That’s it then. The fat lady has sung, the clock has chimed, the sand has run down. After two years of work, travel and merriment Australia’s patience has faded and she has asked, like the significant others before her, that I board the nearest plane and fuck the fuck off thank you very much. After the usual period of despondence, denial and depression I have acquiesced. Almost.
It’s hard to know how to sum it all up, as evidenced by the countless (three) drafts of this entry lying discarded in my trash folder. One topic did shine through however. Like a leering ex staring bawdily through your keyhole my drafts were obsessed with one thing and one thing alone: Melbourne. My time in the Blue Mountains, my exploration of the fabled Red Centre, that one time we bought a dog, all went unmentioned. Instead, love letters to the city I’ve called home these past months. And why not, I suppose.
London is not my favourite place. My time there wasn’t so much a choice as a statistical calculation of employment probability. Melbourne was a choice. Like a tiny wee tick I dug in, and as the tweezers of inevitability approach I find myself defiantly clinging on. I couldn’t wait to see the back of London. The thought of leaving Melbourne triggers a Pavlovian denial response wherein my mind wanders off to look at the pretty lights of nostalgia. This is of course a healthy and mature way of dealing with things.
But still. Melbourne. Over time it’s become my Be All End All, a Shambhalar, Shangri-la, and Albion. It’s none of these of course and yet all of them combined, with a big arse casino in case you get bored. It’s London without the anonymity, New York without the crowds. It’s a place of culture, galleries and bands you pretend to like. It’s a nightclub, a writhe of bodies and lights and drinks requiring mortgages. It was a home, with people to love and trust and try desperately not to think about leaving. It was all of these and more, and none of this does it the slightest bit of justice. All from one humble beginning: a sweaty night on the wrong side of town, trying in vain to find a bar that wasn’t a stripclub.
It’s impossible to know what my abiding memories will be. Perhaps my first White Night, a celebration of the art of lighting large buildings with lasers, where a few drinks turned into an all night search for coffee set to the concertos of Rachmaninov. Or maybe Christmas in July where my attempt at roast turkey became the stuff of legend. Will they include my attempts at semi-pro dodgeballing, an effort that gained me the callsign “Liability”, or our month long reign as regional pub-quiz champions? Who can tell. I do know I’ll remember it as a time I was happy in one place, a fleetingly rare occurrence these days. For the past 3 years I’ve shuffled round the globe like a confused goose, and to find somewhere I’m content to just be is quite the achievement. Then again perhaps it was the time limit, the ephemerality, that soothed my itchy feet from the start. Perhaps I have a built in penchant for the temporal, or at the very least the unattainable.
Despite these destructive proclivities the last few months have been a reverse Casablanca, a desperate search for some way to remain at Rick’s. Sponsorship? No go. University? Perhaps if I sold a kidney. Were my life a novel, a tome of exotic climes and far off places, a mysterious benefactor would no doubt appear, an adventuress of high renown brandishing a defacto visa like the flame of Olympus itself. Alas, the only offering ahead is a hearty handshake from the customs official as I depart.* Like Angela Lansbury and The Case of the Potential Immigrant I chased down every lead and came up with nothing. Deportation She Wrote. Still, after all the calls and letters and hope and disappointment I’m OK with that. I think I’m OK with that. Melbourne has become a watermark so high the bathroom has flooded and the neighbours have called the police, but I’ve spent the last 6 months with a countdown about my head. To lose that alone is perhaps worth the pain of leaving. It absolutely isn’t but still. Glass half full.
Farewell then Australia. You’ve taken my youth, my looks and a not inconsiderable amount of my money but in the end, in the very, very end, it was worth it.
Song for going back where I came from:
Seems like an appropriate ditty to end on, melancholic enough to play to my uncertainties, optimistic enough to make me think things are probably better than they seem. The plan is to have it blaring as the wheels leave the tarmac, air hostesses shouting for me to be quiet as I scream half known lyrics in the face of the terrified old lady next to me. Rock n roll.
Also, I definitely ain’t that young any more.
*I’m getting that handshake, I don’t care what I have to do. What are they going to do, deport me?