I can see Michelle is with some wanker. She smiles and waves. It’s late. I should have got here earlier, much earlier. Fuck it. I glance around. The party’s over. Bodies blanket the floor and furniture. I smile back, she looks great. I take a swig from the bottle of Jack Daniels I’m carrying. I stop, and then decide to skull the entire bottle. I’m fucking out of it. I took a black tile. I think it’s starting to kick. I go upstairs and leave Michelle and company, I go up to the bathroom to take a piss. On my way I pass this chick with black spiked hair, nice blue eyes, small tits, skinny. I’ve never seen her before, she looks…fuckable. Yeah I’ll take a piss and fuck her.
I’m pissed off, thinking really mean and ugly thoughts. Thoughts not of this world. I take a piss and see through the bathroom window the moon’s surface reflected in the pool. I stumble toward the sink and clean my hands. I reach into the cool liquid and the splash the water on my face. Reaching for a towel to wipe it dry, I see myself in the mirror. My face is caving in. Craters appear. My face is the moon. And I am Major Tom. I feel incredible warmth; heat is rushing through my veins, pulsating.
I fall into the mirror, like falling into a hole. Into another universe. Am I in wonderland? This universe is black and lifeless. It is screaming at me, it scares me. I want to snuff its life, its voice. It collides and crashes, like an angry ocean. It becomes fluid. It melts, it contorts, it aborts… I try to silence this thing. I stumble through this blackened hell, through Michelle’s home into the backyard. This is where the carnival begins. Masked people are laughing at me. Ha ha ha. I’m not laughing. I want to kill them. I strike out. Feeling the strength of one thousand bulls. But my body is floating away bouncing out of their reach. I will fight the demons until the battle is won. I am in slow motion. I see a naked woman she is laughing at me, cackling really, her fingers become talons. They imbed deep into my face, which is melting. It melts into a pool of liquid at my feet. Then the visions become sterile and cool. I am in Houdini’s water tank, drowning, the ropes are so tight. I cannot escape. I can see my body floating upside down in this tank and this woman wraps her body around me like an octopus. She sucks my body into her and we are one. This goes on forever, it seems. I can hear the sound of a voice, it’s muffled, it sounds like one of those voice scrambler machines. Bargh,blah,bwa.
Then all at once, it ends. Sun slivers warm my body. Give it strength. I sit up. It is morning; I am under a tree in Michelle’s backyard. Birds are twittering, a dog barks incessantly. I leave through the back gate, past the pool that reflects the suns rays like some glittering prize. I can smell jasmine, its scent lingers. I wonder if the surf’s up. I reach into my shirt pocket and wonder “Where the hell are my Winnie blues?”
Michelle, Citibank, George Street, Sydney, October 2003
I push through the crowds in George Street Sydney, sweeping the blonde locks from my face. I make my way through to steps outside the Citibank building. The protesters are out again. Filling the streets, chanting and carrying signs. Howard is a Murderer. Stop the killing now. There are long haired hippies singing, all we are saying is give peace a chance. All I could smell was horse shit. Forgive me for thinking I was in a time warp. I did want peace. I really did.
Right then, though I really needed to get some documents signed. Had I brought the Kompressor convertible I would have parked in my allocated space in the basement car park. Thank God I had watched the latest news, warning me that thousands would be gathering in the city today. I had Brad’s personal driver drop me two streets back, I only needed to call him when I was ready to go home. I was in the mood for shopping.
I glanced at my reflection in the glass doors on the twenty fifth floor. The years of hanging out at the beach and lathering on Hawaiian Tropic hadn’t shown. For a woman of nearly forty, I considered had I not been pre-occupied with money, Elle McPherson would have had a little on-shore competition. My body was as good as her body. She had a long neck, too long.
Brad and I thought about having kids, for some reason it just didn’t happen. Anyway I liked the way my body looked now without the ravages of child birth. Elle had lost it a bit, after having the last baby. They were quick to digitally erase any sign of that. As I walked past the other offices I felt as though I was reading a bar code. Lines of faces. Lines of desks. Lines of information. Blinking as I scanned them one after another.
I neatened up and applied a little lip gloss. I still carried lip gloss after all these years. I loved the sheen it gave to my full lips. I was relieved to be away from the chanting noise in the streets below. Since Brad was in New York I was responsible for filling in the finer details. I was lead to an office by a young man, who had a great butt. Brad and I had an open marriage so I thought I would slip him a business card. I changed my mind when he turned to look at me, nice butt shame about the face.
The office had a metal feel about it hard, cold, straight and pure, strong and condensed. It gave a feeling of wisdom and understanding, and of rest and relaxation, and of self reflection. It faced north. I couldn’t figure it out. I had completed a course on balancing the five elements? Yes, I decided, this was a metal environment.
I was greeted by a waif of a woman. She was dressed in a designer label, all in black and a crisp white linen shirt. She had jet black hair which was short and streaked with red fudge. She was beautiful in the unusual sense. Her eye-lashes were long, her eyes were ocean blue. She had a bone structure to die for. Her lips were a fire engine red.
We got straight into business. She was meticulous with her sums. I signed one document after another until we were done. I was led out of the office by the young man with the butt made for fucking. I slid him a card. I didn’t look at his face. What were paper bags made for?
I looked back at the astute business woman who assisted me in signing away at least one hundred million dollars of stocks and bonds. Something stabbed me. Not in a literal sense. It was eerie. It was that religious symbol around her neck. I’d been there before. I entered the lift, feeling sick. Then I saw it all, a vision I could never forget. There at the deep end of the pool, deep down in the shadows, under the leaves, how could I ever forget those piercing blue eyes, that naked body, that haunting scene? I remember the ambulance arriving. I had been “doing lines” all night, and being the last one up I had decided to take a dip. I dived in and pulled the body to the surface, I freaked out. I was sure she was dead. She was cold and pale and her eyes were in a glazed position. Staring out? She was wearing nothing but this weird symbol. It clanged against the concrete as I dragged her out, I screamed for help. No-one came. The police had already been and left. No-one cared; it was just another one of Michelle’s parties.
That was the same symbol that that woman was wearing. I hadn’t caught her name. She seemed to be in a hurry. I noticed she was fidgeting with something on her desk. Oh God, it was her.
Veronica, Kings Cross, October 1983
It was a fucked day. I hated it. No johns, no money, no drugs. I didn’t care about the johns. I needed cash. Lucy told me not to worry. She reckoned that tonight was going to be a good night. Those American sailors are hunks and like to spend, she said. Lucy had been on the job since she was thirteen. I had been on the streets for a while, since I was ten, but I never did no fucking.
Not till I was sixteen. I thought I was pretty lucky. Lucky was my name in the business. Lucky like the black cat. I was extremely unlucky. I was born blind to the world of love. Blind as a bat. My mind was on other things. Like that party. The one that I was invited to last week, by that girl in my ancient history class. She was alright. I nearly fell over backwards. Nearly tore a hole in my fishnets.
“Hey, Veronica,” she said.
I tried to act as though I wasn’t interested. I thumbed my studded belt and wiped my hand through my black spiky hair. There’s no point in asking you’ll get no reply, I thought. I hid behind dark glasses tapping my Doc Martens.
“Yeah,” I snarled, it was a Billy Idol type of snarl, not the Sid Vicious one I intended.
“Coming to my party?” she handed me a piece of cardboard.
COME ON SUMMER PARTY at Michelle’s
When: 25th October
Time: 8:00 p.m. to whenever
Where: 13 Edgecliffe boulevarde
I shrugged and turned away from her, lighting up a durrie. She came up close and whispered in my ear.
“Don’t worry there’ll be heaps of speed,” she stumbled as I pushed her out of my comfort zone into space that we could share, a place that didn’t have a price.
“There’s heaps of punks going, it’s going to be filth,” She smelt nice.
“Whatever,” I said. She was hell bent on getting the invitations out and moved on. I noticed by the way she shuffled that she was selective about who she gave them to. I wondered why she gave one to me.
A blind to the world of love skinhead prostitute. Secretly I wanted to go, check out the scene. I thought that I would be in the right company. And if the truth be known, this was the first party I had ever been invited to. You know in my whole life. The first fucking party!
Well, that’s not true. The oldies did have a burning down the house party. That really did burn down the house. I mean literally, that was out in the suburbs. Somewhere between Kings Cross and the Blue Mountains. I got the hell out of there that night. They never even missed me.
“Lucy, you’re on own tonight, I’m going to a party.”
“What?” she said and I handed her the invitation. She read the invitation out loud. I thought I had read it right. You see no-one knew I was blind to love. Except for Lucy. And my family. Even the johns didn’t know. As if they cared. One bloke did once, he was really sweet. Gentle. My first and only kiss.
“I’m going down to the wall, find a quick job,” I continued “then I’ll score and catch a taxi over the north side.”
“Ronnie,” this was the name she called me, Ronnie for short. You know a pet name. “Ronnie, you’ll be missing out, these guys are real sweet.”
Lucy tried to convince me not to go.
“Lucy, this is first party I have been invited to,” I said.
“Bull shit!” she leaned over and passed me a lit durrie, she always did this, she sort of thought that I might burn myself or something. What, with my oldies being so careful with fire.
“What about that party I threw last year?” she said as she blew smoke out of the corner of her mouth. Her pink lipstick bled into cracks.
“That wasn’t a real party!” I spat.
“A pimps and prostitutes party, with real pimps and prostitutes, that was work, not fun, hard work, I ended up in hospital that night, remember, I had to get stitches in places I didn’t know existed.”
“Go then,” she said.
Luke, Long Reef Beach, October 1983
“I really think she’s got the hots for me, Flip. Michelle, she’s having a party tonight.”
“What, Michelle with the big tits?” Flipper said as he passed me the bong.
“No! Party Michelle,” I corrected Flipper as he cut into the weed.
Flipper was a mate who I used to get with on the weekends. I’d been his mate since kindergarten. We always hung out. I worked in the city now for some merchant bankers, Transia Corp. at the AMP center, Circular Quay. I had agreed to take on an accounting degree; it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. Flipper was studying “green issues”. He was the sort of mate we all needed even if his brains were scrambled. I didn’t judge him. He didn’t judge me.
“Yeah! She’s having this “Come on Summer Party”, her Mum and Dad are on holidays in Europe. How is it Flip, she’s allowed to have some friends stay with her while they’re away. How cool! I hear she is fairly open, Flip, if you know what I mean…”
“Roots!” Flipper suggested with a smirk that I could barely see beneath that long hair. They called him Flipper because he swims like a dolphin, not because he is flipped out or anything.
“Well, yeah,” I said.
“I saw her at the Time and Tide last night.”
“Oh!” Flip said and passed me a freshly packed cone.
It was a beautiful day. Flipper’s Combie was parked in an ideal position in the car park. I could see the sets rolling in. There were some perfect waves. They weren’t closing out like last week. I had got a little unfit since working in the city, not surfing and eating more. My appetite for women had increased and I always volunteered to get those pink iced tea buns at Martin Place for morning tea. There I would scoff one down, with a can of Coke and study the women who would pass me by. I watched as their tits bounced here and there. I could never understand what their hurry was, but it did make my day.
I was feeling too stoned to go for a surf. Next to Flipper’s van, a purple Monaro pulled up. The roof rack leaned, with surfboards and leg ropes all in a tangle. Some of the crew fell out, carrying on like a bunch of arseholes. Boogs,Bounga and Parsy. I could hear “The Clash” playing in the car, London’s calling, I live by the river, they were all singing the words, although we lived by the sea and didn’t really understand anything about oppression. They sang it any way. They were going through a punk phase and were into anarchy. Personally, I liked Billy Joel and Liberal democracy.
“Hey Luke! You choof, how’s that poofter job you’ve got?” Parsy blurted.
“How’s that job you’ve got? What is that you do? A Stop and Go man. Is that what they call it?”
“Fuck off!” They all laughed. He didn’t.
“See you tonight, Flip.”
I got out of the Combie and left the motley crew. I had the munchies and wandered down to the beach cafe. I was really hanging out for a “Hasty Tasty”. Long Reef beach had a reputation for many things. The “Hasty Tasty” being one. A bacon, cheese and tomato roll grilled and sprinkled with paprika. It was Pat from Sunderland, England, who came up with the delectable treat, until he left the cafe.
The pommie bastard owned it last summer, when I used to work there on the weekend. He announced one day that “Someone had laid a human shit in the doughnut stand, and it must have been a bloody animal”. I maintained a serious look when he told me this of course. It never put anyone off the food. Everyone was talking though. I had a sneaking suspicion it was one of our lot somehow. The crew cracked up when I got out there behind the cafe, behind the shower and toilet block where we all used to hang. And told them the story. I remembered all of this and ordered some food. I sat in the shade near the toilet block and ate. Although Pat had left, his “Hasty Tasty” remained. I growled into it and enjoyed every bite.
There was a hint of summer in the air. I could smell the salty ocean. It was warm and the sky was a hazy blue. A flock of seagulls swooped in for their share of the meal, and a few pigeons, I threw them some of the crust and watched a group of nubile girls stroll past and giggle.
Boogs woof whistled from the car park. “They’re only babies you wanker,” I thought.
It was then that I thought about the party. Yeah, I was really looking forward to the party tonight. Really looking forward to seeing Michelle.
Michelle, the “Come on Summer Party”, Collaroy Plateau, October 1983
I am almost ready. The girls are setting up margaritas downstairs, in the snooker room with guacamole and corn chips. I can hear “The Cure” playing on Dad’s new Akai stereo, Killing an Arab. I hope it doesn’t get smashed. Flipper and some of the crew have arrived. They are all off their dials, by the sound of it. I can hear them singing the lyrics.
Standing on a beach, with a gun in my hand, staring at the sea, staring at the sand, staring down the barrel, at the Arab on the ground, see his open mouth but I hear no sound , I’m alive, I’m dead, I’m the stranger, killing an Arab.
Through my bedroom window, I can see the pool; it shimmers like an amusement park with those old Christmas lights, flashing red then green and yellow. I hope Mum’s bougainvillea doesn’t catch fire.
In the mirror, I see my reflection. It’s easy to understand why I am popular. Why people would be jealous of my looks. I have long slender legs. My waist is trim and 100 sit-ups a day sculpt a flat tummy. I’m taller than most of my friends, about 5’11”. My breasts fit perfectly into a 10 C. I am tanned, a natural golden tan. And blemish free I might add! (Not counting the birthmark on my round but firm butt).
My hair is streaked from the sun, it’s honey blonde, like my mother’s and is full of life and luster. I have baby-seal brown eyes. It has been said by the first guy I fucked (when I was de-flowered), by one of my Dad’s work associates, that they were “Come to bed with me eyes”. At Long Reef beach I am referred to as “Malibu Barbie”. I don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. I might have an occasional joint. I like cocaine. Which reminds me, I could only score speed for tonight, which I hope Flipper has, if not, I’m sure that Veronica chick will have some. She looks like some sort of drug dealer. She’s so thin. She’s pretty.
Looking at my reflection, I like what I see. I apply some lip gloss. Yes! The black leather skirt fits nicely. I undo the buttons on my lace top, just enough to see the curve of my breasts. I wonder if Luke will turn up. He kept staring at me last night. He bought me a drink and when I turned to thank him, he was gone. Vanished into thin air. I heard he’s a poof. He’s really good looking though, nice body! Maybe I’ll fuck him some day and find out. Not tonight! I think I will have that Ian guy, the one that pinched me on the butt last night. He was cute!
Feel the steel butt , smooth in my hand staring at the sea, staring at the sand, staring at myself, reflected in the eyes of the dead man on the beach, I’m alive, I’m dead I’m the stranger, killing an Arab.
I look toward the entrance of my room. Flipper stands staring at my face, staring at my tits. I’m staring at the bag of speed he has in his hand. He gropes me and licks my cheek. I push him away.
“Thanks Flip,” I say and he keeps singing I’m alive, I’m dead, I’m the stranger…and he’s off in the direction of the toilet. His pants are ripped and held together with safety pins. His torn army singlet hangs with an “anti-nowhere league” emblem on it. He sort of pogos his way along the hall killing an Arab…
Veronica, Kings Cross, October 1983
I hate doing hand jobs. They’re disgusting. But so is fucking. But I do it. Get it over and done with. I need the money. Doing up his fly. He leaves. I call out to Lucy.
“What should I wear?”
“You’re asking me?” she calls back. I’m in the shower. We all use the same shower. It’s next to my room. She’s in her room, which is next to mine.
“Yeah, what do ya think of those red leather pants?”
“Yeah!” she yells. I get the feeling she’s in bed with a john. Fuck you, I say in my head. I decide the red leather pants are fine. And think, “Stuff this place”. I slip into my Doc Martens and loosen my studded belt. I can’t find my Sex Pistols t-shirt. I pull on a black boob tube. I light up a durrie and grease into spikes what’s left of my hair. After putting on black lipstick, I see myself in the mirror for the first time. I Iike what I see. To think, Veronica, the loser, the “blind to love” prostitute, going to a party. A real party. What would the oldies think?
I carefully unpack the speed onto the glass dresser, line it up with a razor and use one of the twenty dollar notes I just made and snort it. And think, “What would they care?” I decide to use some mascara. I see my eyes are an icy blue. I wipe the powder from my nose and feel alive. Buzzing with life. I feel for the Egyptian symbol around my neck in the mirror. I see that it stands out against my pale skin.
“See ya, Lucy,” I call out. I can hear moaning from her room. I don’t expect an answer. I know she’ll cover for me. I leave Kings Cross, leave all the noise and lights and ugliness and take a taxi from William street. I can see in the rear view mirror, from the back seat, the red Coca Cola sign blinking, not in its usual sequence. I think the taxi driver recognises me, he says nothing. He raises his eyebrows and turns next right heading toward the tunnel.
Luke, Northern Beaches, October 2003
“Hey Luke!” Flipper smiles as he opens the fly screen door and passes me a beer. I enter the granny flat he still lives in after all these years, which is out the back of his granny’s house in Narraweena.
It was once considered housing commission, twenty years ago; I reckon the property would be worth at least half a million today.
Everything is exactly how it was. His guitar is still in the corner covered in the dust of time and stands next to an ancient television that has a manual control knob on the front. The same red lamp that looks like something out of Star Wars still sits on his bedside table. His hair has become mousey and streaked with grey, still long. He now ties it back in an elastic band. His once athletic body has become round and bloated. That didn’t matter; we still hung out, still mates after all this time. Nothing had changed between us. He didn’t judge me. I didn’t judge him. Yeah, that’s how it was and will always be.
My black Porsche is parked in the driveway that is down the side of his granny’s house. She waves at me through the window; she has a glimmer in her eye. I think she fancies me, at eighty years, the girl in her, still alive. I smile and think of how many times she has cooked Flipper and I dinner. Steak and three veg.
Just like my Granny used to make, before she had a stroke, before I left her at home with Mum and Dad, and moved into my penthouse. Before I became the highest paid corporate accountant for Citibank. She was special my Granny, her room was next to mine. She’d cough all night and keep me awake. I think it was from smoking. I didn’t mind though. I could always rely on her when I ran out of Winfield blues, she smoked Winfield yellow. Yeah, our Grannies were good.
“Hey Luke, Come in mate.” he says and I take the beer and enter. Nothing has changed for us. Not a thing. I take a huge swig from the bottle and put it on the coffee table on top of an old postcard I had sent to him years back. My life had taken me to places Flipper would never care to know or ever care to go. Like the trips to New York, London and Paris, and all the babes I have had, all the high-life, the night-life, the money, the power. Yes! I was now filthy rich and living in a Manly penthouse, with a Porsche and so it goes on, as it does when you make it to the top.
“Flip, I’m hearing those voices again…” I say like it’s a joke.
“Yeah…” he says, and tilts his head towards the bong which he is passing to me. I guess he thinks that will fix it.
“I feel like that character in that Lord of the Rings movie; you know that one that says “precious, precious” all the time? That little psycho gnome thing, Golem,” and I light the cone.
He tells me that I’ll be okay. I pull the cone through the glass pipe and watch as the sparks go out and settle at the bottom, with the smoke and dregs and the murky water. And visions of the movie come back to me. This goes on for at least an hour. I don’t count how many bongs I have anymore. Don’t need to. We listen to Nirvana, Unplugged in New York. It’s depressing, but good.
Come as you are, as a friend, as an old enemy, Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don’t be late. Take a rest as a friend as an old memory, come dowsed in mud, soaked in bleach, as I want you to be, as a trend, as a friend, as an old memory, And I swear I don’t have a gun, No I don’t have a gun…
I think about Kurt Cobain. How the electrician found his rotting corpse, covered in maggots and “the gun”… How Kurt had left his “precious” daughter Francis and wife Courtney Love to pick up the pieces?
Flipper starts to chop up some more weed. I decide to leave. He’s got some of the crew coming over, later, the ones who didn’t marry and have kids, who still listen to punk music. The ones who haven’t overdosed or been killed in a car accident. I decide to move on, and go home, back to my wife who still isn’t pregnant, to my beautiful penthouse where my three pedigree cats wait, back to my filthy rich, but empty life.
Back to reality! Back to nothingness! Back to the bull-shit! I drive along the beach road and remember; how it was before. Back, before all the subdivision and development. Before the high density housing. Before, it all changed for the worst. Back when I was a Long Reef board rider and didn’t care about much at all.
The red lights are more frequent now. Probably because there are more of them. People stare at me in my black Porsche. They can’t see me because of the tinted windows, but I can see them. Their faces stare, accusingly. Some young dudes in a hotted up Honda Civic drive by, checking me out, I smile knowing that they would kill for this car. Some probably will, I imagine, will kill for a car one day. Little mother fuckers. I think.
I think about Veronica, that little punk chick. How I used her at Michelle’s party, back in the eighties. Fucked her stupid and left her out in the pool. I think of Michelle and how she never wanted me that night, never cared.
At the next red light driving along the Esplanade, I glance out at the ocean. It looks black and deep. I see the moon’s reflection in it; it’s smiling. The scene is beautiful and serene. A car pulls up on the inside lane and interrupts my view. It makes me mad! I press the passenger window control and yell out to a lady with a blue rinse. “Fuck off! You bitch, fuck off!” It’s a little out of character for me. She looks shocked and frightened. I drive on, almost on auto pilot, along the black bitumen road. The GPS navigation is telling me to turn off next on the left after Darley Street, to where I live. But I drive on and ignore its request. Past the Manly District Hospital, the place of my birth, through the stone gates, past the army base and the eerily lit stone façade of St Patrick’s Cathedral and to the right, above the salt bush scrub, the city lights beckon.
I pull into the car park at North Head. I have heard it’s a common place for “jumpers”. In the rearview mirror, my image contorts. I have changed a lot, from the days when my blue eyes twinkled and my hair was streaked blonde. I am still good looking, some say, except for the lines around my mouth. I frown. I get out of my car and walk a short distance, I am frightened and I hear the voices again. The ocean looks peaceful.
I remember coming to watch the fireworks from this location at the turn of the century, with my wife and a bottle of Dom. It was a display the late Jackson Pollock would be proud of, a kaleidoscope of colours and light dripped against an inky canvas. I glance back to my black Porsche briefly, I see in the window a reflection of me balancing on the edge. Again, I hear the voices telling me to do things, disturbing me, beckoning me. I look forward again and all at once I can see that the black water is rushing up to greet me…
Veronica, Eastern Suburbs, October 2003
Driving through the tunnel, in the underground tendrils from the city, I remember Michelle’s party. How I woke in the Manly District Hospital, on oxygen, barley alive. Momentarily, in the form of flashbacks, I see myself at a party; dancing, singing, having a great time. Then this guy starts touching me, doing things to me. Then it fades, it flickers. It ends.
I wake up in a hospital, in a hospital gown. All in white and deathly pale. And all that I have in this entire universe is that Egyptian symbol, the one I bought from Paddy’s markets. It has been placed in my bed-side drawer. A welfare agency has provided me with some clothes. Not the fashion that I’d prefer back then, when I was full of angst.
It is then that I make a choice to change it all for the better. To end my suffering! I leave the hospital. Leave it, and my former life. I meet a woman. She teaches me how to love. How to care…
I remember Luke Williams, he doesn’t even see me as he enters and leaves the Citibank building. He never noticed me, never cared. I am strong though. For the first time in this fucking life.
I turn into my driveway, in my red BMW M3, wondering if Michelle remembered me? I’m feeling weak. I need a scotch on ice. I know she’ll be waiting. My love. I will fall into her strong arms. She’s a camera grip for the ABC. She’s gorgeous! I’ll report in about my day’s events. I’ll tell her about Michelle coming in to sign the documents. Tell her the story of what happened back in the eighties. About my other life until now, she has never known or has cared to delve into. The life before the world became colourful and friendly.
I enter the home, she is there. She is making my dinner. She has showered and smells of Old Spice and tobacco. She can see it has been a big day. She can see it in my icy blue eyes, and see that my mascara has shadowed by the rubbing.
I am handed a scotch and ice, like most other days. She doesn’t drink. I’m lucky like that, some would say. We hug. I take a seat on the leather couch. The television is on but muted. I can see images of bodies and buildings all bloody and grey, all dusty. Images not of this world. Not of how I see it anyway.
Sinead O’Connor is on in the background coming from the kitchen. My love is listening to music and cooking and I sing along in my head.
I have a universe inside me, where I can go and the spirit guides me, there I can go and ask, oh, any question, I get the answers if I listen. I have a healing room inside me, the loving healers there they feed me, they make me happy with their laughter, they kiss and tell me I’m their daughter, they say it doesn’t matter who you think you may be, you’re not free if you don’t know me, See I’m the universe inside you, I’m not the lie that lives outside you, And it doesn’t matter what you think you believe, you’re not free if you don’t know me…
She places the meal in front of me, on the granite coffee table that’s already set. The exquisite Indian dish has a spicy aroma that I look forward to eating. But my stomach’s turning, it’s all coming back and I am having flashbacks. She comforts me. I tell her everything, every gory detail. The dinner is going cold. I apologise, knowing that she has taken time to prepare it. She waves her hand in the air and dismisses it.
“It’s okay,” she says.
“It’s okay. I’ll go put it in the oven. We’ll eat it later.”
I reach for the remote and flick over to the ABC, and catch the late news. Qantas Flight 101 goes down in the Pacific, terrorist attack, kills all 504 passengers and crew. We are silent. Local business entrepreneur Luke Williams CEO, of Citibank, the youngest to have reached such a position, is found dead at North Head, possible suicide.
The flashbacks cease, I am numb. She mutes the television and I see through my tears, pictures of him standing outside the Citibank building. I see the plane wreckage in the sea. I see the same pictures of the bloody war in the middle-east. I breakdown, uncontrollably, into her warm, welcoming arms.
Michelle, Somewhere on the rim of the Inner City Suburbs, October 2003
It’s Sunday morning. I am in the arms of the office boy. I didn’t need a paper bag after all, on close examination, his face was angelic, needed a little dermabrasion, but what can you expect? He’s only nineteen. He is still a pup.
I am hoping that my Kompressor is safe in the car park under his flat. I’m not usually in the habit of driving to their place. They usually meet me in the city and stay in my penthouse, overlooking Circular Quay. He has a license, but can’t afford a car. It was worth it though, worth the drive. Worth every minute we have spent together. I think it was the first time I have made love.
He has good taste in furniture, timber and of good quality. A water feature sits in the corner and trickles. Through the window, I can see a man made pond surrounded by trees, birds and ducks. You wouldn’t think it was near the city. It has a feeling of positive life-force energy. It gives the feeling of safety. Feelings of being suspended in fluid, in the womb. Yes! It is a water environment.
He is cooking breakfast. I can see his firm butt through his boxers. The radio is on Triple J and he turns it up. He tells me that U2 is one of his favourite bands. It’s amazing! I have their entire collection at home on CD.
I can’t believe the news today, Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away, how long… How long must we sing this song…? How long, ’cause tonight we can be as one, tonight, Broken bottles under children’s feet, Bodies strewn across the dead end street, But I won’t heed the battle call, It puts my back up against the wall, And the battle just begun, There’s many lost, but tell me who has won? The trench is dug within our hearts, and mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Wipe the tears from your eyes… wipe the tears away… And it’s true we are immune, when fact is fiction and TV reality, And today the millions cry, we eat and drink while tomorrow they die. Sunday, Bloody Sunday…
As I am eating the bacon and eggs he has cooked, I sip my orange juice and think about how I recognised Veronica. I think I will call her next week. I can’t believe it, after all these years. I really liked that punk chick! She was cool! I might just go into the office in the Citibank building, right up to the twenty-fifth floor and surprise her. Yes! I will take her that bouquet of flowers that I had intended to give her, had I known where the ambulance had taken her.
He is next to me stroking my leg, he is gentle and kind. I guess he’s what they call a SNAG (Sensitive New-Age Guy). He’s 19. I’m 39. But it doesn’t matter. I remember Brad’s coming home today, Qantas flight 101. I’ll probably have his personal driver pick him up?
The Beach Road, Northern Beaches, October 2003
Flipper gathers his mates, his granny, and his old acquaintance, Michelle. They drive as if in a funeral procession, along the black bitumen road, each car directly behind the other. You know, with the ones who got married and had kids, and still listen to punk music, and didn’t overdose and didn’t die in a car accident? He drives on, with Luke’s wife who is pregnant, in his old blue EH Holden. He is just holding on. In the convoy, there are many, many who did know and care about Luke. They stop at the red lights next to all of the development. Structures that stand proud and tall, full of hope and future. You can see the progress.
To the left, the sunny beach shines with sets rolling in. Some young dudes catch waves, surfing the lip. It is hot and the sweat trickles. Workmen stop and stare at the procession. Some, who are in charge of these jobs, step forward and give their condolences to drivers that they recognise. They lift their hard hats as a sign of respect, or tilt them, wiping the sweat from their brow.
“Sorry mate, sorry…” they say.
And they are all sorry as they drive on. Thinking about their future and wondering when the wars will end. Wondering how long it will be till Australia gets hit. They are all older now and feel they have a responsibility to make a difference. Some wipe the tears from their eyes; some hold on with a lump in their throat the size of a universe. They continue along their way slowly to the site of Luke’s death, to pay tribute to him.
Past an old lady with a blue rinse, who waves a hankie? Past Luke’s home which is next on the left on Darley Street, where Luke’s cats howl in protest. Past the paparazzi, flashing cameras into their wet glistening eyes. Past the Manly District Hospital, a place of healing and birth; and sometimes death, and onwards through the stone gates, (that gives the feeling that they have entered a sacred palace or tomb). Past the army base that waits for soldiers, patiently…and the sun is shining brightly on the stone façade of St Patrick’s Cathedral, flickering. To the right above the salt bush scrub, the city buildings shimmer, reflecting…
The cars pull up into the car park at North Head. It’s a common place to view the city of Sydney. To see the yachts and fishing boats leaving through the heads, the coat hanger shape of the Harbour Bridge and the white wings of the Opera House stretched against the jagged city skyline, or to watch hydrofoils and ferries deliver passengers, leaving behind them a briny wake. Below to the west beneath the craggy cliffs, you can see slivers of the Spit Bridge opening on the hour as the traffic waits impatiently. To the east, some simply stare out at the vast expanse of the sparkling Tasman Sea. Out there, somewhere, you know, beyond the vanishing point where the darkness grapples with unsecured vessels.
A helicopter hovers, getting closer shots of the people who try to ignore its presence. They cover their heads, shielding themselves as if in battle. From the helicopters perspective they become dots and blend into the surroundings as it ascends into the sky above. Up there, with the Sea-Eagle and feathery cirrus clouds.
Flipper pulls an ancient boom box from his car, it is held together with duct tape and cable ties. He has made a tape with songs they can all remember, even if their taste has changed. Songs that he used to listen to with Luke, and the crew, when they hung out together. He presses the buttons, hoping that the damn thing will work. He put the Energizer batteries in it last night. The first song is an Ultravox number, from the album “Ha! Ha! Ha!” Faces stare, solemn and blank. Some mouth the words, some drift off into another place. Some weep and bury faces into quivering hands. You can hear the elastic rhythms above the wail of a newborn. It has a lively beat. It’s new wave and is synthesized. Not punk!
Some of them are changing day to day, Some of them flicker then they fade, Some of them are all that’s left, Some of them are just dead regrets, Some of them are triggered off by any crazy thing, Some of them are aching, Some are sad, Some of them are gentle, Some are glad, Some of them still give me a laugh, Some of them are crowding closer as they’re changing me…
It goes on. Flipper throws into the ocean something that no-one can see, it’s private. A memory?
The crowd is colourful against the landscape. A picturesque vision of nature and life. And below them the ocean laps peacefully tufted briefly with white, and it twinkles in the sun. They are crimson, and lemon and iridescent blue; they are a Monet in the making. This crowd! At this moment in time! A Sea-Eagle swoops in and sees it all through his analytical eye; he hovers, and waits, then dives deep into the glassy ocean to make his catch for the day.
Reflections are not only those you see in the mirror, reflecting your face or image, but are a reflection of ones identity or ones mapping of existence encoded and etched along life’s highway. What we see briefly in that space of time is made up of many things, many complexities, like a puzzle, some real some illusory. Reflections can be reversed, which is how we see them, anyway or inversed and de-selected, like in a computer. Reflections can be shimmers or rays of what we see, but also what we want to see.
What does a reflection mean? Is it more complex than that, which words cannot describe?
What can be said about the ocean and all that can be reflected on its shiny surface, or any shiny surfaces or water catchments for that matter, and how does that influence your interpretation of the word or the world?
True or false images… Desired or undesired images… It can be thought of as something thrown back at you and you may catch it or simply allow it to fade or shift out of sight.
Reflections are sometimes not what you want to see, but in truth a portrait of consrtucted thoughts transferred to vision to allow us to make an understanding of them. These can be reconstructed in forms of art and language as one tries to inform a portrait of themselves, or others, of events and locations, so in a sense we can reflect or at least be in a state of reflection.