by Arna Delle-Vergini
Bloody Mondays is a three-part series describing how our regular blogger, Arna Delle-Vergini, came to be a lawyer. Come with Arna on this journey; unpacking some of the experiences and events that led her to choose a career in the Law over any other.
There was nothing peculiar about this day. It was a day like any other. I was at school. I was nine. Then for one reason or the other the teachers began to cry. One of them – a female – I can’t recall her name – rushed down the hall, her hands cradling her mouth. I don’t remember the rushing part actually. I just remember the sight of her crying into her hands. I must have filled in the gaps later on. Of course she was rushing. Something had happened. Something really big.
It was December 1980. School was not quite out for the year but it was getting hot. I remember the heat most of all because I experienced this event as heat mostly – the heat of the sun burning down on my bare neck as I collected my bag, sick with the knowledge that something incomprehensibly awful had happened. The heat of the thick, dry air that I breathed as I walked slowly home, not even trying to guess what had happened because that seemed largely irrelevant to me at the time. My greatest concern was whether the teachers would ever be happy again or was this, somehow, a permanent thing. This was an overwhelming thought and I wilted under the weight of it all.
Was my mother crying when I arrived home? I can’t remember. If she was, she would have been sitting in the lounge room – or perhaps in the kitchen, drinking a cup of tea. She would have looked up from her cup and smiled faintly. She would have said: “John Lennon has been shot”. Her eyes would have been reddened but she would not be crying. She would not cry in front of me. I would have then sat in her lap and cuddled her. I would have sensed her shock but I would not have known what it really meant to her because, even though I knew that John Lennon sang songs, I had no idea that he sang songs that changed the world!
Did she try to explain it to me? I bet she did. And I would have sat there with my rabbit-in-the-headlights stare knowing exactly what she meant without understanding a word of it. Like when my mamina, who didn’t speak a word of English, would talk to me. We understood each other perfectly but I didn’t speak Italian so it was only “understanding” in that incomprehensible way that children understand things – without words – that everything and nothing way of understanding that we all seem to lose as we age and reason takes us over.
It was many years before reason took me over. Thinking was not my superior function as a child. I experienced things instead. I understood the world largely though my senses which, if I tried to make any meaning out of them at all, were often unhelpfully influenced by ill-timed facts and miscommunications. That’s how I came to know that the man who shot John Lennon later appeared on television and sang about it. He sang “Jealous Guy” in this beautiful, haunting voice that made everybody cry all over again. It was a difficult moment for me. I hated this man for killing John and making the teachers cry. At the same time, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. He didn’t mean to hurt John. He was just a jealous guy.
At some stage, I’m quite sure, someone must have told me that the man singing the song wasn’t John’s killer at all, but a singer – and that it was a ‘tribute’ to John that he was singing, not a song actually describing why John was killed. But it wasn’t any time soon.
I probably don’t need to point this out to you but John Lennon never came back. I waited and waited and waited for God to bring him back to life. It was, after all, the only sensible solution. Everybody loved John. Nobody loved the jealous guy. Nothing else made sense to me. I did not believe in a world where wrongs could not somehow be made right again. Surely, if there ever was an occasion for God to intervene, this was it. What was taking so long? When would John be back? When would the teachers be happy again? Was there something I should be doing that I wasn’t? Anything?
Children can accept the incomprehensible even better than the adults around them can. But it does something to them. It changes who they are. This is not such a bad thing. Life alters us. And, in some circumstances, what alters us has the capacity to “make” us also. This was one of those events for me. I was going through a religious phase at that stage of my childhood and yet, quite clearly, my God had forsaken me. Well, at the very least he had forsaken John. This was troubling. Very troubling. Because if God had abandoned John, myself and all of the teachers, then who was left to right all of the wrongs in the world? Who was left with that incredible power? I would mull over this for many, many years to come and by the time I had the answer to it, not only did I not believe in God anymore, but I was at an age where I didn’t believe in ANYTHING!
On Monday 8 December 1980, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon five times with a .38-caliber revolver outside his home in New York City. His official explanation was that he thought by killing John, he would become famous himself. He also said that the copy of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” he was carrying at the time of the murder was his ‘statement’. Which, of course, made no sense whatsoever…
Image from: biography.com