Heather and I flew back to Brisbane last week for the launch of Ghost Wife. Our friends had been complaining for weeks about the endless rain, but when I arrived on the Friday, it wasn’t raining at all. This was a good sign. Maybe it would be the gorgeous and relaxing visit that I so needed. I went into the city to look for a dress and, miraculously, found one that I liked in a little shop in the Elizabeth Arcade.
Strangely, at that exact moment, a siege was taking place in the Queen Street Mall, just parallel to Elizabeth street. A shop assistant in very short shorts told me there were two men with guns in the Myer Centre; another had heard that someone had been shot. Shop attendants in the arcade’s boutiques moved from store to store, passing information back and forth. In fact, there was only one gunman, and I’m still not sure if anyone apart from the gunman himself was shot (he was shot, not fatally, by police). Outside, people lined the streets, unable to re-enter the mall, which was now cordoned off. Everywhere, people talked or texted or took pictures on their phones, looking towards the Myer Centre and wondering what was happening. It’s weird how extreme events like sieges and floods and accidents bring people out of their bubbles and make them want to interact with strangers. I felt the pull myself, the desire to ask strangers what they knew, even though whatever they’d heard might well be wrong. A little over an hour later it was all over, and we were wandering through the mall almost as though nothing had happened there.
That night, Avid Reader in West End was packed out. Krissy Kneen hosted, and Eleanor Jackson, Tim McGuire and Bec Jessen read their work, leaving the audience gasping with laughter and something akin to lust. The wonderful Benjamin Law launched Ghost Wife with his characteristic humour and warmth, and I read from the book, forgot to thank Heather and pretty much everyone else, and felt absolutely thrilled to see so many wonderful friends in the audience, people who had listened to me go on about this book for years now, and now it really was a book.
We celebrated with drinks across the street, and went home happy. The next morning, Heather and I woke up in our old house, in our old room, and it was raining, and everything was so familiar and wonderful. But we don’t live there anymore. It was a strange feeling.
Over the long weekend, we caught up with most of our friends, but in a ragged, incomplete sort of way. As we were leaving, two days later, one of our dearest friends was in labour with her first child. Melbourne is home for now, and it’s full of opportunities and excitement and great people. But oh, Brisbane, we love you, and it really hurt to leave.
We took this picture from the plane window on the way home. I guess it’s a reminder that the in-between can be a beautiful place, too.