It started when I was about fifteen. Behind my bedroom door and high up where I thought nobody would see it, I stood on a chair and painted right onto the wall. I painted green vines, creaking trees and flowers in bud, and down the sides of the door frame, shrieking birds circling high above tumbling blue-green waves.
My mother saw this first effort about three days later and said nothing. My father saw it a month later and flipped out. My mother told him to calm down. My room was tucked away in the topmost corner of the house. Nobody went past it. Nobody went into it unless they wanted to see me. ?It can be painted over if necessary.? My father didn’t say anything about it to me for a long time.
Throughout high school and while I was an undergraduate still living at home, those walls became the default way for me to react to the world. When I heard a song I loved, I would paint the lyrics in the colours swimming behind my eyes. When a line from a poem got stuck in my mind, I would write it over and over until I couldn?t see the words anymore. When I couldn?t sleep for anger, I would scribble near the head of my bed with the closest writing implement I could find. I made a list of initials of every person I?d kissed. I composed poetry. I ranted. I mused. I was indiscriminate about content; those walls wore my angst, they wore my joy, they wore my lust and hate and longing. They wore everything I couldn?t voice and many things I wished I?d said first. Those walls wore me.
Friends would come and sit in my bedroom and talk about which part of it they liked best. The pictures were their favourites. I painted a porthole on the wall next to my bed, through which you could see Planet Earth. I painted a tree split by lightning, shining golden where it was struck. I painted a night sky, tar-black, that faded to rainbow as it reached the carpet. While I was living in Poland, my great-aunt Patty was given my bedroom during her stay at Christmas. She told me in a letter the following week that she?d had a wonderful time lying in my bed at night examining my art, but that she possibly hadn?t got enough sleep.
When I moved out of home, my third brother, Peter, inherited my room. He was happy to leave it the way it was but the day after I?d left, my father came in with a tin of paint and before Peter or my mother or I could object, had covered all of the soul-scrawl with a pale?yellow wash. All of it except for one tiny spot. On the white metal edging around the wardrobe door, about two feet from the ceiling, remains single blue painted raindrop.
I was back in Melbourne for Christmas a few weeks ago. On Christmas night, after all my friends had left, I went upstairs and found Peter lying on his bed with the lights on. We talked for a couple of minutes, but all I could think about was that one raindrop. So I picked up a pen. Underneath the noticeboard in curly drunken sister-scrawl it now says:
Fuck the system. Be a revolutionary. Write on walls.