Photogrpahed by David Slijper in 2007. c. David Slijper
I stand at the counter waiting for my coffee. The baristas know me by name now. They make my drink without me even asking. Part of me feels embarrassed I’m so predictable. Part of me feels relieved to be developing a habit. When I think back to my sense of home and all we left in London, a lot of that was steeped in rituals. The walk to the park, the familiar paths and once or twice a day standing at a counter waiting for my espresso.
After a year in another country, I realise some of this is feeling like home but there’s still a strange isolation.
Is this outsider syndrome? Is this othering?
And then I see him.
Such kind eyes. He must be at least 70. He looks at me as though he knows me. I think he wants to sit in the chair I had my eye on so I offer it to him instead.
'No no I'm fine. It's just.. you look like my son,' he says.
Funny, he looks like my Dad.
He stares in to my eyes and I know, in that moment, he is not in his son’s life.
Just like I am not in my father’s.
Is his son still alive?
We don’t discuss it.
I am the ghost of someone else as he is a ghost to me.
Maybe we are idealised versions of the people we never really held.
I smile and leave and he watches me, wistfully.
I wonder if we’ll strike up a conversation one day.
The answer to the most frequently asked question.
I know what it is about old malls - especially ‘dead’ 80’s ones that move me so much. The memories. I think about all the moments that must have happened there. First kisses, birthday trips, excited Christmas dreams. Dates. Fights. Stress. Arguments. Apologies. Life. All the dreams and memories just ghosts now.
The Hoyts Regent Cinema, Brisbane. Built in 1929. It’s where I first saw ‘Return of the Jedi’. Some of the happiest memories of my life were created there. It had been listed as a protected building but was demolished and sold to make way for a 40 story office tower and carpark.