Wednesday, July 26, 2006

memory city

Whizzing round town at night as I do, I'm always passing by sites that hold memory traces: houses or flats I've rented, rooms where I've made or unmade love, places that held parties I was at, places where friends, now dead or departed, lived and laughed or suffered. The other night I drove past a house in Bondi Junction where, in 1981 or 2, having being hailed by a bloke up on the main drag, I picked up a woman who was in the the throes of a severe asthma attack. They were Greek, and he did not come to the hospital with me, I don't know why. I drove her hectically up to the POW in Randwick as she curled forward in a ball of breathlessness on the front seat beside me. Convinced she was dying, I ran shouting into Emergency, where they gently took me aside as they lifted her into a wheel chair and carried her away. I never found out what happened to her, thin and grey and alone as she was; but when I returned to the cab, there was an enormous plastic bag sitting on the floor and in it, a purse containing a single five dollar note: the fare. There are dozens of places like this for me in Sydney, some intimately connected, others, like this one, only randomly significant. Sometimes I feel as if I am abroad in a vast memory city, half fantastical, half real: those places that have changed irrevocably, as so many of them have, are no less strange than those that appear, like this house does, exactly as they were a quarter of a century or however long ago it was.