Socialising again

I worked in the office on Friday, but only because I had an appointment in the city.

Travelling in on the train, I peered out the window. It was a cold morning. The sky was cloudy, and a low mist hung over the land, but visible through it was a glowing circle of the moon, as if someone had punched a neat hole through the sky. It was mysterious and distant and another reminder of worlds beyond ours.

The city is quiet these days. It may be livening up, but it’s still far behind what it used to be, and Fridays, strangely, seem to be amongst the quietest.

I walked through the streets towards the office, the air cold against my exposed skin but warm in thick woollens. Because I never wear a suit anymore, I decided when I dressed to put on a pair of my old work shoes – a pair of Brando tan-leather lace-up ankle boots – and they rang with a satisfying click on the pavement. I felt smart.

The office was quiet. I expected that. Throughout the day, there were no more than 3-4 others sprinkled around the floor. It seems hardly the point to be in the office by yourself, but I enjoyed the solitude, and come the afternoon, found myself in a patch of great productivity.

In the morning, I had my appointment, which I walked across town to reach. I sat opposite the doctor, answered her questions, was given a scrip for some tests, made another appointment, and paid out $400. I was back in just over an hour.

For lunch, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. This is one of the bonus’ in working back in the city occasionally. Pre Covid, we would have lunch every fortnight by clockwork, generally in the same groovy cafe in one of Melbourne’s hip laneways. It’s been so long that now it seems strange and foreign, and as I sat down, I felt a sense of nostalgia at being back at the same place, but in very different times.

I was early and was surprised to find the same waitress from before still worked there. She stood at my table, and we chatted about how strange it was and how we had survived it all and here we were again. And then my friend arrived and, as before, we had lunch and caught up on everything going on.

I left the office at about 4.45 to catch up for a drink with JV. The first place we tried (Curious) was full, so we walked a little then hopped on a passing tram that took us to the other end. We found a cocktail bar where we sat by the window and had a couple of expensive cocktails each.

It was dark when we left, and we tried a few other places before settling at an outdoor table in Meyers Place. It was happening, crowded and festive and colourful. It was a mild night, and the outdoor heaters kept us warm regardless. We had a couple more drinks there, and it reminded me of old times. One thing we both observed as different is that we are older now. There was a table of women that once we might have visited – now, we wonder if we’re too old for that, or seen to be too old for it, or unwelcome in any case. Things change.

We had dinner across the laneway at the Waiters Club – a bowl of pasta, some old-fashioned garlic bread, and a bottle of eye-watering Italian plonk. It was crowded and messy in there, loud and untidy, good cheap food and fast turnover and efficient waitresses threading through the crowd and managing the queue at the door.

We might have called it quits then. It was a bit after nine, and it had been a fun evening – but, one more, we thought. We went by the Supper Club and the European, but both were full. We ended up at an old favourite, Punch Lane in Little Bourke Street. We found a corner table and were served by a jovial sommelier with a beard and an attitude – very Melbourne hipster. We got an excellent bottle of Rioja over which we had a series of deep and meaningful conversations before finishing off with a sticky PX because we’re hedonist.

I got home at about 11.30 to an expectant Rigby, keen to be fed. No sport on TV, and so to bed I went, to slumber like the intoxicated.

I’ve been taking it easy, but it was good to be out and socialising again.

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