We live in the centre of a city. It’s a hive of activity in every direction, yet our street is a dead end, which means it’s usually quiet as only residents have any reason to use the street. At the end of the street is an alley, which takes residents around to the main shopping area of our city. The alley is paved and we walk through there often. For me, it is at least once a week. For Gary, three or four times a week. And for Daniel, he walks through that alley every day.
Imagine my surprise when one rainy day, Gary and I were running along the path trying to make it to shelter when I suddenly noticed something I had never seen before. Something I had walked over hundreds of times, but never registered in my mind. A message that was so obviously from Barry, that I still find it difficult to believe that I had not noticed it before.
I think I noticed it this day, because the rain water filled the cracks and made the message stand out tenfold. I remember standing in the rain and staring at my son’s hand writing, months after I had lost him to suicide, a smile spreading across my face.
Barry had defaced Council property, leaving a message of love behind, and I want to share that message with you today.
Nat was Barry’s first girlfriend. Well, the first girlfriend he told me about anyway. And from what Natalee tells me, I believe she was his first, although I know he “liked” other girls prior to asking Natalee out. Barry and Nat were together for about 18 months from the age of 15. He thought the world of her…and her family. And they thought the world of him.
I was grateful then, and I’m grateful now, for the way Natalee’s family “adopted” Barry and made him one of their own. It was a happy time for Barry, which I’m sure he treasured. I saw the difference that association had on him and his confidence. The writing in the pavement is only one reminder of his time with Natalee. Barry wrote his feelings for her in his school books, on his school bag, on his cap, even on his wardrobe (in thick, black, permanent marker – which didn’t go down well with me, at the time).
This morning I pulled out an old shoebox filled with computer disks and upon opening the lid found another “I love Nat” written in chalk on the inside of the lid. It reminded me of the message in the alley and that is why I felt the need to write this post. I’m scared the little reminders will one day disappear, so I need to document them so that I won’t forget.
Here are some photos of Barry and Nat. The one to the left was taken at the Year 10 Formal in 2003 and the one to the right at the Year 12 Formal in 2005. Barry didn’t take Natalee to the Year 12 Formal, he had another girlfriend then, named Tara, but the two girls were friends. The long photo at the bottom of the set shows Tara, Barry and Natalee. I’m told Barry felt like a film star that afternoon, with cameras flashing in every direction and a girl hanging off each arm, so he adopted that “cool” look he was famous for.