Milan died today. The memories cascade around me. I never wanted to see Milan again. And I won't. That is not to say that I did not have abiding love for the man. He was one of the loves of my life. He wanted to marry me. I turned him down. He was too dangerous for me. He liked to live on the edge. I am a creature who likes to be earthed. So I had the distinction of being the only woman who had ever turned him down although I thought he was the most beautiful looking man in the world - dark-skinned and velvet-eyed. He was highly charismatic. He was brilliant, a genius. He was dazzling, glamorous. In his heyday. Until he discovered heroin.
As a geo-physicist Milan made millions in the Poseidon boom. He lived like a movie star and he had star presence. Heads turned when he entered a restaurant. The first words he uttered to me when we met in the early 70s was an invitation to go to bed. I thought him impertinent and proceeded to ignore him. But when he phoned and offered to give me a lift to a party with his friend Christopher a few days later, I accepted. He rocked up in the back of the car with Xtopher at the wheel, music playing, joint burning. Xtopher chauffeured us a rather roundabout way until I realised that we were going nowhere near the party. "You've been kidnapped," said Milan. We ended up at his house and I did not come up for air for many days - finally going home just for clothes and returning to the surreal world where Xtopher waited on us as people came and went and quite often we received them sitting up in bed like John and Yoko.
But I had to leave. I had commitments. I was only visiting Adelaide. And so I flew away, on a long route back to Edinburgh where I had been living with the doctor who was later to become my first husband.
Milan followed me with love letters miraculously delivered to every place I visited and he caught up in person on the island of Rhodes where he insisted on hiring the biggest motorbike on the island - which we promptly crashed and spent our romantic time holding hands from single beds across a garret room as we recovered from our bruises and grazes.
Then Milan went to his native Yugoslavia while I went away back to the island of Halki where I had been staying with my old friend and travelling companion, Dimitris.
When I arrived in London, so did Milan, desperate to stop me from returning to Edinburgh. For days and days he dazzled and he promised and he wove dreams around me as only Milan could. It was an intense time for both of us - but all my instincts warned me away from him. I bade him an agonised farewell, advising him to lick his wounds by discovering my precious Bali. Which he did, ending up making Bali his home for many years.
And I went back to Scotland and the doctor.
Milan, who had divorced his first wife, subsequently met Bronwen and married her. His demise began when they were in Thailand and his father died. There were expectations that Milan would return to Melbourne and take over the Yugoslav newspapeer his father edited. Milan did not return. His distraught mother took an overdose and hanged herself from the rotary clothes line. Milan spiralled into pain and guilt - and found the panacea of heroin. And he began to shoot his fortune down his veins.
He was a wonderful artist and he left geology and adopted the artist's lifestyle, chumming up with Brett Whitely and having heroin-high painting sessions. He lived a while in Bali and then settled in Byron Bay where Bronwen gave birth to their son Misko. He said that Bronwen never succumbed to the drugs. But one night she did - and died, with her wee child beside her.
I had been back in Adelaide for a little over a year and was having dinner in a Chinese restaurant with Xtopher the night that happened. We had looked forward to that dinner - and then we could not eat it, both of us feeling strange and down. We left the restaurant early and returned to my house - and the phone call came. A desperate Milan crying for help. We told him to come to us - and he did, with child. Bronwen's sister, Megan, took Misko and I took the broken Milan. He stayed for a year and I tried to help him get off the heroin. He turned my world upside down with the darkness and light of his being. He could not sleep alone. We were never lovers again, but I took him into my bed and kept him company. Like brother and sister. I promised him that I would take him back to Bali once he had kicked the heroin.
That was tough. He ate deloxyn like lollies and hid drugs all over the house. Brett Whitley made calls offering to send him "care parcels". Heroin dealers zeroed in on him whenever we went out. He would go off the heroin, endure the savage demons of withdrawal, sparkle with pride in himself - and then drop back into the mire. It was a big dipper. But throughout it, he was loving and good to my children and also to me and my housemates. He was always protective towards the children, interested in teaching them and ever ready to play. We all loved him and wished him to be well.
He still had the charisma. He still had the brilliance. He was still a larger-than-life individual. People wanted to know him and to be with him.
Finally, he stayed clean. I took him to Bali. I was preparing to move there at that time, having been spending regular times there working with a friend and colleague on English-language publications. I had been studying the language and I had a place there. This trip was to organise resident visas and school for the boys. And to part ways with Milan who was planning to find a place in the mountains and focus on painting.
We were no sooner settled in Bali than a Dutch woman called Yoka arrived to claim Milan. Milan ran away and hid in the hills. Yoka clung to me for day after day in torrents of tears raving about her dreams of perfect life with Milan. It was all a bit much. The boys couldn't stand her and nor could I. Milan, in his way, was always enriching to us all. But this woman was disruptive. I managed to locate Milan and force him to deal with her. She wanted to take him to Europe. We waved them goodbye, relieved.
It was a couple of years later that I saw Milan again. He turned up in Bali when I was back there on a visit. He had dumped the Dutch woman and found a beautiful German girl called Erika, a sculptor. I adored her instantly. He seemed to be doing really well. They settled in Bali and lived the artists' life for some years. Their son Odin was born there. But Milan had never really left the drugs. His life became more complicated and he was forced to leave the island under dire circumstances.
The family turned up in Adelaide to be near Misko - and ended up staying with me and the boys. We lived together for a year. For Milan it was a mercurial year with assorted drug phases. Erika and I bonded like sisters and our children melded into a big happy family. Milan retured to geology and opal mining ventures, then eventually they moved to Kalgoorlie and gold mining. He sent me money to repay me for things he had stolen from me on his drug binges over the years. They later moved to Cairns and Milan, mining ventures all failed, sank deeper into his drugs, disappearing to Bali for years on end. Erika discovered, as she supported him through Narcotics Anonymous, that she had been "an enabler" for all those years. She began to draw away from him, finally completely. She was doing well as an artist and at raising Odin. They had a life without Milan and saw him only occasionally.
Milan, she would tell me in our long phone calls, was looking shrivelled and prematurely aged. He had shrunk. His body had been ravaged by the drugs. He was a compulsive liar. He was a lost soul with illusions, endlessly drying out from drugs and then going back on them. His sparkling brilliance was drugged away.
And we had all stepped back from him. Milan was trouble. We had all tried to help him. We had all failed.
"I am glad you never saw him in these last years," said Erika tonight. "He was such an old man."
Milan collapsed and died in the street. They say it was a heart attack. He could not be revived. He was still taking drugs.