Students Representative Council, University of Sydney

2:45, watercolour

He didn’t know why he was there. It was stupid, coming to the beach by himself to do absolutely nothing. He hadn’t come here to swim or to shop, to sunbathe or to eat, but just to sit here and do nothing. Observe, maybe? He didn’t know. He had just come. But he’d had to…

A person standing on the beach with figures swimming in the water. On the horizon is a fading quadrangle building. Art by Angela Zha

He didn’t know why he was there. It was stupid, coming to the beach by himself to do absolutely nothing. He hadn’t come here to swim or to shop, to sunbathe or to eat, but just to sit here and do nothing. Observe, maybe? He didn’t know. He had just come.
But he’d had to come. It was better than nothing. He hadn’t worn the appropriate clothing, for only a fool like him would wear black jeans and a collared shirt to Bondi. His skin burned under the heat, and sand was entering the crevices of his shoes, each grain filtering between his toes before crunching against his soles. He was like an unwitting explorer, placed into the jungles of the shore, inexperienced, unaware. He hadn’t planned to come here. Leaving university to come to the beach had been a spur of the moment thing. He’d had a four-hour gap to fill, and coming to the beach seemed like a great idea. After all, he could never study on campus — Fisher was too quiet, Carslaw too loud, Bosch too far, New Law too near. Besides, he was never one to be on campus longer than he needed to.

All he did, all he ever did, was show up when he needed to be there, do what he needed to do, and then leave as soon as the bell rang, as soon as the tutor said goodbye, as soon as books were packed and Powerpoints finished. He never bothered to stop and say, Hi, how are you? How’s the assignment going? Haven’t started? Neither have I? Would I like to get drunk? Of course, I would! No, he found these pleasantries tiresome, serving only to enable meaningless social cohesion. Whenever he found himself in such an unfortunate position, he would wince at every utterance, the words jarring against his ears. He would just bolt out the door as soon as he could, getting out of the non-air-conditioned hell of the Quadrangle classroom. He would run towards Redfern, and then begin the two-hour journey back home, the T2 to Town Hall, then the 607X to the Hills. Every day, back and forth — bus, train, walk, the drudge of university, walk, train, bus, hitherto, hither fro.
The routine became a monotonous drag on his life, but nonetheless a drag he had warmed to, one which brought back the comfort and routine of high school which he craved. He knew when to get on and when to get off. Even on the bus going towards university, he had a carefully crafted routine — first, he listened to whatever playlist he had for five minutes, and then after that would start reading a book until he reached the Harbour Bridge. He would dog-ear the page, get off at Wynyard and then catch the train to university. He wouldn’t read on the train, that journey was too short, too eventful. Instead, he would look out at the passing stations, Town Hall, Central, and then Redfern, where he would get off and begin walking, now with the playlist completed and on repeat, finally making his way to class.
And this stupid routine, this tedium of transport, this simple requirement of life — he loved it. Absolutely loved it. He knew it was stupid to love a bus route, especially one as ridiculously long and badly planned as his. But he did. He loved the routine of it, the steadiness, the reliability he found in the unreliability of the timetable bestowed upon him by Sydney transport. Every time he ventured to Redfern, the calamities of the day seemed to fade away into his mind, and his body would be able to mellow into peaceful relaxation. His shoulders would drop, the muscles releasing the tension of an upright appearance. Finally, an escape from the chaos that plagued daily life. For him, the routine was a solace. It was familiar. It was known.

He looked around at the beach in front of him, the shoreline spreading from peninsula to peninsula, the sand eventually caving into the rocks on each side, growing and growing, some igneous monster overwhelming the sand, forcing the grains to make way for its hard surfaces, bare except for a smidgen of green here and there. It was unusual, he realised, that the beach would be so empty on a day like this. The pale sky met the deep blue of the ocean at the horizon line. The waves built up in the distance, growing and growing, reaching their grand crescendo before finally beating against the golden shore. The weather was temperate, with only a splatter of clouds dotting the sky, although his arms had begun to burn under the rays of sun. It was his tutor who had said he should come here — something about observing the natural world. Just observe the scenery. See the beauty of this famous beach. The landscapes, the ocean spreading out into the distance, marrying the sky in the far horizon, and then the hustle behind him, the street-goers, the cafes, all of it some hipster paradise of skateboards and beanies. He found himself lost in a trance at it all, dazed at the wonder around him.

He smirked at the fact that he had lived in this city his whole life, but could count the amount of times he had visited Bondi on his hand… Why live in this city, with its exorbitant rents and disorganised transport system, if he didn’t enjoy its beauty — the beaches, the forests, the suburbs full of colour and glee? He was a fool for for sticking to his routine of coming and going, of back and forth, hitherto and hither fro, the pendulum swinging left and right, never changing, never stopping. It wouldn’t kill him to stop, jump out of the line and explore, run, climb, see — take some darned leap of faith and do something new, something special, something exquisite. He’d be all the better for it.

2:45. He had to go back to university. But like a child ripped from the comfort of a known place, he didn’t want to go. He wanted to stay here, in this familiar visual utopia, unpolluted by the drudgeries of the outside bubble. But he knew didn’t have a choice. He had to return, go back for his tutorial, and then run, run back to Redfern and begin his beloved routine once more. Looking back at the beach, the waves beating against the shore, growing, growing, growing, and then crashing, before once again, growing, growing, growing, and then crashing, again, again, again, he knew he had more to do. So, he would rush back to university, yes, and complete his tutorial — naturally, of course, he still had his attendance mark to worry about. But today he wouldn’t run once the bell rang. He wouldn’t dash off to Redfern and begin his two-hour travel routine. Today would be different. Today, he would stay.

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