One morning in June last year I woke up and found out that the side table outside our house along Elgin Street was gone. Being outside our house, it was most probably mistaken as a giveaway by a passerby. In Melbourne, when you want to give out stuff – hand-me-downs, half-broken appliances or things that take up space, you leave them outside the house for anyone to take. There was nothing particular about how the side table looked – it had four varnished legs, a cushion to sit on and a drawer filled with Christmas balls and lighters. And yet finding out that it was gone upset me.
I messaged my housemate-turned-best friend Andrea, who was at that time doing his trip around Australia before leaving for good. It was our chair, he told me. There we sat for more than a hundred nights during our ritual pre-bedtime cigarette sessions, when we would talk about how our day went – mine at school and his at work, which party to go to on the weekend, or what we think about our housemates and people we know. It knew about what we thought of our small world – it was the spot of our smoke-filled Australian meditations. I take pride in telling my friends that I never get attached to things, so when it went missing I asked myself why I was grieving for a piece of furniture. When Andrea left for Switzerland in August, there were nights when I would still go outside and smoke on the spot where it used to be, until one day I decided to smoke in the backyard instead.
I left Australia last December, and I’ve shifted from furniture grief to missing the entire brick house on Elgin Street. I think about the people I cooked food for, the boring nights spent watching forgettable movies, the songs sung in a spell of drunken confidence and the quick friendships forged in the shortest of infinities. I wonder when I’ll be able to move on from this, but then I remind myself that the house and all the things it stood for are still where they’re supposed to be. No reason to grieve for things that stay.