To be honest, up until now, I’ve mostly rolled eyes at you. Yes, I’ve embraced you with a stiff, slightly awkward hug each time I’ve returned from overseas, but truthfully that hug has been the same one I would give a relative that smells a bit and annoys me with their conversations. At other times I’ve not acknowledged you at all, dismissed you as something I know innately and therefore no longer need to see.
In fact I’ve sat in you looking past your parks, your buildings and your lovely wide streets to dream of other cities; wishing you were more like them with their painted laneways, their dark secrets and their things that happen.
At times I’ve wanted to shake you and scream – DO SOMETHING, BE SOMETHING, but I assumed that if I did you’d just shrug and continue to bitch about the trams or the hospital or the length of time it takes to commute from Norwood to the City when Clipsal is on. Your suburbs have always seemed ugly to me, your endless sprawl was lazy, you didn’t take care of yourself, you were not interested in art or beauty or hidden things.
But something is changing Adelaide.
I’m not sure if it is you or me but I am beginning to see you again. I realise now that though quiet there is more to you than meets the eye. You’ve been cultivating things – quietly, creatively – and they are starting to take root.
For the first time this year when I travelled to Perth and then Sydney and Melbourne I thought of you. In Hosier Lane looking at the art that drenched the walls I thought of the fairy lights in Garden of Unearthly Delights and how it heaved with people; the vertical gardens of the pop-up city salad trucks; ethical pizzas and your thick summer nights.
Stuck in a beige hotel in Sydney overlooking Brighton Beach I thought about Sunday and how breakfast on Jetty Road was followed by spontaneous Yum Cha in Gouger, a short 15 minute drive from sea to city, which meant we took the dog along too. He sat under the table eating sneakily supplied duck pieces while we talked about boys and how that moment, looking at your hills bathed in sunshine, wouldn’t be possible in any other city we know.
In Perth CBD I wandered aimlessly looking for a place to drink coffee and struggled to find one. I wished it could be more like you. I wanted to discover artisan roasters, find that perfect macaron flavour, laugh and point at hipster culture while secretly coveting it – but all I saw were grey business suits and endlessly uninteresting shops.
In all of these places I thought about walking into Barrio on that first night and placing my offering on the altar already layered in lingerie (the theme was ‘sexy’), of sitting in Victoria square in the sun eating food served by a truck, of your crevices in laneways and small streets that are beginning to open up and invite us in, of your citizens who bring their heritage and make it ours; of our market and the fact that I can cycle to work.
There are times that you still infuriate me. Like when you try to drive on freeways, or when I want to do something on a public holiday and you refuse to get your lazy arse out of bed. But mostly I’m slightly jealous as I don’t think I am the only one now looking at you through lowered lashes.
My sister who moved to Perth last year has a new longing in her voice and looks at you wistfully when she returns. At work I hear colleagues exchange, in hushed voices, news of bar openings and exhibitions and the best ways to circumvent the queues they know they’ll encounter trying to get to you. I’ve gatehashed twitter discussions about start-ups and innovation and ideas that people are desperate to do with you because they know that you’ll be keen.
I’m not the only one scribbling your name in a heart.
The strange thing is I’m starting to realise how you and I have changed just as I am about to leave you for two months to discover cities I never thought possible – places like Budapest, and San Sebastian, Zagreb and Berlin. For you, winter is coming and your true test is how you survive the cold – but this time I’m less sure of a holiday romance. In fact, my city, I can almost guarantee that somewhere in Prague or maybe Paris you’ll find me humming a love song and for the first time in years it will have your name in it.