Pulling a piece of string between my thumb and forefinger I will always search for a knot or snag, somewhere to stop, a blight to measure the rest of the smooth string against. No matter how much string I have to play with – long, uninterrupted lengths – my fingers will always find that knot.
We grew up together. We hid under the kitchen table and ate slice after slice of buttered bread together. We collected tadpoles from the pond and watched them grow into frogs together. We drew endless sketches of dream wedding dresses with Disney Princess puffy sleeves and full skirts together. We swung round and round on the Hills Hoist together. We got in trouble for swinging on the Hills Hoist together. We played Peaches in Super Mario 2 together. We mastered Sonic the Hedgehog together. We turned seven years old together. We went to primary school together and sometimes ate lunch together. We hung out after school together and on the weekends we lived together. We turned our noses up at the tentacles lurking in exotic seafood soup together and gorged on Tiny Teddies together. We went to slumber parties together. We played characters from Beverly Hills 90210 in annual home movies together. We took fistfuls of after dinner mints from the Black Stump restaurant together. We played wonky piano duets together. We turned ten together. We went out in matching outfits together. We learned all the words to The Little Mermaid soundtrack and belted them out together. We fasted the 40 Hour Famine then refueled with her mum’s sublime Filipino cooking together. We wandered through the crowds at our parents’ parties together. We dreamed of being Belle and Ariel and Princess Jasmine together. We became obsessed with Michael Jackson together. We went to high school together. We took a photography class and spooled film in a dark room together. We turned 21 together. We worked together and when we hated our jobs we rallied together. We held each other close at her father’s wake and we cried together.
When I was eight we moved from one side of the city to the other, over the famous bridge, and another less famous one, from the leafy north shore of Sydney to the hot, concreted inner west. Away from my school and my friends and the few suburbs I knew; away from the eat-in Pizza Hut Restaurant and Friday night noodle markets, toward Bar Italia’s gelato and Il Cugino’s anchovy-rife Pizzeria.
I once read that Nick Cave started a Bad Seeds song with the words ‘I thought I’d take a walk today…’ because he was feeling uninspired and decided to let his mind wander. What followed is the rambling, ferocious, hysterically brilliant, ‘Oh My Lord’, including this insanely wonderful verse:
“Now I’m at the hairdressers, people watch me as they move past
A guy wearing plastic antlers presses his bum against the glass
Now I’m down on my hands and knees
And it’s so fucking hot!
Somebody cries, ‘What are you looking for?’
I scream, ‘The plot! The plot!’”
So I thought I’d take a walk today…
My Uncle Art liked a bet on the ponies. He lived in a flat near Randwick Racecourse and I remember thinking he was the coolest because his name was Art, but also being scared of him because he was really old. My Aunt in Canada changed her name from Charity to Cherry. I don’t know why and I’ve never met her to ask, but it strikes me as a curious, delicious, choice. My Uncle John had a fight with my mum a few years ago and now I refuse to talk to him. No one likes to be patronised, John. My Aunty Mavis lived in Sawtell and used to bring out a massive tray of lollies every time Mum took us to visit. I miss Aunty Mavis most.