In town the other night, I walked up Collins Street up towards the Paris end. It was a little after 6, it had become dark, and the after-work crowd were window shopping or heading off for a drink or, most commonly, on their way home.
I walked up the slight rise past the Athenaeum theatre, past the antiquarian bookshop that’s been there as long as I can remember, and up to the corner where the old Scotch Church stood. Across the road, the fancy boutiques glittered, Versace, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton. The traffic went by dimly, the trams coming in or going from the city stopped and started, brightly lit and full of passengers, and the streetlights glowing yellow in the darkness filtered their light through the leaves of the elegant trees lining the street.
I missed this, I thought. If you must work, then it really should be in the CBD, wherever you live: that’s where the action is. I missed the comings and goings, the thriving activity of people doing their thing amid the multitude of available choices. So much was familiar that I thought the city, Melbourne, has become imprinted in me. I know it so well, not just the streets and laneways and the arcades that makeup so much of the city’s charm, nor the bars and restaurants and the best cafes for coffee, though they too seemed written into my sub-conscious, more than anything it was the feeling I would experience, I thought, even with my eyes closed. It is an aura of grace and style and elegance comingled with a certain intellectual hauteur. It is both easy and laid back, and discerning.
Like most Melburnians, I love my town. It regularly gets voted the most liveable city in the world or close to it. True enough, I’m sure, but a truer indicator I would guess is that it would be one of the city’s most loved by the people who live within her. It is our own, and we love her.
Later I had dinner in a cosy restaurant in Flinders Lane. It was frigidly cold out, and we stopped before a series of restaurants looking to choose one. The restaurant we chose had a fire burning in the grate and a warm, homely feel. I sipped my red wine and looked around, everything familiar to me after years of living this same life but in different incarnations. Our conversation touched upon that: look at the men drinking at the bar? They look like boys. I looked, and sure enough, the men she spoke of dressed in fine suits had the clear skin and innocent eyes of boys. I was one of them once, I thought and commented to that effect, to our mutual amusement. I’ve journeyed through life since in this town and away from it, always returning as it changes and remains the same, much as I have done. We have matured together.
We left and it was late. Look she said, it really does look like Paris.
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