Ipswich is purgatory. The winters here have a special kind of cold, the kind that has a bitter intensity that burns your core and makes you feel like a creature made of ice. There is no warmth in touch, your hands will only chill your companions further. The morning winds make it impossible to roll cigarettes; the cold frustrates you and breaks you. This is a place that breeds hard people. The 16-year-olds here have the bodies, minds and smoking habits of elders who have lost there way a long time ago and the only thing anchoring them to the mortal plane is feeding their crippling addictions. Language here has no restriction, humour is midnight black and no words can cut when your humanity has been replaced with a nicotine stained callus.
There is something here that draws you back and drags you down deeper. There is no leaving. The rent is cheap and you get indoctrinated. After a year you don’t even know how to make money anymore. The money you get leaves instantly. Cheap pants get holes in their pockets easier. Every inch you fight East feels like a mile and this place is always in the back of your mind. It is like you have a third eye that is always focused on back into a pit, every step outwards and upward gives you new heights of vertigo. There is something here and we are looking for it. The coal mines run deep and all over this city and they are not empty. The deeper we get into this place the closer we are to that elusive, important something.
My friends, a couple, spoke about moving to Tasmania with their very young son for a long time. A place where the air is clear and nature is a real thing that thrives instead of clasping. A place where their son doesn’t have to grow up fighting the tide and keeping his head just above water. In the weeks prior to their journey they gave me a carton of beers, one hundred burnt cds of punk and metal bands that I had not heard of, and enough kind words and laughs to see me through. They held a party a week before they packed up and left. We sat outside in the freezing cold with a laptop playing music that always seemed to fit the mood. We drank and talked about the past and the future but not about the present. My brother drank too much and passed out sitting with his head between his knees. We left him outside in the wind and played Marvel vs. Capcom with the sound turned down because their son was asleep. I played as Spiderman and button-mashed furiously until I had beaten everyone in the group at least once. We heard my brother vomiting outside and I could not think of a more comforting and familiar thing to happen at one of our parties.
My brother came in and asked if we could leave. It was ten o’clock. I told him sure champ and grabbed my stuff. My friend walked us out to the front gate. I told him that I would miss him sorely and he said that he would probably come back in a few years. I wanted to tell him not to. Get out and stay out. This place is not for him, it is not for anyone. Hot happiness welled up inside me and burned the backs of my cold eyes. I embraced him in the first proper embrace I have given a human that is not my mother. My sister drove us away and I sat in the back seat and could not help myself turning back and watching him smoke, a glowing ember hanging in front of a ghostly pale figure. My options seemed clear then and there were two. Fight my way out or burn this place down. Because when you live in Ipswich running away is victory and making hell burn with you is the most peaceful death I can think of. A little while after that night I moved out of my sister’s ex-boyfriend’s house in Booval and made my way a few inches East.