the city is still in transition but then that’s the impression I’ve got each time I’ve been back. There are gaps, glimpses of the old town, mostly in ruins or completely eradicated but now and then, I see something that appears untouched. Like this morning’s breakfast in an old part of Chinatown – indifferent overcooked dimsums in a crumbling terrace shop. Its clientele are the remnants of a thriving chinese community that used to live in town, the younger generation now mostly out in the suburbs or overseas leaving the old men who still have businesses in town to go about their routine like they have for the last eighty or so years.
My family in many ways is part of that old town. Everyone has got older, my dad, my grandmother, my uncle, my sister, but they seemed preserved somehow still. Their habits are familiar almost scripted in even though almost everything around them has changed.
The family home is overshadowed by a huge hotel of apartments, twenty stories looming a couple of meters from the fence line. It seems particularly apt that the wotif reservation I made for the cheapest hotel in that area turned out to be exactly that place, a place that had caused my uncle and father no small matter of angst over the years since its problematic approval and construction. From its walkways I can see into my childhood home, into my old bedroom window. If it wasnt real life and a film or a novel, I would have accused the writer of unsubtle imagery.
Having my cousin with me has made a difference. She is a concrete reminder of my Melbourne world and someone I can debrief to. However, a bigger difference I think is having a separate place to get away to, a place that is not laden with memories, many of which I would rather not relive so thoroughly. I had not realised how anxious staying in the family home during my previous visits made me. Being back in my old room having displaced my sister into the adjoining apartment, with my father in the next room, erases the entire arc of my adult life and returns me unwillingly to what I’d spent so long trying to forget and to escape.