At the airport, a nurse puts a thermometre in my ear and says, Welcome to Sydney! There are lots of men in uniform – the police tell you where to go and the army load up the luggage. We sit on a bus outside the terminal for a long time.
When we eventually pull up to the hotel a police officer gets on the bus and jokes around with us for longer than feels comfortable. The food’s not great, he says, it was salmon tonight and that was ok but it’s pretty hit and miss. Anyway you’ll all be on the twenty-sixth floor so you’re lucky, you should get a good view of the harbour.
The cops that check me in are pretty jokey too. One of them looks at my passport and says, So were you blonde originally?
The guy next to him leans over to look at my photo then up at me: mostly brunette, glasses, blotchy, weary from transit. I consider joking that it’s not actually my passport, but now seems like an inappropriate time for comedy.
The soldier that escorts me to my room asks how my flight was and I tell him it was ok. I say, It was cancelled three times so I’m just happy it went to be honest.
Where’d you come from?
How long does that take?
He makes a pained expression, as though that’s the worst thing he could imagine.
It’s only when we get to the room that I realise I don’t have a key for it. He holds the door for me and says Have a nice stay as he closes it.
They weren’t wrong about the view though. I go straight to the window and want to laugh and cry at the same time with an embarrassing level of gratitude. On the left, the opera house, then moving clockwise round the bay, the botanic gardens, then up into the city. There’s an apartment building in front of where the bay opens to the ocean.
The windowsill is wide enough for me to sit on. Over the next few days I sit there and take photos of the view at different times of day and send them to anyone who asks how I am. The water glistens in the sun. There are no cruise ships of course but the ferries come and go, and on the weekend lots of small sail boats appear.
That guy was right about the food, too. Nice Greek salad follows dry burger follows bad noodles follows decent pasta follows fish so gross I have to throw it out. It’s all ok though. They bring fruit and cake and water and I am never underfed. Breakfast comes about seven, lunch at midday and dinner at six – I haven’t eaten on this schedule since primary school. One night, dinner is a steak served with plastic cutlery so I sit cross-legged on my bed and eat it with my hands. Childish. Primal.
At check-in the police had asked me how I planned on getting back to Melbourne. The border between Victoria and New South Wales had closed just before I landed, but I hadn’t yet had time to investigate what that meant for me. I paused. The rules and regulations were changing all the time. After a moment I told them I’d wait a few days and see what happened before deciding. This satisfied them. The cop handed my passport back to me.
Well, he said, you’ve got nothing but time.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 12th July 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.
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