Truth. Always stranger than fiction.
People tell me things.
Not just for the reporting I do, in which I am asking people to reveal their most intimate thoughts and details, but in bars, on streets …
Maybe people with something to share can read my genuine interest. I don’t know, but …
Walking home from yoga class at the arts center, I turn onto Hannan Street and despite it being “late” night for the shops, there’s not a lot of people out at 7:30 PM.
A woman in a black skirt and top and shoes with dyed black hair holding a cane is in front of the gold prospecting store.
I am a good 20 feet away, and as soon as I turn she says “Hey!” and immediately comes over.
There’s not a lot of people out here, but hey, you gotta get out. Yes, I say.
She and her husband have lost a $1 million dollar house and the only way you can live on the dole (unemployment) is not to live together. He’s in Perth. She's in Kalgoorlie.
She keeps getting drawn back here — to this small town in the desert that people keep joking why and how did I end up where for 5 weeks. It’s not, um, shall we say, tourist-driven.
She used to live here, but her husband died, and she wonders why she keeps coming back here. An Aboriginal person told her once that she belonged here.
Do I believe in that stuff? Do I believe that maybe her dead husband has something to do with her coming back?
Yes, it’s possible, I say.
And I mean it.
I don’t talk much; there’s a lot on her mind and it’s coming out. I’m happy to hear it. It’s interesting. It gives me something to think about.
In a too-simple nutshell, her husband left for the bush without ample supplies and died in a nursing home of dementia. She wonders if he did something out in the bush that was disrespectful of the land and it did something to him. The "bikies" (bikers) may have set him up. She feels that something keeps bringing her to Kalgoorlie: will something happen to her here, too? Is there something she needs to do? To know?
I wish I could remember it all, as it seemed poignant and I thought I would remember it, as you always do. Then you don’t.
At one point, while she was talking about the bikers, a biker drove by. I had not seen a biker all day.
I told her that yes I thought it entirely possible that she could be drawn back here and if she believes she is, then she certainly is.
“I think you need to resolve something. Maybe it will take you your entire life, after you’ve left here to figure it out, but if you feel you keep coming back because there’s a draw, then there must be.”
I feel like I am supposed to be here for some reason, doing what I’m doing, and it might be years - or a few days - to discover what that is. You go where you’re drawn and you do your best.
I told her I don’t suppose to know anything, but I knew a man once, who I thought I would be with forever. He died. It was many years — and not until this year — that I could see his face and imagine him as he was, moving around and talking and his spirit not just his body — and finally let go of the trauma part of unexpectedly losing him. I could finally let him go. I have hardly spoken of that experience.
I know what it’s like to carry something around and so if she thinks her husband is pulling her back for some reason, of course I think that’s possible.
She also shared with me that she suffers from depression sometimes - bloats of it before she can release it - and she finds its from being with people and so many issues they bring. I asked her: How do you get out of it?
“I pull myself away from everyone.”
Sort of like resetting.
I have thought often lately about this trip and how (and therefore why) I am my best person while I am traveling: I can free myself from the stress I make or is made for me in everyday life and move through my mind and what i encounter unfettered. How do you integrate that into your everyday life, when the trip is over?
As I stood on the sidewalk, I felt that, as it sometimes happens, this woman singled me out for a reason. Like her predicament of mystery, I might not ever know why, or just to further engage my own internal discussions … eerily all things I have experienced in a sideways way.
I picked up a discounted roasted chicken and priced-to-sell couscous salad at the supermarket and as I gnashed on a shortbread cookie walking back, I thought: When a random person starts talking to you on the street, you never know if what they are telling you is truth. But it’s their story they are sharing, and I’m the listener.
Who is to say what part, if any, of her story is untrue? Always, not matter what anyone says, it can be.
As a journalist and someone who people seem to like to tell their story, I can say that truth is always stranger than fiction.
It got me thinking.
There are a lot of experiences in my life that sound fake or embellished and I’m sure people have thought i was hoodwinking them. Like these random four:
I lived with a group of colonists in the remote Amazon rainforest who were fighting for a voice and with an infestation of mosquitoes on their land. I was 21.
I was attacked by skinheads at a bar in Brazil and was saved by some metal heads at the next table, who ran them off. We then became best friends and spent every day together.
I was electrocuted when I was 5 by biting into an electrical cord trying to turn off a light for our baby ducks. See this scar? I burned my lips off. They grew back.
… and from last month even …
- So i am sitting around in this family’s house at 2 a.m. and people are drinking homemade liquor out of sticks from the forest and singing tribal chants and dancing and then after some time, we ran to the river with the two boys, who are covered in grass from a bull’s stomach, where they were covered in mud and then run back to be circumcised in a traditional ritual. They slowed down so we could keep up and I could take photos.
— [in wondering land, western australia].(https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Hannan+St,+Kalgoorlie+WA+6430/@-30.7517914,121.4683569,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x2a4d67c9c79d35c5:0x5fbee88e17db1392)