This was written during last year’s NaNoWriMo, which I managed to finish on time. Had a few slips, played catch up for most of the month.
As with the prior years in which I had participated, the story was shaped much from things I’d experienced.
This part in particular is a semi-fictionalisation of my walking around Balls Head Reserve a few months ago, as well as times I walked around there a number of years ago.
There were some edits for clarity made a few months ago but I haven’t touched it since.
I don’t think this is as good as it could be, but I wanted to share it, so here you go.
I hope you enjoy.
Summer was yet to begin and end, and Autumn’s approach was still a concept, but both were much closer than they had been a few weeks prior.
Spring was approaching its end with only a few days, or maybe a week left. I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t as hot as it had been, but it was still warm enough to be concerning. Fires to the far north were not as heavy as they had been, but there still were concerns. There was still a great risk as the fire season was yet to fully embrace itself. Still, a small respite was better than no respite at all. It gave people time to prepare and get out and that was something to be grateful for.
I entered a large, familiar building. I’d worked there for a number of years. In the foyer was a small; One that essentially served to function as an ease of access for those working in the building.
It was still quiet in the building; something that I was happy about as it meant that I wouldn’t have to spend too much time waiting. I was served almost immediately by someone younger than I.
“Hi, what would you like?”
“Could I please get a large flat white?”
I paid and waited. From the rear of the cafe a person came shuffling around, checking some of the items. His features were more slender, and his walking much slower and seemingly more of a struggle than the last time I’d been there. When I arrived I was kind of hoping that he’d recognise me. I was both relieved and troubled that he didn’t.
Once my coffee was in my hands, I left. I followed a familiar path down a hill and took note of some adjustments to the area. New footpaths had been built; some maintenance on old ones. However, it was still the same unshifting area of suburb I recognised. Change was something that seemed foreign to this area.
I kept on going and, through a few different streets, made my way eventually down a large amount of stairs and to a bay.
Once at the bay I went down to a small… well, it wasn’t a wharf or a jetty. It was a small concrete area that jutted out into the water by maybe three metres. Possibly four. I stood there for a few minutes. Still the same bay that I’d been past so many times. The first time I had been there was nine years prior. I was a younger, angrier and more confused man then. Now I was probably just more introspective, reflective and perhaps a little more bitter, but also little bit better adjusted. I had a better idea of what made me angry. I wasn’t just a heartbroken twenty-something year old anymore.
I went back to where the small path to the wharf began and walked a brief distance to another stairwell; this one leading past the naval base in the area. The stairs here were something that I seldom, if ever enjoyed. They were long and unpleasant unless you were fit enough, in which case they were just either long or unpleasant; never both.
Still, I made good time in getting up them despite not seeing them for a number of years. Probably some sort of instinctual familiarity.
I reached the top and paused for a moment to get my breath back before continuing on. I headed right, past the fenced off area and followed the path until I could go right once more. Following the road there I eventually reached an area that had once been used for coal mining.
Many years prior one of the tunnels had been turned into a path that people could use to walk into Balls Head Reserve. It still was the same dark tunnel it had always been. Other than maintenance and probably replacing some of the motion-activated lights, it was still static.
There had been some maintenance done to the top of the area where coal-loading would have occurred. The tunnel would’ve been for trolleys, or carts, or some other thing that would receive whatever needed to be received from the top. The top area was now an area open to the public. There were some nice views there.
An old dilapidated wharf still sat there. Still fenced off from the public. Still seemingly falling apart, yet gripping onto what little integrity and dignity it had left.
I had a quick look around the top area before going back down and walking through the tunnel. There had been one time I walked through this tunnel where, after a particularly large bout of rain, the walkway was under water. Not by too much, but enough to get a bit past your ankles wet. I didn’t care enough at the time. It was kind of fun.
Once I finished walking through the area, feet wet n all, I ended up heading off into the city and buying some music. It was a good day.
The tunnel felt as it had always felt; like a walkway.
There had been times when Eugene and I had walked on through and I’d take photos of him as I thought the shadowed figure in a dark area with only a bit of light coming through was an interesting concept at the time without understanding why.
I came out on the other side. Some slight improvements to part of the path and some additions to the bay close to it, but otherwise it was still Balls Head Reserve mostly as I remembered it. I followed the path, though there was little other choice. It seemed easier than it had been in the past, but maybe it was just the familiarity setting in and making it feel easier. I wasn’t really sure.
Eventually the path led past some entrances to the underground mining areas. Long had they been sealed off and thus left to me only to wonder as to what it would be like to explore those pathways now.
A small alcove in a rock had a bench built into it. It was a slightly warm day, but nothing unbearable. Still, I stopped for a few moments just to give myself some time to breathe.
I soon collected myself and continued onward. I knew my way well and I knew where I was going. There was to be no hesitation.
I took a turn off the path, crouched under some shrubs and followed the cliff around as far as I could, which turned out to not be too far. Vegetation growth had consumed the path that I was planing on taking. I could have possibly still made it over, but the vegetation combined with the small gap I’d have to leap left me feeling a lack of confidence in my ability to make it over. I had a strong desire to cross the gap, but my being alive was much more important to me and so I decided to go back to the main path and continue on.
Occasionally I was afforded glimpses of parts of the city as it appeared on the other side of the water, but there was plenty of shading vegetation that obscured just enough of the city to almost allow yourself to forget that you were still very much in its being. Balls Head Reserve was a wonderful place in that regard. It gave just enough to sometimes help you forget, but still had some great convenience in being so close to frequent public transport. Sometimes that isn’t what you want, but there were many times over the years where that was exactly what I wanted and its convenience was probably something that I needed. Probably.
I followed a path down after reaching a mostly open, yet small area that didn’t lead anywhere. I was closer to the water now and took one of the paths down as soon as I could. The tide was low, so I walked a little along the rocks. It gave a great view of the harbour, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the CBD and some of the other urban areas.
I looked out to the city and saw that it still remained where it was. It was unsurprising that it hadn’t moved and still remained a part of the area, but Sydney never seemed to amaze me in the first place. The view was one better appreciated with other people generally as it was pleasant enough, but it was one that didn’t require much appreciation.
The city almost made me feel small, but it couldn’t by account of how developed a region it was. I didn’t feel big, but I didn’t feel humbled by the development of the area into something that felt unnatural. It just felt like something I was attached to, regardless of how much care and interest in it I held.
The bushland that was behind me at this point was far more beautiful, I felt. Whilst the achievements of humanity certainly were great, nothing could compare to the brilliance of nature and all that it brought.
The path through Balls Head Reserve was one well-trodden and one well-placed. It gave a good feel of the nature around, took you into bright and shaded areas, sometimes parts that were a bit darker than others and overall enabled a good flow of motion. It was a special area.
I stood there for a little while, staring at the city, not really searching for anything, but just staring out, deliberating with myself. I saw clouds drift over and cast their shadows where they could. They were large, but not threatening and not in enough of a cluster to be threatening, nor cover most of the sky. They were spread out well enough on what I felt was the right day for being where I was.
A gentle breeze blew alone and the harbour’s water lapped gently at the rock I was standing on. I kept on deliberating, working out what I was going to do from here.
Of course, standing there wasn’t really helping and all the thinking in the world wasn’t going to change anything other than lead me to making a decision that I might end up questioning later in that instance.
To no one other than myself I said “**** it” and headed back to the path and walked back to where I wanted to head.
Looking once more, I realised that I was not going to have any luck in getting through the vegetation. Instead I pushed through some more overgrowth nearby. It was brief, but slow. I wasn’t sure if it was going to take me to where I wanted to be, but it did and for that I was happy. I’d finally reached a place that I’d spent many an hour staring out from.
There had been some vegetation growth there too, but I recognised the ridges in the rock that jutted out and provided a seat. I recognised the view that covered Balmain and some other surrounding suburbs. I recognised that part of the bay.
I sat down and stared out and I felt small.
Eugene and I had left work at the same time that day. It was great as often our shifts didn’t align.
We walked on down to Balls Head and made out way to the lookout at which we usually sat when we were there together. It was a good stopping point and gave some time to rest and maybe appreciate the afternoon sky a little.
On that particular day the clouds were thick. There was the threat of storm, but I don’t think either of us cared too much. Work was long and arduous. This was, as far as we were concerned, the best way to relax. I’m sure if we could easily go into the Royal National Park straight after work, we would. I guess we could have, but this was much more convenient given the situation.
“What a view.
Boats passed on by below and the shape pf the coastline in that particular area moved closer and farther away, jutting just where it needed to. Houses lined and filled the region, leaving little room for vegetation, but of that there still was plenty.
We were perched up high. Not the highest we could have been, but high enough to feel like the world was really small to us, but we too felt small.
We tried listening to some music whilst appreciating the view, but the view spoke for itself. It didn’t need something in the background to support it.
“I’m so glad we’ve got something like this right here.
Yeah. It’s so easy to get to, can just walk through, relax, then bam. Done. Back home.
Well, I still have a train trip.
Yeah, but this is still better than getting a train the whole way.
Yeah. Easy enough to get to the station too. What’re you gonna do when you get home?
Dunno. Maybe listen to music. Read. Take it easy. You?
Try and work on something. Maybe write. Maybe listen to music. Don’t know yet. Maybe chat with housemates.
Yeah. Maybe I’ll do nothing. Just feel like relaxing. Been a long day. Maybe I’ll rehearse.
We sat there for a while, just staring out. We were young and angry and happy, but that was a great place to be. It was calming.
The sound of thunder made itself apparent nearby.
“We should probably get going.
Yeah. You’ve still got a bit to go.”
Eugene and I had spent a fair bit of time walking through Balls Head Reserve. He introduced me to the area shortly after I’d met him. I was heartbroken emotional, and trying to push through a job I didn’t enjoy but did as I wasn’t old enough to necessarily hold myself to better worth. Eugene’s friendship and Balls Head Reserve helped me a lot.
We’d spent a lot of time sitting in this particular spot. Sometimes we’d talk about stuff, sometimes nothing, and sometimes no talk at all.
The view, for all of its lack of power, began to overwhelm me as now the view was only mine. Sometimes a view seen alone is a beautiful one, but this was one that I could only share with a good friend, just like all the memories we’d had. Even though the prior few years had been hard when it came to being Eugene’s friend, he still was one. Despite all the lying and all the silent drama, he still was my friend at the time.
As I began to shed tears, I thought of the memories we shared and I thought about all that we had been through. Those were things that I didn’t want to repeat. I’d already lived through them. I had no need to live through them again, but I missed him.
I missed him dearly.