Melbourne, January 7, 2006

I always remember the date, because it was her birthday.

It was her birthday, and her birthday present was a diamond ring and a proposal, and, evidently, a trip to the National Gallery.

That’s where we saw them, by chance. They’d just come out of the gallery, and were walking along St Kilda Rd. We were stopped at the traffic lights, heading towards the city. I don’t remember what our plans were for the day, but it didn’t matter anymore. We saw them and they saw us and we laughed and invited them into the car. She showed off her ring and told us about the proposal while he blushed and cringed, and we all decided that it was a day to celebrate.

It turned out to be the kind of day that summers should be made of; that lifetimes should be made of.

I’d first met her at a Tim Rogers gig, a few years earlier. I wasn’t a fan of his music, but I went along to impress the new fella in my life. In between songs, I bumped into a good friend, who’d likewise gone along to impress his new lady, a firecracker of a woman named Erica.

I liked her straight away. She was rocking a bright lippy, and wearing red with an utter disregard for the notion that red-heads should never, ever. I liked her even more as I got to know her, and the four of us became firm friends. She was brave, and kind, and fierce. She loved with absolute abandon. Her partner, her family, her friends. And You Am I. Oh how she loved Tim Rogers.

Erica was a spark that started fires in hearts and minds. On that day – her birthday – the four of us headed to St Kilda for lunch, followed by a stroll along the beach under a brilliantly blue sky. By the end of that walk she had me dreaming of adventures, of cycling through France with our marvellous men; of being the proverbial village for each other as we raised our babes; of going to raucously loud gigs together in our old age, with earplugs in our ears and good sturdy shoes on our feet. She had glorious dreams, simple dreams, and the future was exciting and ours to create.

She was only 35 when she died.

I’m now 39. I’ve borne two children. I look at them and wonder what hers would have been like; if they would have had her freckles, her laugh, her sly humour. I cycled through Normandy, imagining she was there, giggling with me as we practised our French on passing cyclists. I go to gigs she’d like – always in sturdy shoes – and wish that I could text her about them.

That evening – her birthday evening – having spent the entire day together, we all ended up in her tiny flat in Carnegie, grilling chorizos on her tiny barbecue on her tiny balcony, and listening to music. Still laughing, always laughing. Erica’s laugh was like the glowing embers at the end of a fire; the ones that hold the most warmth. When she laughed, it hit you in the chest and warmed you all the way to your toes. It’s a laugh that even after ten years, I can still hear as clearly as if she were standing behind me right now. She laughed often, and she laughed long, and I miss her.

To be honest, I don’t actually remember what music we listened to that evening. It doesn’t really matter. Because for every memory I have of her, including that day – especially that day – the soundtrack is always You Am I.

I always remember the date, because it was her birthday.

I’ll always remember the day, because it was perfect.