Posted on April 10, 2014
We met on a train, between Castlemaine and Melbourne. We were fifteen years old.
I remember that day, with Sarah and Ayesh, and Peachy and Looker.
I remember the indigo blue, gathered crop top that I bought in Myer Miss Shop, and trailing along behind the boys to the Metal for Melbourne shop in Flinders Street, I think one of those boys got a tattoo that day, but I might be wrong.
I remember your sadness about your brother, a sadness so far from the realms of my experience that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around it.
Twenty five years ago.
And now we are both 40, and that was just the beginning of our journey.
I moved to Darwin at the end of that year with my parents and my brother (our friendship has always been marked by absence and presence), and we wrote letters back and forth. I wrote out the lyrics to All Along the Watchtower, as covered by U2 on Rattle and Hum, and asked you what music you liked. You replied that you weren’t really into the top 40.
I hardly knew that there was anything else.
(A year or 2 later, you introduced me to Leonard Cohen. How do I ever thank you for that one?)
The tapestry is loose, I weave back and forth in the touching of these memories. You gave me poetry, and Man Ray, and when I asked where to begin with reading ‘proper literature’, you set me going with Monkey Grip by Helen Garner, and I never looked back.
You came and stayed at my house in Northcote for a few days during your O week at Latrobe, and we stayed up late nights, smoking cigarettes. I was just play smoking, but I always gave you the dubious (and ingenuous) credit for starting my smoking career that week, as I went and bought my first ever packet after you left.
You lamented that you were “becoming a consumer”, and I was honestly astounded that there was a name for what everyone else was. You were a consummate thrifter and winner of vintage treasures long before it was ever cool to be so.
You moved into a pretty little flat near the station in Clifton Hill, and I visited often. We both turned 18 that year, and for my birthday you bought me a book of Tennyson poetry, inscribed in the front, and then again, on page 142, in the margins of the poem Tears, Idle Tears.
At the beginning of the next year, Dad and Grant died, and you were one of those, dearest friends who came to Rushworth in the aftermath, and drank, cried, hugged and even laughed with us between the accident and the funeral.
I moved to Footscray with Mum and Mat. You learned to drive, and came to visit in your little ivory car. I was taking photography at school, and we took photos of each other with Dad’s old SLR. You posed behind a chair, full, dark lips, me nude in the bath, or sitting in one of your long vintage dresses and Doc Marten 8 ups. I love those photos. We were so young, and so old.
Little years in between, of growing up and in. When I moved to Lennox Head and then Ballina, the letters went back and forth between us again.
I spent holidays and summers back in Melbourne and hanging out with you, my ever welcome escape. Another flat in Clifton Hill, and then later, you house minded a poets beautiful North Carlton house for months, or a year, and I would come to watch art house movies with you. (I recall being perplexed by Last a Tango in Paris). You cooked for us. We spent a couple of perfectly quiet NYE evenings together there, just the 2 of us. A meal cooked by you and some bottles if white wine. They’re still some of my favourite NYE memories.
By the time I finally moved back to Melbourne, you were just about off to France to study and travel, and then the letters began anew. You seemed lonely in those letters, and they were still funny times, not before email, but before it had become absolutely ubiquitous in life, when travel truly removed you from your world.
You returned again, but then eventually, you were bound for Europe, and there you are, half a world away.
We weren’t at each other’s weddings. We weren’t there to see each other’s babies brand new (little blond boys, all), but we were, in a fundamental way, always there, entwined in each other’s lives.
You are my sister in spirit Heidi. Thank you for all of these years and everything that you have given to me. My life would never have been the same without you in it. I am so grateful for that train trip 25 years ago.
Much, much love to you on your 40th birthday, my friend.