In which I discover I may have actually crossed the line and turned into an actual cat. In the head. I don’t have a tail (yet).

I love cooking for people.

Listening to very loud metal while I make salads or marinate all manner of delicious meaty things. People sit in the backyard, shifting chairs beneath the sun, the weather in that annoying stage of the sun being too hot but the shade being too cold.

People laugh, bubble-wine sparkles, and mini stories are told in small conversations between friends.

Autumn barbecues are the best ones of all.

bbq

After hours of hungover waiting, it all came together – the meat, the salads, the donated rice, that glorious centrepiece – Shan’s Terteh Behrk.

And then it happened. That warm, comfortable silence that descends upon a dinner table, declaring the meal a triumphant success. The delicate symphony of cutlery on plastic plates, of exultant sighs or declarations of pride at someone’s ability to eat their entire plate before anyone else (Maddie).

It was, she declared, her favourite day.

It even included Surprise, Chicken! from our neighbour-cousin. She was right. A favourite day indeed.

Who needs troubles when you have tummy-friends and heart-friends all in the one place, all at the one time?

It’s cold out there now. 24 hours after it all began.

Today is the day for a sunny-corner picnic, but I’ve already been into the leftovers.

Maybe I’ll just copy the cats and go and curl up next to the fence. Those weeds do actually look really soft.

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Autumn in Sydney

When the wind changes and brings a new season, it also brings me my memories.

When it goes from hot to cold like this, it reminds me of nights out clubbing at 19, short skirts, stompy boots and knee-length dread falls that I used as a scarf. Daytime cold reminds me of early mornings, walking from Wynyard Station to Chifley Tower in that same year, my too-small work shoes digging into my feet, feeling very awkward and naked in normal people work clothes, rather than my goth uniform.

I would order a coffee from the cafe outside Chifley Tower, and savour its warmth in my hands. Leaning back into the chair and my woollen coat, buttoned up to the neck, I would read Harry Potter and chain smoke until I had to walk in the doors, to the bank of elevators on the left, and acknowledge but not disturb the rest of the passengers making their way into their 9-5 hells.

My footsteps would echo on the marble floor as I made my way behind the reception desk, to the employee room where all our bags, coats and souls were kept.

My first job every morning was to go to the bathroom and fix any windswept hair or travel-ruined makeup before taking a comb and brushing the tassels of the waiting room rug.

I would restock the communal fridge, by removing all the cold items first, to put the hot ones at the back. Then I would deliver the mail to all the offices on our floor. The IOC offices, boutique law firms, Marketing companies, Stock brokers. The type of people who used our company were either:

  • rich and worked for themselves/with a small team; or
  • rich and needed a Chifley Tower presence

They were all very nice, very important people.

Some days I would be charged out to provide catering for their meetings in the long boardroom, featuring floor to ceiling windows that looked onto the Botanical Gardens. Some days, it was my job to clean those windows, and this was actually my favourite job of all. I could look at that view all day.

When I wasn’t setting up teleconferencing, combing rug tassels, stocking fridges or delivering mail, I was setting up offices for new clients. This included their internet, and every item that came standard with the type of office space they were paying for.

I always found it strange that the lowliest office employee was provided with a key that opened every single office on the floor. This was so I could deliver the clients’ mail when they were out of the office. Surely a mail slot could have been put in each door, negating the requirement for anyone besides the client, Manager and cleaning staff to have access to what would most likely be very valuable, confidential information?

It’s not that I was untrustworthy, I just felt very uncomfortable about entering their offices when they weren’t there.

Occasionally, clients would need secretarial support, and we would be charged out in ten minute increments. We would be asked to do their photocopying, again, charged out at ten minute increments, and the client’s printer ID entered into the copier for every bundle of pages you copied.

We’d do their typing or format presentations, spreadsheets, whatever they required, we could provide. This was definitely preferable to refilling the fridge.

Each afternoon, around 3pm, I would do the banking, dropping in cheques for clients, with more zeroes on the end than I’ve ever seen in my life. When I got back, it would be time to start sorting and franking the outgoing mail, before trudging across the road to the post office with giant, tied bundles of mail. Who knew paper could be so damn heavy?

As 5pm arrived, I would slip back into my heavy coat, throw my bag over my shoulder and walk back down the hill to Wynyard Station. I would stand around with the rest of Sydney, waiting for a train, then I would stand on the train until it began to thin out at Strathfield, and I could finally take the weight off my squeezed up feet.

It was a relief to get my next job, where most of my day was spent behind a computer. As it has been for the ten years that have followed since.

I admit it. I really enjoy sitting down.

The Greener Grasses

I desperately miss the city on these chilly Autumn nights.

Walking through country town streets is not as exciting as navigating the city’s tattooed alleys and rape-tunnels when the air is cold against your face and trains and trams click and clack across tracks, silver with the reflection of the moon.

The dark clouds scattered across the sky above me are tinged Batman-purple from the glowing city lights, leading me to the bottle shop a few blocks away.

I huddle deeper into my hoodie as I pass a drunk girl waiting at a bus stop. The glaze in her eyes tells me she’s a couple of glasses ahead of me and I quicken my pace, wanting to be at home when that happy moment strikes.

Couples pass me, arms linked in smiles understood only by each other. Businessmen talk into headsets but still hold their phones in their hands. Women tuck scarves into coats and I weave between them all, intent only on my destination.

The bottle stares down from its place on the shelf. Its familiar black label is at once comforting and assuring as I wrap my hand around the neck and carry it to the counter.

We never make idle chit-chat, those bottle shop bartenders and I. With our eyes downcast, we swap notes for coins and in a mere matter of minutes, my feet are carrying me back the way I came, through the scarf-tucking women, the phone-holding businessmen, and the arm-linking couples.

People congregate at intersections, waiting for lights to change, their impatient feet unable to remain still. Some are rocking blanket-covered prams hiding tag-along children, eager for that lullabye car-trip home.

As I near my own home, the crowd disappears and the cold gets closer. Streetlights are sparse and comforting as wide car-filled roads give way to narrow lanes strewn with newspapers and milk crates.

On those nights, I would turn my key in the lock and be glad to be leaving the city outside.

Tonight, I turn my key in the lock, missing its energy.