There are bodies lying face down in the river, black bodies face down in the river, three, five, ten of them, some bobbing close to the shore, others further from the edge, almost as if someone has laid out a raft of black boulders across the surface of the river, stepping stones that I might glide across to get from one side to the other. But I am too terrified to move.
I lean against the curved trunk of a river gum branch that throws itself across the water and try to hide even as I catch glimpses of the naked bodies floating down the river. Their long wavy hair and slender outlines suggest to me that they are women, young women, all of them I know have somehow been raped first then tossed aside to drown in the river.
This is my dream. I who live in the south eastern corner of Australia and rarely if ever catch sight of a full blown aboriginal, I dream of their massacre.
Landscape typical of my dream without the water.
Among the many times when we left home to escape my father’s drunken outbursts there was a time when we stayed in my older brother’s flat in Hawthorn. He left for work early in the morning to his job with a commercial printer and we four kids, we middle children, had to fend for ourselves for the day.
There were many such days in my childhood memory, days when we had nothing to do, no plans, no money, no home base from which to move, stuck in someone else’s house where we were required to amuse ourselves with books or card games, or conversation and walks nearby.
We should not eat too much - a single sandwich for lunch, a cup of tea. My brother’s cupboard was that of a single bachelor who cared little for eating at home.
The flat was situated in an old red brick house, split level, one step down to an old linoleum kitchen. I spent part of my time walking up and down between the kitchen and living room examining the few objects my brother possessed.
He had carved a head out of a lump of wood, his own head like a death mask, a self portrait.
There was also a book, with whose title I associate my dream, Bony and the Black Virgin. On the back cover I read she was a ‘lubra’, this black virgin. The word virgin had long troubled me, a word from religion, the blessed virgin, a word that had a hands off feel though I still did not know what it meant other than that it suggested someone young, a young woman.
How did someone lose her virginity? I wondered. Was it like losing your purse, or your train ticket, or something else that might be important as a means of getting about in the world?
I had none of these things to begin with. We had stolen our way here on the train, avoided buying a ticket because we did not have enough money and I had no money to put in a purse let alone owned a purse that could hold money.
How could I even find my virginity enough to one day lose it?