And so you go home.
Home. It’s funny how universal and yet how wholly individual that word is. How instantly recognisable, how visceral, how we feel home in our gut. How with all the adjectives and photographs in the world we couldn’t explain it properly to an outsider if we tried.
I’m lucky. ‘Home’ is the house I grew up in, down the street from the school I went to, around the corner from every childhood memory I ever made. It’s 2017 and everything and nothing has changed.
Going home doesn’t just mean 22 flying hours and 17,000 kilometres. It’s a form of time travel.
You run sweaty morning laps around the oval where you once staged a peaceful protest against the high school cross country run. You take the ferry to Manly, eat Copenhagen ice-creams on the beach. You discover the F3 is now the M1. You learn how to pronounce Berejiklian. You listen to Jonesy and Amanda over breakfast, which is as reassuringly early as ever. You forget to remember that the indian restaurant moved a hundred numbers down the road. You find that your third favourite Thai place now serves Afghani food. The curry puffs at Pimarn haven’t changed.
You gulp down the clean, crisp semillon sauvignon blanc before remembering why you stopped drinking it in the first place. You get invested in the latest season of My Kitchen Rules despite yourself. You copy their dishes, and scoff at the melodrama. You never miss an episode. You find the sangria you loved from Barcelona, you slice the strawberries enthusiastically. You add ice cubes in the shape of Eiffel Towers.
You run up the purple-carpeted stairs, don’t walk. You soak the washers in cold water and lay in front of the fan, feverishly dreaming of snow. You eat the sushi, all of the sushi. And the Bondi burger at Oporto. And the pork buns at yum cha. You go to the cinema where you’ve seen hundreds of films before. Everything is more expensive than you remember. Even the choc tops. Especially the choc tops.
You walk from Coogee to Bondi and back again. You run around the Bay and talk of Paris. You swim breaststroke with your head out of water, you float. You drink cocktails by the pool. You read the books, all of the books. You float again. You get a tourist sunburn.
You ride the buses, you top up your Opal card and only call it ‘Myki’ or ‘Oyster’ a few times. You memorise the 621 timetables. You eat Thai in Newtown and dance in Surry Hills.
You play the board games, the one Grundy always loved, and the less painful one. You wish he was there to beat everyone as usual. You sit at his table, at his desk. You read the notes he’s added to old political cartoons in his careful uppercase scrawl. ‘Show Pony. Hypocrite.’ You can almost hear his voice.
You take the bridge, admire the opera. Count the kangaroos in the Hunter. Eat all of the seafood.
You grieve. You sleep. You dream.
And then you go home.
You go home to the glorious light-filled studio at the end of the stairs. Whose memories are equal parts wonderful and awful and only a year old, but whose future is as bright as the sun streaming through ill-chosen flimsy curtains on lazy Sunday mornings.