Tonight I could have made a movie montage of my trip home from work. Rather than catching the train home, I decide to take the bus from the eastern suburbs where I work to the inner west where I live.
Sydney on a rainy February evening. My senses are heightened by the late summer humidity. First down Oxford Street into Paddington. Past the Chauvel and the Barracks. The bus stops near the Beauchamp (the Bee-cham); passengers getting on and off. A woman waits for the back door to open. She calls out “back door” in an American accent but the driver seems not to hear. Another passenger tries to help and also calls out “back door”. The driver oblivious closes the front door ready to drive on. A handsome, suited man with slicked back hair the colour of straw moves quickly to the driver’s compartment. The back door suddenly opens. Commuters going home. Through Taylor Square, Kinselas a reminder that there is life after death (it was once a funeral parlour). Darlinghurst decked out in rainbows ready for Mardi Gras. Stonewall and sex shops, feather boas for sale. An ageing man farewells charismatically to a woman seated on the bus stop bench. She smiles generously, acknowledging his chivalrous performance. I wonder if she actually knows him. Round the corner onto Crown Street. Ah, this is where it all began! Street of my birth. It says ‘Surry Hills’ on my birth certificate but Dad always insisted that it was Darlinghurst. Turns out he was right (old snob). Bars, restaurants, Wheels and Dollbaby. Muggy, late summer air. Terraces and green vines snaking up cracked walls. Lovers eating pizza in Dimitri’s (‘since 1975’). On past the Clock Hotel, post-work drinks on the balcony. Locals on the basketball court dressed in street gear, an antipodean version of NYC.
Onto Cleveland, the old workhorse. Past Murder Mall and the petrol station. The Lebanese restaurants. Traffic is slow; it’s peak hour. Having to slow down means I see so much more. Run-down cottages in Chippendale; faded Tibetan prayer flags strung across front patios. A woman with an Eckersley’s bag gets off. Her funky black jumpsuit catches my eye. I write a five second narrative in my head about her and decide she’s an artist looking for her big break. The Rose and the Seymour. I hungrily scan the posters for what’s on. Victoria Park, once plains where kangaroos roamed. The green shelves of books in the Architecture Library. Sydney University so different from when I was a student. The faint tugs of memories as the bus passes Wentworth. A young muso gets on carrying a cased guitar. Black cut off t-shirt; fashionable mullet hair. Arms and fingers tattooed. He is beautiful. His blue eyes catch the light. I long to be that young again. I wonder if it is possible in middle age to love so passionately as young lovers do. I never had a rock musician boyfriend. The bus drives on. Students in a group walk past the Economics building, looking like they’re at the start of a pub crawl. Students in a dormitory kitchen cooking dinner ( the large window means they’re weirdly on display to all who pass by).
Newtown – Gould’s. A sign announces it will soon reopen as a ‘communal space’. Whatever that means… I imagine gentrified hipsters ruining the place. King Street; more slow moving traffic. The variety of clothing; people not afraid to express themselves. I admire a young woman with short cropped bleached blonde hair. I fantasise about cutting off all my hair. I want that freedom. Artisan vegan gelato and rose quartz. South King Street, the performing arts school, the Greek church. Vintage shops, vintage shops, vintage shops. My old hair salon run by an English punk who was so paradoxically gentle. The theatre, the plant nursery. I’m the only person left on the bus. I’m making it home; I’m getting there. Sydney is my home; I feel like I belong; I’ve seen my narrative tonight written in the sandstone, the shop windows, the close summer air. I’m part of this. My story is here.