Through convoluted paths our lives crossed. It started long ago. Untangling the threads takes time. Is it easier to say,

“It’s complicated”.

I meet angularly attractive Maria when I was a mid teenager. She was a rebellious soul, banished to an austere convent school in Ballarat. Perhaps that was part of the attraction? Maria’s misbehaviours and anti parental surliness gained her admission to the nuns, but were no doubt driven by a smart arse older brother, dux o’the high school and an over achieving younger sister who in her turn became like her brother a chemical engineer.

Jammed between them, Maria wasn’t as bright academically as her two siblings. She needed to stand out.  She was arty, and accentuated this to further differentiate herself, to find a space to stand. But the spotlight never shone on her. It reflected off of her behaviors drawing the attention she sought whilst simultaneously the punishment of her parents. Well to be truthful, her father was the one who meted out discipline, while her mother acquiesced in a blue haze of chain smoking.

High school for her ended when she ran off with Ted, no not the Ted of this story, the other Ted. Ted of Ted’s Camera store in Elizabeth St City.

They created a nest in a fusty old two storey terrace on Punt Rd, at the Brunton Avenue intersection just below Richmond Station. The traffic sounds and smells there are horrendous now, they were then. I risked a visit to see how she was getting on here one night. In the months since I’d seen her she’d grown in womanly knowingness, while I’d kept up my naive concern for her wellbeing. Ted was at least a decade older than Maria, and for what I could tell she was being used. I didn’t see her much after that. There were always phone calls to alert me to the latest of her adventures. It was the time of 10B tax breaks for film making and somehow she inveigled her way into the periphery of the movie making scene. There were tales of this and that party and how there was always going to be the big break. She said she’d bought the rights to the story of a cat burglar who’d terrorised Melbourne’s richest suburbs with his external wall scaling to access high rise apartments. She moved in circles I barely imagined existed, back and forth to the US of A, always with tales of daring do. Whilst it seemed fascinating for me there was always an air of unreality. As she moved from place to place in Melbourne it seemed she was barely aware of her surroundings. It was clear to me by now she had no real paying work yet she always in the lap of luxury. Naivety makes its own reality unencumbered by the facts. Occasionally borrowing from me with repayments made less and less frequently should have been an early warning for me. She told me in the end she was working a few days a week as an escort, allowing times for the movie social life and hubbub. This didn’t worry me, she seemed to be able to hold it all together but I suspected that much of what I was told was a figment of her imagination.

Years later I pieced some of it together. She’s moved to the Central Coast of NSW and she-horned herself and possessions into a tiny downstairs bed sit surrounded  by her few possessions. It seemed a long way from how things were when last we meet. Living off of the government she said she’d run away from some violence in a relationship and was busy now supporting domestic other domestic violence victims. This cause gave her access to authorities who investigated family matters, strangely she’d managed to sleep her way through a fair proportion of the Central Coast police hierarchy, or so she said.

Modelling for artists had become a source of income to supplement the dole, and tax free too, a nice little earner!

She’d meet a guy at the Patonga jetty, and she modelled for him and the classes he taught. It seemed idyllic.

Months later she’d moved in. Into the house he’d built behind the dunes on the Central Coast. It was, as they say, an interesting relationship. There was at least a thirty years age gap. She denied there was sex, though later on she claimed they lived as man and wife. I couldn’t get over the niggling feeling that she was using him, though he seemed besotted. Struck me that never really having had a live-in relationship but spending a lifetime looking after his early widowed mother he was a mummy’s boy.

Maria’s flights of fancy included a handmade self designed eco friendly mud brick shack built from soil of the plot he’d bought in the Dorrigo high country. Granting the in situ cow shed and a few acres beside it to the local indigenes was also part of the preposterous plan. I never found out if the soon to be blessed local land council were made aware of their impending bad fortune. It all seemed pie in the sky, and in time the clouds silver lining turned to a golden crust, the pie was setting. It all came to nought. Ideas soared beyond any reasonable budget, the more tragic when the money being budgeted was not your own. The sale of the property when they moved apart lead to a so called division of assets in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Through her self-represented dogged pursuit of perceived rights, Maria was ultimately declared a vexatious litigant. Ted got most of his money back and set himself up close to Bellingen, in a brick veneer cream brick house which he turned into a gallery.

Memories of his car building and racing days filled his days. Tales of racing Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss at Oran Park kept me enthralled. He painted, travelled the outback in his converted Kombi.

Slowly Maria faded from my memory; Ted had taken her place in the symmetry of life.