The last ferry to Balmain leaves just before midnight. This isn't a route I took very often, but it was the route I took this October evening, back in 1993.
Sydney had marked me, had changed me and improved me. I grew up while I was there. I was no longer a petulant kid. I was a grown man who knew what he wanted out of life. I was no longer afraid of the 'C' word. Yes, I wanted a career.
I'd been living in Darlinghurst, in Sydney's eastern suburbs / inner city for just under a year. I had a home there. A home that I shared with two really great friends. I had a job there too - a job that I really loved and a boss that I really admired. And not just for the fact that every year she would go to New York to 'update her wardrobe'.
I had a great circle of friends and I had a pretty operational 'little black book' for when the need arose. My life was full, complete, happy and balanced.
I'd go to the gym before work (the City Gym on Crown Street, where I once did a step class with Eartha Kitt - oh yes, the actual one, the one and only - going up and down on the step next to mine) and on the way into the office I'd grab a focaccia sarnie from my favourite sandwich shop ever - 'How the Focaccia?' in the CBD....
I'd go out after work with friends and we'd catch movies, shows and social diseases together. We'd spend our weekends clubbing and never miss the thursday night Kylie drag show. One night, I rushed down to our local on Oxford Street after being summoned by my friend. Tom and Nicole (of Cruise and Kidman fame) were playing pool in the bar. She was gorgeous. He was Tom cruise.
As you can see, I'd put down roots. But as you'd expect from me, I'd put down roots somewhere that I couldn't stay.
I was fast approaching the end of my 12-month visa.
My boss came up with a cunning plan to sponsor me for a residency permit. She'd get to keep the best assistant she'd ever had (aka moi) and I'd get to stay in Australia.
I planned a two-week trip back to the UK to see the family and explain my decision. Then I sat back to wait for my passport to come back from immigration, with the permit duly stamped inside.
Ten days before my holiday, my passport came back.
I was starting to worry that I'd have to cancel the trip. Alas, I did cancel the trip - well, the return trip anyway.
My passport came with a letter. My visa had been denied. I had to leave the country before the end of the month.
I left my house in Darlinghurst. And for the last couple of days I stayed with my best friend who had moved to Balmain.
The last ferry that night was the last ferry for me.
The little yellow and green Sydney ferry headed out of Circular Quay.
Past the Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge and across to Balmain.
The lights of the harbour were beautiful, the water inky-black. I cried and cried.
I wasn't leaving a love behind. This time I was leaving a life.