Once upon a time, there was a shop in Garema Arcade called Felt.
Its window today is shrouded in brown paper. Nothing of the store remains, only
bare walls, paint peeling,
small ceiling spotlights,
and a single dangling power socket.
A dust-covered Hitachi remote control and dead fly rest behind the window: a final display.
I only know Felt existed because Mum found it on a visit. I tried on a couple of things once but never came back. That’s all I remember of Felt and so, I asked my friends for their stories.
No one knows when Felt closed but they remember dropping by with friends, on breaks from school or working in the cafés nearby. They remember persuading their BFF to buy matching shiny track jackets—one red, one black—and posing for cheesy selfies. They remember their boyfriend pointing at a funky spacesuit, “Why don’t you ever wear anything cool like this?” They remember the people.
In the process of writing this piece, I visited the arcade twice. The first time, I took so many photos the hairdresser thought I was buying Gus’. I said it was for art. The second time, I was on the way home from Landspeed Records.
As a memoirist, I’m always writing about the things I know, or the things I want to know. That said, you can’t ‘invent’ memories that were never yours. There are layers of history in this arcade, on this land, we can only imagine, or dream of. There are things we can’t know, and will never know.
This city will soon be divided into those who remember pre-light-rail Canberra, and those who do not.
I miss tree-lined Northbourne Avenue.
I miss taking shortcuts across its median strip, mushrooms peeking through morning dew.
Shops, cafés and restaurants, come and go. People, come and go.
Stories and memories,
Thank you so, so much to everyone who generously shared their memories with me. And to Noted Writers Festival, for commissioning and inspiring the piece.
I read 'linger' as part of a walking tour of Canberra's arcades at Noted earlier this year.