After two years of living the life of urbanised Kings Crossers, we decided to make the move to a bigger, better (and cheaper!) apartment in northern Sydney.
We spent a few months in the winter checking out other places to live but everywhere we saw within our price limit was awful. Eventually, we decided that it’s best to just stay where we are and pick up the search again after the wedding. But a random, off-the-cuff conversation with a colleague set off a chain reaction when she told me she was moving out of her apartment, a place that she’d been living in for 13 years. I joked saying, “well, why don’t we move in?” To which she replied, “yeah. I mean, I can’t see why not?”
So, here we are, packing up our place and the thought of leaving our little apartment fills me with pre-emptive nostalgia.
There are so many memories tucked inside these walls. I can still remember back when we were dating, Mat was living in the city and I was living in Rozelle, and we were apartment hunting every weekend. We found the listing for this place and went to check it out on a beautiful sunny day in September. We walked through the Kings Cross markets and sat down on a ledge outside the apartment waiting for the agent to arrive. When he showed up, he quickly propped up the sign on the sidewalk and then guided us inside the art-deco building. The entrance had red velvet floors, dark wooden panes and a single circular shaped mirror. I felt as if I was on an old wooden ship. We entered the apartment, which was still being rented out by two women, when suddenly a little cat darted over to say hello. “Oh, that should not be here. There are no cats are allowed in the building,” the agent said sternly as the cat meowed and rubbed his body against my leg. I felt an instant connection to the apartment. Not only was it airy and bright, but the illegal friendly cat made it feel like a home.
We quickly submitted our interest and I anxiously waited to hear back from the agent, wondering if any of the other couples would beat us to it. Luckily, we were chosen to be the tenants and it felt like winning the lottery. Since it was the first time of living together, it was challenging for us to find our rhythm. I never lived with a boyfriend before so it was very new and slightly terrifying territory for me. There was laughing and joking, arguing and disagreeing, communicating and listening, supporting and empathising. All of the typical stages every relationship goes through, and continues to go through, all the time. But things are particularly heightened when you first move in together.
This was the first night when we finally moved in. In true French style we celebrated with bread and cheese:
It didn’t take too long before we settled into the neighbourhood and felt like locals. After scouting the area and trying new things, we went back to our favourite weekend breakfast spot. We developed grocery shopping routines, wandered through the Saturday morning markets, and found the most perfect walk around Rushcutter’s and Elizabeth Bay. On one weekend away in Hunter Valley, I met an Irish woman who happened to live across the street and has since become one of my best friends. We also became acquainted with the interesting and diverse characters of the area. Our apartment borders the rich and wealthy neighbourhood of Elizabeth Bay and the what was once considered the red light district of Kings Cross. On one street you can find perfectly manicured rich mothers pushing high-tech strollers past a guy with pants around his ankles laying on the sidewalk muttering, “spare change?” The spectrum of ‘societal rank’ is, well… extremely varied, to say the least.
Any Friday night that I walked home from the train station at Kings Cross would result in a vibrant display of human nature. I’d find a mix of wide-eyed backpackers looking for what has remained of a reformed red light district, drunk city workers on the hunt for a strip club, and those at the mercy of their addictions. Just the other night I walked home and saw two men standing in front of a guy who suddenly slumped his shoulder and shed big huge tears down his cheeks. I turned back, curious to see what two men could have said that would have made him cry and watched as they placed handcuffs around his skinny wrists.
When you live in an area where addiction is rampant, you see the same people who are begging for change slowly deteriorate. One guy in particular is often sitting on a crate outside Woolies and each time I see him, he looks worse. I sometimes look at him and wonder what his parents think; what about his siblings? I wonder how painful it must be for the family members to know that their brother or son or husband is almost dying from his addiction. Or maybe he has no family at all. The last time I saw him his shoulder length matted hair was hacked off. He is normally quiet and calm, mumbling “have a nice day” but this time he was swaying back and forth and yelling “give me change!” It broke my heart to see, I wonder what could be done to help him out of this mess.
Looking back at the four and a bit years that I’ve lived in Australia, I’ve moved four times. Obviously, I get bored quickly and am constantly looking for the next adventure. But something about this new place feels a bit more permanent (as illusory as permanence is). It feels like it could be a home, a proper home. A place we can stay a little longer than normal.
A new chapter is soon to begin and this one will be in an area of Sydney that I have no familiarity with at all. It’s sort of like a new beginning, just in time for the new year.
It’s a clean slate, a new fresh white canvas ready to be painted on.