There is a silence in the suburbs that engulfs you. Not a proverbial silence, a literal one. The absence of sound is a presence I wake up to at two in the morning. I have no excuse not to go back to sleep. There are no packs of dogs that roam the street, tearing each other to pieces just before dawn. There are no protestors or processions that pass through my tree-lined street corner. I hear no sirens. Even the birds do not wake me.
There are other details I have noticed. Parsley grows out of the cracks in our pavers like weeds. It wasn't there before. My dad planted a coffee tree, a robusta that is short and thick already with leaves and small budding fruit. My mum tells me her lola used to make coffee from the plant, roasting it, boiling it and reusing the coffee beans afterwards to give to the kids to eat with rice. This was a story I had not heard before. I was surprised. I thought I knew most of those stories.
Just the day before my lolo was showing me the history of our family on three type-writer written pages. He has always been into tracing his roots. I read over the carefully, laboriously typed ghosts of the many great relatives he has outlined. Names I have not heard of, people I do not know. I am intrigued, of course. The question of roots has flitted about throughout my life.
My sister, the one that stayed behind, made me a bouquet. They are all Australian flowers, wattle and kangaroo paw and waratah. She bought them early and worried that they would die. Of course they wouldn't! I told her, They're Australian flowers, they don't die! and I think of all the foreigners that ask me about all the dangerous animals in Australia, all the ways you can get killed on accident as if snakes and spiders were natural human predators and grew in abundance on the sidewalk. I think of how they never marvelled at how much life survived in spite of it.
The room I have now twice abandoned for a total of two and a half years is a time warp. I was greeted with new sheets my sister had bought and newly vacuumed floors but still it was, is, a relic to my past self. Who was this person with such a feminine, such an uplifting room? Boards of postcards from rivers and oceans in Europe, crashing waves and roman column buildings, of Picasso pieces and burnt orange coloured rooftops? The person with heavy necklaces hanging from her closet door, rows of heeled shoes and a fake white flowered head piece hanging on a board?
I remember this time. The time when I was this person who stayed up late reading articles and saving inspiring quotes to my desktop. Was it that I needed this inspiration for myself or was it simply a reflection of how inspired I was, an affirmation of the lightness I lived?
My desktop now is a painting of a boy sitting on a row boat out at sea. He looks alone until you notice there are two heads peeping out from the other end of the boat. He sits out of the boat on the edge with his back facing you. He is wearing a bucket hat, a fisherman's hat, his bare feet dangling in the air and not yet touching the water. Is this, too, a reflection of me? An affirmation of my dangling feet and back turned against your gaze and out onto my own world?