I’m good thanks. You might’ve heard I’m living by myself now, in a loft above my office in the dusty heart of Collingwood, where I feel oddly at home for an Essendon supporter. My goldfish are in the kitchen and I have a pair of quail out back, pecking at a creaky chicken-wire aviary I built one Saturday afternoon.
Life and I are actually in furious agreement these days. It’s almost embarrassing. I want of nothing so much as a little more time.
So I don’t think of you that often, and when I do I wonder why. I must admit I don’t read books like I used to. I hardly ever write at all. Perhaps it’s true that my life was once richer, that these greys would have once seemed black or white. But certainly it was a greater torture, those valleys were abysmal and there seemed to be a lot more rain back then. I can’t imagine my old bones are up for that again.
Well of course not. But Harrow and Murk and Reed and Stipp, they flicked through the water and pock-pocked at the air until one bad winter, when I buried all of them under the magnolias at the back of the yard. The quails built nests in pea straw and gave me speckled eggs for Sunday omelettes, then grew old and perished and were replaced by more, who pecked each other mercilessly and roamed under the grape vine and the cumquat tree through the warm summer months before they were taken by cats. At least I didn’t have to bury them, in my unassuming funerary courtyard — nor old Nick, the rickety Italian shoemaker who tended his vast Carringbush orchard next door, until in that cavernous two-storey cave he coughed and spluttered his last lonely night.
I miss old Nick, who spent most of his life in the place next door. Who I hardly met but once — standing waiting on Christmas day for a taxi to take him to his wife’s hospital bed. She never came back. He wasn’t there next Christmas. I miss my quails and my religious fish, whose religion ultimately and misguidedly was me. I miss Cafe Dreams, where once you could obtain the finest kebabs in Collingwood, but whose business model was fundamentally unsound. Everyone misses Hieronymus the turtle, now splashing madly in the waters of our new place.
I didn’t grow up here, but I’ve thrown up here. I’ve lived and loved and cheered here, been shattered here, been reduced to constituent parts and recomposed here. Have leaned against the walls and muttered to myself here, thrown my arms around kindred spirits here, donated grand and stern lectures about things of very little importance, built things here in meditative silence, things that might define me, or might not. My old bones have acquiesced to all of it.
There are seven of us who gave this place a soul. Two have said goodbye, with less pomposity than this. One I wish had had a better chance, but you move on. New and better things.
Tomorrow we’ll drink and slap the walls and look back over our shoulders and give the old place one last look then close the door for give or take the last time. It’s nothing, just a place a few doors down from John Wren’s old tote and a stone’s throw from pub rock’s old Tote. Nothing, not a place I ever owned, though for a moment there I came pretty close; whose owner will sell it for a shiny dime and give it back to the ‘bush, never to be the same.
It’s just a place where I lived once, for a while. You keep moving, on to new and better things.
Joseph | 28 Jan 2010