The plane touches down in Sydney. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a plane. It’s a little reminder of my old life; the one where the airport felt like a second home and I was constantly on the road. I see Laura. A week ago I was laying on a beach in Fremantle imagining this moment. Now here she is and I want to drink in all of her hilarity and wit and affection.
It’s dark and we walk to a pub where people drink ciders on the concrete with their dogs. I get a pint of cider. Anxiety hits. The waves are too big. “I think I’m too anxious for this,” I say. Laura gets it. We walk home.
Georgia arrives with her bleached peach hair, Doc Martens and contagious laughter. We’d booked her a flight for her birthday. We’re all together. It’s incredible. I’m with two of my best friends and we all live in different states but it’s okay because right now we’re all in the very same place.
We eat delicious things from food trucks at the Marrickville Markets. I run into an old friend of my little brother. He talks about Zake. Grief sways me. We watch Planet Earth and order three pizzas and soft drink like we’re at a slumber party. We all squish into Laura’s bed and sing along loudly to our favourite songs.
I’ve been telling Georgia and Laura how alike they were long before they ever met. They’re both so extroverted and confident and funny, the kind of people everyone wants to befriend and date and be. They’re protagonists. I soak in all of their stories. I feel so lucky.
I walk through the Newtown graveyard with my mother and little sister Pixie. Mum tells us stories of her youth. I imagine her at my age as totally free in the world. Reading the books at the bookstore where she worked, writing poetry in her journal from park benches and having love affairs with all kinds of interesting people. It hurts me to think of what she faced from my father and stepfather after that, the challenge of raising my little brother in a world that didn’t understand him and then losing him.
She’s changed since Zake died. Become softer somehow. More loving. My sister is pregnant with a little girl, at the same age I fell pregnant with Alba. Our mum jokes that she warns those who come to her for parenting advice that she’s had two daughters drop out of school and become teenage parents and a son who committed suicide. We share a dark sense of humour. I’m glad they’ve left our hometown to move here. I never thought they would. They had a lot to escape from.
Klara. The biggest reason I’ve flown across the country. My best friend. Love of my life. The last time I saw her was in a cabin in a forest in a tiny town in Sweden over a year ago. Her band First Aid Kit is touring the east coast. The night she gets in she’s going to a Lana Del Ray concert and she asks if I’d like a ticket. I would.
I’m sitting outside the stadium when I see her and her sister Johanna walking towards me. They’re so tall and breathtaking in person, the kind of people you know are superstars before you know a thing about them. We run towards each other and hug tightly and spin in circles. Klara holds my hand through the concert and I keep catching her eyes to grin in a way that says, “you’re really truly here.”
We swim in the infinity pool on the rooftop of the hotel and the city is lit up and glittering around us. The water is warm and we’re all laughing. The hotel bed is big and white and soft and cosy. I fall asleep smiling next to Klara. I’m really fucking happy.
I wake up to panicked texts from Georgia and Laura. Everything has fallen apart. Georgia is flying home early and their friendship is destroyed. I’m shaking. Klara has to leave for an interview and she’s worried. My mind is racing and my heart is banging in my chest and I have no idea what to do.
I’m about to catch an Uber to see Georgia when Laura calls me. “God Nirrimi, why the hell do you like pranking people? That was so stressful! I can’t do it!” Relief floods me. I’m so proud. Pranks are my thing and they got me so good. Everything’s just fine.
Soundcheck. It brings me back to when we toured the states. I wear a pass around my neck that says I’m with the band. This life feels so different to my regular life; to school runs and grocery shopping and dirty dishes. Yet I’m completely at home here. Between songs Klara calls me up on stage to wrap her arms around me. The stage is being broadcasted to the dressing rooms in the venue and Stella Donnelly messages me to say she can see me from hers.
I love Stella. She’s a brutally honest feminist wonder woman. I watched her play to a packed crowd back in Fremantle and have since had her music on heavy rotation. I’m nervous meeting her. Not in a starstruck way, but because I really admire her authenticity. I try to be cool, but clumsily fall over coming into the dressing room. She says she’d been following me online for a while now, that she used to know Bee. She’s opening for First Aid Kit and it all feels wonderfully serendipitous.
I ask Klara to put my friends and family on the list so they can come to the show. I feel indescribably happy, like I’m high on the magic of so many of my favourite people being in one place. I’m buzzing from the wine I’m drinking and the excitement of seeing First Aid Kit play again. I’m floating a few inches off the ground.
I find Georgia and Laura and my sister and my niece. We watch Stella play. Then Klara and Johanna come on stage and the venue erupts with noise. Laura and I know the words to every song so we sing to each other and dance like we’re at a high school disco.
They play a song called ‘You Are The Problem Here’ - it’s raw, born from anger towards perpetuators of sexual violence towards women, towards a society that blames victims for their abuse. Afterwards Klara speaks and the room is dead silent. Laura, Georgia, my niece, my sister, me; we’ve all been abused by men. Her words hit us.
“We wanted to ask some questions to the perpetuators of rape crimes,” Klara says, “like why did you do this to another human being? Instead of asking victims what they were wearing and what they were drinking, because it is completely fucking irrelevant to what’s just been done to them.”
I bring my friends backstage but Klara and Johanna are surrounded by fans. We say we’ll meet back at the hotel. Klara joins us at midnight with a bottle of wine from the dressing room. We all cheer and lay together on the bed laughing and conspiring and accidentally spilling red wine on the white sheets.
Here are my three best friends in the world together in one bed. Reality takes on this intensely fragile quality; a little part of me silently panics at how rare and precious this is, how quickly it’ll only be a memory. I’m quieter than usual, watching these women I love so much. The three of them so inspiring and so sure of themselves. I’m not really sure how I got so lucky. How I came to deserve them.
I can tell I’m happy because I can’t stop singing to myself and talking to all the strangers crossing my path. It’s my last day in Sydney. Georgia flies back home to her children and I try not to think about how long it will be until I see her next.
Laura and I get dumplings and fried eggplant from a hole-in-the-wall dumpling house with fake vines all over the ceiling followed by Turkish gelato; rockmelon feta and fig walnut. Our friendship is paved with these almost religious food ecstasies. We hug goodbye, but I’ll be seeing her in Melbourne in a few days.
Melbourne. My friend Elle is playing in her band Woodes tonight at the Recital Hall. I take her portrait backstage. She looks otherworldly, like she belongs in the Lord of the Rings. I sink into her performance, I know her songs by heart. As her last song ends I am gone. I get to the next venue as Klara and Johanna come on stage.
It’s such a nice feeling, this busyness. Always having somewhere to be. I feel like the version of myself that I dream of being. More confident, more brave, more bright. Less anxious, less lost. There’s a moment where I catch my reflection and think, I like that girl. She is a light. She makes things happen. I want to hold tightly to that self love. I don’t feel that way every day.
I love just doing nothing backstage. Just sitting on the couches with Klara and Johanna and the band, eating Thai food and telling stories. At one point Klara brings me a rose and gets down on one knee to propose to me. I say yes. Our love is a bit of a running joke to everyone else and we play it up.
Klara sings so beautifully with so little effort. No vocal warm ups. Giggling with me about stupid things right up until the moment she walks out to the sea of applause. Sometimes I stand to the side of the stage just watching her proudly and she catches my eye and grins.
Their last show is hard. Toward the end they dedicate a song to me and I begin to cry and I have to leave the venue and sit alone outside in the cold Melbourne air because it’s all too much. I don’t want this to end. I don’t want to have to say goodbye. God knows how long it’s going to be this time.
The tour manager says she’s taking everyone out for margaritas to celebrate. We sit in a booth in a dark, cosy Mexican bar. We get a bit tipsy and jokingly make eyes at the cute DJ and explode into fits of giggles. We dance and Stella joins us. We want to go up to the rooftop and see the city but it’s locked up. A man who works there comes and he tells us he can take us to the roof.
On the rooftop he asks if there’s anything else he can do for us, anything at all. Perks of stardom. “Maybe some strippers,” I say very seriously. “And some cocaine,” Klara adds. “I’m not sure about the strippers but I might be able to organise some coke,” the man says and we burst out laughing, telling him we are joking.
I’m hit with the realisation that I’ve been here before. I was sixteen and I’d just moved to the city. It was summer then and the rooftop was filled with people. It had been so wild back then, when all I’d known was the suburbia of my small town. It was a new world.
We hear music and turn to see a man dancing and stripping for us. He takes off his jacket, his shirt, he unbuckles his belt. We roar with laughter. He gets dressed again and disappears and we call after him, “that was amazing!”
It’s midnight. Laura texts and says she can sneak us into a Comedy Festival afterparty. My phone is low on battery and on the walk there it dies. It feels like we’re on an adventure. We walk up and down streets and knock on doors and talk to people, but no one knows what we’re talking about. We’re about to give up when Laura shouts our names and pulls us behind a billboard.
Her hands are full of ID’s from people who work at the Comedy Festival. “I got as many as I could,” she says, “choose one that looks like you and memorise it.” I’m Nicole and I’m a producer. Klara is Cassie and she’s a comedy writer. “Watch where I go and follow me in 5 minutes,” Laura says, and she disappears.
Our hearts are racing but we act completely calm as the bouncers check our ID’s. There’s a pause and my heart stops. “You’re good,” they say, stamping our wrists. We walk down a set of stairs into a basement thumping with music. The moment we’re out of sight we do a victory dance. We made it. We get drinks at the bar and weave through the dance floor, dancing to pop music until 4am.
On the walk back to the hotel Klara asks me how I found their music. I tell her it was the Fleet Foxes cover first, then Little Moon. “God, not that song” Klara says and I begin to sing it. She joins in. We sing her old songs all the way back to the hotel. We crawl into our big cosy bed, say we love each other and fall fast asleep.
Johanna and Klara hug me outside the tour bus. “Let’s please not do this goodbye,” I say. But we have to. I watch them disappear. I return to an empty hotel room and my heart is heavy, but mostly because it is so full.Laura comes and I take her to Vegie Bar for her birthday. We pretend to the Uber driver that we’re in a band called Wildbloom and we’re big over in Korea. My name is Luna and her name is Heidi, as always. We watch a cult documentary from the hotel bath. “Goodbye Luna,” Laura says as she hugs me goodbye. Then I am gone too and it as though I am waking from the most marvellous dream of all.