Sober and clear-headedly aware, I faced the richness of a cold dawn, where the wind oscillated with the slow coming mist and I watched the fatigue of a long night crumble and doze off. Bourke Street was almost empty expect for a few hedonists, still out and about walking the talk in search of more pleasure. I turned right onto Swanston St and walked up to McDonalds. I was hungry and needed to eat something fatty, something harmful and unhealthy, but juicy and tasty like all bad things.
I thought back on the evening, and how my comrades were still swaying their drunken heads in spaces that still offered revelled languages, tongues and food for minds full of wishful desires. Pony was their answer to this. Pony, the den of gaudy aesthetic is everyone’s answer at 6am when the brains still bubble with awareness. When you are too awake to trot off home and sleep, when drugs infiltrate your senses like an enemy. You feel tense for you desire that extra ounce of interaction; merrymaking is the hug you want.
I was not really in the mood for all that. I changed somehow, in the middle of a song. Something just altered my mood, I felt a pulse leap away from my heart and convince me to walk off. I was struck at first, but the penetration of this feeling was ferocious and stern and kept tightening my chest until I finally gave in, like an easy target and let it devour me. I walked out without much interest in closure, down the stairs of the Carlton Club and out onto the street; aimless and confused I wondered about at the corner near Hungry Jacks. I smoked a cigarette until I smelt the flavours of fast food, the aroma of fried chips.
I hurried up Swanston St and walked into McDonalds where a few hungry party-goers were already waiting for meals. People looked different. They lacked something significant, which only a few hours ago carried their posture. It was an apparent observation: the fatigue taking over, people, tired and their limbs no longer possessed by indulgence – this was a sight for sore eyes. When the ego can no longer stand, when all you see is the naked emotion, bodies stripped off conceit. This is how we really are. We are nothing but clothed flesh that breathes, longing so desperately for the necessity that keeps our hearts pounding – this bloody affection we all seek.
This was youth. This was youth at the edge of mortality; no longer consoling the ego for a game of promiscuity or pose, no this was the body talking and expressing its need; its necessity to continue on breathing and not worry about comparisons and wit, popularity and coolness.
I was not tired. I felt like an example of the exception. I felt a pang in my muscles at realising the travesty of my being, of my peers, of my people, how we are all ludicrous and how our youthful joys are so deceiving, how they are perverted and all our depressing anxieties irrelevant in the sphere of a lifecycle.
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to kiss everyone and hug them tightly, shake their hands and weep on their shoulders, but I did none of that when the girl with the tilted hat behind the counter asked me what I would like to order. She was hiding a pimple on her forehead by pulling her hat downwards but you could still see it, a red bulge protruding from the skin. How self-conscious our lives really are, how anal our ideal of comparisons have become. If only we did not compare. If only…
I received my order immediately and took a seat in a corner. I un-wrapped the burgers and started feasting on them like a lion. Eaten too quickly, I got up and jolted out of McDonalds. I had no cigarettes left so I walked in the brightly lit 7/11 and bought a packet and lit one at once as I walked out. I could see in the distance empty Swanston St colliding with dawn. The sight was beautiful, the noise subdued and the city devoid of crowds. I was almost alone with Melbourne. Alone to ask it questions it has not been asked before. This was precisely what I wanted to do – ask a city questions, be firm and frank with her.
Before I reached the Parliament House, I felt the streets tremble. Like an earthquake, it started to shake and a fog arose, like a calming mist flowing out of sewers. I looked down and a face bulged out of the ground. First it smiled at me, winked underneath my feet and I winked back, almost like a game between two lovers eyeing each other across a bar.
I kept walking, strutting along aimlessly. I sat down at the Government steps and envisioned the pasture here a hundred years ago and how this might have been a bushy hill with naked indigenous people running with spears catching kangaroos. It was almost 7am and I felt I was being knocked down by fatigue also. But I was still eager, still full of blossoming like a flower, so I closed my eyes and let the city smell pass through me, through my bones, until it was inside me like a strong feeling. Melbourne wanted me to stay, to console and contemplate with it. I felt its ambition; I stared it right in the face. It had the sea flowing through its veins, the oh mad ambition of a youth!
That evening magic welcomed me. I turned into the concrete of the streets. My body, the slope of the park, the trees and the statues. My soul drifted, expanded and evaporated into the grid of this little metropolis. I was alive and breathing but I was a settlement, I was a hub of robust activity brewing inside me and outside of me. I was the smiling city I live in. I was it and it was me. I was a 150 years of progress, a seed of the industrial revolution. I was at the height of my power in 1881 when I was the richest city is the entire English Empire across the entire seven seas. It felt great to be alive.
I was smug, I was active, I was breathing and I was inhaling the oxygen from the botanical gardens. I could not believe the joy that I walked into, how I was alone without my conceited generation. I could hear the possums, their little feet running through the bushes. I saw them glare at the tubes that people placed around the trees so they could not climb. They had no idea how to get around it and I wanted to help. We are ruthless and greedy. To nurture our pleasure and leisure we stop nature in its tracks.
Anger was boiling inside of me. I jumped and tried to take the tube off but it was too high, I could not reach it. The possums were cheering me; they were happy, finally someone intervened for them. I kept trying but to no avail. I needed tools. The possums continued to clap and giggle. I was restless and tired. I sat down and took out a cigarette to calm down. A possum came up to me and bowed. I apologised to him and he smiled.
As I got back on my feet he ran away. This was a night to remember, I thought, a night that started with unorthodox feelings, with an initiative to clarify myself, to understand human value and our connection to nature. I had enough when I saw the sun rise. I made my way home a happy man.