In our lives, we only have so much time. This is a generally agreed upon assertion. Each week we only have so many hours to fill. Eating, sleeping, working, studying, socialising – all useful, usually necessary elements of life. As a result, we can only dedicate so much of ourselves to the frivolous and redundant. But sometimes, we do it anyway. This is that story.
Okay, so, here’s the cut and dry: my relationship with the Docklands has inverted. Because of a boring conflux of university and work scheduling, I don’t need to visit the docked lands for the foreseeable future. Riding the Melbourne Star would require a daytrip of its own. Basically: I don’t ride the Melbourne Star. Out of sight, out of mind, right? So I forget about it for more than a month, until a stubborn unease overcomes me, like a Facebook notification that won’t go away.
Circling the sky once more, in this machine of perpetual disappointment, it seems, is a task I am fated to complete. “Oh yeah,” I almost definitely didn’t say one morning, gazing into the slowly-revolving void that is my own despair. “I have that column I’m supposed to write.”
I decide I’ll wait until its dark, so I can understand the Star in a new way. I’ve seen it light up from a distance. Light up like the face of a friend you haven’t seen in far too long. To be inside such a lightshow, and to regard the city beneath the moon: surely this experience is different enough from daytime.
Each time I visit this concrete warren, I desperately try to find something about it that appeals. Jutting the city, surrounded by water – this landscape should be desirable, liveable. But each time I give it another chance I am inevitably greeted by construction, or a newly closed storefront. (Someone tells me that over a third of the housing in Docklands is vacant. Like all knowledge about this place, it comes through hearsay.)
The first evening I attempt to finally break my dry spell (sorry) coincides with a rally outside Flinders Street Station, protesting against forced closures of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. I’ve already missed the first couple of hours of the protest – I’ve decided to over-encumber myself with books from the Docklands Library – but my feed tells me there’s still something happening. I try to imagine an aerial view of the rally, but I’m coming up blank.
Because you can’t see Flinders Street Station from the Star. You cannot partake in society from the sky. (Inside the Star, in fact, Indigenous history is reduced to the barest of acknowledgements, a Guinness-style fun fact. “Dating back at least 30,000 years, Melbourne is quite possibly the oldest continuously inhabited settlement on Earth,” reads a panel in the entrance display. Later, the voiceover makes a similar statement, before smugly posing, “It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?”) To be above the city is to be estranged from the city.
I don’t make it on the wheel. From across eerily quiet Victoria Harbour, I watch the colours of the lights morph into each other, chameleon. Even in a jumper the waterfront air chills my skin. Bye, Star.
I try again the following day. I decide to bring my girlfriend, recalling her mentioning her desire to ascend the doomwheel once more. But even with an accomplice, the idea of trudging out to the end of the 86 tram line is too much. So instead of orbiting a circle of inconsequential air, we make a loop of the city via three bars (and one ramen place) with a band of cartoonists we’ve just met. By the time we’ve struggled home, the Star may have well have been swallowed by fog.
I dream that I live a full and successful life without embarking on the Melbourne Star ever again. I am applauded for my decision to remain completely and absolutely independent from the Southern Hemisphere’s Largest Observation Wheel™. My curse is lifted.
That’s not how this ends. It never ends so easily. When we try to outrun fate, we only delay the inevitable. We wake up.
Like a magnet to a bigger magnet, I am drawn back to the Star, by a magnetic force. (Do you understand how magnets work? Look, I’m not explaining magnets to you.) I feel obligated to see if anything has changed in the last two months; or maybe I’ve changed and all I need is the illumination of a Ferris Wheel flight to realise this.
Nothing has changed. It goes on, as it ever does. It travels at one kilometre an hour, as it ever does. An overfed guinea pig could outpace the Star.
This is all my brain can conjure on this, my fourth trip: “Help me. I’m going to die on the Star. When will this end??? How can I stop this mockery??? Which devil have I made a pact with??? Am I the accursed, or am I the curse itself???”
In the final minutes of my descent, I see a mound of dirt placed loosely on a walkway, surrounded by safety cones. I don’t know what this means. Why is there dirt? Why is it in the middle of a mall? Is this dirt important? Is this dirt more important than me? Why am I compelled to photograph this dirt pile?
One day, the Star will come unstuck, and roll over the capital states of the East Coast of Australia. Armies will be called in but nothing will be able to stop the constant rolling, the constant destruction wrought upon us. Our desire for a capitalist state has come to this – **imagine that I’m gesturing with my arms to encompass the Docklands and beyond** – all of this.
We are doomed. No one can survive. Only Godzilla can save us now.
Addendum: On being deposited by the Star, I walk across to what I think is a restaurant, but is in fact the shell of a restaurant: the outer casing, the steel kitchen fittings, the uncarpeted floor. A ghost restaurant.
I peek through the tinted windows, and lying on the floor, in a corner, is the body of a bird.
Alexander Bennetts is a writer and editor from Melbourne. He tweets @NoiseEtc.