YOU WERE NOT my first choice. I had my heart set on New York. Eight days on the Upper West Side in the august heat and I was a walking stereotype of I Heart NY. Sydney was too comfortable, I couldn’t see it anymore because it was too familiar. I was convinced NYC was the place that could turn me into a writer. I considered no other location. In my defence, I was deep in a post-travel depression.
I spent six months researching and applying like a madwoman to institutions across New York City and State. It was an intense process, involving mammoth amounts of photocopying, sitting the SATS, and an early morning phone interview. I was accepted into The New School’s Liberal Arts program, but wasn’t granted the fee help I’d applied for (I think they offered me something painfully cute, like $900, towards tuition) so I had to politely decline. As heartbreaking as it was, it remains my greatest achievement.
And one that led me to you.
A last-second application to The University of Melbourne and an awkward Skype interview, and I had an Arts course to start and a room in Brunswick to fill. Within a week I’d (unwittingly) picked a side of the river, found my favourite street (Rathdowne) and ridden my bike in more ways than I’d done before; while drunk, at night, in heels and not-on-the-footpath.
A little digression: I often liken things to fruit, and do so with my cities. New York is the organic apple of my eye, unwaxed and crunchy. Sydney is an overripe mango, soft and stringy, easily caught between the teeth. And you, Melbourne, you are a blood orange, bought on a whim and peeled with my fingers.
This is both painful and fun (kind of like listening to the band ‘Fun’). I never thought of myself as a Beach Babe, but seated next to the albino cinephiles at ACMI screenings I felt like a bronzed brunette from Home and Away. For the first time in my life I was actually aware of the vitamin D beating in my blood.
It’s best to go into a new relationship without expectation. As I peeled back the skin of your northern suburbs I was surprised by how foreign they seemed. I liked your lack of actual beaches and excess of actual cafés. I liked your deciduous trees and obedient streets, your chic-er city folk and beard-ier men.
You made me realise the things I wanted from New York could be found in other places, and proved the wisdom of what my mother had told me growing up: “Don’t wear thongs in winter.”
But with every new ‘like’ came a corresponding ‘miss’. I liked your flatness, but missed Sydney’s hills. I liked your unfamiliarity with ‘lads’ (with which Sydney was overrun) but after a while I began to miss making fun of lads. I liked how you took food and coffee seriously, but I hated it at the same time; for I knew Sydney would try too hard to copy.
People tell you it’s the people that make a city great. People here are up themselves, but they’re also right . The first week of uni I met a girl called Natalie. We nicknamed everyone in our film studies class according to their hairstyle (there was ‘Jew ‘Fro’, ‘Top-bun’ and, simply, ‘Hair Guy’). That’s when I knew we’d be friends forever. Then she moved back to Israel. Didn’t see that one coming.
Anyway, I’m glad I ended up with you against my will.
P.S. Word on the street is you’re so hot right now, the lads are coming to see what all the fuss is about. You’ve been warned.