'Merry Christmas Miss, you having a good day?' asks the man smoking a cigarette and pacing outside Dapto train station on Christmas day. My friends are running late to pick me up for the extended-family celebration.
'I am, and you?' I reply, jovial after a lingering breakfast in Darlinghurst and then a 90-minute train chat with a fun uni-student down from Brisbane for the holidays.
'I am... it's my first christmas out.'
'Wow that must feel good. How long you been out for?'
'Must be amazing to be free...I reckon I couldn't cope with the food...'
'Tell me about it-and I worked in the kitchen too,' he scrunches his face.
'What were you in for?'
'Kidnapping drug dealers...I started out just dealing pot...'
He's Chris, 30, spent most of his life locked up. Had a fair bit of money at one point, he says as an aside. Barely made it to the three month point this time. It's hard to adjust...
'You're on a better path now though, right?'
'Yeah. For sure.'
'Good!' I eye the F.T.S. tattooed on his neck. 'What's that stand for?'
'Fuck the System.'
I tell him about my blog, ask if he'd mind if I take his picture.
'Sure, I'm an attractive bloke, I'd ask my for my picture too!'
I snap one frame with my mobile phone, not thinking to capture the lettering on his neck.
We shake hands, wish each other happy holidays, and he heads off down the street.
Several minutes later, he returns.
'I was thinking,' he grins, 'It's a bit odd that you asked for my photo and didn't get my number...'
I smile. 'Yeah I guess it is, I appreciate the offer, but I probably wouldn't call you anyway....so maybe better not to give it to me...Are you still ok with me using the picture?'
'Yeah, that's fine. Just thought you might want my number too.'
'Sorry...Cheers...and good luck with everything...'
He disappears down the street again into the rain.
A few minutes later my friends pull in, and an evening of excess begins...