Steeped in melancholy

I went to the city late yesterday to do some last-minute shopping and catch up for dinner with a friend. I sat in a pub with a beer in my hand, waiting for her before we had dinner at a Korean barbecue joint.

She offered to drive me home afterwards, and when I refused, she insisted. I sat in the passenger seat watching Melbourne pass by my window, and it struck me how long I’ve been looking out upon this town. I think it was the changes I observed that brought it to mind – old buildings demolished and built in their place, historic facades kept while the innards were gutted, and so on. Among it all, there was still much familiar.

As I looked out on the passing parade, the thought occurred to me: we’ve grown old together. You become a part of the city as much as the city becomes a part of you, and it seemed reassuring. What seemed strange was how much remained vivid to me. When I was young, I looked at older people and pretty well figured their memories must be in sepia, so vast the gap in time seemed.

The game is not so vast from my vantage now, and so much fresh in me – as if I might have stepped from that moment to this without interruption. But, it’s not as simple as that.

Looking out the passenger side window, I spotted an apartment building that looked familiar. Was it this, or one very similar, I wondered? It didn’t matter, it was in the area – and what I remembered was sharing a bathtub with a brunette about 2am on a weeknight, her name escapes me. She dropped me off in the city for work early the next morning, the one and only night I spent with her. I never saw her again.

Driving on, we passed through East St Kilda, close by the poky little flat in Crimea Street of the woman I first fell in love with. I spent the weekend there in 1988, close on after a work party the first time we got together. It was a wondrous, romantic weekend we spent most of in bed together, first in our underwear, and then without it. (Coincidentally, it was where I first discovered it was practically impossible to fuck in a bath). I remembered waiting for the tram late on Sunday that would take me home, and being filled with possibility. It was the first time my heart ever caught.

We drove through areas near where I’d lived at one time or another, and by places I’d shared moments drinking or eating, laughing or loving.

I wonder why I made no reference to this as we drove, but it never occurred to me. It’s rare for me to travel through such parts as a passenger, but as a passenger, you have a different perspective. I looked out upon it as if it was a theme park of my own memory. Why did I choose not to share any of it – until now? I don’t know.

I was in a receptive mood. For reasons unknown, I was struck hard by a bout of melancholia from mid-afternoon yesterday. It’s an internalised state that sensitises you to memory and nostalgia. You see in a different way; you feel more deeply.

Though the memories seemed so detailed, I struggled to understand how I’d travelled from those times to this. In keeping with my state of mind, I felt aware of everything I had lost along the journey. I’m not one for regret, but once or twice, I wondered if I had done something different how things might have turned out? And, momentarily, I yearned to be back in those times so that I could look out with those eyes and feel with that heart and have hope unfettered by reality.

In the end, it’s episodes like that which steel my resolve. It’s nice to have memories, but much more important to make new ones.

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