurant brings its patrons a memorable fusing of food and wine, impeccable service and panoramic views of our city, waterways and hills that reach into the future.
On its central spine (through which guests enter and leave the lifts) there is a magical mural. Children who wait for the tooth fairy, young lovers holding hands, and those with a sparkling look in their grandparent faces can see the mural. To the rest of us there is nothing but the wallpapers.
But what the viewers see varies from one to another. The children see energy and joy. They see brightness. They hear laughter. The young lovers see each other and every aspect is pleasing. And the old see, hear and feel so much more because they have the benefits of layers of time, layers of experience.
On this magical mural the watchers can impose their own story images and spellbound see the next panel and the next emerging. The panels can be as wide as they like and as high as the room. They can have layers of thread panels, like the ticker lines at the bottom of TV news screens, but one atop the other. The children can see themselves with Optimus Prime, with Batman, or Spiderwoman. The young lovers will see whatever breaks their faces into smiles. And the old will see, hear and feel too much and so keep their counsel lest their families see this as proof that they are past it and not long for this world.
Of course you want to see what they are seeing. It won’t take long because you can walk around this central spine in less time than it takes to unwrap a birthday present or complete a lingering kiss.
Let’s walk and watch together. On the bottom panel, our bedrock, we see our leaders at Parliament House. We see them talking in committee, debating in the Assembly or the Council, making speeches about the future of this Island. We see a delegation coming to see the leadership, laying out before them sworn admissions to a crime that is made by a young woman. She was there when a ‘break in’ on a yacht moored on the Derwent became a murder. The delegation leaves and their news is quietly but firmly buried. An embarrassing blip came and went.
Let us go to the next panel. A woman is walking the family dogs in Sandy Bay. She chats with friendly neighbours. People are coming to her house to make statements about what they saw and heard around the time and place of that crime. They are our people, honest people, people who went to the police at the time and whose accounts were ignored … Their accounts tie to the admissions of the young woman. And she has found documents made by police at the time that also strengthen the reliability of the admissions of the young woman. Her file work is complete. She is the Aussie version of former FBI Director Comey. But look, the dog walker is being accused of contempt of court, of defamation, of professional misconduct. Why would that be?
We are up at chest level now. The panel before us shows successful lawyers. They have the post nominals of professional success. They are busy. Their staff and clients do their bidding. They know that just by reason of their status they can make claims that will be received as absolute truths. It does not suit them to deal with the admissions of the young woman or with the energy of the dog walker. Both problems have been dealt with. They go to lunch and linger.
Ah sweet relief. At our neck height children are playing in a cubby house. Then they are trying out their new shoes, the old ones becoming too small long before they wear out. Their mum is on the phone while they walk around in those bright new shoes, she is talking about their gran, about how resilient she is, about how much she’d like to be there spending time with the kids. One of the children picks up on the adult conversation, ‘Mummy, when are they going to let gran come home? I want her to see my tooth’.
At the very top there is the evolution from a child to a young woman, to a mother of two daughters, to a second relationship with a man who also has adult children, to a dream of criss-crossing the oceans with him, to coming down to Short Beach and seeing that yacht scuttled on a bright mid summer morning, to hearing the jury say ‘guilty’ of the murder of that man, to waking up each day in Risdon hoping for the miracle that would end this torment. And then hearing of the miracle that the young woman has admitted it, an admission that is like a mirage because nothing happens, not a thing. She picks at another prison meal, food made without passion, and remembers sitting on the yacht deck sharing a glass with him in the sun.
The central spine of the tower ‘shape shifts’. It takes on the shape of our Apple Isle. The panels still revolve on its shiny skin. Coming up from the depths we can hear the sound of something indescribable chewing away at the core. We can smell its frightfulness. We must leave by the staircase, walking quickly but not rushing.
[Hugh Selby © 9 July 2017]