Friday night at a friend’s exhibition in Docklands. Beers and good chats with good pals, good art, and a blinding sunset over the river. Whippets and dachshunds. Platform shoes. Dancing. Haddaway’s “What is Love” just as I was leaving, making me think that perhaps it wasn’t the time to leave, that I should stick around and do the robot with my bestie, and try to channel the awesome moves of Hanna from Girls, or Liz Lemon…
But I left. Took a stroll along the Yarra with two lovely friends and their black whippet, as the ridiculous gas towers at the Casino burst into flames in the sky. They hissed and sizzled and I heard the rumblings of a tram – my tram. Imogen said “You can still make it!” and I said “I never run for a tram” and I didn’t, and I missed it. Because I’m lazy and a derbrain and the city on a Friday night is a horrible place and I should have just quickened my pace and j-walked and I would have made it. But I didn’t.
We strolled a little further, and Tim and Imogen and Peppa the whippet left me at Southern Cross station – them to catch a train and me to hail a cab, bougie-style. I headed to the taxi rank, and a cab stopped in no time.
I try not to catch cabs. Taxis in Melbourne are usually not the most enjoyable places. I’ve had my fair share of rude, speeding, texting drivers, and mostly I prefer to walk. So last night, when an older gent with twinkly eyes stopped for me, I counted my lucky stars.
Last night was a night that I was so very glad I didn’t run for the tram, that I didn’t lazily hail a car as soon as I saw one, that I ummed and ahhed long enough before heading to the rank.
I hopped into the car, told him where I wanted to go, and looked out the window.
After a few moments, he asked if I was in the city the previous Saturday, for Melbourne’s White Night event (I wasn’t). We chatted about it briefly, then I asked him where he was from.
“Guess,” he said.
“I’m no good with accents,” I confessed.
“Persia,” he told me. He’d been living in Australia since ’89, first in Adelaide, but moved to Melbourne 3 years ago. He’d been driving taxis three months.
“What were you doing before then?” I asked.
“Bits and pieces,” he said, “When I lived in Persia I was a Sales Manager at an engineering company; selling parts to big companies all over the place, but you can’t get a job like that in Australia. My English isn’t good enough… so I do this.
“What do you do? Study at uni?”
I waved at my face, feigning flattery (I was!) and told him that, no, I wasn’t at uni, I work at a media agency, writing copy for websites.
“You’re a writer?” he exclaimed “I’m a writer! Well, I’m a poet. I’ve written four books of poetry that I’m trying to have published here, but so much of the meaning of my work is lost in translation. I write in Persian and it’s just not the same when it’s read back in English – it loses everything.”
He dug around in the glovebox and pulled out notebook after notebook of words, written in Persian. Curly cryptic squiggles dancing across tiny lined pages. The first poem, he told me, was about a canary in a cage, losing its’ desire to sing.
The crazy thing was that then, after I’d flipped through a few pages of script that I couldn’t read or understand, he said, “You are too good for what you’re doing. Have you written a novel? You need to write a novel. You need to think about your life, up until now, and you need to think about the one occurrence in your life that you always come back to, the one story you always tell, and you need to work that into a story. It’s like making a recipe, but without actually following a recipe. You need to start writing, and add a bit of this other story, and weave in some of that story, and then you need to read it back and cross things out and add a few more lines, and then you’ll have it. But really, you just need to start. Just sit down, and start. And the rest will follow. You must. You must do this.”
I pointed out my street, and thanked him for such a nice chat. Kinda jokingly, I said “Well, next time I see you, I’ll give you my novel!” and he said “Next time I pick you up, I’m expecting great things. I’m expecting that you’ll have a grant and you WILL give me your novel.”
It was such a strange journey, and one that had me buzzing with inspiration. I bounded (this isn’t a lie; I actually did) in the front door and declared to Rich and Beev “I’VE JUST HAD THE MOST AMAZING TAXI TRIP OF MY LIFE!!!” – it’s funny to meet someone in passing who just seems to understand so much, despite my giving nothing away about what I do and what I want to do.
And so, on this balmy Saturday night, I sit on my bed, with my dog at my feet, a glass of wine at my side, with a house full of teens, and I think, I’m gonna write this. I’m gonna try my hand at a novel. It was a goal for 2012 that never eventuated, but 2013 is the year. It doesn’t have to be anything – it just needs to be something. I just need to find that story. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got one.