I was walking through town to get to work. Sydney rush hour was a pleasure compared to London. I didn’t miss London, but something had changed in me. I wasn’t at home, and I felt I might be moving on again soon. I pulled the lapels up on my black jacket, holding it close around me. The June morning could bite with a chill and a breeze was up. Sky was blue, blue, blue. I loved this. My shoes clacked just a little to high in the register for my liking. Made me feel like a mad horse for some reason. Put my weight onto the balls of my feet a little to ease it down. The river of people flowed downhill. I flowed with them. We were as one. A dark river. It felt good. The morning always felt optimistic. Maybe because no one had tried to fuck you yet, they were too tired.
I ducked right, down some steps and into my favourite coffee shop. Pammy, a pretty Malaysian girl ran it. She couldn’t be more than 25. Some days I could see the stress in her, though her face never changed, it was there. The weight of ownership, responsibility pushed on by her desire for money and security. I don’t know how I knew this, I could just see it there every time I looked at her. She knew it too and bristled when I came by on a bad day. I stood back then.
She knew everyone’s name after the first time. It fascinated me and was one of the reasons I kept going back. She never got one wrong in the year I had been going there. I thought about asking her if I could take her to a casino to get her to play the cards, but so far said nothing. I wasn’t sure why. I guess I just didn’t like to disturb the cosmos without good reason. You never knew what doors you may be opening. I’d opened enough to know money led nowhere we any of us really wanted to be. Just take what you need no more.
My coffee came served with the name ‘Mark’ written on the top. I found this sweet. It used to be that it also came with a red love heart too. It had really touched me the first day they did it. There were three of them worked behind the counter and I never knew which one was doing it. It stopped when the gay guy left. Pammy liked that. It must have amused her all that time. I never asked, just smiled and took my coffee each morning. Played the game right through. Maybe she was getting me back for the bristle. I had that effect on people. It was why I generally avoided them if I could. The trouble was I needed them. I wasn’t like anyone I had ever met, but I needed the comfort of the flock sometimes just to remind me I wasn’t totally lost in space. Sometimes it sure felt like a big joke was being played. I wondered.
Back up the steps two at a time with coffee trying not to spill it on my jacket. Warmed me up to move quick like that, felt like some fitness work was going on somewhere inside. Felt good. A big cold gust hit me as I broke to the street so I ducked left and into the MLC centre to get out of it and to make a call.
As I put the coffee down on the table and lifted the mobile to my ear, there she was; the most beautiful woman in Sydney. I’d been waiting two years for this moment and it caught me off guard. I just stood frozen as she brushed past me and I got the briefest glance from her eyes, I could feel the sexuality break in both of us and she began to smile knowingly, then quickly shut it down. She was dangerous. I breathed out involuntarily as her scent took me the moment she passed by. I turned wanting to pounce on her but I didn’t dare move. She was incredible. I’d be done for if I ever got with a woman like that. She walked like a catwalk model, of course she did. What did I expect? Sashaying away in total presence and beauty.
Was life hard for you, princess, did you ever have to feel pain like I felt pain?
I recognised the shine in those eyes. She could murder hearts and loved the kill. A carnivore. Like me but she had something else. That thing. What women had. Their secret weapon; the licence to kill a man from within, no one could prove a damn thing. The tiny stiletto, right into the heart. The more lethal she was the hotter she was. Every time. This bitch was one of the best. I was fucked. I’d be there every morning until I could get out of Sydney. I watched her carry on and up the escalator until she was gone. After a time I turned back around, wondered where the hell I was. Remembered. Then made my call.
I met my friend a little further down on George St corner, she was up to Sydney to celebrate her birthday weekend. I was supposed to join her. We had been brief lovers but something had changed. Everything was always changing. Nothing stayed still. The trouble with it all was that it was hard to know whether to let go, or whether to hold on in the hope it may swing back up again. I guess our meeting was in part to decide that. For both of us. We hadn’t said as much, but when you had sex with someone you often knew what they were thinking after that. It was the nature of things.
I had my answer the moment I hugged her. It was a feeling in the energy between us. I felt the sadness twinge in me then. The eternal sadness. All my losses, all the people come and gone from me. There had been so many now. I felt the scene around me; there I stood alone in a crowded street, in a city I did not belong, in the arms of yet another woman I didn’t really know at all. What in God’s name was I doing here? I didn’t know, but I was tired of it. Someone once said to me that she didn’t want to meet any more people. I didn’t understand back then. Now I did. It takes so much energy to get to know someone, to really know them. And to last that course without finding some irreconcilable differences. It’s rare. Even rarer for people like me. I’ve travelled too far, too many battle scars, too many wounds. Too many strange depths and peculiarities, and now, too many years on my face.
She broke off first, gently, and stood back. Her big brown eyes were beautiful. We both knew something we could not say. About the distance that was there between us. We neither had wanted this. We wanted it to be Love that we found in each other today. Both of us had secretly hoped for it, if only because we wanted the journeying to stop, the search to be over. Maybe it never would be.
‘Good to see you’ I said
‘It's been so long’ she replied smiling at me.
‘Yea, hurts don’t it?’ I said and kind of wish I hadn’t pointed out the obvious, I quickly continued ,
‘Hey, I can get out any time for lunch no problem today, what are your plans?’
‘Yea, about that.’ she paused a moment ‘ I think I am due to be out with the girls and feel I should see them really, its such a short time I am here’
This was the start of the polite shutdown. It was a natural step really, and a woman would try to do it with grace and finesse.
At that moment a guy walked by blatantly staring at her. I stared back but he ignored me. I felt the desire to knock him straight out. I could have done it so easily, he wouldn’t have seen it coming. I did nothing. She pretended not to notice, but there was a prickle there for me now. Like something always has to go for your balls the second you are down. That’s when the kick comes. Never let the world catch you down, it will set itself on you the moment it does.
‘Sure thing, of course’ I said, regaining my composure.’ I guess I’ll catch up with you Saturday then. Look I am already late for work. I gotta go’ I lied.
Then we kissed. The last kiss and sure enough she turned at the final moment to give me her cheek not her lips.
There it was.
I gave her shoulders a light squeeze, breathed in. I’d text her later to say I couldn’t make it. There would be a couple of texts, pleasantries back and forth, then we’d probably never speak again in this lifetime. We’d been close for about a month. Every day talking for 3 hours until the phone bills came in. I’d taken a flight to see her. 4 days we had. It had been something. But now it was over. I knew this as I looked into those eyes one last time. It was my story. Always had been. You never got used to it. Turning, I walked away. As I made the park at the end of the road I didn’t look back, just stepped onto the pavement below the trees that were shedding leaves of autumn. I still couldn’t make sense of winter in June. I shook my head at the thought of it. Looked up into the canopies silhouetted against that glorious blue. Breathed in deep feeling the crisp life force, cool and smooth, filling my lungs. That’s when she popped into my mind; the most beautiful woman in Sydney. I was such a loser. I started to laugh out loud and crossed the road to enter into the place I was due to work that day. Was I ready for the battle? Of course not, but was there ever any choice.