January 28, 2019.
I’m sitting on my balcony, in my serviced apartment next door to Queensland Theatre. I start rehearsals for Hydra tomorrow morning.
Now I’m sitting indoors because it’s too damn hot outside. I’m freshly bathed after plunging in the pool on Level One. Little pool, little gym. Not even a gym – cheeky to call a treadmill, a stationary bike and a bouncy ball a gym. But then, I’ve been spoiled by the ultimate shed-gym in our backyard, thanks to darling John. It only takes me six strokes to get from one end of the pool to the other, but I watched Venus emerge in the postcard piece of sky cut out of blank concrete walls and balconies. The voices of dazed travellers and overtired children floated above me. The water glowed cobalt around me. It tasted of salt and buoyed me as I cut through the cool wet.
I floated and thought of other pools. The various hotel pools of 19 weeks, one after another claimed as my own. Swimming with the kids at night in Lavender Bay, where Sydney Harbour spilled into the pool and the pool splashed into Sydney Harbour as we, deliriously happy, jumped and dove and squealed. I thought of Charmian Clift, tracing phosphorescent arcs in the waters off Hydra, and idly wished that I could write as well as her about the pleasure of moving through water in the night.
The descent into Brisbane felt perilous. I’ve been looking forward to this adventure for so long, wouldn’t it just be Murphy’s law if we crashed in a ball of flames the day before rehearsals started. The engines wailed as the plane bucked and rolled. Smoke from a bushfire plumed on my right, while through the windows to my left the city rose and dipped as if tossed on invisible waves. The burly New Zealand truck driver beside me, who’d told me his life story and had Marlon Brando’s nose, commented in a tight voice that the pilot was handling the plane like a trainee. But Brisbane greeted me with a damp kiss. The frangipani is pink, and the skyscrapers are climbing. I am an unabashed tourist, making small-talk with taxi drivers and bestowing smiles on weary cashiers. I love the first walk in a new city. Everything is unfamiliar and exceptional, yet I carry the knowledge that within a few days these streets will become my surrogate hood.
The jazz on my phone is tinny. The air is moist. My wine and milk sweated on the walk home from the grocery store. So did I. I am a blank page, open to new stories, new streets, new experiences. The novelty of being alone, setting up my little flat just the way I want it, has yet to wear off. The emptiness of solitude is not yet unwelcome. I bumped into Anna, who will be playing Charmian, as we were checking in. She is here with her husband and one-year old daughter. It’s her first gig after a year of maternity leave. She was buzzing with excitement to be working again, and astonished that Nathan and I (the Adelaide acting contingent) only had one suitcase each. I am the older woman now, with teenagers who will start school tomorrow, setting off together and locking the door, putting the dog out and catching the bus on time. I found a note tucked into my suitcase, written by my darling boy, promising that they will miss me and take care of everything. I used tweezers to retrieve one of the tiny messages placed in a glass bottle by my sweet girl. It told me that she thinks I’m fab.
Tonight, all is well.