A cool ray of light seeps in through the bedroom as the trees of fall murmur with the wind. Their branches tap, tap, tap on my windowsill, calling to wake up and stretch my mind. Slowly I tiptoe down the corridor of a silent house, a silent house for the first time in a long time. All of my housemates -- the Indonesian, the Japanese, the Chilean, the French, and the Canadian-- are gone. I boil a cup of tea in my anything-but-lonely kitchen and retire back to my familiar pillow, embracing my introverted writer's haven of solitude.
Out the door and four blocks I shuffle past the old Victorians, brick homes with quaint porches and chained bicycles that give life to my North Melbourne suburb. Their charm radiates. At stop 19, Abbotsford St. Interchange, the 57 tram rides into the city with the children, the businessmen, the junkies, the creatives, the tourists who all squeeze on along the way. We're strangers moving in the same direction, breathing the same air. Why is today the day I observe them with a little more curiosity: study their faces and expressions, the lines of their hands, the trends of their clothes.
An encyclopedia-sized book is consumed on the journey: The Writer & the World. I read about India; I read about despair. I read about how developing countries only seem full of despair from an outside, Western pair of eyes. Pages later a woman's voice calls from over the intercom ‘stop number 7: Queen Victoria Market.’ The market is busy - jam packed with people and extensive displays of fresh produce and aboriginal artwork. Foreign-looking traders shout bargain prices to one up the shouts heard at the stall next to them. Their yells are loud and frequent. Sleek women weave through the traffic of people, in among the tired artists and hungry backpackers. A guitarist plays to the sky for mere coins; it's been months since he's been able to shop at the market.
It's only a balmy Tuesday morning so I quickly cycle through people to admire. Out the aisles and four blocks I trudge, past the unromantic sights of Elizabeth Street decorated in budget Malaysian food houses bordered by budget Chinese ones. Noodles and dumplings define the air's strange sensation.
Tucked between construction on Lonsdale Street a pair of heavy, metal doors look like platform 9 and 3/4: unnoticed and yet oddly enticing. I feel invited, so I make myself welcome. Inside is 1000 pound bend - my favorite coffee shop that's not really a coffee shop. It's a cafe, its a bar, its a gallery, its an event space. It's a part of the Melbourne I've fallen in love with. Bob Dylan soothes the soul while every creative person in the city types away on their laptop, plugged into some far away digital world.
I write a note about the sunshine; outside I soon learn it's pouring cold sheets of rain. My laptop sits in front of me, my chai latte to the left, my journal filled with travel memories to my right.
I pause to think about why I am here: I am a writer. My job is to observe, to document, to share, and to inspire.
But my laptop screen is
filled with nothingness.
I try to re-imagine the vivid details as to not let the memories file away into a deep part of my subconscious. I try to type away on my laptop, too. I beat down on the keys but the words keep playing this cruel game of hide and seek. They feel as if they'll be lost forever. I invite them to reveal themselves, first with kindness then with pleas. "I give up!" I yell. I can't keep looking for you.
Instead I decide to make friends with my enemy - the rain - because during this exhausting mind game he has charm and appeal. He gives the brick of the hidden alleyways a glow I never noticed. He trickles down with the colors of my favorite graffiti. His presence makes me feel a bit more fresh and alive.
In the evening, a 57 tram ride away everyone is waiting for me at home. The Indonesian, the Japanese, the Chilean, the French, and the Canadian. They sit around our family table with smiles and warmth while we all share our stories as travelers who've become locals in Melbourne, listening with genuineness. We talk as minutes turn to hours.
I tiptoe away to the sounds of laughter that rings through the corridor of home. My blank laptop is waiting for me at my desk, and suddenly the words come pouring out.