We’re in the middle of another patch of the hot weather that has become the norm over the last few summers. Today it’s sunny, fine and about 40 degrees. It was a bit short of that yesterday when I ventured into the city to catch up with Donna for a drink.
Friday night drinks used to be the standard for me. Over many years working in the city I’d knock off on a Friday night and three times out of four would find myself at nearby bar with friends or workmates, if only for an hour or two – though often much more. There was a time when I knew pretty well every decent bar in the CBD, and many of them intimately.
It’s been a little while since I lived that life. I was getting a bit old for it anyway, but I’d have liked for it to be a choice I made. Instead life has contrived to remove me from that, for now anyway. Once upon a time I might have been out 30 Fridays through the year, not to mention the sundry few dozen times through the week; in total, now, I might get to a city bar 4-5 times through the year. I’m a social guy and I miss it, and every time I manage to do it so much comes flooding back to me.
That’s the value – if that’s the word – of returning to something that once seemed routine. You’re more alert to the things around you. What was once just a part of the environment has novelty value now. Even the colours, the sounds, seem more vivid. And you appreciate the essence of it.
That’s how it was last evening. I got into the hot city at knock-off time and when once I’d have been one of the workers exiting the office and looking towards the weekend I was there as an outsider this time, and looking upon the comings and goings with an outsiders eyes.
I hooked up with Donna in Meyers Place, one of the better bar streets in Melbourne. We intended to go to a new-ish rooftop bar, Loop. As it turns out we put our name down at the door but couldn’t get in. We went downstairs instead to the bar there and found a corner with drink in hand.
Our relationship became complicated last year. Leading into Christmas we began to re-connect. That gathered pace in the new year. A couple of weeks ago I attended the funeral of her father, who had been ailing for a while. There’s a bond between people who have lost a parent. And in times like those the petty differences between people seem irrelevant. You hunker down to what is real between you.
We sat there and talked, about her dad, her family, what she’s going to do now. About her work, career, and about my birthday plans. My eyes flitted around the room. There was an attractive, slightly exotic barmaid in short shorts behind the bar. “Lemongrass,” I said speaking our secret language. Donna laughed and then agreed, “I love lemongrass,” she said.
I looked at the chunky bouncer drinking what looked like an iced coffee. Immediately before us where a bunch of friends in their late thirties, mainly women, who caught up over glasses of white wine and thin crust pizza. They laughed, one of them in a short dress flashing her legs every time she crossed and re-crossed them. Nearby a pretty girl in her early twenties stood slim in a beautiful dress. In the laneway outside people passed by, tourists, and city office staff looking for a bar to drink at, or skipping up the stairs to the Italian Waiters Club opposite.
I sipped on my drink, a cider first, before a stubby of Coopers Red, then finishing off Donna’s drink. I held it in my mouth, tasting it. On a hot day the cool liquid was ideal. It flowed through me and I felt myself loosening.
Everything was all so familiar while seeming so fresh. It felt like me. I was the master of this. So much is tenuous these days, unknown, uncertain, and just plain hard. Here though I felt a part of myself regenerated, that big part of myself, the part that hungers, the part that strives, the part that wants to swallow the world up and taste every bit of it. I felt ambitious, horny, irrepressible. Donna had told me how her mum and sister had commented at the funeral about how I was much more handsome than they remembered. I’d been dubious, but standing there with a drink in my hand and looking about me I felt some sense of that entitlement again.
Circumstances are circumstances. They can be terminal, but as I said to Donna last night talking about something else, everything is always in motion. Later I joked about the day I appear on This Is Your Life, about how the urbane host will read from his book commenting “and then you hit some turbulence.” Implicit in that is the transitory nature of time, and the presumption that it’s no more than a phase that becomes something more when the ‘turbulence’ has passed. I’m living it and it feels always sometimes, and as keen as a well honed blade. Things shift though, which is what I’m counting on.
I’m not saying what I saw and what I felt last night is me, but there’s a lot of it that is. It made me remember those aspects of myself. You get tempted sometimes to change, but I think that’s a waste of time. Always room for improvement, always lessons to be learned and bits and pieces to tinker with. You can’t change your nature though, and sometimes just owning up to it makes you stronger. I’ve been called aggressive much of my adult life and if that means ambitious and curious, impatient and impudent, bold, confident and forever hungry for more than fair enough. That’s the me I want to be, the me I want to live like again.
So it is. It’s 40 degrees and the next day and nothing has transited yet. What I remember is the truth of your character. I saw that last night. Circumstances vary, but you’re something and there’s no point in trying to be anything else.