Autumn 2011 #5
It’s late, very late. Our train is clattering north again, and soon we will be back once more in Paradise, our home in the hills. Soon Little One will be with us again; and we will celebrate a “Welcome Home” in our traditional style to end her respite days.
I had hoped to write an eloquent tale tonight. I hoped to paint a picture of a rose-red face, round as a dinner plate, startling me out of the hypnotic concentration of weaving Bugger through Melbourne’s crowded streets. “Would you like a nice hot cup of Milo love? Or tea? It’s free!”
I’ve tried tonight to write about the vacant, distant stare of a thousand faces on a city street. Those lifeless eyes, unable or unwilling to engage with just one soul amongst the countless of hoard. And I wanted to show you what I see these days: not vacant eyes, but bums and belt buckles: a sight far worse! I hoped to find a way to capture our Friday night wander along the banks of the Yarra, when a miasma of self-pity took hold; when the stigma of difference, the awkward isolation of a wheelchair, bit more keenly than ever. (Wouldn’t you have thought that I’d be over that by now?) I was hoping, too, to find words to describe a quite irrational fear of meeting with family and our closest friends without a voice, or at least not much of one. How strange that crowds of utter strangers should be the cause of such unsettling thoughts.
“Well deary, will you have one? It’s free!” For a moment we were eye to eye, I was shocked to see a human face at last. Perched on a wheelie-walker, the red-round visage belonged to a Queen – of sorts. The matriarch of Flinders Street Station, enthroned with aplomb, hailing her passing public with authority and verve that her pedestrian subjects could not match. She alone dared to challenge the indifference of the masses, inviting them to her table: a curbside food van that was most likely nothing to do with her at all. But the moment passed and I rolled on. I had no voice to say to her, “Thanks, but not this time”. I could have held her hand perhaps, and looked her in the eye. We could have met at least, but we did not.
I wanted to tell you how she changed my frame of mind, the Queen of Flinders Street Station, how I saw in her once more the simple fact that I am not alone. That nothing really cuts us off from one another, that people, all of us, are mostly much the same.
This is the story I wanted to tell, but it’s just so late, and it won’t quite write!
So this will have to do.