If I had been born in 1962, I would never have been a teacher. In 1986, Sydney Adventist High School was being run like a proper school, not a child-minding service with unqualified ex-students (like me) filling holes in the teaching roster - so when I graduated from Sydney Uni I would have gone straight to Avondale College to study theology. Fresh out of there I would have been "called" to one of the pacific missions like PNGUM, where I would have found life extremely boring.

In desperation I would probably have turned to Bougainville for stimulus. I don't know if the church had any business there in the early nineties, but there were a couple of good schools funded by the mine, and as a result, many of the locals could hold an intelligent conversation in English. My faith would have expired in 1997 when the PNG government paid the English to get the Africans to fuck that place up. Disillusioned and angry, I would have come back to Australia, kissed the cloth goodbye and turned to my only marketable skill – computer literacy – where the course of my life would have merged temporarily with the version that was born ten years later.

My first real job was analysing road pavement data. I would have sunk my teeth into it with the zeal of a deeply disturbed man, training myself in all the skills required to become a partner in the company, dating the boss's daughter, etc. This would have lasted a year or two, when my unresolved Bougainville issues would have caught up with me, and I would have gone back to the third world in search of purpose. I might even have found it in Africa, but more likely I would have found another senseless war and doubled my sorrows.

I met you in 1995. I would have been 32 then – old enough to make sensible choices. I might have savoured your company, your quirky theories about people, and your fearless approach to life. I certainly would have taken the giddy romance with a grain of salt, all the while longing for it to end so that real love could begin... and when the romance did end, and real love did begin, I would have relished it instead of panicking, and stayed instead of leaving.

All the things that mattered could have been different, but if I had been born in 1962, I would never have met you. I would have been in Bougainville, and you would have met some other 22-year-old who may or may not have been as stupid as me. Our paths would never have crossed, and you could not have enriched my life the way that you did.

Space-time sucks, but sometimes you just get lucky.

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