I urgently needed a place to live. So I rented a flat in Glen Huntly. It was modest but all I could afford. It was underneath a staircase and next to a rail line. The year was 1995. I only planned to stay until my health improved. But the flat was my home for 14 of the hardest years of my life.
I walked frequently around my new neighbourhood. I walked to relieve pain from a back complaint. My unsteady movement was obvious to all. I wished I was invisible. My identity became tied to my presence on the street. To many I was the “crazy guy” who hopped about. I was just trying to improve my health. But a lot of people could not see that.
A beautiful park
There was a beautiful park near my flat. The large gum trees smelled like a forest. They gave me shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. They attracted rainbow lorikeets. They also provided homes for possums. At night I saw foxes wandering about. Over time the foxes became used to me. They strolled past me on their way to check rubbish bins. The trees and animals broke the monotony of my constant walks.
I met people of many different nationalities in Glen Huntly. It’s a popular place for foreign students as Monash University is close by. I enjoyed the food of various countries from local restaurants. Among my favorites were Indonesian, Armenian, Indian and Chinese.
People in the community
I met plenty of people in the community. One person I will always remember is Anne. She used a wheelchair. Anne had a disorder that made her bones brittle. She told people in the neighbourhood I meant no harm. I made a lot of friends because of her. I was sad when I heard Anne had passed away in her sleep. She had made my neighbourhood a warmer, friendlier place.
I also became friends with an elderly couple. Their company cheered me up. Unfortunately the husband had a stroke. It made him difficult to understand. But he was still funny. He also had many important things to say. I once saw him jumping the curb on his mobility scooter. He was enjoying life. Years later I saw the couple leaning on each other as they walked. I said hello. They did not recognise me. I knew that while they had each other they had plenty to live for.
Lonely and hostile
I finally moved away from Glen Huntly a year ago. For much of my time there I was lonely and faced hostility. Despite this, I think back fondly on my old home. I do not think of the hardship. Instead, I remember the kind people. I also remember the beautiful trees and birds.
Now my health has improved. I am trying to rebuild my life. It is not easy after being isolated for so long. I feel as though I am in limbo.
I am happy that some of my wishes came true. I have escaped that tiny flat that badly needed renovating. I no longer have to hop when I walk. I also don’t get unwanted attention anymore. Yet it is not only relief today that I feel. It is also sadness that I have been disconnected from my past. It is hard not to feel sorrow when I think back. It is as though a part of me stayed behind when I left my old home.
Is there a place in your past that you feel connected to? Let us know in the comments section below.