I have been lucky enough to find myself quite often in the company of a very good man. And in the company of this particular person I find myself at word forums, and places where creative zest is served with very cold Gin. So in an attempt to ‘write something down’ for the One Book One Brisbane thing here are the first thousand or so words. So this is mainly for Mr X and his comments. See you sometime soon for a stiff Gin Harry.
Country people in the city are like replacement tiles on a kitchen splashback, almost the same but you can tell it’s different. He looks like he’s in his twenties. He has on a dark akubra with a greasy oil stain around the rim and his blue check shirt is missing a button so I can see his fuzz of belly hair. He’s staring out the window, his eyes are tracing back and forth so quickly he looks slightly unhinged. The bass from someone’s earphones, like tiny muffled crickets in the night, accompanies his tremourous gaze. I wonder what he’s in town for, or if he’s just passing through.
I am a country come city type. At first I stuck out like dogs balls, confusion on public transport while others busily pushed past me, trepidation on crossing the road and an attraction to staring at my reflection in the parades of mirrored afternoon shop windows. I like to think I’m very city now. I know what an affogato is anyway, so I’m pretty much there.
I lean into the door, it’s crowded, it’s peak hour. I just want to be home, but I still have to change from the train and get on a bus. The guy in front of me has great shoulders. They look strong, the type you would like wrapped around you. He’s hanging there, on the handle like a monkey swinging just slightly with the track rock. The word orange is written on his hand, in black pen, all in lower case running toward his index finger. Has he just decided that this is his favourite colour and he had to write it down so as not to forget, that he now loves orange? Or has it just always been his favourite colour, so much so that he wrote it down simply because he loves it. It is not a name, not a time, not a task. It’s not an address or a phone number. It’s just the word ‘orange’, he knows what it means. My body rocks, synchronous with his and every other fucker on this train. I write the word ‘Lemon’ on my hand, I use an uppercase L.
The train driver buzzes in ‘This a Gold Coast Train, running express from South Bank to Beenleigh, stopping only at Yerongpilly, the next station is Roma street.’ He rolls his ‘r’. I smile and laugh at the rolling ‘r’ train driver, bringing a little bit of Italy to Bris Vegas. People look at me like I have a small conjoined twin attempting sign language attached to my forehead. Public transport, destroyer of good of humour and breeding ground for looks of distain. I feel like some gelato.
Get home, say hello to my best friend, worshipper and adorer. This lasts all of about half a minute, and as I go back inside to get ready the tail wagging stops and the sad eyes are turned on. Must take Gary to the dog park tomorrow. I have a cold shower, relishing every last second of the blue sand in my 4-minute timer. I get out, dripping on the cool terracotta tiles, and I feel the heat ascend on me again. It’s a back dress night. It’s a nice one, with no straps and an a-line skirt. I squish my small boobs together and up, apply mascara and then wad my underarms with some toilet paper, do a quick chicken dance ‘flap’ action and with a squirt of perfume I leave to catch the bus into town.
We push through the glass door and our high heels click-clack like summertime insects alongside the giant glass winged cicada. Everyone turns their phone on. I really do like to see a good ballet. It’s very city. There are four of us, we’ve all put on fancy dresses to sit in a dimly lit auditorium for two hours. But now we’ve got a party to go to, and we’re all looking dam fine.
My phone buzzes as we reconnect with the world. A yellow envelope begins to flash desperately in the corner of the screen. The text message is from Ada ‘Not drunk yet … no talent … come save me’. A huffy yellow bus pulls up and all four of us jump on the 113. A scruff of underage drunk boys start up with conversation that’s intended not for the person they’re looking at. Their comments sire no reaction from any of us, we are too busy talking to each other while bluish illuminated faces read text messages.
When we rock up to the party, there are already a few people quietly bunched along the nature strip, holding beers. A few more sit on the front steps, laughing at a drunken girl playing a small recorder with one nostril. It’s a ‘romance is dead’ party, Ada has my ‘outfit’ in her room. I dump my bag, pick up my stuffed toy rabbit in a pot. And I’m ready to roll. I grab a glass of luke warm, piss yellow chateaux cardboard, and survey the room for any decent guys whose eyes are still in focus. None. “Man this party’s pretty skint on talent, I’m going to take my bunny boiling ass out the back for a scope”.
I push past as cluster of hippy types, they smell like a freshly dug veggie garden and their heads all nod in agreement about something, probably whales, like those nodding dashboard dogs people have in their Hyundai’s. Out on the back deck I put the boiling bunny down and lean back against the veranda rail next to a short balding guy having a smoke. “Mind if bum a smoke?”
“Yeah no worries, they’re rollies though, that matter?” I shake my head, “nah I like rollies, I only really smoke when I’m drunk.” I’m actually not that drunk. I just have that champagne buzz, the feeling where you know your liable to say something absolutely stupid yet be still sober enough to then feel like a right git after you have. So I light my twisted tube of tobacco, and try to look suitably cool and un-pissed. I do a dam fine job.
A crafty tawny frogmouth is perched on the Hills Hoist, owling in on the idle chitchat happening on the back deck. On deciding that it is all intolerably dull he turns his attention back to the mouse he suspects will do a runner from the downstairs laundry any minute now. Nobody has seen him yet, sitting there, the wise suburban bird of prey more interested in a mouse than any of us.
It’s a hot night in December, there is a breeze every now and then that snakes around the corner, but it’s hot and heavy, like the panting dog that Brisbane is in these stinking summers. As I take my glass up to my lips I smell the pouch tobacco on my fingers, it gets mixed in with the cheap wine, this is how 16 smells. As I lower my glass and adhere to the non-pissed pose I smell the unbelievably sexy frangipani flowers, posing in clusters on the gnarled tree behind me. My boobs have retreated from their seek and destroy position and are laying low, while my pointless, strapless bra has decided to join rank with my undies and is moving south. I yionk it back up using two fingers down the front of my dress. I decide to take it off altogether when I do a toilet run.
All of Ada and Jenny’s shampoos and lotions are lined up on the wooden shelves. I’m impressed by the claims. Apparently the shampoo in the lovely green bottle enhances shine and lustre by 5 times. I’m wondering where you benchmark from. The word ‘Lemon’ is still written on my hand, a bit faded by still readable. I rub my thumb over it, under the running tap and it slowly washes down the sinkhole. The water in Brisbane is tainted with a slight scent of chlorine. I look at my reflection in the mirror and cock one eyebrow up. I see myself as a kid, in the above ground pool, completely buff naked wearing an oversized Mexican hat holding a lickety-sip, grinning like an idiot. Someone knocks on the door, I unsnap my bra and fold it up in my hand to leave, still grinning like an idiot.