All my friends keep moving to Melbourne and I do not. I find this kinda tiring, ’cause I’m not the kind of guy who makes new friends easily. I make new acquaintances. I’m good at new acquaintances. Making friends is harder. I don’t like to impose on people, especially now we’re in our thirties. I need clear signs that acquaintances would like to take things further. I assume, for the most part, that people have their shit down and don’t want me to show up and mess with it. I don’t bother ’cause I don’t want to be a bother. Besides, making new friends is all kinds of awkward.
There are friends who skip Melbourne and just go overseas. I cant even imagine how to migrate like that. It’s not in my DNA to relocate that far. There are days when moving to Melbourne seems all kinds of daunting. I keep saying I’m going to do it, and keep failing to go. At first there is study. Then there is unemployment. Then there is employment and I like my job too much. “When they’re done with me,” I tell people. “When they’re done, I’ll head South and join you.”
Secretly I hope that my friends will come back. I know it isn’t happening, that Brisbane has no appeal left for those who have departed, but I miss them and there are all these nights when all I want is the chance to hang out for a while.
Some days I think that when it comes to Brisbane I’m never actually getting out. And some days, you know, I think that’s just fine. Some days I actually like this city and all the people who remain. Some days I think I can accept living here for the rest of my natural life. I don’t often say that, ’cause that’s not what Brisbane people say. Our rhetoric, when it comes to art, is all about departure. Even now, when we know better, all our stories revolve around getting the hell out.
I’m thinking about this in the local supermarket, just standing there in the cereal aisle pondering between two types of porridge. It shouldn’t be a hard choice, ’cause porridge isn’t fancy, but I’m trying to choose between vanilla flavoured or something that has the brown sugar pre-added. I already kinda hate myself because it’s become something I actually debate, like adding brown sugar to porridge takes an exorbitant amount of effort and time.
It’s eight-fifteen in he evening. The store’s kinda empty. That’s what I get for shopping on State of Origin night. I pick the vanilla porridge and start heading towards the self check-out counters. I’m humming a Tori Amos song underneath my breath.
It takes me the length of the aisle to remember the name of the song. I makes me think about my first girlfriend, who I haven’t seen in over a decade. We met on the Gold Coast and dated on the Gold Coast and, last I heard, she still lived down there. I find this knowledge both sad and incomprehensible. I hope it’s somehow wrong. We used to catch the trains to Brisbane to see writers, bands, and night-clubs. We hit the book stores that carried honest-to-god non-fiction and novels that weren’t classics or massive best-sellers. And maybe not all of this happened the way I remember it, ’cause memory is unreliable after fifteen years, but I’m guessing that part of it’s accurate. The spirit, at least, if not the letter. I’m guessing we talked about moving here, one day, ’cause that’s what artists on the Gold Coast did.
I reach the self check-out. I scan my box of porridge and pay. I walk the three blocks home and watch people spill out of the local gym. Everyone is wearing jumpers ’cause it’s winter and it’s cold out. I’ve started whistling the Tori Amos song, loud enough that people can hear me. The gym crowd is mostly women who wear shirts in strong, primary colours.
Some of them give me a wide berth. Some of them do not.
When I turn down my street and walk under a tree, one of the local bats launches itself into the night sky. It occurs to me that it’s getting real cold and I should have brought my scarf. It’s the first time I’ve ever thought that on my home turf and, somehow, this convinces me that everything will work itself out..