Sometime in the 80's, on the first Sunday in October, I was at my parent's house to watch Bathurst with my dad. It was our only shared interest really. I'd get up there at sparrow-fart, ready for the build-up, the brass bands… the Penrith Pantherettes. Mum would bring us breakfast and snacks and lunch and more snacks. By early afternoon Dad would be sleeping in his rocker recliner and I'd wake him up if there was a good bit.
Just after lunch I decided to get some air and, for some reason I've never understood, I decided to go out the front door, across the lawn and stand at the side of the road. That was an unusual choice I'd never made before. Normally I'd go out the back, where mum would be gardening and there were chairs and ashtrays.
Almost immediately I noticed someone walking down the road towards me. He was tall, white-blonde, wearing white trousers and a white cheesecloth hippy shirt. When he got closer I noticed he was barefoot. When he got even closer I noticed it was Michael, a guy who was my best friend in highschool but I hadn't seen in years. We'd lost touch when I repeated year 11 and he didn't, and I'd ended up in the same class as his younger sister, Lisa.
We chatted for quite a while, apparently, according to my folks who were watching out of the window, having wondered why the hell I'd gone out there in the first place. All I could remember of the conversation was that he said he was going to Belair National Park, which was just past the end of our street, to meet his family for a BBQ. He was late.
He walked off, I came back inside. Mum asked if I'd gone out because I'd spotted him coming, but I hadn't. I didn't know why I'd gone out there.
A few years later I was at the Royal Admiral in Hindley Street, buying a drink, and the girl behind the bar said "Hi!" and identified herself as Lisa from school, "Michael's sister!" It was quiet, we chatted.
"How's Michael?" I asked eventually, as you do.
"Oh, you didn't hear? He died a few years ago."
"It was in Belair National Park. The family was meeting up for a BBQ and he'd taken his bike up on the train. He got off at Long Gully and was taking the cycle track down, hit a rock, flew over the handlebars, head first into a tree. Died instantly."
"When was this? The last time I saw him was a few years ago, on a Sunday, and he was on his way to a family BBQ at National Park. But he didn't have a bike, he was on foot. It was about 2 in the afternoon."
"That must have been the same day, we'd never done it before. But he died about 11 in the morning."