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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Slice of fiction

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Dusk on Elizabeth Street (Melbourne)
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By Susan Abraham

...My dear Vincent,

It is evening time on Elizabeth Street. The winter darkness beckons like a black fog but I find the cold exhilarating. The sun tried a faint peep but I stay distrustful and cautious, my turtle neck sweater propped up to the tip of my chin; ready to do battle with wind and cloud.

Such is my affinity for this city, that the sun, rain and icy blasts which all revolve around me without warning, minute by minute in equal measure, will always stay beautiful.

I am standing beside a small crowd at the intersection of Burke Street. We wait to cross from right to left.

My trembling hands hide in the pockets of my black leather coat. My tightly-wrapped woolly scarf announces a cheerful green. My handbag today is shaped like a pill box. I am still particular about looking good even if I feel anything but.

Once more, I have misplaced my leather gloves.
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At the traffic lights, everyone waits anxiously for the red man to vanish. A rebel dashes past and faces an angry car honk. Bulging trams rumble on. A touristy horse carriage managed by coachmen in Victorian dress, manouveres its way between lines of speeding cars.

An interesting spectacle in the heart of this city, it leaves for the benefit of onlookers, the faint whiff of dung.

I shift about impatiently. My heart is bursting with trepidation. I have so much to tell you.

The green signal-man is finally spotted, then immediately ignored.
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I don’t have a definite plan as such. Possibly to pop into Myers and knowing that I have a weakness for beautiful stationery, to look at their cards, grab a mocha at the nearest coffee bar and dash over to the Body Shop for a bath bubbly.

I cross a square where a Peruvian band entertains a circle of fascinated onlookers with mountain songs, hoping to sell their albums at AU$20 - a-piece. On Saturdays, they prefer the famous Victoria market.

Yes, they’re still here, my darling.
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Another man, stands further apart, a lone figure but determined, stringing old Latin tunes on his fiddle. From somewhere, a middle-aged man reads out the Bible from a microphone unperturbed by the odd, curious stare.

A group of youths shout harmless protests for the Palestinian cause and plead for petitions. Two watchful policemen hover nearby. Captivated by buskers, people fill the benches. They sip hot coffee, eat burgers and catch up on a smoke. Predictable tourists snap pictures.

Tram bells clang noisily. It still feels a little like Trafalgar Square, without the fountains and lions. It’s as if nothing’s changed from when I first met you, Vincent, though I have changed tremendously.

I've become reclusive from the loss of you.
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Which is why carrying out my plan is going to be more difficult. But I am so excited; I can’t stop to think so I am going to begin again.”
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My dear Vincent,

“It is dusk on Elizabeth Street. Last night, I dreamt of you. This hasn’t happened in years. After a long spell of disbelief and silence, I have seen your face again. Like a Polaroid picture of our youth, handed to me at some astounding hour in my old age.

Naturally, I am excited and sad by turns. I want to capture your face forever. Please don’t leave the rooms of my heart. I must quickly at some point garner an unsuspecting artist who will sketch your face from the melody of my words.
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How often I wanted to paint you with the changing pace of the sunrise and touched-up rainbow hues for a dash of colour. I would add on a splash of ebony and a sprig of crushed-up cherries to remind you of me. And stir up too, my darling, lustred milk with honey.

I would search my palette for a tender touch of glorious surreal purples seen no where else but at a Dead Sea sunset. And I would grab the inky shades of the Red Sea. I speak from my borrowed visions of a traveller.

You left me, my darling, and here I am, about to tell you my news.

But move away now, that shadow of you, from where you once stood.

This is my Melbourne, not yours. All of which I collect quickly for safekeeping. Like a little coin box fished from the recesses of my mind, my memories are heavy and delicate. Please excuse the clutter.

There’ll always be a fading sparkle in my love for you. Always.
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Don’t let my city see you while she still mourns, with that foreboding dignified air, her precious loss. Not even the ghost of you or she’ll have a turn right here and now, in the loose ends of her fading light and then what?

She’ll embrace you with fierce maternal passion as she did this last 25 years and refuse to let you go from her great Sumo arms. What will you do then?

It was only five years ago that you made the great escape with a heavy luggage of bandages for pain and you ran so fast, you forgot your indispensable ointment of grief. I use that loyally all the time now. I’m sure you won’t mind. You’ll be pleased that the cut is almost healed. Almost.

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I don’t have time to say goodbye. I make up my mind to collect what I can and just remember the rest. Glory and romance are everywhere in tired, drawn faces and in the hope of embracing couples.

Out of this cathedral silence, a shivering bride suddenly whizzes past out of nowhere. Running and laughing with her band of admiring suitors, the back of her skin, looking raw and cold. Flowers fall everywhere.

The extraordinary entourage stop to cross at traffic lights and the bride wearing a slight frown, curtseys a little to straighten the bow tie of a grinning page boy. Then even she is gone, taking with her, my last layers of admiration for a city engulfed in fast dropping darkness.
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The air is limpid now. It feels liquid, like my eyes still misty with tears. Then it is back to that still, expectant mood you always pick up when crowds dressed in black, hurry home in silent unison and couples walk arm-in-arm with swift, military precision, fearful that the night may steal one of them away.

It is so quiet everywhere; I forget even the sound of footsteps. My fate could have snuggled forever, in this biting cold, jammed in the reel of this silent film. I refuse to contemplate the prospect of it all being like a hero’s funeral. Slightly upbeat and all that but still sombre.

Still, better a Chaplin than a grave.

Unwilling to stop, I walk on and on…

It is dusk on Elizabeth Street and you are nowhere to be found. ....
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Image Credit for lady writing letter to : Tallulahswho describe the techniques of classical painter, Pierre Bonnard

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