Canberra, like, hates me
The day after the rally we jumped the bus again and went to the city center to meet with a friend of mine.
Canberra is not an exciting place by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I cried the day I arrived all those years ago. I did. I sat on the floor of my hotel room and cried, wondering what the hell am I doing in this god forsaken place at the end of the world. Still, the center has had this nice feel to it since then, as it is basically enclosed by buildings and free of cars and full of little shops, cafes and whatnots. Small, but friendly and mellow like.
So we got off the bus at the interchange and that part looked a bit more put together. It didnt have the old feel of being the night toilet area for various drunk individuals. Then we entered Garema Place (the pedestrian area) and I thought something must have happened. Something wrong. The place was dead. Yes, it was Tuesday, but it was almost lunch time and people still had to eat. Where were all the people! Then I walked and I saw all the FOR LEASE signs on old favorites.
Something was not right. I walked further and a bit further, but the area was ghost town. Then at the end I entered the shopping mall kind of a place to try and figure out where the book store was that I was meeting my friend. And there was my answer. The Canberra Centre had grown, grown, grown into this huge monolithic, never ending town of its own. It had expanded from its original size to about 5-7 times the size, sprawled down the length of the street into what used to be parking areas, both indoor and outdoor. Once you enter it, you dont have to show your nose outside at all. Just walk up and down through one of its fancy floors and buy to your heart’s desire.
This is just one street over from Garema Place. From the FOR LEASE signs that sit lonesomely on dusty windows reminiscing for the times that were, the times that have passed and will never come back.
The old Sammies Kitchen we used to order from, when I would pick Mr.Blab from work and do a run in pick up from, was now a fancy restaurant with hurried waitresses that didnt want to accommodate me and Caramel Popcorn.
It was not a place I knew or wanted to know.
That day my little man showed for sure that he is getting under the weather and started looking more tired and coughing a more violent cough. He refused to sleep at all in the bed, so he was strapped on me for the whole night, while I tried to do laundry and eat. It was a rough night.
The next morning I decided to drive to our old neighborhood and just visit. Waste a day and get out of the sick house. As the car that I was so generously given was running on gas, something I have never used before, I asked the station assistant to fill it up for me, which she did graciously. Then we were on our way. Half way on the highway I notice that the fuel gauge has gone down one third. And it kept on going…and going…half way…Panic raises in me, I admit. I imagine myself stuck on the highway with a sick little one and empty car with who knows what issue, trying to figure it all out. Still going down..what the hell is going on…and the car is not mine…shit…STOP IT!..still going down…there are whimpers form the back seat, followed by a cry. I look back to reassure him and there is my baby, with tears in his eyes, boogers flowing down his mouth, sad puppy dog eyes and a bloody nose. Pull to the side and run around pick him up and look for anything to wipe him down. Thankfully I had taken a bib for some reason in my bag. He relaxes a bit and the blood subsides. I am looking for a scratch or anything to give me a convenient explanation for the incident. No, such luck. Just one of those things. I think about my predicament. My friend had told me something about after 200km to switch the tanks to petrol. So I did that and the fuel gauge stayed the same. Looked around and decided that the stupid thing doesnt work, so they probably calculate how many km they can do on a certain amount of gas and then switch if needed. I knew I put gas in, so I pushed on, hoping my thinking was right.
It was another cold day. Life here had changed as well. It has been just over 3 years and life has moved on so much. We walked around and grabbed a lunch and sat down. This was my area. It was a place I had spent a lot of time. It was where Mr.Blab and I met and smooched around the corner many a times. And yet, its like it never was. Stories are lost in this progressive world of development and change. The human aspect of the history of the place is non existent. There are no roots to speak of. Its because stories are carried by people. My story is carried by the people I know, those that have shared theirs with me and vice versa. The area is overrun by multinational outlets that are not concerned with me, or you, or that lovely person over there. The people that work in them change more often than any other business. Maria serves coffee today, Tom is on duty tomorrow and so on. No long term connection can be made. No story to be kept, to be saved and retold later.
I was watching this world around me and it all looked so cold, so empty, so…sad. So fake and wrong.
I was going to stop at the market to visit a shop that was run by a lovely family back than and see if I can reclaim some of my past, but my poor little bug fell asleep as we got in the car, so I just drove by. The shop was there, so maybe next time. If there is one.
The evening and night were hard. Popcorn was lumpy and clingy and my heart was breaking for him. There truly is nothing like having a sick child. The quiet whimpering, the content look of the little moist eyes, even though he has every right to be panicking and asking me for answers as to whats going on. So again, I ate my dinner on the floor of the kitchen, so he can be next to me while I scoffed the food and the carpet in the living room was a lovely light color that would not have appreciated my tomato sauce, I am sure. Sleep at night was not happening and we spent it up and down and down and up.
The day we were leaving was sunny. Not just sunny, but without a cloud, not even one, in the sky. Was that celebratory acknowledgment for our departure? It sure felt like it in my sleep deprived, exhausted brain. The rest is history – flight one with sick child and numerous boogers wiped on my black top, scarf used for the rest as my tissues were too out of reach, bought a coffee at Melbourne and a beautiful looking croissant, which turned out to be over microwaved and I choked on the powdered sugar, while Popcorn spilled my coffee on the airport floor. Then a flight to here, which took forever and I had to spend most of it on my feet, as the little one was not happy on the seat and the amount of boogers on my top had started to make some interesting patterns glistening under the dim lighting, coughing was horrendous and he was not eating much, not even breastfeeds, which just raised my worry level even higher. As a cherry on the top, the weather back home was yuck, so we had some good measure of turbulence and this really doesnt make me happy, as I am not the best of plane travelers. But dropping through hole after hole in the sky, sharp turns that whiz through dark gray clouds while holding an exhausted sad looking almost one year old is as fun as I can take before asking for a freakin break. I could have cried crocodile tears at this point, I was feeling so sorry for myself.
And then we landed and I saw the top of Mr.Blab’s head through the crowd and then the girls with huge grins on their faces and the happy moist eyes of Miss Fab and life was good again in an instant, no longer than that. And the rain didnt matter and the angry clouds could not cast a shadow on me. I was home, where I belonged. And it felt so good.