Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Best of 2010: Commission flats fable

  • 12 January 2011
We were going out for the night. Friends were waiting for us at a pub nearby where musicians sing about love lost and nine-to-fivers solve the problems of the world.

Our windows were thrown open against the fading heat of the day. All evening, over the drone of the television, we'd heard the voice of an enraged man matched by the rough tone of a woman. We exchanged uncomfortable glances during the ad breaks. We had heard this sound before. It came from the commission flats.

As we left our house and pulled our front door closed, there they were, in the middle of the road. She was crying. He was yelling. He rippled with rage. A pram rolled slowly towards the gutter. Cars slowed down to watch.

He had the emaciated cheeks of an addict. She was smaller than him, toothless and aged beyond her years. As we closed our gate he struck her. She fell on the bitumen, lit by the headlight of a passing car.

'Call the police,' I said in a low voice to my partner. He ignored me, rushing to the woman. The car sped off, dodging the pram that was still in the middle of the road.

'You fuckin touch her and I'll belt you too,' the man yelled to my partner.

'Come inside,' I hissed, dialling triple 0. 'Leave them. They know where we live.'

We locked our front door as the yelling heightened, and waited for the flash of blue and red.

I have passed that man and woman many times in the three years since. Sometimes she sits out the front of the supermarket begging for money from locals carrying tubs of olives and Maggie Beer's verjuice. Her voice is soft, not aggressive like when she fights. And in daylight her face looks younger. She's probably younger than me.

I hear their fights regularly but we no longer call the police. I've watched her leave him and return, and have another child. His car got stolen: a beaten-up Commodore. I listened to him rant all afternoon. I watched him call the police on the pay phone out the front of the flats.

I wondered what it felt like to lose something when you had so few possessions to lose. His frustration echoed through the street for days. We all averted our eyes, closed our curtains, turned up the volume on our televisions.

'I wish someone would steal my car,' my boyfriend said.