Moving house as the result of a break up was another first for me. The move to Smith Street happened in a blur of heartbreak, panic and a very real struggle with the “fight or flight” response. Considering that, it’s a wonder I found a place I liked as much as I did. I mean, during that first week I was barely in a position to get up off the floor, let alone look for a place to live: you could have advertised a cardboard box with “THERE ARE NO PAINFUL MEMORIES HERE” written on it and I would have submitted an application to live in it.
All I knew was that I need to live alone. I did not want to inflict my emotional state on anybody else, and besides: it had been nine years since my last solo dwelling, and I was ready to try it again. It was absolutely the right choice.
That said, it was kind of a dump. The kitchen consisted of four different design patterns: the linoleum tiles, the contact on the cupboards, the contact behind the cupboards, and the splashback tiles were all different, and not a single one complemented the other. Nor did a single one of those things complement the rich maroon of the windowsills, so really the whole room was like some kind of complicated eye test you could only hope to fail.
Things didn’t get any better in the bathroom. The water pressure in the shower was comparable with being piddled on by an excited puppy. The only difference between the two is that puppy piddle doesn’t come out the temperature of lava. The only way the hot water could be adjusted was by touching the cold water tap: literally only touching, like opening an app on a phone, because any greater movement and the water would go ice cold immediately.
Half of the light switches had been pushed inside the switch panel, meaning I tended to use my own lamps, because sticking my finger into a hole in the wall didn’t seem like the safest way to make lights go on.
I also had a weird neighbour who kept a folding chair in a comfortable corner on the far right side of the balcony. The thing is, said comfortable corner was nowhere near his door, but rather very close to both my door and the access point for all the upstairs apartments. This made it weird when he sat there, which he did a lot. Every time I came home, even before I made it to the top of the stairs to my front door, I could feel I was being watched. I started to feel like Atreyu at the Southern Oracle; this neighbour became known as The Sphinx.
During the warmer months he was there day and night. He would either be reading the paper, or smoking what I can only assume were metre-long joints, judging from all the smoke that wafted in through my lounge room window. Yeah, on top of being a self-appointed weirdo sentry guard for the building, he also hotboxed my apartment for the entire summer.
Not that the flat needed his help being a hotbox: it retained heat like a motherfucker. During the week-long heatwave in January 2014, I discovered it was possible to reduce peanut butter to the consistency of gravy; a discovery as surprising as it was delicious.
So the light switches, the water pressure, the decor, the neighbours and the insulation were all bollocks. And this whole hot mess of bollocks was located twenty metres away from a train line. Sure, this was super convenient for public transport, but the trains crossed each other right outside my flat, and they always, always, always honked hello at each other as they passed. I mean, I was happy they had such a supportive camaraderie in their workplace, but shit.
So yeah, it was a dump. But it was my dump. And just like all my dumps, it was very satisfying. It didn’t matter that the place was falling apart; hell, I was so close to falling apart, we made an excellent matching set.
And it helped. Having the Thornbury Crap Museum as a sanctuary meant I didn’t let things overwhelm me at work. I resisted the urge to give up on this project and instead I kept writing the stories. I even started doing more theatre. If I’d been falling apart at the beginning, I eventually started putting myself back together.
So why am I not still there in that clearly wizard-like ramshackle cave? Well, there are some people who just shouldn’t live on their own for too long. I didn’t think I was one of those people; I thought I had a disposition that was more than suitable to long-term solitude. But around about the time I found myself trying to use a broadsword to dispose of the spider I’d killed because I didn’t want to get any closer to touching it than I absolutely had to…
…was the time I started to realise that maybe I don’t do well without adult human company.