Walking through Melbourne following an old, noisy tram down La Trobe street.
Alone and it is bitterly cold.
The wind is cutting through the four layers I am wearing and realize I am not that strong.
Stop at a cafe perch called Urban Fox to avoid the crowd.
‘Social phobia’ muttered the old doc in my first rehab.
Alone and not that strong.
No, not as ram rod straight as first presumed.
Cracks in my forehead match the cracks in the cement.
Order a piccolo and a sparkling mineral water and this simple pleasure feels like sand under bare feet.
Catch my breath for the first time since I’ve woken.
Not that fucking strong.
Gazing at the bottle of mineral water and its Hepburn label brings me back from the funk.
Been staring at walls and carpet in my hotel room all morning.
Watching a clothes dryer cycle like a TV, trapped in a black and white French film.
Where do I go?
Gazing at fading tattoos on my feet.
Fading colour in my hair.
No, not that strong.
Walking in Melbourne as the weak sun heats my hands.
A young, rough sleeper struggles with a suit case.
Her tiny, ashen hands are holding a toilet roll and a packet of Tim Tams.
Brown, skeletal leaves blow up a wall behind her and they dance among the graffiti and the city dust.
So fragile to be on the street.
Her, I and a pigeon picking at her feet.
Pick up an aluminium, bottle cap and try to squeeze it flat.
Trying to cut my finger but I’m not that brave.
Just three days ago I was sitting in a plane from Sydney thinking myself so capable and evolved.
Up in the clouds so close to God.
Ready for an adventure and off to see my eldest boy.
A father anxious about his bloodline.
No where near that brave.
Coffee again and a young couple sits down next to me on wooden stools.
Their puffy jackets billowing new love.
Talking in Arabic.
He picks up a plastic, coffee lid and asks in slow English;
‘What do you call it?’
‘A lid’ I reply.
We laugh and the three of us smile.
First smile for me this morning.
Viewed myself as a pious, Western monk.
Not anywhere near brave.
Walking in Melbourne by lanes and alleys.
Colours, gullies, chairs and paint.
Instagram memories of avocado and poached eggs.
Green, white and yellow.
Homeless men everywhere.
I put a gold, two dollar coin in a dirty hand.
‘God bless you.’ he says.
It is a blessing well received.
Walking in circles before a detour into David Jones.
Seeking refuge but I catch my reflection in a line of mirrors.
Tired and worn.
Not so young.
Label after label.
Dress after dress.
The refuge becomes a maze.
Walking in Melbourne, jumping over tram tracks in the middle of Collins Street.
Down another alley.
Find a Japanese restaurant in Flinders Lane.
‘Bento Box B please.’
Tempura, pork tonkatsu, nigiri, rice and pickles.
An Indian couple prise open a salmon roll with their chop sticks.
And I am staring through the glass door back onto the lane.
Where do I go?
Not so young anymore.
Bento Box B arrives and soy sauce, rice and mayonnaise get stuck in my throat.
It reminds me I’m alive.
Drop a piece of salmon nigiri.
Thought I was clever with chopsticks due to a younger life of business in Japan.
‘The higher you can hold the chopstick the more skill you have’ a Japanese, business colleague told me in Hamamatsucho, Tokyo.
Don’t care so much anymore.
Not so young.
A woman drives down Flinders Lane in a perfectly preserved Sunbeam sports car.
She is wearing huge, white rimmed sun glasses.
A child is staring at me as I write with a pencil.
He is interested in my pencil sharpener.
A breeze blows through the restaurant door.
It is still cold.
Walking through Melbourne over the Yarra on a metal bridge.
Saying goodbye to my son.
Went via Degraves Street and Flinders Street Station.
Lord of the Fries and Hearns Hobbies.
Hollow noises and beating hearts.
Sunday newspapers fly in the breeze.
The brown river crinkles in the freezing wind.
Walking through Melbourne into the Star Casino foyer.
Black prom dresses and Swiss watch shops.
The foyer smells spicy and sad.
Bright floral prints.
A woman is singing as a tuxedo clad man plays the piano.
She is singing to muffle the loss.
I see my son through the sparkling windows of Rosetta.
He is wearing glasses, tie and a dark suit.
So handsome my somelier son.
Walk in quickly and give him a hug.
He is working so I leave.
Walking through Melbourne.
The late afternoon wants to rain but it cannot muster the energy.
Much like me.
Feel like crying but I cannot seem to start.
It is too cold to cry.
My bones are aching and my heart is breaking as I walk up King Street away from my eldest boy.
Flying back to Sydney tomorrow.
Back to her and the old boy breaks out a skip.
Lost in her translucent, caramel skin.
Swimming in a smile that opens the heavens and widens my gait.
She has a big, golden heart.
Hope the plane lands in one piece.