Wednesday, 9 February 2011

SLAMMATOWN - Just floating

At The Peach it is so hot, I feel like each breath is drawn through a thick mist of polluted saltwater. The temperature gauge says it's thirty degrees but numbers have never been very good at conveying emotion. Even the equation for an explosion of custard looks like a dull chain of kindergarten charts disarranged.
Last night I could take the heat no longer and begged Grizelda to drive me to the water for a swim. Happily, Grizelda is not opposed to piloting Peachette night-swimming missions in the ocean. I admit swimming in the ocean after dark may not be as safe as swimming in the day, but it has its rewards.  

I was floating face up in the ocean watching scarce clouds, unable to dim the stars, meander aimlessly above. The ocean covered over my ears and buoyed my back as though it had decided it would hold me and deafen me so I could think unhindered by heat or sound for just a little while. I bobbed in the black and gentle swell thinking of something I read in Delia Falconer’s book ‘Sydney’. She says, “Sydney... is overflowing with dreams… haunted by loss like some strange plasmal marine creature. Even the northern beaches Gaimariagal clan, according to descendant Dennis Foley, spoke rarely and with sadness of the Gidgingal, people from the east whose dreaming was under the water, swallowed by the prehistoric seas.”

Dreaming, in all of its guises, might be more important here than I suspected. The first known recorded dream in Australia, according to Falconer, occurred on the 31st of January 1788. Lieutenant Ralph Clark, who had just disembarked from the First Fleet, was in the habit of dreaming about his wife and his best friend Kempster. He dreamt that his wife and Kempster were having it off and was filled with desire to ‘run Kempster through’ for this breach of friendship.

It seems dreams, here in old Sydney town, have always been marked by loss, separation, betrayal and death. Not a very good start, really. As the dark ocean held me firmly afloat in its small swell I thought about people I know who have held each other. I know only one couple that has made a success of being with each other. Everyone else I know is plagued with betrayal, intrigues and the general inability to make anything other than a momentary success of romance. I’m beginning to wonder if something was set in place even before the first building went up; if there isn’t some vital piece of information we are missing that we could use to shape our new dreams in or out of the water.

First published on RHUM.

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