Meet a Southbank Neighbour – Chris
It takes a certain something special to pull off wearing an eyepatch with grace, yet Chris manages to do it effortlessly. It also takes a bit of magic, but we’ll get to that.
I asked him how the world responds to his look, to which he laughs, “adults don’t ask me about it, but I hear kids passing by yell that they’ve just seen a pirate.”
If they are brave enough to say so to his face, he’ll happily play along with a dialogue and accent that is spot on.
Role playing is something Chris has done since he was a teenager and perfected in the Dungeons and Dragons club at RMIT while he was getting his degree in accounting and IT. It’s also what led him to his current job as a bestselling ghost writer.
His journey began in 1997 when he moved into a converted office building in Southbank. “I paid eighty dollars a week for a studio apartment. Southbank was industrial—grimy and sooty—but I loved it. You could take the train across the Sandridge Bridge down to St Kilda. There was a greater sense of community then.”
After graduating, Chris landed a job in forensic accounting - one that burned him out after six months. But the forensics part of the job stuck, eventually leading him to the world of private investigation. “It’s a difficult job. Lots of hours alone waiting and watching. I once fell asleep and nearly fell out of a tree during a surveillance job.”
His last case involved a woman who thought her husband was having an affair. Chris reported back that he was actually spending time taking care of a grandchild from what was supposed to have been an estranged relationship with his daughter. The woman, seeking grounds for a divorce, demanded that Chris change the report to say her husband was having an affair. When he refused, she lunged across the table, spearing her thumb through his left eye.
Chris’ life turned upside down. “The eye couldn’t be saved; I lost my ability to drive since my other eye didn’t pass sight requirements. It was a very, very difficult time.” The woman ended up getting 200 hours of community service for her assault. “A small cost for an eye,” Chris reflected. But the experience changed him, “I am more calm than I was before. Less quick to anger. Someone told me a quote that stuck with me, ‘Live life as if the only wrinkles you’ll ever get are laugh lines’.”
As he struggled to find footing after the attack, a friend suggested he leverage his game-master skills weaving creative tales into a writing career. He earned a degree in professional writing and has been doing so ever since. Though he’s still fine-tuning his own novel, a science fiction fantasy, he’s ghost-written many published novels for politicians, athletes and a famous biologist, with one making the bestseller list. I asked if it was difficult to have someone else get the glory for his work. “No! The hardest part is all of the salacious parts they make me leave out,” he laughed.
As we said goodbye on a busy Southbank corner Chris seemed impervious to the spitting rain and blustery wind tossing his hair about. There is something magical and endearing about being in his presence.
“Thank you for offering to host our first game night,” I shouted above the rumble, “…it will be epic!” He flashed a smile my way before dashing across the wet intersection. I could have sworn I saw his eyepatch wink.
MaryKay Rauma is a founder of Southbank3006 a not-for-profit community and advocacy group focused on connecting residents and improving the liveability of Southbank. Join for free by clicking here to find out more about SB3006’s game night. •