My brain’s as fluffy as a cloud
With thoughts that come and go at will,
Where is that dream that I be proud?
No more rose than daffodil.
Besides, I bet, you’ve got to laff,
For I am no more dill than daff.
My brain’s as fluffy as a cloud
With thoughts that come and go at will,
Where is that dream that I be proud?
No more rose than daffodil.
Besides, I bet, you’ve got to laff,
For I am no more dill than daff.
I’ve been asked to scrutineer a booth for the local election. Considering I haven’t heard from the requesting couple since the Federal election I’m a little annoyed, thinking that I’m only to be called when needed, but I said yes, always willing to help, and thinking the whole thing will be over and done with by early evening so I’ll be able to get to either of the other two events planned. As luck would have it, both of them cancelled themselves throughout the day, so I have all the time in the world.
“St Michael’s, the church around the corner from you,” I’m told, or at least that’s what I thought. When I get to the church around the corner, I discover that this church is St Canice’s, not St Michael’s. I ask the old lady who’d given me the how-to-vote form if she knew where St Michael’s was (she looks like a church goer and I just assume that churchgoers would know where all churches are). She gives me the directions, but I still wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be. Rushing home, I’m just in time to answer the phone. “Where are you?” I’m asked. “I’m sorry, I went to the wrong church,” I said. “You dickhead,” I’m told. “I know,” I said.
I arrive at St Michael’s in record speed, my shirt damp from sweat. In truth, I’m there with plenty of time; it’s another half an hour until the polls close. The line of voters weaves out the church hall door, past the stench of urine, along the stone wall, and all the way back to the street corner. “It’s been like this since we opened the doors,” they tell me. With the usual booth at the local school not open, the church was bombarded with people all day and received twice as many people than estimated. Fortunate that I voted before as there was no way I would have been able to both vote and scrutineer (you have to be inside the building before 6pm).
The other scrutineers I personally didn’t think very much of. There is the Liberal (who wasn’t sure why he was there considering he lived in north shore Chatswood and didn’t know who the electorates were), the Green (who left before the officials had even begun counting the votes as she had a party to go to), two from Labor (whom I took an almost instant dislike to; fucking emaciated queens), and my Fellow Scrutineer (who I learn was once a Member of Parliament herself, a long time ago in an Australian state far far away). The lot of them, all who had scrutineered before, spent the entire time complaining on how bad the lighting was, how hungry they were, how late it was getting, and how long the vote count process was taking. Never once did any of them spare a thought for the officials who had been there all day and – by the time the votes were all counted and the chairs packed away – there for 16 hours, non-stop from the moment they arrived. One told me all he’d had was a 15 minute break for a bite to eat and a trip to the loo. Admittedly they were being paid to work the day, but hats off to them; they did a great job.
There were four officials: one whom English was probably his fourth language and I had to keep doing my scrutineer job pointing out that he was putting the slips on the wrong piles; a beared gay man who looked incredibly familiar (he recognised me also from Bears’ Nights at the Flinders Hotel); a lass who arrived only to help with the count; and the head official – a sweet faced largish man who took the problems of the day like water on a duck. He was wearing a band on his left hand ring finger, but I’m sure that was more for show than for marital commitment.
Perhaps it’s my natural charm but I did get into a small argument with the other scrutineers. I raised the issue that it’s interesting just how one-eyed party supporters are (and I included them in my example, considering they were giving their time to both check that their party wasn’t being ripped off in the count, and were all wearing t-shirts either promoting their own group or bagging out the others). I compared them to rugby supporters, believing that their team is the best team and unable to acknowledge when their bunch did something stupid. I raised this as more an observation but they took offence, especially my Fellow Scrutineer, claiming that her party (the incumbent) had never done anything wrong. She became even more bristly when I listed a few points where she had, or had taken the credit for things set in development before coming into office. The hairs stood up all along my Fellow Scrutineer’s back and snapped, “Well, what are you doing here working for her then?” “I’m not working for her, and was asked to help out by a friend,” I replied. I took this as my chance to make a polite exit and go watch the officials sort out the Councillor slips.
The Lord Mayor count was finally completed and all the scrutineers, except Liberal and myself, took to the door. I was quite enjoying watching democracy in action, and stayed until the whole count was completed, then rang in the results to the tally room. The Beared Official and I got chatting as he sorted the referendum votes:
“What you going to do after this?” he asked.
“Not sure. Probably go to the after party. How about yourself?”
“Me? I’m going home to have a quiet wank.”
“Just a quiet one?” I said.
I arrived at the after party and find familiar faces on the balcony. They’re the two that asked me to scrutineer, and were originally friends of a friend – but I’ve known them well enough we no longer need the “of a friend” bit – and were both wrapped in feather boas. One’s was vivid pink and looked like he was being strangled by a boneless flamingo. The other’s was a brilliant blue, and with his glass-shattering shriek of a laugh I thought for a moment the feathers were from him and he was some sort of Frankensteinian experiment – half homosexual, half South American macaw. Squawks of delight to see me with kisses all round, then the Macaw offered to fetch me a drink, which I most gladly accepted. I got the voucher out of my wallet, but the Macaw insisted it was on him (little did he know that all drinks were now on the tab, but it’s the thought that counts). I took a pew next to the Flamingo and was introduced to the group, instantly forgetting their names as soon as I hear them. I realised I should try and hunt down my Fellow Scrutineer to let her know the results, and as the Macaw had yet to return with my beer, I took the opportunity to search the crowd.
“You got there in time then?”
I turned around and it’s the Old Lady from outside St Canice. I laughed and thanked her for her earlier help. The Macaw suddenly appeared with my beer and the two of us thread our way back outside.
I go to get a drink, when I again meet one of the many fans of the Candidate. Slightly jovial, and slightly smelly, this was the second time he’d grabbed my arm. The first I was also on my way to the bar and he’d told me not to be afraid to go up to the Candidate and say hello. “She’s only human, you know.” I mentioned that I’d already been talking to her about the results of the booth I’d scrutineered, and feigned a search for the Macaw to get away, following the trail of feathers that littered the floor.
This time he had a different path of conversation. “I mean she’s the Lord Mayor; there’s a lot of crack-pots out there.” Looking around I reckoned there were a lot of them in here as well.
“You’d think there’d be a police escort to look after her.” Watching her sit in the corner nibbling on some – umm – nibbles, I said I thought she looked like she could look pretty well after herself.
“Yes, but there’s people out there. You can’t be too careful.”
I nudge him in the ribs, or where his ribs would be if he were about a foot taller. “Ah, come one,” I said, “she don’t need a police escort when there’s people like you. You’d leap in front of a bullet, wouldn’t you?”
He had to consider this before mumbling something I couldn’t understand, but he laughed, so I laughed too. I then spotted the Macaw off in the distance, so I quickly made my escape.
“Well, I can say that two booths did amazingly well thanks to me – mastered one and scrutineered the other! And amazing results at both.”
She was dressed in high-waisted jeans and, like a good many others, the mint coloured Party t-shirt, which makes you look like a tube of toothpaste. On her, it looked like all the toothpaste had been squeezed into one end and just waiting for the lid to pop off for its insides to come squirting out.
She shook us all by the hand, or kissed us on the cheek depending how familiar you were, and tried to perch herself on the edge of the table. The table had other ideas and wobbled threateningly. I stood up and gave her my seat and grabbed another from inside. Positioned where she was, she plopped herself in the middle of the circle and proceeded to exhale words as if they were carbon dioxide. I went and got another beer.
By the time I returned she was off harassing another group. I watched her catch eyes with a lass trying to eat a Harry’s Cafe de Wheels hotdog with some sort of dignity (an impossible task), and soon the High-Waisted Jeans was gabbing to the Hotdog Eater, occasionally patting her on the knee in that overly familiar way that women did in Australian 70’s films. The poor lady with the hotdog eventually snuck off to eat her meal in peace.
I turned back to the group to find a short bald man with an unkempt goatee beard sitting in the middle of the circle. His right hand was bandaged from his knuckles to nearly the elbow so his fingers stuck out like lost sausages. Between the bandage and his t-shirt was a hint to the tattoos that lied underneath.
He looked at me, then took a slug of his beer. “Christ,” he said, “I haven’t got myself in the fuckin’ gay corner again?”
I leant closer towards him. “Well,” I said confidentially, “I would have thought the feather boas were a bit of a give-away.”
Later, when the two Boas, a girlfriend of theirs, and I were outside getting ready for a cab, the Goatee staggered up to join us. “Come on, round to my place,” he gestured. “I’ve got beer there. Come on, come on you. Let’s go.”
‘Do you know what I want,” said the Macaw. Oh no, I thought, this is not going to be good. “All I want is my pillow.” I let out a sigh of relief.
Goatee turned to the Girlfriend and took her by the arm. “Come on, let’s go back to my place and have a beer.” As flattered as she was, she also politely declined.
“Come on, come on, I’ve got beer.” He said again as he started to head down the street. We took this as our cue and turned the other way to find a cab.
Well, they got a cab, I walked home. I realised that since lunch all I’d had to eat was a couple of Tim Tams, and a cold spinach triangle. I treated myself to an Oportos chicken. Home, I woofed down the chips splattered in sweet chilli sauce (the chips, not me). The chicken went in the fridge for the next day and, if there’s enough left over, sandwiches for work. Knowing my past habit of snacking on the sticky flesh, I think it’ll be vegemite instead.
Jane did like John. If she were honest with herself she’d have said she even fancied him. He was witty and always held open the door and, if truth were told, looked a little like a pub rocker she used to idolise in her early twenties. Crap music but great arse, and from what she could tell John’s arse wasn’t half bad.
She was sitting on the toilet, but the lid was down. “What do you think?”
Good Jane sat on the edge of the bath with her feet up under her skirt; she had this thing about foreign bathroom floors.
“First impressions,” she began, “I don’t think much of his cleaning habits. I’m sure grout is not supposed to be that colour.”
Jane looked over at the Other. “What about you?”
Bad Jane was straddling the washing machine; she’d heard somewhere that it was supposed to be the next best thing. “Hmmm,” she said arching back, “Could be all right, but didn’t see any porn on the bookshelf.”
Good Jane scorned. “You and your infatuation with filth, honestly! It’s unladylike and, more so, it’s unsanitary!”
“Says the one who’s too spooked to put her feet on the floor,” Bad Jane said as she leapt off the washing machine to rifle through the vanity. Pity, she thought, nothing more interesting than a half tube of anti-fungal cream. Perhaps he keeps the lubricant in the bedside drawers?
“I’ll have you know I’m dangerously allergic to germs. If I even touch a germ I break out in a hives.” She coughed elegantly into a lace-edged kerchief. “See!” She leant across to Jane. “Touch my forehead will your darling and test my temperature.”
“Perhaps I can find a thermometer,” Bad Jane said before gazing off in impish thought. “Ooo, just imagine where he’s stuck it.”
“All right you two,” Jane said, tiring of the bickering. “He’s gonna wonder if I’m not out soon. Can we keep to the point?”
Bad Jane raised her hands in defence. “Fine, fine. Agenda Item Number One: should Jane root this fella?” She sauntered back to the washing machine, bumping the Good One fully into the bath along the way.
“Did you see that!” Good Jane screeched. “Why if I wasn’t such a nice person I’d… do something not very nice at all!”
The Bad One smiled back a grin that would make holy men murder their grandmothers. “Careful,” she purred, “I might enjoy it.”
That was enough for Jane. “Will you stop it or it’s… back in the handbag!” The two kept quiet.
“Now. John, from what my friends tell me, is a very nice man with a good job and good prospects. He’s polite and funny and we seem to get on pretty well, plus he’s managed to keep fish alive which is more than I’ve been able to.” Her line of sight landed on Bad Jane, who squirmed under the interrogation.
“Not my fault,” she said, “I thought they’d like the change of view.”
“A kettle is not a plaything,” Good Jane lectured. Bad Jane looked away, smirking.
Jane took a breath. “So?”
Good Jane scrunched her nose. “Will he wash first?”
Jane turned to the one she had come to rely on more. “Well?”
“He’s got a nice arse,” Bad Jane said simply. “Anything else is a bonus.”
That was enough for Jane. She stood and began to adjust her lipstick in the mirror.
“Is that all?” cried Good Jane as she struggled out of the bath, being careful not to touch the questionable brown ring along the sides. “Is that your mind made up? What about me then? What I think don’t matter, hey? I’m supposed to be your guiding light, your torch down the path of life, your, your lantern that protects you from the shadows that linger, your halo of honour, your fountain of femininity… your…” She began to struggle. “Your bloody chalice of chastity!”
“You see, that’s just the problem,” Jane said as she put away the lipstick. “You’re boring. Now, go.”
Good Jane was speechless. She turned helplessly towards Bad Jane for support, who sat there doing a very good impression of the cat that not only got the cream but the entire dairy shipment. She looked back at Jane, tears, each a perfect diamond, glistening her cheeks.
“But I’m your number one very best friend,” she whimpered.
“Bag!” Jane ordered, and with that the Angel disappeared in a haze of bubbles, leaving behind a damp patch on the tiles.
She turned to the Other. “You too.”
Bad Jane padded across the floor. “Fine, but you know where I am if you need me. After all, a man likes a girl who’s a little wicked in the bedroom.” She winked and then exploded like a cap gun. Jane was alone.
She flushed the toilet, counted to ten, then opened the door.
“Quick, she’s coming,” John said to his alter-beings.
“Shit! Just remember the foreplay. I know it’s boring but if you want to do it again in the morning, you’ll thank me,” ventured one.
“Well, if you must you must, but be gentle, take you time with lots of hugging, and don’t forget to smell her hair. Women love that,” said the other.
Clash! The kitchenette was again full of smoke… and then it was not.
“Who you were talking to?” Jane asked as she rounded the corner.
“Oh, nobody. Just myself.” He held up the wine bottle. “Drink?”
“No,” she said, “I don’t feel like wine anymore.”
“Oh,” John said. “Coffee then?” He could feel the night slipping away and was not looking forward to the grilling the toaster would give him later on. “Or tea?”
Jane grinned, a twinkle in her eye. She stepped closer and, placing her hands on his hips, gently kissed him.
“Oh,” John said, and kissed her back, first softly, and then intense. He put down the bottle, took her by the hand and led her to the bedroom.
The door clicked shut, and all that could be heard was the soft gurgle of the fish tank filter, a muffled cheer from what could have been the toaster, and the opening bars of the bossa nova.
The key scuffed in the lock, and John opened the door. “After you,” he said to Jane.
John tossed his keys into a bowl – the one full of used bus tickets and foreign coins – hung his well-worn much-loved leather jacket on the hook, and went to turn on the light. He paused and instead switched on the lamp by the television. With the aid of the tropical fish tank the room was embraced by a cool, alluring glow.
“See, I told you, my etchings.” Indeed, there on the wall were etchings, a matching pair framed diptych style. The one on the left was of a street garbage bin full; on the right the bin was empty.
“I have an artist friend. Part of a series she was doing. Before and After. This one’s called, well, ‘Bin’. Self explanatory really.”
Jane winked and flashed her set of almost perfect teeth. “And here’s me thinking you were trying a line.”
John blushed. “Music, I think. Make yourself at home.”
Jane took off her embroidered scarf and coat, draped them over the back of a dining chair, and glanced around. Besides the etchings there was a large unadventurous oil landscape, John’s university degree (B Econ Hon 1) and a couple of fading photos of children sitting on Santa Claus’s knee. There was also, tucked away behind a healthy aspidistra, a framed telegraph pole poster of a gig from over a decade ago. Jane had never heard of any of the bands listed and half wondered why the poster was hung in such a nondescript spot.
Next to the fish tank was a bookshelf that housed more DVDs than books. The DVDs ranged from romance to stomach-churning violence and didn’t seem to be in any order; ‘Casablanca’ stood next to ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Perhaps it was filed under ‘C’ for ‘Chainsaw’? At first glance of the books: ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’ (layered in dust), a small row of airport fodder, and all the Harry Potters. Jane surmised that John was a pseudo intellectual homicidal maniac who travelled a lot and was in touch with his inner child.
Nice place, she thought, and neat for a man in his mid-thirties. She wondered where he kept the porn.
A muted trumpet wah-ed through the hidden speakers before being joined by a brushed drum. John had put on a Lounge CD. He’d been saving the CD for just the right occasion. It was given to him by a colleague who used to use it with all his dates. “Trust me”, John was assured when presented with the copy, “This, and it’s guaranteed pants off before the bossa nova.” Must work, John had thought, the guy was getting married next year.
“So, Jane,” John said as he shimmied across the floor to the Latin beat, “Let’s get that drink. What will it be, coffee or can I get you something stronger?”
Jane knew the game. “What do you suggest?”
“How about some wine? Continue on from dinner?”
“Lovely,” Jane said. “Can you point me towards the…”
“Oh, the door at the end.”
She nodded her thanks, picked up her bead encrusted clutch purse and made her way down the hallway, while John entered his poor excuse for a kitchen. John liked to cook but you couldn’t even roast a chicken in the tiny convection cum microwave oven; you had to cut the bird into pieces and do it one leg at a time. As such John had become a wiz with a wok and could stir fry anything to perfection.
John flicked the light switch and listened for movement. “Psst,” he hissed at the electrical appliances, “Where are you?”
The toaster wobbled. “Here,” it said.
John pushed down the lever. The toaster shuddered before throwing itself violently against the juice extractor. Sparks flew and the muffled cries of “Ow ow ow ow ow! Get off! Will you please remove your elbow from my arm pit!” escaped from where only toast had escaped before. John leant against the sink and tried to get as far away from the toaster as possible.
The toaster settled and there was silence, all except the soft ticking of the lever arm and the recorded twang of a theremin over the speakers.
The lever clicked up, and smoke began to pour out – one slot red and perilous, the other white and graceful. Soon the kitchenette was filled with fumes – half red, half white – until the vapours began to form into two distinct figures. With a final burst of enthusiasm, the white smoke sparkled like an exploding bag of glitter, and the red smoke burst into flames… and suddenly there stood two Johns – one dressed in white, the other full red.
The whole effect had been very impressive, but John had seen it before. “Keep the noise down,” he said, “She’s in the bathroom.” The three of them had never been crammed in such a tiny space before, but he didn’t dare leave the kitchenette in case Jane came back.
“So, you naughty devil, you got her home, hey?” Bad John said, prodding John wickedly in the ribs. “I knew you had it in ya, and if you listen to me, you’ll have it in her too!”
“Crude, how very crude,” Good John said, patting out his crumpled suit. “I mean, what do we know about this girl? Who are her parents? What’s her taste in light fittings? How does she take her eggs: scrambled, boiled or sunny-side-up? These are important matters, I really think we need to discuss this more.” He reached around and from under a wing pulled out a clipboard. “Now,” he continued, licking his pencil, “I’ve prepared a little questionnaire for her to fill in. All pretty straight forward, tick 1 to 5, that sort of thing.”
“Are you going to listen to this twat?” Bad John said, nudging his opposite against the fridge. “Mate, it’s been two months, one week and four days since you’ve been in bed with a female.” Good John raised a finger. “And mattress shopping with ya mother doesn’t count,” he finished quickly.
The Bad One had a point, John was desperate for a shag, and the truth was John did like Jane. They were about the same age, both intelligent in a non-threatening way, and had come to the realisation that, while they hadn’t let themselves go, neither was ever again going to fit into that old pair of jeans. With John’s goofy yet blokey looks and Jane’s twinkling eyes and mischievous grin, he even thought they looked good together.
“Look, it’s all right,” John said, attempting to bring calm to the scene, “I met Jane through a friend of a friend. Remember the barbeque? She’s nice. We had lunch twice last week and dinner tonight, and, since it’s a Friday, I invited her up for a drink. She said yes to wine, what do you recommend?” The Apparitions considered this.
“What have you got?” Good John said.
“A bottle of white.”
Good John thought for a moment. “Then I’d go with that.”
Bad John moaned and banged his horns on the stovetop. “It doesn’t matter, as long as it gets her pants down!” He grabbed John brotherly and tried to drag him away from the Other. “Mate, listen, it’s all about the mood, we’ve gone through this before.” He sighed. “Let’s go from the top. One: Music. I like what I hear, a big tick for you. Two: Lighting. Lamps, top marks again, shows your sensitive side and helps disguise the stains. Now, Three: did you hide the porn?”
“Jonathan,” Good John said, easing his way between the two and placing a kindly hand on John’s shoulder, “I sense you really like this girl, and that this is not going to be just one of those silly leaps into bed for the meaningless intercourse. We’ve discussed the cons of meaningless intercourse, haven’t we? It’s riddled with disease, and you know you won’t enjoy it. But this girl, Jane, such a lovely name, I’m glad to see that you, I trust, respect her, and if that’s the case then I give you my blessing.”
The Angel waited patiently for John to reply. “Yes,” he said finally. Good John smiled.
John scratched his neck, a long-time nervous habit, and was starting to wonder why Jane was taking so long. “Relax,” Bad John said as he cleaned his nails with a fork, “Women take ages in the lav.” He yawned. “Did she take her bag?” John nodded. “There you go then. She’s probably putting in one of those things.”
Good John furrowed his brow. “Dildo?” he said. He was relatively new to the word. It was John’s last girlfriend who had introduced both the concept and the implement, though she used to refer to it as ‘Craig’. Craig made more and more frequent appearances as their relationship was approaching its end. Good John always felt a little left out, but was at least pleased that she was enjoying herself. But so much noise… Secretly he was glad she’d moved on.
“No!” Bad John said, “Those ‘diagram’ things. Got to shove it in thirty minutes before swimming.” He paused, unsure. “Or something like that.” Sometimes it helps to read the articles and not just look at the pictures.
John looked at him. “They’re called diaphragms you idiot! Anyway, I’ve still got half a box of condoms with nearly six months to go.”
“Oh, don’t you fret,” Good John replied, taking John’s hands like a pantomime love interest. “She’s a modern girl. Prepared. Taking responsibility for her actions. You’ve got to admire that.”
“Yeah, and anyway, at least we know she’s gagging for it,” Bad John said with a smirk. On this they agreed, though Good John wished the Other had put it a little less colourfully.
Good John coughed politely, producing a sound at which Mozart would have wept, and clasped his hands in front of him. “I think that I can safely speak for all of us when I say that our dear life-long companion John will more than likely be involved in some intimate delights later tonight with our dear new friend Jane, and because I know that whatever hesitations I may have on the matter will go unheard, and also because I know that you will be sensible and mature and check for any warts or fungal infections, for you John, getting your leg over, I’m peachy keen.”
Even Bad John was shocked. “Wow,” he said, but simmered on the inside. Note to self, he thought, must become more vulgar; can’t have the Mince out-grossing me.
“Thank you,” John said. Good John smiled back like an avuncular priest to his parishioners. His work was done.
The CD was halfway through a cool jazzy piano solo. John reached for the wine glasses. “I wonder what’s keeping her?” he said.
(to be concluded)
I had already paid for the ticket. Now, a week later, I didn’t really have the money to go. After the electricity bill and next year’s opera subscription (says he complaining about not having any money) I’d left myself with barely, if enough, to get through to next payday. But it’s been over six months since I’ve been to a dance party, and so rarely do I go out these days, that I bit the bullet, got myself ready, and planned a diet of vegemite sandwiches for the next two weeks.
As always, what does one wear? The good thing is that for gay dance parties there is a uniform: leather harness and jeans. The notion of what to wear over the harness, though, raises some concerns – sure you take your top off and tuck into your belt when you get there, but you don’t want anything too heavy (as it’s difficult to tuck) and you don’t want anything red (which can give the impression you like an arm up your bottom). Unfortunately every shirt I have is red, but I’m sure I have some blue and grey Bonds t-shirts… after ten minutes searching I give up looking. I settle on an old favourite – the Kings Gees shirt I screen printed back in my first year of uni. Bulkier than I’d hoped for, but it’ll do.
I’d received a drenching this morning on the way to the Opera House. Saw Handel’s Orlando, which the little old lady next to me described dismissively as one of those “modern productions.” I had to agree. Collecting my jacket afterwards I run into a friend. “What was with the lamp?” he asks. ‘Forget the lamp,” I said, “what was with the sheep?” But the rain stopped some time ago, so I walk the 20 minutes dry, only occasionally being dripped on by overhanging branches and shop awnings.
On Oxford Street, I go downstairs for a preliminarily drink and to see if there is anyone I know. No one. On seeing the crowd I know why I don’t go out anymore; I’m not missing anything, but perhaps I just need to find another bar.
I join the line to head upstairs, and the lovely R is standing in front of me. I like R. I admire how he goes out by himself knowing that he will meet some friends there, or, if he doesn’t, he’ll have a good time anyway. I’m pretty brave, but not as brave as that. When we do get in, though, I did know quite a lot people. Mostly “pub mates”, not real friends – well, a couple I would call friends – but it’s nice to see them and have people to talk to. I also run into a work colleague who at first I didn’t recognise without a Ministerial in his hand. What he was wearing makes a complete mockery of “Casual Friday”.
No drugs for me tonight so I am relying on my old friend Alcohol to get me in the mood. Before coming out. I’d finished off a cask of red wine and half the bottle of cooking sherry, and nothing helps put a vacant smile on the face (and a pain in the head) than cheap booze. I buy a bottle of beer from the bar – eight bucks! I’ve only got a fifty in my wallet. Considering the drink downstairs ($5.30), I’ve probably got enough for four more drinks plus a bottle of water. If I go home with someone I might have some travel-cost trouble getting back to mine, but we’ll cross that bridge blah blah blah.
It’s after eleven now and the dance floor is still empty, except for the hapless few who took their pills too early. I take my shirt off and loop it into my belt, and stake out a piece of wall to sip my beer and watch the crowd arrive. Turns out I’m standing by the entrance to the “play area”. When we are walking in, the bouncer (a beautiful woman I’ve known from many a doorway) tells us that if we are caught having sex we will be expelled from the premises immediately, so don’t let me catch you. Somehow I think this is a bit redundant – if you know men are going to root here, why not save yourself the trouble and don’t patrol where they are going to root? And here’s me standing by the entrance to the designated sex area, and people are streaming past at a regular rate. Nothing seems to be happening yet as they stream just as fast back, but I finish my beer and move elsewhere. I’m getting lots of come-hither stares but it’s too early in the night for that sort of thing. Let’s have a dance first.
Dress-wise, the men fall into three categories: those wearing the basic uniform (like me); those with an extreme take on the uniform and are more studded and leathered up; and those who seem to have walked through the wrong door and are dressed comfortably and casually. There are a lot of buttocks showing, either framed by chaps or held pert by jockstraps. There is something oh so surreal about watching a group of men all stand around sipping gin-and-tonics with their arses out: no one seems to notice. Quite a few are also wearing the other great accessory for a party – the leather armband – but most men are wearing one on each arm. This bothers me: I’ve read enough books on leather etiquette to know that the armband is a marker to your sexual preference – whether you are a top (band on the left arm) or a bottom (the right). All these men, with a band on each arm, seem to be in a constant state of confusion or have yet to make up their minds. Anyway, this is Sydney, and any Interstater knows that all poofs in Sydney take it up the shitter better than any homosexual in the country. The fay-est New Zealander suddenly becomes the butchest pooh-puncher the moment he touches down at Mascot. Back to the party: even more vexatious are the few men wearing dog collars and leads. Haven’t these people read Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice; or Leathersex: A Guide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player? Anyone who is anyone knows that you can’t go putting a dog collar on yourself. The collar means that you belong to someone – it is code (there are a lot of codes in Gaydom) that you are Out-Of-Bounds, that you are Taken. Watching the fellas in dog collars, they were wearing them as if they had slipped on a necktie. Someone needs to write a pamphlet to hand out at the fetish stores that explains the unspoken regulations of their attire: So, You’ve Purchased Some Leather.
The dance floor is starting to fill and I slip my way on for a bit of a boogie. I find R tucked in the corner. “Fancy coming out for a pipe?” he asks. We head for the balcony, a relatively new feature since the smoking regulations. R says he likes to come out there to get a bit of fresh air, which I find outrageously ironic considering we are standing in the midst of a grey cloud. Toked up, we move back inside and wobble to the floor.
Later, I get another beer (charged only $7 this time) and take a place against the wall. Looks-wise the men are pretty much very attractive, lots of hairy chests with just enough muscle definition to suggest they don’t spend every waking moment down at the gym. There are only a few outrageously buffed waxes bodies – I don’t think this is the type of party that attracts them – and merely a handful of Fat Old Uglies, though FOU’s have to go somewhere and, for some of us, FOU is just a matter of time (not me, of course). There is one man who was so big and broad he should have had “Kelvinator” tattooed across his shoulders. Perhaps it’s the marijuana working, but I’ve developed an attraction to that crease that goes down a man’s back; that valley that gives a beautiful definition to the muscles of the back. I find myself staring and, more than once, am tempted to run my tongue along this groove, but don’t have the courage to ask permission first.
Through the night two people take an interest in me. One was a slightly portly fellow with a sweet round face, and the other a handsome older gent with a chunky greying-hairy chest, and nipple rings. I smile and chat but I’m not really interested. Nothing against them – they seemed both pleasant enough men whom I would be glad to meet for the cocktail hour – I just wasn’t in the mood. I was having quite a nice time as it was and didn’t really want to go muck it up with some dark room fondling. Perhaps I wasn’t drunk enough, but I was enjoying my times on the floor and watching the crowd.
Some time late three-ish, the floor steadily became less crowded and those like me who take up a bit of space when we “get down” weren’t fighting for room. But, because of this lack of body mass, it also started to get cold. It was also about this time I had a moment of clarity: I could either have another drink and try to pick up a root for the night (perhaps see if either of the two men were still around), or I could go home knowing I’d had a good time and was happy with my lot. So I went home.
Home, I poured myself the rest of the sherry and lay down to watch The Little Shop of Horrors. I woke up sometime during Mean Green Mother from Outer Space, the sherry glass untouched. I stopped the tape and turned out the light.
“What I find is that people say ‘great you’re in the cops’ and they’re so excited, and you hear other cops saying ‘yeah it’s great’, but they neglect to tell you what it’s really, really like.”
Senior Constable Jones has been a police officer for six and a half years. We’ve had lunch and now she’s driving me back to the train station.
She knows I’m writing this article, and looks at me, concerned. “I don’t want to be so negative.” She turns back to the road. “I think a lot of people join thinking it’s very glamorous, and because it’s an authority type of work. I didn’t join for that reason.”
So why did you join? “I was in a long-term relationship, we were barely making ends meet. I thought it was my turn to put something into the relationship, keep up my end of the bargain. I also wanted to do something with my life. I felt just being a housewife I wasn’t appreciated, and I also wanted to do something that would help people.” So SC Jones went to Charles Sturt University and undertook a Bachelor of Justice Studies (Policing).
Does she enjoy being a copper? “Yes and no.” What does she enjoy?
For a while she stares out the window, silent. “When you actually know you can help someone. Once, I went out to a domestic violence incident and helped this woman, and she called me a few months later to thank me. I was very taken back by that – very surprised by it – but it gave me a good feeling that I had helped.”
That must have been nice to hear. She nods. “But you usually get abused.” Is this what you don’t like about the job? Again, she nods. “The paperwork, the long hours, but – yeah – the lack of thanks. Not that you do it so people go, oh you’ve done a great job, but you get a phone call and just expect it to be complaining complaining complaining, but instead there’s someone saying ‘you came to my house a few months ago and you really helped me and I want to thank you so much.’ It’s nice to know that you’re appreciated.”
Suddenly SC Jones laughs. ‘Coppers have feelings too, you know.”
We stop at the lights. I’m about to ask another question when she again turns to me, serious. “You have so much to give to other people, and you can help them because you in that position, but it always falls on deaf ears and you never know what happens to that person. So when they ring it’s just really nice.”
I ask how hard is it to take off the belt, go home and just be Ms Jones.
“You have days off but it’s so hard to unwind. It just feels like you are always at work. You’ve got the people that you meet when you’re off duty and they say ‘what you do for a job?’ and you tell them and they immediately change, they’re not themselves, and you think: Ahh… this sucks!”
Well, I tell her, I’m gonna go and hug the first copper I see.
PC Jones laughs again, this time much longer. “You may need to ring me so I can come and bail you out.”