Never Seen

By | 1 February 2021
I’m sitting in the bath of a small dot on the map somewhere in the Wimmera Mallee. It’s the home of small birds and the population has always been around 400. There’s a road that once held six churches; Sundays here were busier than Bourke street after closing time. My Nana’s hands soap, then rinse, my back. It’s a daily ritual and when she’s done, she towels it dry so I can sit in the bath and play without catching a chill. Today she rubs the rough face washer across my knees then scrubs harder till it hurts. ‘Look Nana’, I say, and bend my knees into two peaks with their bony childhood ridges, ‘they’re not dirty, it’s just my skin is darker when it’s not stretched over my knees.’

I lengthen in years and height, tower over my Nana and fall in love with Hollywood. I collect movie posters and dream of fame and fortune on the big screen, even though I never see myself reflected in those celluloid images. Even though every single person in my favourite television show, Neighbours, is white and so English there’s not even anyone who is Greek or Italian or German or French. Nope, all of them are good old Aussie battlers. Every. Single. One. Sure there was Different Strokes and the Cosby Show but those people were American and black – cool in a way I could never dream of being with my brown skin. Not black. Not white. Brown. This is years before I saw The Kumars at No 42 and found my father on film. Perhaps he had never really existed until that point. But still, I never saw me until I was in Year Nine. My group of friends and I were making a film for Media Studies. We wrote scripts, learnt our lines and figured out how to use the camera. I finally got my chance to act and I loved it. But when our video screened in front of the class, I squirmed in my seat and scrunched myself down as small as I could get. All I saw was how dark my skin was, how brown it was; how brown, so dark, all wrong. And that’s when I knew I was never meant to be on the screen, never meant to be seen.

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