I have been very close to a beautiful lady for over a decade that I am struggling to say goodbye. She’s graceful, strong, and one of many moods. She can also be a little dirty, but I think that’s why we love each other so.
How do you break up with someone you’re still madly in love with? “It’s not you,” I try rehearsing as I walk the familiar streets I have walked so many times. The long shadows and the crisp air as I watch humans and dogs frolic on the oval as I pass signal the start of Autumn. A somewhat fitting time as the season changes to end a relationship. “It’s me. It’s been a while and I just need to do something different.” What a weak excuse. I’m bad at breakups.
The glorious woman I speak of is my suburb, St Kilda. She is in my bones and knows me intimately. She has always looked after me and been a consistent compass that has guided me through a significant part of my life. She has seen me at my best and my worst. I can say the same for her.
I feel like I am losing a little part of me. There are pieces of me all around this seaside suburb; I have lived many lives here. I see teenage Celia emerging from a gig at the majestic Espy as the sun was rising, wondering how time can move so fast, is it really 6 am? I see Celia the bride dancing barefoot in the 43-degree heat down at St Kilda Marina surrounded by the ones she loves best. And I see the everyday Celia, the one who has loved, laughed, hugged and cried here; and fallen asleep on the tram at the end of Acland Street too many times to count.
We’re leaving St Kilda soon. I am excited about the next adventure. But I am also incredibly sad. There is a tug of war in my heart, part of me that wants to stay, but there is also a restlessness somewhere near the left ventricle that has other ideas. I’m comforted by the fact that there was life in St Kilda before I arrived, and it will go on without me.
I will miss just the small everyday things that made up a happy time here. So mundane by themselves, but together form a beautiful scrapbook of memories in my mind. I have my favourite walking routes, via the clackety clack of Luna Park’s Scenic Railway, past gorgeous art deco front gardens, through little alleyways where junkies say hello and into my local café and watering holes where my friends inside don’t even need to ask me what my order is anymore. Why would you even leave? It’s a nice feeling knowing you belong somewhere, and that things are familiar. But after a period of time, if nothing really changes, are you doing life right?
I think it’s the bay that I will miss the most. It’s a constant backdrop to many of my St Kilda memories. How can anything top walking along the beach on a Sunday morning before anyone else is awake, right along St Kilda Esplanade, where Paul Kelly famously sang the palm trees have it hard. I’d give you all of Sydney Harbour too.
Don’t get me wrong, I have also experienced the other side of my suburb. The people who like to urinate/have sex/pass out on drugs in my driveway have been numerous. The ice addict who laughs like a joker every hour or so in the apartment block next door is unsettling, yet I have been priced out of buying property here. Day-trippers who leave us souvenirs of rubbish. I have also gotten into a real bad habit of ordering gelati online to be home delivered when it would take me two minutes to walk to the goddamn shop.
I once spent a monthly paycheck on seafood down at the Stokehouse, and as I walked home, full of French champagne and oysters, a wild-haired woman, whose weather-worn and drugged eyes made it hard to tell her age came at me, screaming something so loudly about heroin and brandishing a tiny spoon. Since that evening I see her all the time, usually, she’s much less animated, sitting on a bench near the Vineyard, minding her own business just mumbling to herself. I nod to her as I pass, a kindred spirit. If you swap the gelati for heroin, she’s just like me, just happy to have found a place to call home. I will miss her too.
As the storms roll in, as the sun rises and sets, St Kilda has shown me her many moods. She’s taught me that it’s ok to be bright and sunny one day, filled with laughter and champagne and friends, then rumbly, dirty and dark the next. I think this is what I will miss the most. St Kilda is unashamedly beautiful and ugly at the same time. She’s not perfect and never claims to be and doesn’t care what people think of her. I hope I can take some of that self-assuredness with me on my next adventure.
St Kilda, I love you and thank you for all the love you gave me all these years. Even if you don’t want to hear from me after I move away, I will always check-in, and visit often. I might find there’s nowhere else better to live than with you. But I guess there’s only one way to know. It’s not you, it’s me.
Many of us are understandably worried about our older relatives amidst this global pandemic. So, I am reassured when I see another illuminating Facebook post, or an email, from my dad who turns 78 in July. Dad has lived in South Sudan since early 2018, where he has been working at a teacher’s college operated by an organisation called Solidarity with South Sudan, near the capital Juba. Well, he was working until a couple of weeks ago before the South Sudanese government closed educational institutions in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.
As each day brings more news of the spread of coronavirus globally, the concern now shifts to Africa where the World Health Organisation has warned we could see as many as 10 million cases within three to six months. I find myself checking the “coronavirus cases by country” tables, refreshing the page for any changes much like I used to check the football scores. At the time of writing, there have only been a reported four confirmed cases in South Sudan, a figure which has held steady for the past week. It’s hard to know how accurate that figure is. Humanitarian crises are certainly not unfamiliar to the developing country. If the coronavirus were to spread through Africa as is warned, dad could quite possibly catch it. He could quite possibly die. Despite this, I oddly feel less worried about him being in South Sudan right now than if he were here in Melbourne.
What stage of self-isolation are you at? I’m looking back at Celia of early last week. I had seemed to be at a pretty good stage considering there was and still is a global pandemic outside my well sanitised front door. I had fully embraced the ideas in those judgy “Here’s what you should be doing while self-isolating” articles and begun to use the word “pivot” when talking to job recruiters and financial advisors.
Without having a commute, an office or a full-time job after temporarily being stood down to worry about, I was confident I could fill the empty days pretty well. I would build up my freelance writing client base. I had also often fantasised about early retirement, and this was finally an opportunity to make my dreams reality. I could get around to projects I kept putting off for rainy days or not being able to do because of that poor excuse of not having enough time on my (well washed) hands. With 24 hours of every day for the next couple of months in my sights, I was excited as I started planning my week.
Starting Sunday, I scheduled morning Tai Chi with beginner videos on YouTube and slow-cooked the fuck out of everything I could find. I Instagrammed every meal. Afternoons were for walks, my imagining was that once I had built up a level of fitness (my fitness being at a level zero), I would turn the walks into jogs, then eventually runs. I re-potted plants, started listening to self-improvement podcasts and started a fresh new writing journal. I sanitised my front door handle, keys, fruit and the actual hand sanitiser bottle every 45 minutes. Mega productive.
Then Thursday came.
On a night out a few months ago, I was on my way back to the bar from the toilets when I overheard a dear friend talking about me. She pretty much went to town.
“Celia is so shit. Nothing she does is of worth. Have you seen she has a website? What for?! She thinks she can write. Those little blogs of hers are lame and depressing. Oh, and those beer articles, is she an actual alcoholic? Who writes about beer? No one is impressed.
She tells me she goes to the gym. Do you know she only goes for half an hour a week? Half an hour!! What a joke. As if that would do anything. She’s fat. And don’t get me started on her fashion sense. Does she even have a mirror in her house?!"
Her words kept coming. All I could do was stand there and take it.
I got picked for jury duty once. I remember it was summer and a damp type of humidity; the tram journey to and from the courthouse was a bit like when you blow dry your hair in the bathroom when the person before you didn’t turn on the fan when he had his shower five minutes previously. It was the end of February, and the jury summons had arrived after I had successfully deferred my first summons with the reason “I have a scheduled Christmas party in December.” Priorities.
I was actually quite excited to go to court. Imagine that I was picked to be on a jury for a case involving a celebrity? I hoped that I didn’t get a gruesome murder. Unless it was a gruesome murder involving a celebrity, of course. I consciously decided on an outfit that was very neutral. Inoffensive. The reasoning was I had a better chance of being selected that way.
As we waited in the jury pool room, I spied a mature aged lady with a kind face, in a vibrant floral blouse. With a wide smile, she excitedly took a seat at the extreme front to hear the briefing session, attempting to engage others around her in conversation, they attempted to busy themselves with their iPhones.
Here you'll find some unfiltered musings from my brain.
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