chasing the high of a new city
not so much traveling as searching for home
honeymooning in other people’s cities, then moving on like a non-committal boyfriend
packing one big grey suitcase
leaving the house where I’ve lived since I was 6 going on 7
my room looks like I haven’t even left – it seems to say “she’s coming back any minute now, any day now, any time now, sometime soon, sometime…”
I suspend myself in the air, and when I come down to earth, the laws of gravity may be back in effect but time and space have shifted
I am in a new city, a strange land where people speak… English. And dress… like me but with more black. And they walk on the left side of the sidewalk instead of the right.
I am in Australia
I walk into a store and I browse every shelf five times because they’re playing The Beautiful Girls and then Angus & Julia Stone, and then I leave because otherwise I’d be trapped in this Australian clothing store listening to Australian music for the rest of my life. Which wouldn’t be so bad, come to think of it, but the staff might want to go home.
I go to a free outdoor music festival where blocks and blocks are cordoned off for pedestrians only, and thousands of young Aussies in surfer shorts and summer dresses lead the way to the mainstage and as the sun sets and the sky threatens Melbourne thunder, I watch my favourite funk band on a beach in St Kilda and I am happy.
I take the bus to university and I am the only white person on the bus, and then I remember that I’m not white… and it feels weird. But also comfortable.
I take the train just to take the train, and soon I’m avoiding ticket inspectors like a true Melburnian.
and soon I get used to not tipping
and to having coins in my wallet that could murder a man
and to pretending that I’m from Vancouver
and to the incessant clicking that accompanies the clatter of feet across streets and sounds so much more urban than birds
it feels – right. in a way that Victoria – never had.
I fall hard for the State Library and the Forum Theatre and the Town Hall and the Argus Building and Flinders St Station, and every other crumbling monumental 19th century columned gold rush baby
I fall for Fed Square
and rooftop bars with Astroturf
and snails on the sidewalk at night
and comedy rooms in record stores in cafes
and cafes that serve real coffee, and lamingtons
for postmen on mopeds… on the sidewalk
for overnight buses on weekends
for ferris wheels along the river
for the river
for giant fireballs on the hour outside casinos in Southbank
for palm trees and fake beaches
for Amanda Palmer playing her ukulele from the balcony of the Forum
for a peaceful rally 10,000 strong to SLAM, Save Live Australian Music
for Strongbow cider
for 10 degree winters
for giant purse statues
for tram stops
for flip flops (thongs)
for Southern Cross Station
for modern art installations that feature 47 specially recruited dachshunds
for freak hail storms
for asshole administrators
for racist politicians, and for Nando’s ads telling racist politicians that “we’re all the same on the inside”
for 12 hour train trips to Sydney – a beautiful but boring city
for returning, after 5 days away, and loving Melbourne all the more
and then, 6 months after burning my nose on a beach in St Kilda watching my favourite funk band, it’s time to go home
but I’m already there
it’s time to leave home
so I pack my one big grey suitcase
suspend myself in the air, going backwards through time – no mean feat
and fall back down to earth
and it is a hard landing.