I’m always mildly surprised when I reflect on the pinnacle moments of my life, and how the seemingly insignificant instances end up being the foundations of the bigger picture. Seamlessly piecing together as the footholds that I’ve used to step into some of the most defining stages of my twenties.

Am I talking about the moment I discovered the meaning of my existence? Sounds like it, but no – it’s just a dramatic preface for when I moved out of home. 

Cue the 4-bedroom Chippendale terrace. Just a mere stone throw away from a halfway house and comfortably situated between a brothel and pub. My very first foray into the city back in June 2017. 

Before then I was living with my parents in Camden and had just come back from a trip to Japan. The combination of a recent break up, experiencing the liveness of Japan’s major cities and more so the speed and convenience of their trains, and of course the 4 hour round trip commute to my full-time job and full-time university gig in Sydney’s CBD prompted my need for change. 

Armed with a Flatmate Finders account and fixated on moving to either Surry Hills or Darlinghurst, I scrolled, analysed and organised multiple meetups. Foreign to using an online platform to verify potential matches, I didn’t know that my approach to finding a new home in Sydney would later also become the same way I navigated dating apps. 

I was actually 23 at the time but wanted to live with an older crowd, I think we can tell by my expanded interest list I was attempting to appeal to the masses…also many ciggies were had at that home.

Much like dating in the digital realm, after a few weeks of performative meet and greets, questionable options and an obvious lack of compatibility, I decided to widen my scope.  

During my search I had screened a message from a then 27-year-old Seira, offering me to come check out her place in Chippendale. As soon as I saw the location I skimmed over her note and swiftly went back scrolling homes in my desired postcode. 

With no luck, I reverted to the message and read the home offering in great detail. Close walk to Redfern and Central stations, occupied by three female professions in their mid to late twenties, a social household but also valued their own downtime and separate lives. Mindful of where I was at with my limited selections, it seemed like a viable option.  

She also mentioned there were 2 kittens she had recently rescued which she solely takes care of. As someone who is not by nature fond of felines, this detail almost completely deterred me. Until I realised their names were Billie and Bear. Besides sounding like an indie folk duo, it is also how my parents address my sister and I. Her name is Billie and my nickname has always been Bear, only ever being referred to as Skye when I’ve monumentally screwed up.  

Trying to determine if this was a nail on the coffin or a sign for me to go see this house, I mentioned it to my mother who with no hesitation proclaimed it was “an omen”, and I “had to go check out the place”. Leaning into the ‘mothers know best’ sentiment and borderline desperation we organised a viewing for 7:00pm on a Tuesday night. 

I left University early that night and caught a train from Museum to Central, relying on my poor navigation skills and Google Maps to get me there. Realising that it was one street directly from the station to the house put me and thoughts of my future drunk self trying to meander home at ease.

Strolling up towards the house I passed The Lord Gladstone, keen to calm my nerves I contemplated stopping in for a quick wine before calculating the time and realising I’d be cutting it fine if I stopped.  As someone who is notoriously late, I tried to justify reasons in my head before deciding I didn’t want them to know that facet of me just yet. I preferred the illusion of someone with their shit together who doesn’t sacrifice punctuality and a good first impression for a Savvy B.

A mere 10 metres away from our home, the back of Lord Gladstone on Chippen Lane.

Walking just metres from the pub, my maps announce “arrived”. I look up to a towering orange façade, with interesting window detailing. By ‘interesting’, I mean the windows on the second story were completely covered with aluminium foil and the bottom window embellished with cracked glass and graffiti. My overly punctual arrival has now afforded me time to ask if I even want to go in, residing with the fact of me being dramatic I text a photo of the house and address to my best friend with the accompanying message, “If you don’t hear from me in an hour, I was here”.

One hesitant knock and 30 seconds later, Seira opens the door, her intuitive grin and innately warm energy was worlds apart from the streetscape and completely disarming. Squeezing through the door that only opens partially due to a building defect; she led with questions asking about my day, followed by offering a glass of wine. It was obvious, I was home. 

As she was grabbing the wine from the kitchen I sat on the living room floor playing with the kittens, admittedly I was amused by them, although the way I acted would make someone think I was absolutely besotted by them. Even at one point declaring how cute they were. Disingenuous? Maybe.

Moving to the kitchen and taking a moment to look around, it was almost as if this house was reminiscent of Narnia, in the sense that the entry most certainly did not match up to the interior. Wooden floorboards, spacious rooms, high ceilings, crisp white walls, granite island kitchen bench, skylights and contemporary bathrooms. I was pleasantly surprised, so my focus then shifted onto whether or not this was going to be my next home instead of wondering what picture the media was going to use after I never returned home. 

Seria’s method of vetting potential housemates is one I later adopted when she left and I took over the lease, after going through multiple processes – some including strange group viewings, others felt like I was interviewing for a job. Seria’s approach was the same that you can expect from the smokers area of any bar, friendly, welcoming and looking for additional things in common after automatically sharing one common ground – in this instance, she wants to fill a room and I want to take one.

Her other housemate at the time, Kym, was also there that evening for the meet and greet. Seira worked at a non-profit working alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous education outcomes. Kym, was a corporate hack like me, but unlike me at the time, was a successful one working at one of the big four. The other housemate was away on holiday at the time, when I asked what industry she was in, the girls looked at each other, then back at me and at the same time, but definitely not in sync said, “she’s a PT”.

If there is anything I know about myself, it’s that if something doesn’t make sense, I am like a dog with a bone until I am able to rationalise it. Something about their hesitant yet rehearsed answer paired with my courage after 2 glasses of wine, led me to ask, “is she a stripper?” Now, a considerate person would understand that their occupation is no one else’s business and even me typing that makes me cringe with how unnecessary and intrusive that was.

But like the annoying person who tries to guess the plot of a movie 10 minutes in (also me), I was curious as I felt like things were not adding up, so I thought I’d ask. Seira and Kym had this brief conversation with their eyes and no words, followed by Seira saying “well if she moves in she will find out”, and with that said we didn’t discuss the matter further. 

I toured the 2 storey house and the room with the foiled windows belonged to the housemate away, since she had a tendency to work night shifts she decided foil completely blocks out the sun allowing her to rest during the day. One could argue curtains or blackout blinds do the same, but when you pay Sydney rent, each to their own that space is yours and no one can challenge that.

The back of our house, with my bedroom window being the one on the left. A window I freely undressed in front of until 12 months later realising the building directly across was an occupied Studio.

Back in the kitchen we chatted as I was finishing my third glass of wine, it was a unique experience for me and when I was talking to Seria I felt as if I was talking to a version of myself, besides studying the same degree at university and both growing up in Western Sydney, personality wise it was as if I was talking to a mirror. Quick, witty, carefree but not careless – we were constantly comparing similarities as we discussed stories about family, friends and work.

During our chats I was fixated on the fact that one of my nails had partially fallen off, wanting to ensure they knew that I was aware it looked odd, in a stream of consciousness I blurted out, “oh yeah, this nail, man so annoying – after a bottle of rose I thought getting on a mechanical bull at a house party was a smart idea and off she snapped!” Couple of things to unpack here, I’m aware my assumption they were curious about my nail was quite self involved, was the story necessary? Absolutely not, does it provide an insight to the type of person I am? Sadly, yes. 

To my surprise, Seira responded grinning and exclaimed “yeah! I was wondering what was going on there”, her inability to sugar coat anything whilst being completely unphased with how ridiculous it is to randomly come out with that statement, unprompted, reassured me she was definitely my person. 

After spending just shy of 2 hours there, the girls were off to grab dinner and I was relieved as my focus also shifted over to food. Seira offered the room to me in which I let her know I was keen, but had one more viewing booked in for the following day. I could sense her reservation as I said that and also mindful the official move in date was in 6 days time, any sign of hesitation was alarming from her end as the idea of paying double rent would be for anyone. We said our goodbyes and I headed off. 

Stepping out of the house I quickly called my best friend Jacquie to confirm I was still alive, but more so to say “I think I just met my twin, we’re exactly the same”, I know, a big call to make after a brief, wine fuelled encounter. Jacquie retorted with, “knowing you, that will either be the best thing for you or a complete disaster”. 

Four years later and after living, travelling and a brief stint of working together on party boats I can confirm it was the former. 

A whole lot of life was lived in that home, with an abundance of lessons learnt and long standing relationships formed, all due to my residency at 123 Regent. A whirlwind  2 years that I’ll discuss in great detail, once I confirm how honest I’m willing to be and how much I value my job. 

Skye Tito

Author Skye Tito

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