The Last Time

The last time

The last time I rode my bike to work, I didn’t ride it home. An ambulance took me to hospital instead. My bike had slipped on tram tracks (very Melbourne) and I tumbled down like a sack of potatoes. It took me 6 months to get the courage to ride again.

The last time I dyed my hair was over a year ago. I like that my blonds now shine through.

The last time I was in a St Kilda pub on a Saturday night, the bartenders ignored me while they clambered to serve a skimpily-clad 18 year-old. I guffawed so loud I startled them.

The last time I got married, I divorced him 13 years later.

The last time I took illicit drugs, I did so in a safe and comfortable environment with someone I trust to guide me through. The next morning he asked if I wanted a cigarette with my coffee. I said, ‘I don’t smoke.’ He said, ‘you did last night.’

The last time I took a pregnancy test it was negative. I was, and still am, very thankful for that.

The last time I lied was yesterday.

The last time I swam in the ocean it was off Magnetic Island and not really warm enough but I hadn’t carted my bathers from Melbourne for nothing.

The last time I slept solidly through the night was earlier this year. It’s so rare that when it happens I wake in awe.

The last time I went for a jog I was 12 years old and before I had finished developing fully. I don’t care what other people say about sports bras, bouncing is just too uncomfortable. So if you see me running, you’d better run too cause there’s something scary coming this way.

The last time someone asked me to get married, I said no to the marriage but yes to jewelry and a party.

The last time I raged against injustice was earlier this week. There seems a lot stuff in the world to rage at lately.

The last time I did yoga was this morning. It seems that if I don’t stretch and move daily, things start to seize up.

The last time I was able to use my phone without finding my glasses was over a year ago. I apologise for those on the receiving end of my typos. I now own multiple pairs of glasses that I have stashed in various bags and spots around the house.

The last time I used the phrase ‘in my day’ – oh no, that’s right I never have. Because I still think of things as being ‘in my day.’

The last time I wore high heels I got a blister. I’d like to say that’s the last time I wear high heels but I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment.

The last time I sang in public was – who am I joking, I’ve never sung in public and trust me you don’t want me to start.

The last time I experienced sexual harassment was – actually, it’s happened so many times in my life that I no longer bother to remember.

The last time I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone I came to a story telling night. I’ve been coming every month since. I’m hooked and reckon I’m learning and improving month by month. And tonight won’t be my last time.

The Revitalise Centre

The Revitalise Centre

My busy morning and the buzz of surrounding cafes is all forgotten as soon as I step inside the door and am greeted by mini indoor jungle. The large, shiny leaves force me to reach out and touch them to check if they’re real; they are. I smile and think ‘a place that nurtures its plants this well is certainly going to nourish it clients just as well.’ I report my name to the receptionist and she nods like she’s expecting me.

‘Welcome. Yve will be with you soon,’ she says as she gets up to pour me a glass of water. Grateful for this, I hadn’t even realised I was thirsty. I take in the calm blue/grey décor but don’t get a chance to pick up a magazine before Yve appears around the corner to collect me. As we walk towards the treatment room, I pass a small gallery of smiling therapists and more luscious plants that dot my path.

I’m guided into the room, which is bright with natural light and peaceful at the same time. I take a seat in a corner beside a salt lamp that reminds me of cityscape. We talk about what she can do for me today. Having recently had some traumatic dental work, we narrow in on lymphatic drainage as the most useful for me today. I have had lymphatic drainage before and been surprised how effective something so gentle can be. Small circular movements with a light pressure stimulate flow. In the past, it has helped reduce oedema from air flight, and restored balance after a fall.

The small stereo provides music that is subtle enough not to intrude into my bliss nor drown out the birdsong from outside. Walls are well-insulated as the only sound I hear from the nearby train line is a toot as the train departs the station. I had been first recommended to Yve through my mother. Word of mouth is my favoured way of finding therapists. A diabetic friend has been having regular reflexology sessions as a wellness strategy for many years now. Though she started with reflexology to directly help her feet, she’s discovered a more wholistic, active approach to her health.

Yve steps out of the room while I prepare myself and lay on the massage bed. She enters and checks in with me regarding comfort, temperature, etc. A weighted eye mask is placed on my eyes, instantly calming them. I’m centred in on my body and nothing else. She begins slowly and gently, unwinding the tension in my jaw, my neck and ultimately my shoulders.

Time passes to its own rhythm. I’m only aware of the end of the session as she holds my shoulder and tells me to get up in my own time. I stretch my limbs one by one, feeling the extent of my body. I slip off the eye mask and am surprised that it’s still daylight. I don’t know what I expected. Not sleepy but rested, I feel ready to leave the retreat and face the world afresh.

On the way out, I spy posters for kids and tween yoga. If only I’d found these when my kids were young, I think. A mindfulness program, anxiety workshops, meditation sessions, and more are also advertised. I make a mental note to check out the website when I get home. When I do, I discover The Revitalise Centre provides a raft of therapies: reflexology, massage, naturopathy, podiatry, reiki, kinesiology, hypnotherapy, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage and wellness coaching. I can imagine these complementing each other, making for a place that honours both the body and soul.

I pause at some shelving to enquire about the potions and lotions on display. Yve pours me another glass of water and encourages me to use the testers. Apart from the gorgeous packaging, the scents are delightful – neither overpowering nor flaccid. Uluna are a local mother-daughter company producing high quality crystal essential oil products. Appropriately, it is JOY that resonates with me this afternoon.

That evening when I climb into bed, I realise that I haven’t thought about my jaw or tooth all afternoon. And that is joyful indeed.

Tuesday September 4th 12.10pm Butter & Scotch Bar and Bakery.

Tuesday September 4th

12.10pm Butter & Scotch Bar and Bakery.

Bar AND bakery, I hear you say. Yes, bar and bakery. Why does this concept not happen more? They open at 9am and offer brunch options until mid-afternoon. Think sandwiches in the American sense ie hot fillings sometimes toasted and often in a bun not bread, biscuits/savoury scones, sweet pies, cake, ice cream – cause, you know, America.

This morning I tried to go to the Museum of Women’s Resistance but, alas, it appears to be no more. Damn internet! Promising a vibrant experience that in reality is a nondescript townhouse with a for sale sign hanging out front. Of course, it was bound to happen at least once this trip. Occasionally, the internet doesn’t always tell the truth. Who knew.

So that’s how I made it to this oasis earlier than planned. On this trip, I’m trying not to consume alcohol before noon although the crossing of time zones can mess with one’s sense of whose noon it really is. It’s quiet in here; there are a couple of guys sitting at the bar drinking coffee plus me. The air conditioning is strong and welcome. My 4000 steps this morning were hard work in the relentless sunshine.

‘How you doing this warm day?’ The barman stands behind the bar polishing glasses in the way that barmen all over the world do.

‘Better now,’ is my response.

‘Yeah, it’s getting warm out there.’

I slide along the wall, edging past the two guys perched on the chrome and vinyl bar stools. Black and white chequered tiles on the floor, painted, colour-blocked walls and a feature wall of red lips by the bathrooms signal the fun, casual vibe of the place. The mirrored wall behind the display of extensive spirits indicates it’s a bar in more than just name only. I grab a table near the bar for ease of service as much as conversation.

Traveling by myself has its pros and its cons. I don’t have to please anyone else but at times I crave human interaction beyond the cursory. In the mornings, as I’m having my mandatory two cups of tea, I listen to podcasts. It helps prepare me to interact with the big wide world outside my bedroom door. This trip is an ideal mix of time alone, time with family and time with friends old and new.

The obligatory glass of water is delivered with the menu. I opt to begin with a coffee with the encouragement of the barman despite my reticence for American coffee. He promises to attempt a piccolo latte for me. I’ve coached him through it and I reckon I’ll get something close. I do, in fact, receive a passable piccolo latte. The espresso shot has enough oomph for my liking and it’s not been watered down with too much milk. In reality, it is a flat white presented in a glass mug with a handle. Some sugar helps balance the dominant bitterness.

I scour the menu for a smaller-sized breakfast dish and I want to leave room for something sweet afterwards. Steve would be disappointed if I didn’t. I settle on the chicken, chilli and cheddar hand pie with salad. A hand pie is a filled pastry triangle by another name. The buttery pastry is flaky and tasty all on its own. The diced filling is good value on the chicken front with enough heat not to warrant any extra use of hot sauce or chilli-infused honey that sits on the table. A little light on the cheddar for my liking, it’s a small, insignificant criticism on my behalf. The mixed salad greens are perfectly dressed in a country where I often find dressings overwhelming the salad they’re supposed to complement.

Coffee downed and I decide to step things up a notch with a michelada. A tall glass is rimmed with spicy salt, then half-filled with ice, doused with hot sauce, and finished off with a crisp lager and a wedge of lime. I need to embrace these more in my summer life. It’s thirst quenching and substantial at the same time. I take photos, all the time thinking Steve would love it here.

The menu which is currently discarded on the table next to me promises desserts in a variety of styles: key lime pie, s’mores pie, daily special pie, unicorn cake, salted chocolate cookies, six flavours of ice cream. All these are made in the bakery section next door which I can see into through a doorway behind the bar. I finish up my breakfast grateful for the small serving and embark upon an in-depth consultation with my friendly barman. Between us we concoct a boozy milkshake based upon the key lime pie with coconut ice cream and added rum.

When it arrives, I’m not disappointed. It’s thick and creamy with generous amounts lime zest sprinkled on top. The rum comes through immediately and I give it a thorough stir in case I’m drinking all the rum first. I slurp again and it’s just as good. I don’t often order sweet things and I think I’ve only done it this time in honour of my absent partner. I’m delighted that I did and even more grateful that he’s not here because I don’t have to share it. It’s mine, all mine I tell you!

Letter to my mother’s diabetes.

Dear diabetes,

I’m well, thanks for asking.

I’m not going to ask how you’ve been because I don’t care.

I wish I’d never met you.

You’ve robbed my mother of her sight. Not all of it, mind you, but enough to suck some of the sweetness out of life. I can picture her, many years back, sitting on the couch next to dad, crocheting a toy or blanket for one grandkid or another. Now she just sits on the couch, staring ahead at a fuzzy pattern of shapes and colours, hands idle in her lap.

Thanks to you, my sister and I have now inherited the abandoned craft supplies. The crates of fabric from under the stairs went to my sister who sews. My daughters and I happily received boxes of wool, knitting needles and crochet hooks. Yes, the cats do love chasing the wool but I am also relishing the chance to teach my daughters crochet.

Mum, like her mother, was always happy to let us kids have a go at craft. I can even see Nana sitting in her floral chair by the window so she would catch the natural light, knitting needles in hand. Somehow, she never was short with me as she attempted to figure out what on earth I’d done with the wool. It usually involved a drop stitch or three. So I’m not being sarcastic when I say thank you. The craft supplies that have been passed on to us means that we, too, allow our children to play around with creating.

The ability to have a go and fail is something my mother encouraged in me from a young age. She is not the type to take the pencil out of my hand to draw something for me. She would suggest I walk around it, pick it up and get to know the thing I wanted to draw. Her time at art school in the 60s was not wasted. Her paintings and sculptures filled the house growing up. But once again, thanks to you, diabetes, she can’t even paint. The half-finished canvases rested against a wall in the garage, blank faces poking out under a layer of dust and cobwebs, until they too came to live with me.

As a child, I remember my grandfather had a shed that smelled of wood shavings and engine oil. His tools hung neatly on shadow board which lined the walls. I recall stories of Papa making a home brew system from discarded fuel tins. My mother inherited her ingenuity from her father. She also inherited his diabetes, developing it late in life as he did. So damn you diabetes for cursing my Papa as well.

Whilst reducing my mother’s sight so that she can no longer drive, you have tried to curb her independence but you did not succeed. My mother simply upsized her phone’s display and downloaded a public transport app. So once again, I must thank you. Thank you for nudging her into the modern world. Buses, trains and trams have replaced her own car but she will not be hobbled. We are both viciously independent people and though you may try, you will not limit our wanderings.

It’s not just diet and insulin production you impact. You effect the eyesight, feet and healing ability of people who get too close to you. The strong genetic link looms over my life so I’m actively working to remain free of you, damned diabetes. I exercise regularly so that you can’t catch me. I eat well, so that you’ll not join me at my dinner table. I have inherited many things from my mother – my body shape, my love of creating and my independent streak. But I will not inherit diabetes. I will not inherit you.

Jill and I

A couple of drinks with friends. We’ve all done that. Some nights, I have more than a couple of drinks and still walk down ill-lit streets by myself. Mostly, I have a pre-set arrangement with my best friend to check in on the way home but then there are always the impromptu nights.

Saturday September 22 2012, Jill Meaghar was out having drinks with friends in Melbourne’s inner north. From one bar to another, her colleagues from the ABC enjoyed convivial times with alcohol. I do this. I’m still here. At 1.30am, she left the group to walk a short distance home to her husband waiting for her in the bed they shared. It was probably a cool Spring night and she would be looking forward to leaning against his warm sleepy body. She never made it there.

She spoke with her brother on the phone on the way home. I pretend to talk with people on the phone to deflect unwanted male attention or exude a false sense of security. She lived close to the bars and it wasn’t worth getting a taxi home. The spendthrift in me understands this. All she had to do was walk down a well-illuminated Sydney Road, turn the corner into a now ill-named Hope Street and make her way home. Adrian Bayley wouldn’t let her. Adrian Bayley had other plans.

At 29 years old, I like to think of Irish born Jill as a strong, intelligent, feminist woman in the early stages of a promising career in Melbourne radio. Her disappearance was widely reported and for a small time women of Melbourne were hopeful she would be found shaken but alive. Social Media campaigns circulated, well over 12 million Twitter references to #helpusfindJillMeaghar. Ten years older than her, newly single and eagerly dating, I walk along less illuminated roads after more than a couple of drinks and I am still here to tweet about it.

I put myself willingly, and unwillingly, into vulnerable situations and have not met an Adrian Bayley. Maybe I have met an Adrian Bayley with circumstances or his own internal situation thwarting any malicious actions. What separates the men I date and Adrian Bayley and how can I tell the two types apart? Is there a checklist I can download or an app that will sift potential suitors for me? Should I just give up now meeting people? Is online dating really any riskier than meeting someone in a bar?

Jill was happily married (if there is such a thing and now we will never know anyway) so she wasn’t putting herself out there as I am. Jill was just walking down the street, keeping to herself. Maybe she spoke to Adrian Bayley. Maybe Adrian Bayley was following her and that’s why she called her brother as someone to speak with to avoid interacting with Adrian Bayley. Maybe she had to talk to Bayley. Maybe he wouldn’t allow her not to. Maybe she played nice to avoid escalating the situation. I’ve played nice to avoid scaling an interaction. I’ve smiled and nodded and said, “A-ha. Okay. “ meanwhile stepping to the side and trying to hold my line.

Women, adult women, have learned to play nice to avoid situations. I don’t want to play nice but I want to survive.

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