Poinciana picnic

Flame trees at East Point

Flame trees at East Point

I’m going to be away for my best friend’s birthday and she’s not happy. So one Sunday afternoon, I buy a bottle of Moet, some strawberries and olives and pick her up for a surprise picnic at East Point. We pick a luscious Poinciana tree glowing in the sunset light and get comfy: fold out chairs, esky, plates of food. I’ve even packed real glasses – champagne flutes and water tumblers.

We’re sitting there, talking about nothing and everything. The red orb of sun folds into the sea. It gets darker and darker and soon there’s just the light from the street and the tanker across the harbour, and a voice makes us jump.

“Ladies? Excuse me, ladies?”

It’s a man in his 40s, bald, well-built, shirtless, on a bike, eyes slightly rolled back in his head, words slurred.

“Ladies, could I beg some of your water for my dog?”

Of course, sure, no problem, we say too quickly.

The dog is nowhere to be seen.

He opens the bottle of water and glugs down half a litre or so, then throws it back to us.

“Thanks. My dog’s called Amos, he’s a harmless little thing.”

The man rides off, and moments later, a giant pig dog comes and sniffs around our picnic and the hermit crabs diligently combing the sand.

My friend hisses and the dog hesitates.

A slurred voice from the dark.

“Amos?”

There’s a whistle, and the water borrowing man and his pig dog disappear into the night.

Advertisements

Familiar faces

“Hey, I know you from somewhere.”

This happens a lot in Darwin.

I usually feign recognition, at least while I’m scanning my brain for parties, introductions, friends of friends.

Oh yeah, I recognise you, I normally say.

We must have met… somewhere.

But today, after an hour and a half of yoga, my social skills are lost somewhere between trikonasana and downward facing dog.

I don’t pretend.

Really? What’s your name?

“Gavin”, he says.

How do we know eachother?

“We met a few years ago…” He hesitates. “On RSVP”.

Now I remember. Two dates, one at the museum, one playing lawn bowls.

I’d thought Gavin was cute and I would have happily gone out with him again. I don’t know if it was my lawn bowling skills or my conversation or my hips, but I never heard from him again.

I saw Gavin out a few months later with a pretty blond girl, and ran into him another three years after that. He’d just got back from China and wanted to return.

Now his face is familiar but also different.

What have you been up to?

“Well”, he says. “I got smashed up.”

Did you have an accident, a fight?

I’m picturing Mitchell Street, a beer glass, 3am.

“I was on my motorbike…along Daly Street. Car came up the side,” he says.

“My pelvis got smashed. I’m all metal rods. And my brain, it got a bit…splattered.”

I look at his face more carefully and can see his eyes darting around, some of his facial muscles paralysed, the words just slightly scrambled.

God.

I’m so sorry, I say.

“I’m stuck in Darwin now”, he says. “Since the accident. I can’t leave.”

But there are worse places… We say it at the same time.

He smiles a little.

A life that could have, might have, never was flashes before me. A few years of relationship, then a car crash. Remnants of a motor bike. A partner with a smashed pelvis, splattered brain, putting his life and memories back together piece by piece, yoga class by yoga class.

That life’s not mine.

I shake his hand.

It’s nice to see you again, I say.

Take care of yourself. Maybe I’ll see you at this class. I come on Fridays.