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31 years ago, I walked these streets with my lover.
I am in a cafe on Gladstone Road, Dutton Park. Our first home is across the road, the home immediately after our wedding and honeymoon in 1988. We were young. The thought of what ‘a long time ago’ would mean was not really understood. Nevertheless, as a young historian, mixing and conversing with ‘the aged’, at that time, I knew this day would come. The young version of me — yet someone who is not me — knew even then the impossibility of fathoming our future life. There was life and there would be death. I knew that much.
In 1988 the mind of this young man would never see the older man seating in what had been the local grocery store, now the upmarket modern Epicurean venue; eating sage roasted mushrooms, asparagus, baby spinach with a 8-minute egg on a toasted croissant with hollandaise. Even the long black beside my breakfast treat would have been extraordinary to that unknowing mind. If it were possible for the young Neville to gaze on this sunny and cool-breezy morning scene, with the gentle Sunday traffic passing, he would have thought life had me well — wealthy and stylishly dressed. He would have grinned with joy at the snappy and sharp casual suit. I (the old man) remembered how he dreamed to dress well, but he had so few options to do so in those days of simple needs and far limited resources. As the young Neville gazed at the scene, he would immediately ask, “Where is Ruth”?
It is a question I have been asking for two and half years, and it will continue to be the question asked. I sit here in what was a crowded cafe, but now has emptied out almost completely. The wedded breakfast is over, and life has slipped away.
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