A Hundred Echoes


That’s the only word for it. I feel heavy and lethargic and weighed down by all the things I want that don’t want me. I pull on my shoes and drag myself out for a run, because my apartment is too small, my presence too big, my restlessness, unbearable.

I pass the red awning of the cafe where we had crepes and coffee once, back when we were us. Then much later, those final beers, and after, you kissed me on the forehead and for a second I thought everything would be okay but it turns out nothing was.

I run through the outdoor terrace of the riverside club where I talked you into sharing my cab when  what I meant was, help me escape. I blink and I see you there, I breathe in and I can smell the last breakfast you made for me – eggs on toast at 3am, somehow more intimate than anything else we’d shared. I wore those pink shoes, remember? I was invincible.

I lift my head and see the bridge where we kissed that day I was sunburnt and we drank rosé, and you held me and wouldn’t let me go, couldn’t tear yourself away. Later you’d tell me that we couldn’t see each other anymore because girls like me would take you away from the girl of your dreams.

I sprint past that stupid shitty Irish pub where we went the first time because I was trying to choose the least romantic place I knew, determined this could go nowhere, then later we came here because nobody we knew ever did. I hate that I think of you whenever I hear bad 80s songs.

I force myself up to the old cinema I planned to take you to, because you loved movies and I loved the history of places, loved standing in one spot and imagining all the moments that had been had there before.

I reach the last uphill climb before the tower and my breath catches in my throat, too constricted from holding back tears to breathe properly. I think of how I failed you, how I didn’t come home in time. How I didn’t get to mourn you, how much I miss you, how that loss still takes my breath away.

I linger on the corner, change the route to go past your house but of course, you don’t live there anymore.

I avoid entire arrondissements, scan faces in the crowd.

How dare we try to love, again? When the streets of the city are lined with ghosts we’ll never shake off? How do others be, in places where we were?


Do you see me, too?


Royan receives you broken

Royan receives you broken.

3 years you’ve been coming to this sleepy seaside town and 3 years you’ve arrived, heavy.

Work issues, visa problems, matters of the heart; it’s rare that you arrive with your biggest worry the race ahead. The race is incidental, the reason for being there but not the reason for being.

You stay in the hotel that has become ritual the night before. You eat the it’ll-do pizza by the sea.

You head to the stadium to say a quick hello to friends doing the unthinkable – the double – the 48-hour race.

You are welcomed as a friend, by the volunteer who recalls the rugby match back in 2015. The rust-red gravel crunches familiar underfoot; this time tomorrow you’ll have learnt to hate it.

Participants with 12 hours of racing behind them are preparing for their first long cold night. They are determined, focused, wearing all manner of clothing. Some walk, others run, some of their gaits – like that of the Italian, are graceful and effortless, others so laboured you’d give up your seat on the bus to its owner, if we were anywhere else.

It doesn’t look all that impressive, if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

The next morning, the sun shines fiercely through the mist. You greet friends, some you’ve seen just last week, for others it’s been a full year; Royan your only common ground.

One wears a Bondi Beach t-shirt, and hands you photos from the year before – minutes before the start – a timely reminder that you’ve been here before, have done this; can do this; got this.

You take the start line with the others, the few women taking particular care to greet each other. We are outnumbered, but we are there. We set off slow, a sprinting start serves no-one in this kind of arena.

For hours you walk, and you jog, slowly-slowly your only plan. The sun is shining, Elton John plays out from the speakers. You eat your chocolate dessert and think – I’m really enjoying this. It sounds insane but it feels almost like vacation.

You eat well, nothing hurts, and for the moment you don’t think beyond the marathon. Get to 42.2km before dinner, you think, then we’ll take it from there. But the marathon comes earlier and easier than planned, so you have to readjust. Get to 50km, before dinner. Without any serious training for the race, 50km is your cautious goal, you should be able to get 50km out without training.

50 comes and goes and you are ecstatic – this is what you came for, everything else is bonus. You’re also a little lost. What to aim for now? How to break down the night into its parts? You catch up with Valerie who calms you down with her practical advice – do a few more laps, sit down to dinner, then you’ll see. She’s right, just get to the next thing, then the next. You find you have 60km in you before dinner, though your right knee has been playing up since 50. It’s a familiar niggle, but it means a lot more walking than running, which in turn brings other challenges.

You eat and joke and linger at dinner. Other years you’ve eaten while walking around the track, no time to lose, a large goal looming. This year your strategy is a lot looser, your sort-of goal already surpassed. Truth be told you don’t want to go back out there. You do it anyway.

Barely started again and the German powerhouse distance walker Martina catches up with you, to tell you with a giggle how much she likes your bright Bonds leggings. You fall into step and her conversation, first in French, then in English, carries you through 3 or 4 precious kilometres. You talk about yoga and mushroom hunting and holiday spots, she tells you about some fascinating races she’s been to, and her love of Stephen
King novels. Her determined pace and concentration had invited a wide berth in previous years, now as you laugh out loud, you wonder why on earth you weren’t chatting to her all along!

If 50-60 are buoyed by Valerie, 60-70 are most certainly thanks to Martina. You decide at 70 to lay down for awhile. An hour of sleep, followed by 3 hours to get to 80km should work well. At 11pm you close your eyes, and wake again at 2am. You don’t want
to leave the sleeping bag, nor the warmth of the gymnasium, but both work in your favour. Starting again is less painful than predicted. You cradle a strong, hot coffee, and set out again into the night. You grab the phone – a call to Australia is just what the doctor ordered. 70-80km take time, but soon enough they’re done too.

The hundred is, at this stage, perhaps possible, perhaps not, but you know for sure you don’t want them badly enough to fight for them. It feels liberating, somehow.

You want to reach 84.4km, the symbolic double marathon, then take another rest before attacking the final hours. The knee still not keen for running, you make a cup of instant noodles, and set back off around the track. The lack of sleep makes you giddy. You dub 81km: The Noodle Tour, in your head, like Madonna’s Comeback Tour. At the time this seems like the greatest joke ever.

You hit the double marathon, and head off to breakfast. Again, you chat and linger. There is a little under two hours to go. Back to the track. You walk, you joke, you smile. The sun is up, the night a memory.

You walk and chat and run a little, as the euphoria of the end draws near. You won’t hit the hundred and it doesn’t matter one bit. You came, you did the thing, you didn’t suffer.

You stand beside the podium, fourth in a race of four, but stupidly proud regardless. You are here, you belong. You’ll be back.

All the things you cannot know

You’re livid with unsettledness, edgily restless and agitated. Frustrated. Wildly unsure of what to do next, wanting to do all of the things and also, none of them. Mad that you’re here again, at this crossroads again. Pissed that things can’t just follow a goddam vaguely linear trajectory for one freakin’ year. Waiting desperately for the email, the call, the opportunity, actively going out and seeking it – not knowing what it looks like. Tired of the whole thing. Bored and boring and blah. In need of solid, action. Forward motion. Something to happen.

What next what next what next what-the-fuck-happens-next you chant, frantically, anxiously in your head, as you hit repeat on the Tom Petty song for the millionth time that day.

You refresh the job websites, check your email. Do work tasks, invent tasks to do even though you’re on holidays and there isn’t much work to do. Because you need to be busy, need to feel useful. You sit in the sun.

You’re an angry shell of wants and what-ifs and one-days and when I’m older this and I hope I’m like that. The weight of all you’re not yet, digs its heel into your chest. You’re the gap, the yawning, aching emptiness. You don’t know how to converse intelligently about the autumn foliage, you didn’t think ahead to bring ingredients to make a dish for everyone. You don’t know how to be, as well as others seem to know how to be.

You long to sit around with friends in ten or twenty years time telling Patti Smith-esque stories about the time a billionaire came over for burgers or the rockstar you stole the show from; that infamous magazine cover.

These are the years for creating the memories, right? For doing the wild, regrettable things that the best stories are made of. You’re not quite 30, living in Paris, and you’re freeeeeee (sung in Tom Petty’s voice). Why is it you feel so stuck to the floor? So ‘nothing ever happens’ about things? How do you make things happen? How do you become who you want to be, before you arrive?

I want to cook delicious fresh food and invite friends to sit around a communal table, and to have a kickass important career, to contribute and to be passionate about a multitude of things. A full life, a big life, a friends and lovers and passionate people only sort of crowd. No time for less, for people who’d like you smaller.

When does it start / how does it start? How do you get started?

How do you shake off this funk? How do you ensure this year doesn’t go to waste? How do you do this life thing on your own terms? How do you take it next level?

You start a business in 4 days because you’re so bored and overflowing with creative energy and the idea is good you know it is. But it’s also hard and you’re not sure this is THE thing to do. If it was THE thing you could go all in. Get a day job that pays the bills and throw yourself into this day and night and weekends, you could do that.

Should you do that?

But what about the writing? That was the plan, the passion, the master plan. You’ve neglected it, and you’ve felt the impact. You want to write. Pick back up the fallen manuscripts, start afresh, get a book out, publish it yourself, get some momentum, fake it til you make it. Is writing THE thing?

Should you do that?

What about HR? You’re good at it, you know this isn’t arrogance, not really, it’s just a coincidence of knowing what to do and how to do it in a market / context that has a huge room for improvement. And the Paris startup world is perfect for this. Maybe you need to just find the right company, the right founders and pour all your energy into that? Make a name for yourself, make a difference, build a semi-recognisable career path, go places.

Should you do that?

Should you step up the running? Research and plan for a dream race? Make that your thing and the rest, incidental.

Are any of those the right options? Are all of them? Is it a new apartment you need? A new arrondissment? What about a new city, starting over again, again – you love-hate doing that. What about something else entirely? Take 3 months, 6 months off to hike or cross-country motorbike (permit pending) or make wine or literally anything else I can think of.

You know that it is selfish to bemoan a multitude of choices, not everyone is so lucky. But in part, this fuels your need to go big – to contribute significantly, because you can, because you must.

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

You know the answer to only two of those things.

You. Now.

At the lack of speed of things

There’s a line of a Matchbox Twenty song that goes like this: she gets sad when there’s nothing going on / she says it makes her feel damn worthless.

I haven’t consciously held off on writing but also, I thought I just naturally would again when things (read: my life) started to take some sort of discernible shape.

I’ve not written (much) about my divorce, though I suppose I’ve written around it. Perhaps out of guilt or some sort of shame, or a misunderstanding of what it means to respect those we once loved – as if naming, or identifying the location and nature of my hurt would be to deny my part in causing it.

It’s been a rough year, I said in 2016. These past 18 months have been tough, I said in April. The two-crap-years-in-a-row mark is coming up and I find I am tired, and angry and frustrated at the lack of speed of things.

How is it possible, I ask, voice shaky with tears, that they’ve all moved so far, so fast, when I’ve barely mastered standing still?

How can it be that the ex-husband has a whole new family (already)? How can the ex-best friend slide straight back into a bright and full social life + his next relationship? How is it that the lives you once occupied such a consequential part of can just close the gap that was you with no apparent scarring? How can the one who couldn’t stop thinking about you, now not stop to respond to a text?

How is it that you’re here, still, again?

When do you start to re-gain things (not the same, but others) that you lost? Is the season of losing not finite? Or just not finished with you, yet?

When will the finding begin again?

When you’re a garden gnome, you’re a garden gnome

It’s Saturday, enfin, the end of a bad week. I have a mild but well-deserved white wine hangover. Paris snoozes in the throes of pre-August abandon.

I don’t have a plan, as such, but I have a book and a picnic rug and the first hint of hunger rumbling in my belly.

I buy some tomatoes, an unapologetically large peach. Some fresh bread, cheese, a bottle of lemonade.

I wander into the covered market, blinking in the low light. I’ll buy some jambon serrano, I think.

‘Bonjour Madame,’ I begin, ‘just two slices of ham, please.’ I refrain from my usual, defensive, it’s-just-for-me speech.

She slices the ham, holding the first one up to the light, so I can approve the thickness.

‘You have a lovely accent, where are you from?’

I smile, she isn’t to know that this is a conversation I both love and despise; and conduct every other day. ‘Sydney,’ I explain, ‘But I’ve been in Paris for five years now.’

‘Well you can’t tell!’ A man wheeling vegetables to his neighbouring stand chimes in.

I wait, unclear if he’s referring to my pale skin, poor accent, or something else entirely.

‘I mean, because you’re still so charming! Parisians aren’t charming.’

I smile politely as my market stall lady dismisses him with a wave of her hand.

‘I was supposed to go to Australia, you know,’ she says, holding the package of ham close to her chest. ‘He was Italian, I met him on vacation. 15 years we wrote to each other. 15 years! Tu te rends compte?

‘But you didn’t go?’ I ask.

‘No, the month the trip was planned I lost all of my family in an accident. Aeroplane. Horrible. All of them, all at once.’

‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ I say, uselessly.

‘But he just thought I didn’t want to come.’ She shrugs. ‘He’s married now. Could have been me.’

She isn’t to know that this has been the theme of my week, being forced to imagine those sister lives, the ghost lives, the ones we came so very close to living but through choice or circumstance instead, saluted from the shore.*

‘You know what I like best about Australians?’ I blink, as the vegetable-seller’s voice brings us back to the present. ‘They’re just my size,’ he says, snaking an arm around my neck.

Eh, ben, when you’re a garden gnome, you’re a garden gnome, hein!’ she tells him, snorting as he saunters off, mock-offended.

I smile at my new friend as I hand over the money and she releases the ham from her possession, but not before grasping my hand, and making me promise to come back soon.

I will, I say. I will.

*To paraphrase the great Cheryl Strayed

Something Just Like This

You eat the grilled baby octopus and raise a glass to Spain, to yourself, to being 28 and to the absurd range of choices currently afforded you.

You’ve been here less than a day but already the weather and the proximity to water has healed you some. The recently appeared acne on your chin, the work stress, the million tiny heartbreaks of late, shrink back in this seaside air. 

You could stay or you could go. Go to London or Barcelona or Sweden. New York, back to Sydney. You could find important, impressive sounding work, you could start your own business. You could get the motorbike license or the cat or a tattoo or all three. 

You can be independent and self sufficient and world-wise and badass and still fall asleep in strong arms when offered. You can be resolute and serious and do the hard things, the necessary ones, the tough parts, and let yourself cry for 45 seconds in the coworking bathroom.  

You eat dinner alone, read the books, sit by yourself on a bench, on the sand. 

You listen to the Spanish choir playing Abba and Coldplay songs; you receive a text out of the blue. You revel in the glorious symmetry. The small wins. The promised pizza, the delivered back massage. You refuse the hug, endure the silence. The wanting. The waiting. The knowing. 

You smile at a Sweet Caroline singalong breaking out along the beach. The wind in your hair, the promise in the air. 

What is this, you wonder.

Summer. Freedom. Possibility. Solitude. Enough. More than enough. 

Telling Stories

How’s the writing going, he asks. It’s late, on the longest day of the year, and the Paris streets are sweltering. We’re shouting to be heard over the music.

Oh, you know, life, I said. Working too much, there is a guy. Was a guy. I don’t know. I’m not running either, I say, hoping to steer the conversation towards a more general, I’ve-let-things-go-a-bit theme.

You have what it takes to be a runner, sure, he said. You could be a decent runner. But you have a gift for writing. You should be writing.

Through the rosé-filtered haze, I understood what he meant. He wasn’t complimenting me, not at all. It was a reprimand. A quote from Marianne Williams came to mind: “Your playing small does not serve the world.”

Why do I write, I asked, back in 2014.

I write because it’s something I can do, because sometimes it’s all I can do.

But it’s bigger than that, bigger than me, or my circle of friends or my experience. My writing is inherently, essentially, inextricably personal. The people and situations and words and feelings are mine and mine alone, but herein lies the secret: we’re all desperately unique in our similarity. That we are drawn to each other’s vulnerability but repelled by our own.

That art of all forms has only ever been about translating the jumbled yarn-ball of feelings and musings and a-ha moments and despair and sheer hopefulness that we feel deep down in our core, into the form we’re most familiar with.

That the work is in the making of the art but the magic is in the interpretation.

Art is not static nor objective, it is experienced and received and swallowed by a whole, separate, wildly different person just like us.

That our stories have the power to draw out other stories; that our human experience is so strikingly similar to the neighbour whose gaze we avoid as we shuffle out the door in the morning. That our least favourite colleague suffers and delights and cries in the crawl space beside the washing machine too. That our sisters contain worlds too, that our fathers feel the deep pit of loneliness in the midst of a full life. That our bosses are scared shitless and have imposter syndrome just like us.

That we get all tangled up inside trying to work out what the signals mean. The read-but-not-replied-to whatsapp message. The furtive looks across the crowded bar. The silence oh the goddam silence. The what-do-they-all-think-of-me-really moments. The fear. The joy. The grit. The glory. The who-the-hell-am-I-anyway to be wearing red lipstick and a high ponytail on a Thursday night where nobody can see me.

That we contain multitudes, that our selves are ever changing, that sometimes we do the best we can with what we have but often we do the bare fucking minimum. That we spend our lives ‘connecting’ and ‘chatting’ but we’re all just crying out to be heard, to be held. To be whole.

That if we knew that our playing small, and safe did not serve the world. If we saw that the cracks are where the light gets in, that the unexpected, the didn’t-go-to-plan is where the magic happens. That the point, the whole fucking point is that we’re human, lonely, and that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Subtle shifts

He positions himself between me and my friends at the bar. Touches my forearm, squeezes my shoulder, leans in to me in agreement. I am the only girl in the bar; the only person in the world.

Yesterday he was the beautiful stranger, the almost-missed meet-cute. That smile, the quiet confidence. The perfectly timed bad joke, as I pushed the door on my way out.

A look back.

Yesterday he was shiny and full of hope and possibility. A sort of something, not nothing. The topic of late afternoon conversation with colleagues, the object of text-message analysis.

Tonight he is dulled by the effect of one too many gin tonics and physical proximity, and the necessary logistics that were required for us to find ourselves together in the same bar again.

He stares into the emptiness, here and not here.

‘What are you thinking about?’

‘It’s complicated, I’m complicated. I haven’t had an easy life. I don’t want to burden you with any of it.’

Old Me (leaning in): Here are my scars, here is my story. Have it though you haven’t earned it. May it serve to reassure you that you’re not alone.

‘I’m not really looking for complicated right now.’

‘So I should have said I was perfect, then, to get you to kiss me?’

Old Me: Your perfection doesn’t interest me. The hundred different ways in which we are uniquely damaged are fascinating and beautiful. Let me help you.

‘Why don’t we get a coffee tomorrow, instead.’

‘But I want to talk now. I never get along this well with people I’ve just met, with girls I like. I trust you. That must mean you’re special.’

Old Me: I know what it’s like to be misunderstood. I live for those nights where time ceases to matter and conversations open our world and we are more human than usual, more vulnerable. Maybe I am special. Most people don’t see that, but you do. I will waste many good hours trying to understand you.

‘I think you should go meet your friends, we’ll talk tomorrow.’

‘Okay. But come with me. Please. I don’t want to leave you just yet. But here, this bar, this context I can’t be myself. Let’s go somewhere else. Please, Ali.’

Old Me: Okay. Because we never do know. And isn’t it the unplanned nights, the days you did the unexpected thing, took the chance, that pay the biggest dividends? And maybe he is handsome and deep and thoughtful and maybe only you can understand him. Maybe this is the whole point. What do you have to lose? At the very least it’ll get your mind off the Other One.

‘Passe une bonne soirée, au revoir.’

It feels something like progress.

The Unbearable Lightness of Be(com)ing

I’ve spent a lot of midnight hours wondering about the ‘who’ of becoming. Who am I, now, who will I be when the shadows of the night stretch into the clear light of tomorrow? Who must I be for this world to seem less cold, to be the one in the centre of the moment, not the sidelined observer?

Whenever things happened in my life I’d ask what they said about me, as a person. If I readily forgive the friend who damaged me, does that make me a willing victim? If I stay, does that make me a trooper, someone admirable with grit and determination? If I go, am I flighty and flaky and unreliable and unemployable and unlovable? If you can watch me sleep and still walk away, what kind of nobody must I be? If I run a marathon on little training, am I brave or foolish? Badass or just slow AF? If I get my motorbike license will I become someone else entirely or just be same old tiresome me with the renewed ability to run ever more swiftly headlong into (metaphoric) walls?

I spent so much time on the who, that I failed to realise that the who is auxiliary to the how.

And so, how do you become?

When I was little and living in suburban Sydney the magnitude of the world used to both dwarf and awe me. I was convinced that nothing would ever happen to me. Nothing of consequence. And in all of that nothingness I saw the days and weeks and months and years rushing forward, overwhelming and enveloping me like a great wave from which there is no escape. I thought the problem was perhaps partly geographical, partly personal. I was blonde, freckled, pale-skinned. Average, unremarkable. Bookish, sure, but not brave about it.

I was sure real life was ‘elsewhere’, and that to experience it I would have to go out looking for it, in the dark, in the dregs of the night, calling its name at the top of my lungs. I read Sartre, de Beauvoir, Henry Miller. Alice Munro, Cheryl Strayed and Nora Ephron too, but they would come much later, too late, one could argue.

I thought that one became by being better than yesterday. And that day by day we build on what we already know, growing stronger and smarter and healthier and more whole. I didn’t know that real life has zero f*cks to give about the arbitrary linearity of my imagined life. That happy and stable and employed and in love one day has no bearing on tomorrow, let alone on a five-year plan (perhaps the most idiotic concept in the history of idiotic concepts; but I digress).

That we would never have chosen the things that happened to us. That ‘no regrets’ is a beautiful lie and a false choice because we can’t change how it went down but by God, we would, wouldn’t we, if we could? That the year you spent drunk on cheap beer and the sweet words of half-grown boys and misdirected energy and half-thought-out projects and friends who were anything but, and writing angsty manuscripts tarnished by the endless flow of tears: that was it.

The great becoming.

That the muck, the dirt, the down-on-the-ground howling. The incompleteness. The taking-of-the-punches. The my-God-this-cant-be-it moments. The traitorous bottles of red and the false intimacy and the cigarettes on the balconies and oh the glorious waste.

We would never have chosen the things that happened to us.

But they did.

Every single heartbreak, every disappointment, every harsh word, every ‘this-is-all-you-get-and-not-a-crumb-more’ injustice. Every time you went home alone and it broke you, every time you didn’t and it broke you all the same. The words that were spoken, but more importantly those that were not. The moment, when you saw things starting to change. When you said, this is it: the reason for the rest of this shit. Because of now, because of you. The beautiful fall. So stunning, so predictably unexpected. So pure. So seriously f*cked up.

You would have chosen to heal like this: surrounded by good friends, your energy put cleanly into your work and your running: good and noble causes. Early nights and reading books and general, classy ‘waiting for the storm to pass’ behaviour.

Oh, sweetie, ha, how deliciously naive you were.

How wholly necessary this all was. How awful. How unavoidable. How gloriously messy and ugly and unforgivably human of you.

Who do you become? How do you become? What do you become?

The answer is as it always was. Not who, or how or what. No, my dear, the whole point is this:

“You become. It takes a long time.”*

*Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

You go home

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.

You heal.

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.