Shakey’s

“I thought you’d be a writer by now!”

Ever get the feeling you’ve been handed the title of your memoirs on a platter?  I groaned internally. Story of my life.  
 
I hadn’t seen Bunny in roughly eight years. We were sitting upstairs at Shakey’s, waiting for the pub grub buzzer to herald the arrival of our chicken schnitzel, swimming in sauce. Shakey’s has to be one of the only pubs in Sydney where you can buy dinner and still get change back from a a $20 note.

Everything about the situation was familiar.  The kitschy pastoral paintings and ruby red velveteen couches were reminiscent of our suburban upbringing. The drama room we shared in high school had been decked out in a similar fashion as well as the incense-imbued drapery of her living room in Valley Heights.  It was there we had bonded over angst dancing to the Cure/the Smiths and there where at 15 she turned my head upside down in the bathroom and chopped all my gold locks off with the sewing scissors and dyed the pixie cut darker.

I remember emerging light headed from the shower after rinsing away the dark dye to face the change I felt I was standing at the brink of.  I had felt like the anti-sampson, all the stronger for my lost locks.

“What does that even mean?” I cocked my head at her incredulously.  I contemplated the possibility that I had yet to live up to the expectations of my old friend.    
 
I know of only one or two people who identify solidly with the title ‘writer’, and like ‘poet’ I feel like it belongs more to a bygone era.  It certainly sounded awkward (and awkwardly idealistic) at Shakey’s, in the midst of the 6 o’clock post work swill, on an idle wednesday night in the city.
 
I had toyed semi-seriously with the idea of pursuing professional writing as a career. I had certainly written prolifically in my adolescence, and not too badly either- according to teachers and others whose opinions matter to teenage flightiness not one whit.  I had thought ‘I can always come back to it.’   

I was pleased, secretly.  Her statement was a vote of confidence of sorts, and a much needed wake up shake up call.

Eight years is a long time, particularly in best friend time.  But as it does it had gone by in a flash.  We were 25 now and had found our separate ways to the city. Old enough to have old friends and to be old friends.  

In the aftermath of trials and the lead up to the HSC she had disappeared.  Something about doing Year 12 part time at TAFE up the mountains.  Trouble on the home front.  I’d disappeared down and into myself, my relationship and a multitude of other preoccupations.  God knows I can’t remember any of them now.

I haven’t stopped writing. But I haven’t been a writer.  I certainly haven’t done enough to earn that title.  I’ve been a lot of things and I’ve stopped being a lot of things.  I’m still figuring it all out and still becoming okay with that.
 
Kahlil Gibran said we choose all our joys and sorrows before we experience them.  I wonder if he would also say we choose the characters and identities we play in our own life before we become them?    
 
I haven’t played the writer because she is the one who eludes me.

How can you reconcile creating something and being it at the same time?  It is difficult and lonely.  Rilke says you have to go inside yourself and be prepared to not meet anyone for days.  

Yet in a way, here was a character straight out of a potential collegiate novel of rebellion and coming of age sitting right before me, asking me why she wasn’t written yet.  Brideshead Revisited stuff.  Capital, capital.  My response?

“I’m still writing.”
 

 

*Shakey’s is a Surry Hills pub and a Sydney institution.  It nourishes everyone from hipster to hobo to old, old friends with it’s $10 menu 
 
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