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city of signs

The millionairess.

She came into the lobby every day for three days, sat in the same chair and ordered something small which she ate first with one hand and then with the other. A precise eater, she must have been over eighty and as small as a ten year-old girl.

Her outfit changed every day, shoes to hairline, every day a different pair of dark slacks over low-heeled, black patent-leather shoes buckled in gold, or silver. Or none.

Every time she lifted food to her mouth she showed her diamonds, both hands.

The gay couple.

Club Lounge: soft seats, free booze, a view over Hyde Park to the top of the Cross from inside when the gay couple walked past our table, opened the door to a small verandah and sat on one of two tables set up for smokers. Now the view to the top of the Cross is blocked by two middle-aged, out of shape unpretty men wearing loose gym singlets. One orange and one green. Sitting so close their knees were touching.

My companion couldn’t help herself.

‘Well, there goes the view.’

The orange singlet turned. Spoke.

‘Do you want us to move?’

He turned to me for an answer.

‘Doesn’t matter where you sit, mate, I’m goin’ to be looking at you.’

Eureka comes to town. They left before we did.

The $50 dollar man

Those city bums with their hands out, leaning up against a wall or in a doorway all day, hiding behind their signs of want and despair. Who wants to know their name?

This bearded one looking down into his hands. When he looks up at his visitor the gaze is clear and direct. Then he looks at his visitor’s hand. The grime on his face has sweated into vein-sized black rivulets, running tattoos of city ink.

‘I forget your name mate.’

His visitor is squatting down beside him, hunkering down like a street preacher,  ‘but I remember your face – you’re the bloke who leant me fifty bucks a couple of years ago down in Victoria.’

The fifty goes away into the beard’s left fist, he blinks, then sticks out his right hand and looks up, the glint of a smile in his eyes. ‘Thanks mate.’

A hard dry handshake. A man who could be anyone.

The club lounge waiter

A different breed of table-waiter, they wear suits and attend hostelry colleges. They are trained to be urbane and witty, and knowledgeable enough if asked to give a brief outline of the days’ headlines.

This lad, Rodger, has come up to a table of two young men in gay fashion. This is a new era of fashion for men that is being fitted onto males in every menswear shop in the city. These two also had gym shoulders and half-shaves, I wasn’t close enough to sort out their scents.

Rodger hove up to them, all ill at ease, he spoke without thinking.

‘Well, what have you two been up to lately?’

They’d been to The Ivy: someone should tell young Justin Hemmes that his electrician is overcharging him. He took two hours to change three pool light-globes last night. That took a lot of watching, and there aren’t enough birds in this city.

club lounge


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