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two men

He had injected his irises with an iridescent deep-green marble, leaving the pupils looking like shining black beetles.

He looked at me.

His legs – he was wearing shorts – were inked solid and his arms dense with colour. The same art crept from under his shirt to his chin. He had tattooed his face with scarlet geometric patterns.

A triangle under one eye, a rectangle on one cheek, red strips on his forehead. Dots and blots.

Metal stapled into his ears and nose, his tongue and lips.

A man in there, somewhere.

‘Excuse me,‘ I asked.

He looked at me.

We were both standing at the window of a Strand Arcade jewellery shop in Sydney.

‘How many hundreds of hours of pain have you undergone to have all that done to you?’

A twist of a smile.

He looked away,

.. at the glittering window display, the emeralds and opals, the aquamarines and diamonds.

‘I want to be like them.’

_________________________________________

The street cleaner stopped his collecting, rested his broom against the cart and looked about at the crowds who wandered the Pitt Street Mall. Underneath their feet were hundreds of cigarette butts, thousands of leaves from the over-shadowing Plane trees. Litter dropped, discarded, thrown down. Tossed away. Left.

He wore an orange council jacket, peaked cap and sunglasses. He was about forty. Lean, burnt dark by the sun on his neck and forearms.

I walked over.

‘Excuse me,‘ I asked.

He looked at me.

‘How long have you been doing this?’

He looked away, at the people all around us.

‘Not much fucken longer.’

A tight smile.

‘This is me first day.’

A long limbed woman wearing chiffon and bathed in Estee Lauder walked by.

‘ ..and the ┬álast.’

street-sweeper1

 

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