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memoir: wuthering heights


Image: Aimee Knight

Mary St / Electric Avenue / Wuthering Heights, Adelaide, 2012 – 2014. RIP.

Hell so often is other people. Being around them, being without them and, perhaps worst of all, living with them…

Before Jeff there was Jess, and one day the friend-of-a-friend becomes housemate. With two others in tow, we first dub our humble Unley abode ‘Electric Avenue’. This is the summer of 2012, and though the Mayan-predicted apocalypse fails to befall us, our roof does begin to cave in. So our landlord reluctantly band-aids the blasted plaster problem with masking tape and slips away. Our house, in the middle of our street.

We squander nine months here in the squalor of beer, bands, boys, and one night, post-party, Bush. Just, so much Bush. Kate echoes throughout our tumble-down palace on repeat for hours. As our revellers retire to their native environs, I pour myself into bed, first light spilling through the cracks in my cornice. Jess and Aleks stay in the sunroom for some time, wailing in protest of the cold and beseeching to be let in the window of no one in particular. Rooms away, I laugh with and at them. I don’t know that we’re unleashing a monster.

I mean, I do know that we already have an actual ghost. Affectionately I think of him as ‘Phil’, for he is a spectre, and after that christening he no longer flicks on and off my fairy lights. But a proverbial banshee is also born this morn and for her, we re-dub this oft-cursed cottage ‘Wuthering Heights’.

A household of hopeless music obsessives, we could make a mix-tape of all the songs-cum-memes that haunt our home. But ‘Wuthering Heights’ is the only track that seems intent to weave itself into our daily routine. It fills the gaps between gossip and how-was-your-days; it inflates our lungs at bus stops on nights warm and cool; it is demanded at the pub to the dismay of the lady hip-hop DJ; and it stretches like a homesick bridge across the Pacific all the way to the streets of LA.

One Saturday afternoon in spring, we can find nothing better to occupy our time than to get deplorably jeffed. That is: tanked, smashed, paro, druuunk; it is named as such for Jess, who – renown for testing the reliability of her liver – mishears the title of a KISS ballad and is never given the opportunity to forget it. But that’s another song… Spitting cider from the gills, we pass a hazy hour in front of the TV, mimicking Kate’s languid limbs, but always two beats behind. Suddenly, the boys are back in town, all eyebrows raised and arms crossed at our jubilant exhibition. A chunk of fleshy arms and legs, we flop disgracefully to the floor (though I’ll proclaim to be on the roof to anyone unsuspecting enough to accept my drunk dials).

Is it my imagination or are divides being drawn in this house? More often now it feels like it’s boys against girls, the two of them versus the two of us. Attendance on weekly $2 schooner excursions is consistently down by 50%. Jess and I don’t seem to be kept abreast of plans to hike in the hills. Vats of pasta are still prepared but now shared only amongst the menfolk. Cracks ripple through our once four-way friendship faster than those ripping apart our four wobbly walls. I hate you. I love you too.

En route to my 9-to-5er at the height of a heatwave, Kate takes me by iPod surprise. From her wiley (winding? wild and?), windy moor, her siren’s call rings out a chill while I’m hiding on the backstreets of the Hottest City in the World. The first face in my brain is Jess/ff’s and I want to tell her. I reach for my phone, but decide it can wait until home. Clarity’s millisecond strike makes me smile. Drunken, clumsy, bumbling bloody Jeff: the hipster Heathcliff to my cunting Cathy. We may not have a lot in common but we’ll always have Wuthering Heights.

Tonight, I know WuthHi is collapsing around us. Statement door-slams shake teetering plaster flakes free in the throes of a forty-night washing up stand-off. Split cabs and quiz night rituals don’t service the home now haunted by passive-aggressive whistling and men’s supermarket body spray. When someone finally makes good on the perennial threat to move out, I wonder if Phil will miss us? It’s February in Adelaide and I’m trying to sleep but, I’m so cold.

(image created by author)

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