Like a lot of people, I went through an existentialist stage in my early 20’s. You’re coming into a rich and mysterious stage of life. Up to that point, you’ve been cloistered from many of life’s realities, but now you’re in the thick of it. It’s both exciting and confronting. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, but also much that is confusing. If you’re like me you live it to the hilt, but in doing so find a lot of questions coming to the fore, both low and high. If you’re the questing type you search for answers, enlightenment, and failing that, clues and a direction to look towards.

It was natural for me. Like so many, I cut a swathe once I hit adulthood. I only have a vague recollection of the details these days, but have a general remembrance of being out all hours, of having real money in my pocket and a place to be. I would head out, with friends often for a big night out, but similarly I might join work colleagues for lunch at the nearest pub and entrée into the adult world of quickly poured beers and murmured conversations, the easy banter and camaraderie of colleagues who must endure work together, and in my case being the kid the gentle chiding and sense of protection being taken under the wing of the more experienced.

On top of that, there were girls. Gosh, I was wet behind the ears, I know that now, but back then I couldn’t get enough. I was smitten in general. I had always liked girls through school and had many a lurid fantasy as boys do – and spent most of my last year at school with a folder covering my lap to hide the almost eternal hard-on I had. Enough to make me nostalgic now, but then – both embarrassing and thrilling.

It was different as an adult. There were rules around being a schoolkid that were removed once I hit 18. Anything was possible. And the women were different. They were like me, making their way in the world, or were more than that – women who had transcended that stage and become sophisticated, mysterious women full of an almost exotic allure. The sheer range and possibility was enough occasionally to take my breath away. In this, as in other things, I was hugely ambitious. I wanted a piece of everything.

Then one day you’re past that. Maybe you’ve had your heart broken for the first time. Or maybe you’ve seen enough and been around sufficient to see beyond the bright lights and glitz. The spell fades, the veneer is rubbed off, peer behind the curtain and there for the first time you see the tawdry reality. It’s not all sweetness and light. But if it’s not, what is it? And what does it mean?

I continued to live large for the most part, but more and more these questions began to gnaw at me. For the first time, you attempt to place yourself in the schema of things. Where do I fit in? Whoa, who the fuck am I? What happens now?

Being of inquisitive nature as well as a great reader I sought the answer to these questions in literature. I had already been roused by writers like Hemingway and felt a subliminal curiosity at what it revealed to me. The next step on was to delve into writers like Sartre and Camus (as well as Nietzsche – a compelling character; and the Kierkegaard of Either/Or). I went through Sartre’s Roads to Freedom series once, and then a second time, as well as Nausea (and his play, The Wall). They were fascinating and engaging at an intellectual level and led directly to many hours of tortured contemplation, but it was the more humanistic writing of Camus that ultimately had a more lasting effect on me. I still read Camus occasionally, but Sartre I haven’t picked up since that time. In my perception, Sartre is the more sophisticated thinker, but like many highly intelligent people had blind spots, and a propensity to take something simple and make it more complex than it was. Camus was not as intellectually nimble, but he was a much more humble and attractive human being whose simpler, less audacious perspective had a truer wisdom. Or so I think.

That was then. I still ponder these matters. I have come to see myself as an outsider in the existentialist sense – that’s a post for another day – but I have come to terms with all that once upon a time where matters of urgent wonder. That reading, that time, is part of me, and informs who I’ve become and how I think. Since then, however, I’ve been caught up in the maelstrom of living life, and not just the consideration of it. Much I started then is still going on, though the route has been indirect and complex – there is no answer, after all, no single answer at any rate, but rather a gradual process of enlightenment that never reaches an end. The questions I asked then and which kept me awake now seem secondary – like tabloid headlines that somehow miss the true story. The truth has a finer grain.

I wished I had someone to talk to about these things back in the day, and even now I would welcome someone with who I could gently debate these matters with a glass of good whisky in hand. I look back on who I was and see myself clearly at that point and would like nothing more than to meet him, as if it was possible for the man I am now to exist in the same place as the man I was then. What a great journey it is!

What I recall

Watching 13 Reasons Why has induced in me an unexpected sense – I think – of nostalgia. Is it nostalgia, I ask myself, or is it something else? I’m not clear on that even still, but reckon there’s a bit of nostalgia anyway, or perhaps just familiarity, mixed in with a bunch of other things. It’s not unpleasant, and in ways, it’s welcome, because returning to me are memories and thoughts that I have not come across for some years.

Watching the show there was certainly a sense of familiarity, even if things have changed since I was a teenager going to school. It made me question things too.

You become a man and you look back and what you see is filtered through your man eyes. The purity of the moment when you were an actual teenager is no longer available to you. Watching this show and walking in Clay’s shoes I got closer to it than I have before.

I tend to think who I am today is a clear linear progression from who I was as a boy. You don’t think about it really, as if it’s a given, but it isn’t really, and probably not true in my case anyway. I’m sympathetic to Clay. I recognise something, but it’s hard to articulate what it is. Perhaps it’s his sensitivity. Or maybe the sense of yearning, so common to adolescence. Was I as intense as he is? No. I wasn’t as troubled either, or as awkward. I wasn’t brash or particularly confident, and I was thought shy by many. I was very independent though too, which was heavily tinged with rebellion. Maybe stubborn. That hasn’t changed. I liked girls and was erratically good with them, but I was rarely confident with them (though might have acted it at times). I played sport and had good relationships with the ‘in’ crowd, though I went my own way.

I had quirks. Every teacher knew I was a brainiac, but I seemed to resist the categorisation. I’d earn perfect scores and then slacken off to mediocre marks, much to the frustration of my teachers. Looking back I can see the seed of the outsider I grew to become (quite deliberately). I didn’t like being taken for granted. I didn’t want anyone expecting anything from me. I wanted to be myself only. At times I would express that in unexpected ways. I remember once I finished a science test early, whereupon I whipped the folding comb from my back pocket and began combing my lush hair in the classroom, just like the Fonz. My teacher didn’t like that and let me know, but I carried that comb everywhere.

I was cute more than handsome, but the sort of cute that becomes handsome, and for most of my high school years was slim and of average height, even a little less than. I grew late, and left school a lanky thing.

Life hits you after that and shapes the man you become. Everyone says I’m confident now, even arrogant. I still think a part of me is shy, but there’s also a brash aspect to me. I can be intimidating, mostly inadvertent. All of that came later. Back then I was a lovely boy I think, a good kid who erred in being unexpectedly rebellious and individual.

I watch Clay with his family and heading off to school and lots of that is familiar to me also. I came from an upwardly mobile middle-class family and the living was pretty easy. I went to a private school and most of my schoolmates were at least as comfortable, and mostly more so. I never doubted anything and looking back I think there was a general sense of expectation, even indulgence in school. That comes easily to a kid who knows no better about the world. I would walk to the bus stop every morning and catch two buses to school and another two heading home. The buses were full of the raucous behaviour of schoolkids everywhere.

I lived in a leafy street and on the weekends I would ride my bike with friends riding their bikes. Sometimes we’d kick a footy in the street or play cricket in the backyard, depending on the season. I had an often fraught relationship with my father, but felt much loved by the extended family, particularly my grandparents, who would dote on me. I had real close mates I shared everything with, and had great adventures. It was easy, and that’s certainly something you take for granted. You live in a cocoon and mine, like Clays, was pretty snug.

Those things resonate with me as I watch the show, but ultimately what really connects is the recollection of how intense adolescence is. It’s a ride in which you feel keenly every thrill, every spill. Looking back I think of it as a kind of carefree intensity, because life really is pretty good and most of the things you feel – no matter how extreme they feel – are common rites of passage. I look at the kids in the show and witness their dramas and a lot comes flooding back to me – yes, I was there, I did that, I felt that too. You forget sometimes – once upon I was a teenager as well. And that’s what I remember – how often do live as intensely as you did when you were a burgeoning teenager, when everything was vital and anything was possible? That’s the resonance for me.

What is different is the hard edge portrayed in the show. I wasn’t bullied. I don’t recall ever witnessing it (though it looks different as a child from an adult). I was a rugged kid at primary school – I had a lot of fights and won every one of them – but I was always righteous, and never bullied myself. No doubt it happened, but in one way at least my time was more innocent. There was not the pervasive influence of social media and the 24/7 cycle it enables. If it occurred it was more straight up – I saw a few fights, and there were probably people sidelined in the popularity stakes – but I have no distinct recollection of any of that. Really, I sailed through.

I like remembering because it feels forgotten. Maybe it’s my imagination, but too often we seem divorced from our teenage self. Certainly, I look about me sometimes on the train and try to imagine the weary, the unfit, the cynical about me as they might have been when they were young, fresh and innocent. Often it’s very hard. And that counts for me too.

Easter’s past

It’s been a lazy, unproductive Easter for me. I went into it planning to read a lot and write a lot and maybe cook a little. I haven’t done any extra reading, I’ve hardly written, and while I made a pie yesterday, haven’t cooked much. Instead, I’ve watched footy on the TV and on Saturday afternoon ventured down to Sandringham oval to watch a VFL game. Saturday night I had a big night out, which left me feeling very lethargic yesterday. Now it’s Monday and tomorrow I’m back at work.

It’s not unusual at this time of year to recall Easter’s past. Fr many years Easter was a big date in the calendar for me because every year I would join my family for the weekend down in our holiday property at Yarck.

We must have done it a dozen years or more in a row until it seemed routine. It was a good-sized house that could sleep a dozen, and there was a cabin as well, which is where I would stay. There was a beautiful in-ground pool, a tennis court, and up behind us some tranquil, rustic hills in which kangaroo and wombat would roam. And up the road was pretty Mansfield, which most years we’d visit for the annual fair.

That was life. At the start of the year I could look ahead and map out the things I knew would definitely happen. Besides Easter, there was Mother’s Day, and of course Christmas, as well as each of our birthdays being celebrated as a family, and the random occasions in between for barbecues and dinner and just lazy days drinking wine in the sunshine. I knew nothing else than that – and now I know nothing of it.

I looked forward to our Easters. We all did. Besides mum and my stepdad Fred, my sister with her family would come, as did my step-sister with her family. Each of us was responsible for cooking a meal during the break, and mum would allocate to us the different things she wanted us to bring with us. Generally, I was tasked with bringing cheese. I would also take a couple of good bottles of red knowing that we’d drink those plus another 10 bottles or so, as well as a slab or two of beer. We weren’t going anywhere so we ate well and drank fully.

The Easter break always seemed to mark the transition for summery Autumn to wintry Autumn. It coincided more or less with the end of daylight saving and so the dark came sooner, the days were cooler, and with the exception of the occasional sunny and warm day, the pot-bellied fire would be on constantly.

Naturally it being Easter and with all the kids there we would have an Easter egg hunt on the Sunday. With customary delight my mum would hide hundreds of mini eggs around the property, assisted by the ever amiable Fred. We would race around searching for the eggs while mum watched on with pleasure, occasionally giving hints “warmer…colder…hot, hot, hot…”

How you take something like that for granted. It seems like another life now. That’s one of the things I’ve lost – not just those occasions and that life – but my understanding of it. It’s all gone and with it – for me – has gone a sense of innocent, even naive pleasure. It’s as if I can never be naive again, and as if between where I am now and where I was then is an insurmountable barrier. I grieve, not for those times – times change – but with the fear that I will never be as carefree and ‘naive’ as I was then.

I fear I have become battle-hardened. For years I denied I was tough, but there’s no doubt I have been toughened. I sensed it in ways on Saturday night when I realised I had not the patience or the will to be what others want me to be. I can’t do things simply for appearance sake. If it’s not in my heart I won’t do it. I won’t join in to be conventional – I’m happy to stand apart. In a way it’s quite selfish, but then you wonder why it is we should play along with things we don’t abide? It’s a blunter way of being, but very authentic. I think that’s locked in now, and while it seems a matter of simple honesty, I wonder what I lose by being that.

I look back and my dear old mum is dead, as is Fred. I don’t speak to my sister, her husband is dead, and I lost my step-sister – who I was close to – in the disastrous days after my mother died. By comparison, it’s a bleak landscape and I don’t really know how to change it.

I was there

Would you believe that it’s the 40th anniversary of the Melbourne Centenary test? Makes me feel old, because I was there.

I went with my best mate at the time, Peter Woody, and his father. I remember it was a greatly anticipated event, and as it turned out an absolute cracker of a contest that somehow exactly replicated the original result of that first test 100 years before – Australia by 45 runs.

I was there the day that David Hookes hit Tony Greig for 5 consecutive boundaries. That was a thrill that rippled through the crowd. Australians loved to hate Tony Greig, and Hookes was a great white hope of Australian cricket, tall and blonde haired, good looks and swagger. Later Hookes was to leave his mark in other ways – his test career never took off – but he was a fine broadcaster and better coach. He died tragically, and 10-12 years later Greig – after a stellar career in the Channel 9 commentary box – succumbed to cancer.

All of that was a destiny yet to unfold on that day, and anything was yet possible. After his 5 boundaries, Hookes made a quick-fire 50 and then went out. I remember then the century that Rod Marsh put together after that which led Australia to a good lead going into the last innings. And Rick McCosker, the tall NSW opening batsman who’d had his jaw broken in the first innings coming out to bat with Marsh with his head bound – this in a time before helmets.

If I wasn’t at the match I was watching it on TV. I have a sense, though no real memory, of attending another day of the match with my grandfather. I seem to recall Derek Randall batting and Max Walker and my favourite player at the time, and for years to come, Dennis Lillee. That last innings saw a great century by Randall, a twitchy, eccentric Pom who also happened to be a great cover fieldsman. I remember Walker rumbling in and his ungainly action at the crease, all arms and legs, but very effective (he too is gone, as is Gary Gilmour from that side). Dennis was the star though.

I’ve never seen a craftier fast bowler than Dennis. He may well be the best fast bowler I’ve seen, though there are some ripping contenders. He took 12 wickets in that match, 6 in each innings. By the end, he had bowled himself into the ground as England mounted a challenge, snuffed out in the end with DK taking the last wicket of the match.

It was a great match. I feel lucky to have witnessed it, but it feels now like one of those memories like old men have: I saw Bradman play, or Coleman, I was there the day…and so on. Funny how it is that the things you do in later days take on an antique lustre. I was there and it was in colour and the crowd oohed and aahed about me, but now it’s a moment, it’s history.

The music of my youth

I did a bunch of pleasant things on Saturday. Early on I walked the path along the beach towards the Farmer’s Market in Sandringham. It’s a very pretty walk that leaves you feeling privileged to live in such a place. At the market I wandered around browsing the different stalls selling bread and organic vegies, artisan cheese, chocolate brownies, grass fed beef and handmade sausages – and all the rest of it. There’s a plethora of pleasing options and in the hour I was there I came away with a bunch of things I looked forward to tucking into.

On Saturday night I went out joining with JV to go to a local bar in Highett. It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks and we plan to go to this bar, and though I’ve been a few times before I wanted to check it out once more. We sat down, had a couple of beers, then a couple of cocktails, and in between a selection of excellent Vietnamese bar snacks. It was a mellow, excellent vibe.

During the day though I spent it quietly at home. I had a yen to play my collection of Beatles tunes – it had been forever since I last had – and so I fired up the stereo and played them on loud one after another as I went about my household tasks.

It’s great music this Beatles stuff. Melodic and smart and so, so catchy. I wasn’t around as a music fan when they were still together, but I grew up with their stuff nonetheless. I remember vividly the moment I heard that John Lennon had been murdered, at school with my friends at Turramurra High School, and commenting well there goes a Beatles re-union.

A few weeks back I watched an excellent documentary on the Beatles called Eight Days a Week. It was probably that which re-ignited my passion for their music. I’d stopped on the channel it was on thinking I might watch 5 minutes of it, but instead stopped to watch the whole program. The pleasure was musical, but it was also cultural and sentimental. It seemed so real, as if I had been there. Certainly there were many clips I’d seen dozens of times before, but there was a lot of stuff I’d not seen before. I recognised it, though what the thing was I recognised I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was a feeling, and remembrance of what it was to be a fan and music lover. As many of these older things do these days it made me think of my mum too – and the things I would have asked her if I could, but no longer can.

I’m convinced that music has a different relationship to society now than it used to. When I was growing up it felt like everyone was passionate about music. I went to school with a bunch of guys who either wanted to grow up and play guitar or drums in a group, or where already playing something. Even I played an instrument – albeit just a trumpet. At school we would talk about artists and latest albums and would exchange cassette tapes made of our most recent purchases.

I remember the feeling of saving my pennies for the journey one day to the local Brashs store where I would delight in purchasing the long awaited LP. It was a journey towards it, saving money, making the trip, then returning home to play it while reading the sleeve notes. As I’ve written before, the concept of the album has been lost in this digital age, and the journey itself much abbreviated by the simple click of a button.

Last month Rage had a retro program which I taped and watched the next day. Recorded were 30 year old programs of Countdown I probably watched the first time around. In comparison to the polished TV these days the old programs seemed casual and thrown together, but they were awfully authentic too, and very passionate. Then they showed an old Rock Arena program. Rock Arena was a bit more highbrow. I had a thing for the presenter, who was earnest and very knowledgeable and cute in that nerdy rockwiz way. She would interview obscure performers and focus on threads of music – the episode I watched was about Matt Smith, the man behind The The. I would watch that every week for years on end – was it Tuesday nights?

There was another program I would watch on SBS too – can’t remember what it was called, but hosted by Basia Bonkowski (all these years after I still remember her name).

These were programs for music heads, but it seems to me the equivalent to those programs don’t exist anymore, and the only music words these days more or less are those carried over from my generation.

I may have it wrong, but as an observer it seems true. There’s not the passionate performers who put their heart and soul into their craft because it means everything to them. There are no tortured artists, none riven by angst trying to figure out the right sequence of tunes on the new album. And while there are passionate fans, it seems to me to be largely of a shallow and transient nature – but then maybe I’m just old.

Music is such a fundamental part of an authentic life experience that it seems a pity that it has devolved to the level of a product.

I remember when I was young

I catch the train in the morning and I sit there with a big set on cans on my ears listening to music or an audiobook. I’ll watch as people get on and off the train and slowly fill the nearer we get to the city. I won’t take any more than an idle interest in my fellow passengers generally except when one has to climb over me, or if a pretty one comes my way. I’ll get off at Richmond where I’ll change trains for one travelling through the loop. There are two stops for me and I’ll stand for that short journey before getting off at Melbourne Central and walking up the moving escalator heading towards work.

There are all sorts on the train. Most are heading to work, but even so there is a great variation between types, young and old, male and female, corporate and not so corporate and students and the odd character with a bit more attitude than most. There are always a few callow types heading in towards what must be one of their first jobs. My eyes pass over them, as they do for others, except today for reasons unknown I found my eyes lingering on a man getting off the train ahead of me at Richmond.

I say man, but boy seems a better descriptor. He can’t have been much older than 18, average height and slight of frame, wearing an acceptable suit worn that he didn’t quite inhabit yet, with a fresh and open face.

Was I like that? I wondered. That’s some years ago and in my first job I caught the train at Montmorency when they were still red rattlers, and got off at Victoria Park. I worked in the back streets of Collingwood as a computer operator. In those days being a computer operator meant working on an IBM 360 mainframe. I swapped tapes and loaded up printers and fed JCL cards I’d coded in Assembler into the system. I remember when I got the job I went shopping with my mum for a set of clothes I could wear to work – more smart casual than corporate.

I imagine I was just as callow as the boy I saw on the train today. I was tall, which gave me some presence, but pretty lean. I was probably just as fresh-faced, but I was also a bit cheeky. I was dressed well – my mum always had high standards – and given it was just smart casual I probably got away with it.

It’s a while back, but as I recall it all comes back to me vividly. It’s like a cabinet drawer I haven’t open for a while, but when I do everything is just as fresh as the day I closed it. I dwell quite regularly on memories and things from back in the day, but I think a big part of that is the fascination observing the thread of time. We live in a moment, which leads on to the next and the next after that, and so on. We imagine and may even fantasise about the future, but have no real idea of what it holds for us. Looking back you have the benefit of knowing how the dominoes fell. Sometimes you can see the cause and effect that was invisible to you then. Even after all these years you witness rich and vivid memories neglected for a while, but recalled now fresh and new. You cherish them whilst feeling a sense of wonder. That was my life. I did that. And finally: how is it past?

There’s a grand journey in life’s twists and turns. There’s some melancholy remembering that special moments are transient – but at least you have the memory of them. Then there are the people that have come into and out of your life. All this has made you the person you are now. All of these things are ahead of that boy on the train.

It’s very different now. I’ve come a long way from the fresh-faced kid I was. If you were to see me on the train I’m a very different man. I’ll be one of the more stylishly put together, and by all reports exude self-possession. The boy that was me yesteryear might have been intimidated by the man I’ve become, and I’m not sure what to make of that.


Lost in reverie

I was in the office at 8 yesterday to attend a team breakfast for Christmas. We went to a groovy cafe in a cobbled laneway Melbourne is replete with. From outside there was nothing much to see, inside a converted warehouse made for industrial chic, which happily included excellent coffee and very good food.

The conversation at first was  about work and the different projects ongoing. We’re a small team – just the 4 of us – but I tuned out during this. I wasn’t much interested in talking about work in such surroundings, and besides I had little to contribute. They were other people’s projects. I kept mum about mine. As time passed the conversation became more general, and with Christmas approaching, more personal.

Back in the office I attended meetings and worked on a flowchart I was hoping to get right before the end of day. You know what I did at lunch. In the afternoon I made more calls and polished off some docs I’d been writing, and completed the first draft of the flowchart.

I popped upstairs to have the flowchart quickly checked out by the girl I’d sat with to get the info. She’s a sweet-natured and enthusiastic type who thought my flowchart was “amazing”. All good then. I got back to my desk to find an email my manager had sent out to the managers and team leaders about a project I’d been working on. I’d done a ‘fabulous’ job, she wrote.

I’m happy to take credit when it’s due, but I knew I hadn’t done the job she claimed – I’d just done the job that had to be done. She’s a lovely woman though, very much a people person – she thanks us at the end of each day for the work we’ve done. Likewise I knew my flowchart was hardly amazing (though admittedly it can appear so to people who suddenly see their job so graphically represented). It was the simple result of close listening, persistent questioning, and good note taking.

I left work at a little before 5 and had a couple of beers with a colleague at a bar downstairs. He’s a guy I went through training with, smart, decent, hardworking. A top bloke. We talked of general things, but the conversation kept coming back to work. He’s still doing the job that I used to, and hates it much as I did. He’s more patient than me, “not as outspoken as you are” (his quote), but he is now fretting about the things I did – the utter inflexibility, the management style, the unreasoning rules, and so on. My manager is soon to become his, and I told him things would improve.

I caught a train then to Canterbury. I’d been invited to a birthday/Christmas party by mum’s closest friend. I see her 2-3 times a year, largely because I’m her last connection to the woman she adored.

I was early, so had to kill time. I dawdled down Maling road looking into shop windows. It was all familiar and well-known to me. Mum and my stepfather Fred had living within walking distance for near on 10 years. I had even lived there a while myself when I came back from my 2001 trip, homeless and unemployed just as 9/11 struck.

I walked by and towards the residential areas. Canterbury is a lovely suburb with beautiful homes and well-mannered, well to do residents. The broad streets are lined by great, sprawling trees that overarch into front yards and the street itself. The familiarity grew in me. It was as if I could close my eyes, retrace my steps and diverge just a little before knocking on a door and stepping into a different time, the smiling face of my mum greeting me.

I had stopped in front of a little shop in amid the houses. It was a Christmas shop, closed now, but with a window full of decorations and Christmas paraphernalia. This was new to me, but pausing in front of the window it made me think of the decorations of my youth. It was so vivid to me. It was a space of moments I felt tick by one by one as I felt in the midst of them. There was no-one about. It was just me remembering and looking into the shop window with a bag slung over my shoulder. The thought occurred to me that I had only to stick my tongue out and I would taste it, spicy and sweet.

Eventually I made it to the party and told my stories and listened to theirs. There were people there I hadn’t seen for 3 years, and 3 commented on how good I was looking, so I knew I had changed since then. It was a good night but I had to get home by train and feed Rigby, and that was an hour or more from the door. I left at about 10.45. On my way out I was waylaid by the hostess, and by another woman who had known and loved mum too. Let’s have a drink for her, they said.

To them I am my mum’s legacy. By being close to me they can be close to her. I understand that’s why I’m there (though I get on well with all), and I’m happy to give them that. It would seem cruel not to. I get something in return though. In a strangely parallel way they represent the last of mum to me, because they are the only people who have active, well nurtured memories of her.

On my way out a man stopped me, the husband of one of mum’s old work colleagues. “I looked at you,” he said, “and I wondered why you looked so familiar. But I can see now because you have the same bone structure as your mother. You’re just like her.”

I was surprised. Most people see my father in me, as I do myself. It was a kind thing to say nonetheless, and I was grateful.

I walked the empty streets back towards the station, bumping into someone I knew in Maling road. I waited and finally caught one train, then another, among the drunks and dissipated and the others lost in reverie.