Spencer waited with me on the corner for Mr X to come and collect me in his car. We stood in the rain, after all those years of drought I still think of the rain as rare. It rains here every day now and there are floods and the dam has overflowed but after living so long with dry bones the rain will remain, in my heart, a rare and beautiful spectacle to be embraced. We drove away leaving Spencer on a back street in Newtown. I never worry about driving away from Spencer every third person in town is someone who wants to sit down and spend time with him.
I don't know how Mr X steered so straight and steady, the rain came in diagonal drifts and all I could though the slanting darkness was freeway markers and pale lights from other cars. We arrived at the venue and I was piled up with stands and bags of leads and one heavy guitar. Mr X went about the business of setting up, plugging things in, turning things on up on stage with the rest of the band. I am used to these kinds of procedures and know the very best thing I can is stay out of the way so I wandered about a little and took in the vast electric rooms.
The venue was a club. The kind with acres of poker machines and an all you can eat buffet. Rooms opened onto other rooms onto more rooms. It was vast and lit with a combination of fluorescent lights and small dim stars meant to add atmosphere. The carpet was a uniform deep dull red but the walls varied from charcoal to beige. I found a cafe in one of the rooms and ordered myself a coffee and a sandwich, busied myself having dinner and making notes from a small table near the stage.
The band played and I intermittently wandered around having little chats with the locals. The gulf between me and the residents of Western Sydney has never seemed greater. I don't understand how this has happened. I grew up in Western Sydney, went to public schools, all my friends lived in the same area, I even went to the University of Western Sydney but there a difference so deep that I am sure it is forensically detectible at every level even beginning with DNA.
I participated in a conversation with two other women. One was dressed head-to-toe in turquoise and aqua tones she insisted on calling aquamarine. She said her eyes were the greatest eyes anyone would ever see, she told they were aquamarine the same as her birthstone and pointed at the cheap looking studs piercing her ears. The stones were aquamarine, like her eyes, but neither were beautiful. The other woman looked to me like an off-duty stripper. Bleached hair rolling over her enlarged brestas, down past her the tail of her painfully thing abdomen, huge black false eyelashes fanning like spiders across a heavily made-up face.
The two women speaking to each other. Instantly, before exchanging names, they entered a competition I have never witnessed before. It was like a prolonged and violent exchange of volleys at a championship tennis match. Each sentence a fired and condensed repor to the very worst moments of their lives.
"My husband died."
"My son is in jail."
"My husband abused me."
"I nearly died in a car crash."
"I've had two major back surgeries because I nearly died in a car crash."
"I've had two car crashes."
I asked if they knew each other because it seemed to me that something more than an introductory conversation was happening but they simultaneously denied it with, "No. Why?".
They continued firing facts at each other like bullets, sizing each other up. It was hard and impenetrable and I was well out of my depth. I have no idea how to interact in that kind of conversation. The talk came to an abrupt halt when the turquoise woman declare she was going to vomit, spilt her glass of lemonade on the floor, she told me she never ever drinks, and took off like a shot through the acres of poker machines.
A man walked up to me as I sat puzzling over what had just happened. He walked right up to me, shoe to shoe, and threw a stick of gum in my handbag. He winked at me and told it was for later. By this time the band had finished their first set and I took refuge backstage with them. I stood leaning against the wall nursing a beer Mr X provided, thinking it all over. The band began remarking on the club and it's patrons and I laughed with them at the strangeness of it all but I have to admit I was a little shaken.
What causes two women to lead a social interaction with the very worst moments of their life? Why are they so hard that they converse like battalions of soldiers charging at each other with bayonets? Why was the atmosphere so tense it made sense to me that the very next step would be violence?
On the way back to the Inner West Mr X and I pondered the nature of the town we were just in and each declared it would be impossible to live there, impossible to survive living anywhere at all like that. I panicked a little as though that is exactly what would happen, as though I was being forcefully transferred there and would have to survive as best I could. Mr X snorted when I told him, he said living there, or anywhere like that, was entirely out of the question and to my relief I believed him.