They asked if I would write the copy for the ad. You know, because I’m a writer and maybe I could tug hard enough on some heart strings that money would fall out, I guess.
I wrote it like this:
Sun-soaked and impressive in its enviable northeast corner position, this perfectly located home offers the best in Brighton living. Walk to restaurant and entertainment precincts in Bay and Church Streets, or stay home and entertain in a picturesque garden setting on approximately 400sqm. A bright double-height entrance creates space and light, inviting you through to an open-plan living space with gas fireplace and well-appointed kitchen with European appliances. A separate lounge is the perfect spot to spend a winter evening, while the front sitting room with plantation shutters will become your new favourite place to relax. Upstairs are three generous bedrooms, including an oversized master with expansive two-way bathroom featuring a freestanding bath and luxury stone finishes, and a second bathroom with shower. Enjoy views to your low-maintenance garden from two private balconies, plus plenty of storage, large separate laundry, central heating and cooling, 2.5-car garage and security system. Offering easy access to Melbourne’s best schools, parks and amenities, this is the ideal home for easy living in a location beyond compare.
It sold in two weeks. My dad said, “It must have been that great copy you wrote for the ad.”
My mum said, “I’ll really miss it.”
When I was seventeen, we moved from Adelaide to Melbourne for my mum’s work. ‘Moving’ meant a drive along Great Ocean Road to a soundtrack of dad’s old tunes and my crying while someone else took our stuff in a truck. We stopped at landmarks like the lighthouse from Round the Twist and a bit of rock in the sea and they so inadequately made up for being torn from my comfortable adolescence I wanted to die. Not in the actual, spiritual way I would later want to die, but in the teenage way where bands haven’t replied to your fan mail and you’ve just found out there weren’t even twelve apostles to begin with.
My parents had rented a house while they looked for one to buy. It was small and bits of it fell off if you pushed them too hard. It made me feel transient, too. I was falling apart, too. I wasn’t built to last either.
It was an impermanent sort of place. Uncommitted. I didn’t mind it. As long as we lived in the house with loose doorhandles, we hadn’t yet decided to stay.
After six months, they bought the house across the road. When we moved in, we literally wheeled our furniture five metres from one driveway to the other.
It was the guy who co-founded Ken Bruce’s house before it was theirs. You know:
Before he would exchange contracts, he made us all sit down and watch videos of his TV ads. Twenty of them at least. He had a purpose-built shelf to store the VHS copies.
We watched and forced ourselves to smile. We worried he was using the house as a way to get strangers to watch his ads. (He almost certainly was.)
Then, “There!” he went, and the picture stopped. A hoard of dogs were running down an alleyway, now suspended. He laughed. Boy, did he laugh. Tears of delirious joy shot right out of him and into our faces. (Half of) Ken Bruce went completely mad.
In the background, two of the dogs were fucking.
This place was a fortress. None of the windows opened. The fall from my balcony was just high enough that I’d have broken my legs if I tried it.
My parents didn’t like my new boyfriend. He was the only person I’d really got to know at my strange new school, but he was mean. He broke up with me constantly, slept with other girls, put his hands on my throat. So, to protect me from myself, my parents would lock the doors and take my key. I would rail against the imprisonment with the drama only a seventeen-year-old poet can muster but they taught me fear.
They weren’t keeping me locked up, they said; they were stopping the outside from coming in.
One night I was sitting on the north-facing, sun-splashed balcony and my boyfriend called and sang I Just Called to Say I Love You down the line.
One night I was sitting on the private expansive balcony and I called Lifeline and they told me to have a cup of tea.
One night I had my friends over for pre-drinks on the executive townhouse living balcony and they flicked cigarette butts into the garden.
One night I took my new husband to the contemporary low-maintenance balcony and pointed to the rental across the road and told him I kind of missed it, but I didn’t know why.
One night the newly-renovated and spacious balcony had become my dad’s balcony, and my bed was gone.
When my daughters were born, and the great dark drops of night pummelled me, I moved back in. I stayed nights at my own place, but every morning at 5am, when my husband went to work, he would drop me and the softly terrifying babies at the front door. I could never relax enough to sleep, so I would lie in front of the TV and watch 5am shows. Good Morning America. Repeats of Judge Judy. Sometimes even Mass For You at Home.
I would watch until the sun came up and my parents went to work. Then I would spend the whole day drifting around, waiting for someone to come back and see me.
Trying to find the place where I had gone.
About seven years ago, I realised couldn’t go to this house anymore. I could go near it, and I could go around it, but I could not make myself go inside. A few times I stood on the street and called out to my parents, and they came and stood on the balcony and we waved to each other.
My bones ached. They loved it there, in the place where my lungs had fallen out of my chest.
So you see, there were many ways I might have written the copy for that ad. I could have highlighted the brand-new laundry or the drooping lemon tree down the side. I could have talked up the gas fireplace or the extra storage under the stairs. I could have waxed lyrical about its proximity to a very good IGA or the sea breeze that picks up on a warm day.
I could have described the way it might eat you alive or yank out your insides. I could have spoken of the toilet where you could break your nose while you puked or the spot in the garden where your cat would curl up and die. I could have revealed the way the door clunked when someone slammed it or the small ghosts in the upstairs bedroom left of the stairs.
But I wrote it so it would sell. And now it is gone.