This Melbourne winter, on the coldest nights, there has been the smell of BBQ
on the bike path home.
I don’t know why.
The obvious cause is cooking meat, but that doesn’t account for why it only seems to be there at the stillest most nose stinging times when it's late and the heat has all floated off into an empty yellow stained sky. Maybe somewhere someone is going for delusion with a vengeance and trying to make their own summer. They’ve ducked outside for a moment to grill some holiday meat but inside the heater is jacked right up and they’ve got Hawaiian music playing. Would they set up a wading pool and fill it with warm water? Sunlamps? Why not!? They’d certainly open a tin of pineapple.
The bike path was built where the railway track used to be. It runs right through the suburbs with the oldest money, a trail atop of an embankment crowded with overgrown grass and dying blackberry bushes. There are glimpses to be had into the uncontroversial backyards of the upper crust.
This is Melbourne in June, cold and undramatic- the closest we get to snow is a little icy crackling on the grass in the morning. Melbourne has some quiet at night, but it’s never complete. There’s always the slightest background hum which is traffic moving on the freeways. We’re sprawling, sprawling, sprawling down here- we own cars, we shop compulsively, there are polite lines to pay for petrol and it’s convenient to pick up a tub of reduced fat chocolate ice cream at the same time.
At night, from the bike track, it's possible to sense silent sidewalks, warm interiors, locked doors, careful saving and that happy, happy well advised lack of imagination that's not totally accidental but does allows us to get by. Often I wish I was back amid the filthy haunted warmth of night in Jakarta, and I know this wish is some weird contradictory thing.
Not so long ago they had what they called a hard waste collection. There was no BBQ that night, but the view from the embankment was all refrigerators and exercise bikes and computers from the year 2001 arranged neatly on the pavement, just waiting for the trash man to come by.