Frances’s essays examine the intersection of personal, geographical and cultural history through her eyes as lover and critic of images
As a child, I laughed at all the wrong things. I laughed when my mother fell on a mountain and lost her skis. She trudged down the icy slope, her fingers red raw and her lips frozen purple. I giggled because I didn’t know how else to respond to the knots in the stomach of my four-year-old body.
Dinner at 29 Alpha Road was a formal occasion. My family sat around an antique oak table in a wood-panelled room every night of the week. The ten-seater table was the perfect size for our family of four. We preferred to sit next to no one.
Paris is still in confinement, and I’m still jogging early every morning. Each day, I get a little more daring, moving well beyond my permitted one kilometer from home. I pretend not to notice when a police car cruises past me on a side street.
A tightness has settled permanently in my chest. I say settled, but it migrates, independently, without permission, between throat and chest, sometimes venturing down to my belly.
I need to live in a big city. Surrounded by culture, holidays in the sun, long runs in the morning. I need a library to work in, vibrant streets to walk down, and stimulating people for conversation in cafes. I am convinced I need all of them. I can’t possibly live without dinner in a neighborhood bar after a night at the movies. The convenience of the shop on the corner, the bike shop across the street, the airport at the end of the metro line. What’s the point of living in Paris if London, Rome, and Berlin aren’t within easy reach?
The view through the dirty windscreen was filled with the orange hull of a roll on/roll off cargo liner at anchor in Port Melbourne. My friend Anna had borrowed her boyfriend’s red Mercedes Benz to deliver me to the ship I was about to board. We sat in dazed silence inside the car, sequestered from cargo, storage facilities, forklifts, top loaders, and men in hard hats bustling around Webb Dock East.