In this new column, Jessie will share as much as she can about things that have happened and things she has done in the last two years that she’s been living in Sydney. The series will be made up of many snippets of memories, feelings and dialogue—a collage-like window into her Syd-ways existence.
My Uber driver from Sydney airport told me lots of reasons why Sydney was awful and Melbourne was not awful. He told me, when he pulled up outside my new house in Hurlstone Park, that it was nice, ‘not like normal Sydney houses’.
My first night there, I ordered red duck curry and coconut rice on Menulog and they mistakenly brought it twice. It was the same delivery man the second time. I told him it was for tomorrow but I don’t think he believed me. Or cared.
I went to the first class of my master’s degree in a room with windows taller than the walls of my house. I don’t remember what the class was like, but I would have bought a takeaway coffee beforehand, because I’ve always felt more confident walking into rooms holding a takeaway coffee.
My room in Hurlstone Park only had a single bed. When I was a teenager, I listened to a pop song that went ‘I guess you decided that that old queen was more space than you would need/ Now it’s in the alley behind your apartment with a sign that says it’s free’. I liked singing it when I was a teenager and pretending I was in a long-term relationship and that it was about a time just before that when I had got out of another long-term relationship and had been very heartbroken (but now I was better). It was also a song about a person who had money to buy a new bed without selling their old bed. The windows in that room were very high up and sometimes I pretended I was in a prison cell and that’s why I couldn’t leave it on the weekends.
My mental health care plan ran out. I decided that instead of getting a psychologist I would get a personal trainer.
I’d been living in the nice, not-normal Hurlstone Park house for one month before I had to get my housemates to fill out a Centrelink rent assistance form with their rent amounts. I saw how much Chris, the guy who rented me the room, paid for his own room. I decided I would leave when I did not need rent assistance anymore.
I went to Cornersmith cafe in Marrickville most weekdays. I bought a soy flat white and sometimes cake. I sat and read A Handmaid’s Tale. One of the waitresses told me it was such a great book. There were tables with chairs and stools at a bar. I always sat at a table and someone would usually ask me to move to the stools so that pairs of people could sit at the tables.
There was a McDonalds a five-minute uphill walk away from that house. I went there late at night when I didn’t want to and wasn’t hungry. (Oreo McFlurries until I finished the oreo bits).
I had my first job interview. It was to be an English Language Teacher. The Director asked me if I had taught English in Australia before. I said no. That was her only question. Then she asked me to fill in the Employee Details form.
The Director gave me a tour and showed me how to use the administration system. She showed me how I could look up students’ scores and phone numbers ‘if that’s something I’m after’. I laughed because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.
I taught my first class. The next week was test week but Santos was going back to Italy and wanted to do the test then. The Night Supervisor came into the class and I asked if I needed to take Santos to another room. The Night Supervisor asked Santos how long he had been here. Santos said eight months. The Night Supervisor told me to give Santos 80.
In my third session, my personal trainer suggested we try some boxing (to punch out the bad feelings). We went into the room with the punching bags and I cried when my hand hit the bag. I cried for the rest of the session and my personal trainer told me she was a psychology student and that some people would even be envious of my body. She also said I should look into Overeaters Anonymous.
When I moved out I had a would-it-be-alright-do-you-think-you-could-is-it-okay-if-I disagreement on Facebook Messenger with Chris over the last rent payment. I said I didn’t make it because I had paid a bond at the beginning of the rent that would cover it. He said he’d look over the payments and then he messaged that he couldn’t work it out so he’d just leave it. I wasn’t sure if my calculations were right and I just left it too.
My Uber rating dropped because I used Uber to move my clothes, books and food to a sublet in Petersham. There were lots of books in the new house that I liked. I hoped I would be able to have conversations about them with the people who lived there. There was also a boat outside the house. My new housemate, Liam, said he got it really cheap.
I was only going to be there for five weeks so I unpacked the clothes that fit me then and I kept the clothes that had never fit me, but I hoped would fit me in about 10 weeks, in boxes under the bed.
Sometimes Liam had his parents over and they drank Pimms in the living room. One time I had pizza with my housemates in the living room and I laughed because Liam said ‘I don’t really know what’s expensive anymore, I just spend money’. No one else laughed. Alexis, Liam’s girlfriend, had the same top as I did but it fit her differently because she was thinner. It is one of my favourite tops. It’s grey, long sleeved and by a Melbourne designer and cost me $100 on sale. She said it was a top she wore around the house.
I looked at my bank account and cancelled my sessions with the personal trainer. She suggested just one session a week instead of two. She gave me a ‘I can’t afford to lose a client’ look. I gave her a ‘I can’t afford to be one but I feel a bit guilty because you can’t afford for me not to be one’ look. I said no.
I came back to Melbourne for a friend’s wedding. I went over to my old house on Nicholson St next to the Albert St tram stop. I drank cleanskins and had spaghetti marinara with my old housemate Bec. She asked what Sydney was like and then she told me, “I always imagine Sydney as like St. Kilda –all the old people are really cool and the young people are a bit ugh’. I told her about Liam’s boat.
Jessie Perrin is a writer currently based in Sydney. Her work has been heard on FBi Radio and has appeared in publications including Scum Magazine, Ibis House, Lor Journal and Voiceworks.