Forgive me. I take it all back. That time I said I would leave you. I said I would pack up and move to Newfoundland and get a job with a local paper writing the shipping news, like the guy in that great book… what’s it called again?
I was stupid to say such flippant things. Just young, I guess. Not like you, hey. You’re 96 million years old. I totally get why Antarctica is still upset about the break-up. I’d be crushed to lose you, too. But you had to tear away from her, strike out on your own, take your long exhale and loosen your hips and give the world an endless sandy coastline to dream about.
You are in my dreams. Truth is, I will never leave you. I can’t. You are in my bones. You are in my blood. Every elusive scene in my head, you are there. Almost every memory I have is of you. Your suburbs. The ones you gave us in the 1980s. Remember that summer in the outer northern suburbs of Brisbane in 1987? I know they were all pretty darn good – ’89, ’92, ’96 were spectacular – but, man, that 1987 summer was something else. Buttered popcorn at the Sandgate swimming pool. Glugging the popsicle run-off in the bottom of a lemon Calippo. Dad’s always on the mower because your wild afternoon storms are bringing the drink for our little backyard in our little Housing Commission cluster in your finest suburb of all, Bracken Ridge, the one everybody bypasses on their way up the Bruce to your glorious Sunshine Coast and beyond.
Your waterfalls. Your forests. Your red rocks. Your sausages on bread with tomato sauce. Your tuckshop mums. Your Gray-Nicolls Scoop cricket bats. Your Kylie Minogue. Your Wally Lewis. Your coral underwater that gave me imagination. You gave that to me. You handed me creativity through your colours. Your reds and yellows, your hundred shades of green and your thousand shades of blue. Your story. You are all I ever write about and there might be a million words to describe you if there wasn’t only one. Illumination.
I wanted to tell you I received your gift. I don’t know why you did what you did. I don’t deserve such things. I think this one is your masterpiece. This one particular Australian you made. You and your glorious town of Innisfail, your dear Cassowary Coast, Far North Queensland, where she arrived in 1971.
She’s got brown hair and green eyes the colour of your Daintree ferns and two gentle hands that I get to hold for the rest of my life. She walked into a Brisbane café – I remember the day, 10 January 2000 – and she just sat smack-bang in the spare seat beside me. I thought it was luck. I thought it was fate. But deep down I know it was you. You do things like that. Dear miracle worker. Dear matchmaker. Dear dream weaver. Dear Oz.
You have given me so much. Forgive me. I take it all back. That time I said I would leave you. I swear, heart and soul, I will never move to Newfoundland to write the shipping news.
The Brisbane-based journalist is a staff writer at The Weekend Australian Magazine. He’s the winner of two Walkley Awards and four Kennedy Awards for excellence in NSW journalism. His debut novel, Boy SwallowsUniverse, was released last June and his latestbook, By Sea & Stars: The Story of the First Fleet, is out now.