bourke st

This year I lived on Bourke Street. Much of the year I walked through fragile and fragmented. I often have thrown myself into moving forward: new house, new church, whatever. That was January. In February, I found solace walking the length of the tree-lined street.

My first walk along it, I was so sad, heavy-hearted. I walked slowly, observing every crevice and corner: the police station, the orthodox church, the types of trees. I felt so happy when I looked from my front door of what would be my new view. The jacaranda would blossom in November, the jasmine would herald Spring.

As autumn fell, my walks through Surry Hills diminished. I found myself a little shattered and without structure to fill my days. I went to a new cafe, took my laptop, ordered a large flat white. I sunned my legs in supergas while I scanned the news, looking for stories or jobs. I loved those mornings. I loved my coffee. I loved the autumn leaves in the sun. Afternoons were harder, but for the kindness of close friends, and in particular, the boy.

Soon my walk began again, meandering along Baptist, down Cleveland Street. I listed to Kurt Vile and Max Richter, music we’d danced to at the class by the wharf. Those classes were hard and I got worse instead of better as other things cluttered my mind. But for the music, which I listened to every morning but Tuesdays when my best friend called to chat.

In moments, I felt inspired by the ins and outs of the literary industry. Other times, I’d cry, call him to help me resize an image or learn how to place a file on InDesign. Most of the time I was tired. I walked to Jones St for more coffee and a muffin. I walked it back off on the way home, listening to the songs again.

On Tuesday nights, I wanted to help the marginalised in the city which cast people out who hadn’t made it. But I was often too burdened in myself, and often ended up attacking those closest to me. The late nights praying was what held me together by a thin thread. I began slowly to see in pictures. Steadily, I fumbled trusting my gut; was confused by what ‘the right thing’ was, and ended up having weekly conversations.

A call from someone I knew meant facing some shame – the feeling I was returning somewhere unaccomplished. Elena Ferrante’s books didn’t help, so I set them aside for a time. I referred to the new place as my convalescence, a place where I could rest for a while. My days moved with structure and at ease. I moved cafes, drove my car, and relegated my Bourke Street walks to weekends.

I took them on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings, talked to the barista, skipped out on coffee. I was tired of being anxious so decided to try breathing. Every time I thought of him, I’d take a deep breath. Breathing proved fruitful and I turned to self-examination, each morning, conducting ‘gardening of the mind’. Sometimes what I found was hideous, over dinner with my family, it reared its resentful head. My mornings I found grace cupping my hands around the coffee, attempting the most inconspicuous worship.

I began feeling connected to those around me, enjoyed it when colleagues said hi. I felt empowered by all the gardening – I began to feel I was growing. One warm August morning, I walked three suburbs in an hour, thought to myself, ‘what a good time I’m having’. The next morning, I asked if he’d like to go to church. He said yes. We ended up kissing, and trying again.

For consecutive weeks, we met on a Saturday to date. I struggled with the ambiguity and how much to give of myself within these constraints. But even now, when I look back over it, I reflect with incredible fondness. While I got stronger inside, some things did not cease to clash. We were so tired by it all.

In September, we were at hospital, and the grief from years back rolled in, sometimes stronger, sometimes uglier – when I thought I’d moved away from it all. Grief leaked in strange ways and I found myself usually crying to him. I listened to a podcast, found great catharsis, and was reminded of all the people who loved me.

The next months, I tried cultivating wisdom, giving life and relationships their best opportunity. I held back reacting and enjoyed the present. Sometimes it felt like we were trying completely different tactics, I ended up resigning to the fact.

More recently I’ve been thinking of that annoying dog that barks on the end, walked by the old man with a limp towards Cleveland Street. I think of the images I had when I sat at the cafe, when we’d first left. That morning after, how I felt my feet, so solidly on the ground.

The Jacaranda did bloom, and the Jasmine sang spring. I got new slightly-too-big shoes, walked to my car in them, and slowly, felt stronger. My imagination was swept up in new/old pictures, and I walk the street with them, thinking of a river making glad these city streets. Now I lay in bed, my window open to the breeze, I think of the wind, blowing up across Bourke Street; opening the doors, telling me I am somewhere new.

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