Tonight, for the first time in over two years, I drove alone down the Kwinana freeway back to the house I grew up in. Wind blowing through my hair, the salt of the Swan River settling on my skin, I inhaled and took in the familiar, somewhat acrid smell of that old river with a fondness, a sort of reverence. I observed the glowing cenotaph of the State War Memorial standing solemnly atop Kings Park and then the Old Mill off the South Perth foreshore, and I recalled how I had found both structures haunting, even ominous as a child when my family would take the freeway home after dinner at Nonna and Nonno’s house in Perth’s northern suburbs. Passing over the Narrows, the city lights flickered in my rear-view mirror and ignited memories of fireworks, BBQs and jellyfish washing up on the shore, their bodies in the reeds startling children who shrieked over contact with gelatinous flesh; my Father and Uncle with prawn nets in the distance, water above their waists, as my cousin and I watched from the shore; bus trips home from high school with an aching heart and headphones blaring music that was recorded years before I was even born; blowing a tyre in my twenties just before the Mt Henry Bridge and crying as my car went thunk, thunk, thunk until it came to a standstill and left me stranded on the side of the road in the cold night air. I passed the charming, silent Pagoda ballroom on my left, then the Raffles Hotel across the river to my right. Anchored yachts bobbed, trees by the footpaths that surround the river swayed, cars passed by, going who knows where: everything with a strange glow. Time moves forward but Perth remains all a-shimmering and so quiet by night, a pleasure to explore behind the wheel of an automobile with all the windows down. And as I took the Leach Highway exit towards that house I grew up in, I thought to myself, who and what has come before, before, before me? And will I ever pass by here alone like this again?
A visit back to Perth, 4/4/17