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  • madeline mcfarlane

the rebirth of a city

Ever since lockdown ended, I’ve had countless strange interactions. The streets, minds and hearts of Melbourne have been reborn, and it seems that everyone is tired of the so called normal. All I do now is write, every walk from Flinders Street is done with a pen and notebook in my hand- every thought and every interesting experience is captured for me to decipher later. My words are my eyes now. Tonight, I sit on the state library lawn listening to Melbourne’s newest preacher, surprisingly I haven’t seen him before. Now if anyone had anything to say about Jesus it would be him. Spitting into his microphone with choral background music: “Jesus will not leave you.” He’s found peace in theism, happiness. But the others don’t see that- they only see their own beliefs: “fuck Scomo, Jesus is dead” one yells at the preacher. Failing to see how a man’s happiness may be more important than truth of life after death which we can never know. The preacher’s friend hands out pamphlets, presumably detailing more of Jesus, but what will pamphlets do? It reminds me of the 'end the CCP' petition stalls set up in the city; something that unfortunately won't ever work. I suppose it could be worse. He’s not the money hungry monk who walks the same streets claiming that your donation will ‘save’ you and him. Behind me, the street’s inhabitants circle chairs around the chessboard, taking solace in strangers and in the smirnoff in each one’s hand.

“My brother! I appreciate you! Much love!”

There’s community between them, filling their hearts with something beautiful no matter how broken they may seem. They live more than most of us. They’re both hardened by the horrors and softened by the beauty this city has to offer.

The State Library seems to be the place for conversation. Only an hour later I find myself drawn into conversation with a carpentry student whose name I never caught. My friend and our nameless stranger converse while my pen moves too slow to catch everything that is being said. He notices this, but who wouldn’t.

“You a writer?”


“Make sure you write down that you met this sexy motherfucker”

“Of course!” I laugh. I am but a witness to this interaction now.

As we push him to open up he becomes strangely hesitant to admit his love of trade.

“Why be ashamed of your passion?”

“I don’t know.” He stops for a moment, seemingly in contemplation. And soon enough he's gone.

The night transitions as offbeat street performers bleed our ears into deafness. One sings a song so out of tune I cannot make it out, and just down the road another serenades the street while he beats the drum in the wrong time. It’s the beginning of a sin-ridden summer, no matter how cold the weather decides to stay. We will depart 2021 with a drink a day and thousands of stories for me to put to page.

Strangers being to start conversations with slurred words at only 8.30pm. One's lips barely move as he talks nonsense, but he keeps repeating one question; "are you happy?" admittedly this catches me off guard, he doesn't strike me as the type to be philosophical so early in the night, but I guess he's quite deep in the drinks.

While I am being berated by people I don't know for my horrible skills at pool more and more people pile in, I blink and the once half empty bar is now a sea of brown, black, and blonde. There's a woman who looks like Mitski, another who buys me a drink because I was funny, an impromptu meetup with my sister, and a dance circle to ABBA.

Now I admit, maybe I had quite a few drinks. But in my half-mad state I scribble poetry on the train home, glad that I even brought a notebook with me on a night like tonight. I can't stop finding admiration in the preacher. So much hope in a world so void of it. And I never learnt anyone's names, but that's the best part.

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