We don’t see each other anymore.
I think I see you, getting on a tram, going through a revolving door, walking ahead of me in a crowded street. Even when I decide it isn’t you, I walk faster to close the gap between us, just in case.
I see things I think you would want to see. And because you’re not with me it seems like you’re missing out. And that seems a shame, to put it mildly.
I’d like to hear from you.
There’s a gentle breeze here on the pier, carrying gulls’ excitement, but lacking your laugh and muttered asides.
Let’s get this straight. I want to hear your voice, but would settle for just being with you, sitting quietly like that old couple over there, not talking, just gazing out to sea and listening to the waves lap against the pier.
“Let’s stay in touch,” you said.
But we didn’t. And now all the receptors in my skin—not just the obvious ones—are missing you.
I’m sitting in the back seat of a VW Beetle, smelling leather and exhaust fumes mingled with patchouli oil, crossing the Yarra near West Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon in Autumn. There’s hardly any traffic, not even footy traffic … wait a minute. That doesn’t seem possible. It must have been a Sunday.
Flinders Street, western end, 2017
Banana Alley is no longer quite so seedy. The old brick vaults house a nail salon and a decent café. And now that my son has outgrown his childhood dream of being a cage-fighter, I’m able look into the vault that houses the martial arts complex, at a woman with a mean look on her face, punching into a man’s upheld gloved hands, and think, “You go, sister.”
An unlucky uncle
When my mother visited Uncle Frank a few days after his first wife gassed herself, he asked her if she would put the roast in the oven—he couldn’t face it. She told us that the cushion Vera had used was back on the couch, smelling of gas. Frank’s second wife burnt to death in a boarding house. He had come home to find her still alight and had thrown her, chair and all, over the balcony to the garden below. Unrelated to this, he was arrested for possession of a stolen car engine.
Another unlucky uncle
Little Dougie, as he was known, was alone in the chapel. He was standing over the open coffin of Big Dougie (as his father had been known) taking a polaroid photo.
“This is for Mum,” he told us. “She didn’t feel like coming.”
We offered our condolences while he flapped the instant photo then peeled away the negative. He seemed cheerful enough. Told us he’d been caught melting down New Zealand coins for their silver content and was out on bail. Told us he’d had nothing but bad luck since being hit by a Mr Whippy truck earlier in the year. Bad luck indeed.
You have my permission to drift. You have my permission to stare out the window and sigh. Whatever you should be doing, you have my permission to do it later.
You may weep or sleep. Or fuck up, again. You go right ahead. No, really. You go right ahead.