Author credit goes to: ‘man on the Bondi tram‘
Welcome to Melbourne
Things change fast. Hadn’t felt like it where this story starts. Living in St Kilda share house, a dull old stoner den where I’d dared to forget. Battling with memories, hitting cones to snap cerebral fibres that bound my chest and held my breath. I loved playing cricket, the sun, the air, the grass; never left the grass. Every moment I spent in that house melted in haze, in carpet space with roaches out of phase. That’s not even true, there were many housemates. A South American’d tell me stories about his Scarface father and soap opera mother, how his family farmer became Mexican lover. His material was from shows I hadn’t watched, some weed I hadn’t toked. One night he joked himself silly, asked me “Do you want salad?”, I was hungry. Holding back sniggers, he handed me a bowl of jalapenos, in tears with laughter. He’d lost it well and truly. I wasn’t an arsehole, I laughed with him, I knew he missed home. I ate like shit anyway. And at that point, the only kitchen utensil I owned was a toaster and my meals were the crumbs from the last few weeks that formed a thick gratin on the kitchen countertop. I had to get the fuck out of there.
A half deflated footy after bouncing around Melbourne, I found myself at a warehouse rave soon for demolition. The perfect place to unbuckle my sanity, spiral alone by my own volition; destroy my ego and my vanity, resume an altered condition. Inside was a modern circus, where oddities of the psyche danced entranced in the DJ’s epileptic vision of laser and strobe. Sailing on wings of technicoloured angels, in techno-induced insomnia Gabby and I connected.
Life with Gabby was all loonicorns, lollipops and blowjobs and ended in a sugar crash soon after it started. Fuck she was hot. I mean maybe not everyone’s type, but one of those seemingly invincible rave angels who’s the muse of everyone’s night. She wasn’t real. It was as if she’d been stamped on your reality so fast, you couldn’t tell if she was more than just a bunch of pretty pictures, embossed. Condensed rainbows, whatever she was, we shared being lost, in Melbourne’s city sea of disharmony, both just a couple of pill popping, gas breathing, line cutting kids.
Gabby and I were bitterly experimental. The highlight of our relationship, or whatever you’d call it, was down an alleyway and I thought we were going to smoke a J. The air was all bin juice banana peels and fuzzy lemons. How could I forget you, you pulled your black underwear with skulls and cherries down to the heels of your boots on cobblestones. Then assuming the position, placed your hands on the graffitied wall, just another dirty CBD alleyway and looked me in the eyes, pupils like dinner plates, person completely empty, waited to be filled. If you wanted to feel like rubbish Gabby, then what a creative way to do it. Don’t worry, she’ll never read this reader, she’s gone right through it.
That night and others, we weren’t looking for comfort. Nah, at that stage we were just doing shit to play with ourselves, with our sense of fear that was ‘just a social construction’, or so we thought, toward our own destruction.
One of the stupidest things I did with you, was go along with your knife play fetish. You fucking cut me and I still have a scar on my face, but I don’t regret it. Our room was a sheltering storm of sex and drugs. I never wanted to leave, but at night we did, to rave after rave until they meant nothing, nothing to me at least. For you, they were the only thing that kept your heart beating, the only bit of social conformity you willingly embraced. You never cut yourself at raves, I couldn’t complain.
Crazy was our lingua franca, at night we barely spoke. I once went to lunch with you, a joint near Southern Cross station after a toke. We ate sushi, as I stared back in frustration, soy sauce dribbled down your chin, finger wiping black umami, you licked yourself clean. A confused look on your face as your piercings gleamed, as I fell in love with you my unlovable girl, as I smiled tortured and went into my world. Munch, no Pollock, who am I kidding? I just lost track of time and any residual sanity I’d been saving for my rainy day. All things I willingly paid, to feel how I felt with you. But things changed.
She’d found a bag of pills in the couch after a house party. Just downed the lot, didn’t even bother checking their stamps on her iPhone, should I have begged her to stop? A few hours later we were in the emergency room and it sucked. She’d taken a shit load of xannies and dollies and ended up fucking convulsing and frothing at the mouth, it was fucked. She was turning fucking blue and I thought she was going to die. I’d never seen that shit before. She ended up under suicide watch, in some mental institution. Haven’t seen her since, I tried, they didn’t let me. I kept trying; they told me she’d moved facility. It’s hard to forget that ride down the hospital elevator, embarrassed, lonely, sick and full of guilt that made my life so bleak.
I rocked. In vulnerable moment out of time, feel kinder to myself, now fine. Down in lonely gutters in anxiety, drowning alone in Melbourne’s city sea. My friend had pulled a blade on me, “go forth and conquer”, yet gears had stalled to snails pace, thoughts in constant wander.
Reflected shaky homeless man walking the streets with haunting memories, robbing me of my sleep with endless stabbing guilt, anxieties buried to the hilt as droplets from water guns brushed my face in solemn walk of love. ‘Welcome to Melbourne’ flags fluttered, street sweepers where bodies lined streets; all tried to escape their own truth by lying by other’s feet. Sodden blankets and dogs huddled as pillows behind heads. I didn’t want to live in Melbourne, as its living dead. I didn’t want to sob in gutters, nor eat from Christian brothers, who inevitably took more than they ever fed.
I went to a rat house and met a man who listened to me, “it happens to everyone son”, exchanging memories by blur of alcohol in one night of fun. He texted me his address, I had nothing better to do, I felt absurd and furious, I really really missed you. Caught a train from Flinders St to some place I’d never heard of. Connecting train then bus then walk, thale cress grew around the sheltered station, were no one talked. I disembarked my empty carriage at the end of the line, I soon saw his house, I felt fine.
Now this wasn’t some, housing commission flat. No red brick, chipped paint fiasco with dusty radiator hanging awkwardly. Nah, this was a proper McMansion, way out, where the cops are paid less to do more. The living room was full of white basketball jerseys, oxymoronic white baller flat caps with metallic stickers, sports shorts with aeration holes and arms with circular cigarette burns. On the table a blue glass bong and scissors, blades and plates, a few mirrors and a bowl full of lighters. Air-con was blaring; it was hot, it was the Australian summer.
Droning drum and bass, Melbourne Underground and hip-hop swarmed the air. A big flat screen with 1969 Rudkin v Rose on replay. Apparently Rose was his Dad’s favorite boxer, despite being an abo and him being a yob. Met some big guys but young, at their feet sat makeshift ashtrays, corona bottles, flat beer floating full of cigarettes, like some obnoxious poison tea. Older dudes having a ciggy in a small circle, Aussie teenagers sitting in their lap. Thick eyeliner hussies and straight hair, nothing like the sun kissed beach babes from Queensland, you usually see in tourist ads. Some other guys in the pool, white kids with piercings and tats. It was like a sinister version of Wet n’ Wild, where all the oxygen had run out, so everyone just breathed ice, coke and cigarettes instead.
Let me introduce you to my friend, my acquaintance, my supplier, who would later become a well-known murderer, leaving a deep scar on the bright nights of Melbourne city. Throwing a footy in the pool gridiron style, he wore a navy blue singlet and shorts, white flip flops stained with footprint. Southern Cross tattoo on his shin, a face of violence, his fear inducing features only softened by faces of girls. He dried off, came inside, chucked a plate in the microwave. He took me in as his son, or at least a nephew. He was a criminal and so was I. Beep beep beep the microwave telling us it was done. He cut a few fat lines and offered me the plate; looking at me with a grin he said, “welcome to Melbourne”. He sat down on the couch and I joined him. Felicia did too. Flick’s blonde hair cascading onto his chest, she was clearly high, holding a blue fluro alcopop with a straw. Young, was all I thought. Pretty too.
It was an exciting scene to be around, if you didn’t get too close. A girl had drowned in the pool, nobody’s fault. She’d taken too much. Apparently it wasn’t the first time a girl had died at the house. I didn’t know that. At the end of the day, he was just another man realizing his dreams. A few of the girls overdosed, but they were quickly replaced and no one really noticed. Flick didn’t overdose. She was the youngest one there by a couple of years. She looked cute, the others looked hot. She turned out to be seventeen. No one knew, no one cared. She always looked oddly normal, despite being either stoned, drunk, wired or buzzing or somewhere in between at all times. I once spoke with her for awhile as she was pouring undrunk cocktails down the sink, she was a nice girl.
I don’t want to forget going out as his entourage, it was an experience. Cocaine was his diplomatic passport, and it made all the club rats wet. It was fucking unreal. People remembered me through association and treated me like a prince. I’d always bump into at least one of the guys from the house, and that would mean instant cred. I felt like a weapon, that if someone crossed me they’d have to deal with not only the guys from the house lurking in the club, but also the security guards that felt some extent of his love. He’d hooked the Samoan giants up with girls, coke and made them feel special. He made all of us feel special. I don’t know about the girls though, I didn’t care. They came easy now. There’d always be new girls. It was like they were graduating from some school somewhere.
We shared an entrepreneurial spirit and it was all a game to us folk. His dreams were others nightmares and he was probably a psycho, but he’d do funny shit like make them do star jumps for coke. It was a step up from getting them to give blowies, that he’d record for us blokes. I only saw that once. Nobody there was in it only for the coke. We all just wanted a family to live by, a fire to stoke.
As a family, we dealt ecstasy. Wherever there existed a gritty collage of people on top of each other, shorts and long hair, wristbands and glasses, innocent piggybacks off fried highschoolers, we were their cooks. I didn’t care what bands were playing, we sold white doves and brought home just under $20,000 between four of us, from Cream Fields alone. After a busy weekend I went back home with some girls. These weren’t girls who’d go out at night to get shit faced on Sambuca then get fucked for free unsympathetically by a guy in his 30s looking into the past through a living window. Nah, once these girls had fallen in with the crew, they were backed up moneymakers in monster Melbourne.
That night, I had an insatiable tasty fuck full of piquant love, with two hookers my age, self-employed off the job. Horny as ever, hoped up on speed, cotton candy mouths dry but for sour cherry lip-gloss. It was a weird feeling. I knew they had gotten too close, too young, that I didn’t want my life to be fucked like theirs. Yet, they were kind of awfully awesome or something. I don’t know what it was, I just felt like they had the same expression as when I’d seen Gabby cut herself. It was this burning, I don’t want to say spooky shit, but it was evil. Not them, just, the situation, you know? They lit up a smoke, then crushed it out. Their highlights ranged from light chestnut to deep mahogany. They wore the shortest of black dresses, had good tits and by the time they were on the bed, wearing black satin G-strings, they’d kicked their heels, feet tired and now we were friends. It was unreal and most importantly, it was free. I fucking loved it, they moved in synchronized routine. I’d seen hookers before, but they were dead behind the eyes. These girls were cagy animals, feisty and alive. But kind of crisp cookies that crumbled into sweet mess, that you gobbled down together before finally at taking your rest. That was just a few nights though. Before my supplier had killed ‘Flick’ , while both high on blow.
He’d had too much like a kid on cordial, but his toys weren’t firetrucks, they were girls. I was at St Kilda Rd. Macca’s after clubbing all night, I nearly choked on my McMuffin, when I found out. I heard some highschooler kids laugh in shock when they heard the story, saw a picture of her, said she was hot. Yeah, she was, dead. At first, I thought I was just tripping off what I’d taken earlier, but I walked past a newsstand on my way back to Flinders St and his face was on the front page of the Sunday Morning Herald. I freaked. I met up with a guy from the house, he’d spoken to another girl who was there who’d bailed as soon as shit went bad. She’d told him the real story, but you can never be sure about these things. Everyone with half a brain had evaporated from the house, as soon as he’d snapped. The news hadn’t got it right at all though. He hadn’t forced himself on her, not that I would have put it passed him, but that wasn’t his style. He’d beaten her to death, while her parents listened on the phone. She was just another rebellious teen of some rich family, a cliché private school kid, who’d picked the wrong crowd. But she was not just another girl, not to her parents. He’s in jail, for life now. Apparently, after not being able to get it up, Flick had laughed at him, for a split second, couldn’t help it. He went into a coke rage, she ran into the bathroom, dialed her parents and was balling her eyes out, screaming on the phone. He kicked the door in and, the parents listened. When the police arrived, he was covered in blood watching the test match and drinking a tinnie. He was fucking insane. After I heard that, I knew I hadn’t lost my sanity. That’s the end of the story, its fucking horrible and made me stop dealing altogether.
Ok, I confess, on reflection I was just a broken kid, who at the time felt invincible, who under great psychological duress, jumped head first into life’s crucible. But my life didn’t end there.
I know its stupid to say, but I really felt the loss of my supplier. With him and Gabby gone I had nobody. Nothing, but the cash leftover from festivals. I’d never been so depressed, not even with what ended me up in that sharehouse twelve months ago. After his conviction, I just floated for a while. At this stage, I’d been caught with weed a few times, but I paid the fines and no convictions recorded.
Once I’d gotten bored of wandering the streets looking for nothing, I got a job in hospitality. Now here, was where my life changed. Working at a Melbourne Bar, a favorite of pretentious, new money bogans going after girls from my last scene, was fucking annoying. Men with silly tribal tattoos and the occasional ear piercing, just fucking pathetic. There was one good thing about the place. Her perfume shot through my nostrils and I wanted to know who she was.
Natasha went to pastry school, but gave up on that. She’d found a pathway into uni, which she’d recognized as her last chance to stay off the streets and was now working part time, with me. She’d gotten her shit together and I wanted to do the same. Her determination was beautiful. We exchanged broken smiles, life scars, then numbers, then keys. She even inspired me to kick the bongs that by this stage, were seriously fucking my lungs. We ended up living together. I found out that we were both a pair of welt-raised children (well raised*). Truth be told, she’d grown up like me, after leaving an abusive father whose wife had died of breast cancer, soon after Natasha was born. Well not exactly like me.
With the money I’d from the festivals I’d immediately wanted to take Natasha to Paris, to eat chocolate éclairs for breakfast and be inspired. But on reflection, that would have been a terrible idea. Neither of us were in the headspace, which wouldn’t have stopped me convincing her, nor her letting herself be convinced. But, it was not to be. Her maternal grandfather’s existence was news to her and he had died recently, leaving her in his will, a beach house by Sorrento. Fucking beautiful. That summer she invited me. The drive down was serene blue.
On our way, we stopped off at the supermarket. I did normal shit like that with Natasha, which formed the weirdest, best experiences of my life thus far. In the car, I was wearing a half broken flip flop that left blisters on my foot, so that was number one on the list.
The local supermarket had like a thousand choices in front of us, but Natasha took the lead and bought a whole bunch of stuff I can’t remember the names of. Mixed berry yoghurt, fresh milk, fresh bread, a BBQ chicken, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and some bread rolls from Coles.
On arrival at the house, she told me the place smelled of Linseed oil and paint, rolls of untouched canvas waiting for human touch. I was proud to be with her.
First we explored the place. Walked up through the bush, leaving bracken cuts on our knees. Natasha turned out to be an intoxicating green thumb and we gardened all day. Box gums, eucalypts and blackberry bush. Bleeding from pulling garden-variety weeds, planting vegetables and garden-variety herbs, you can imagine how many pot jokes I made that day.
Every time I thought we were gonna drift apart, she’d whisper silent cues that quelled my restless heart. Blood and bone mixed with her perfume, there was something so raw and honest about it. It drove my face lusty, blood flushed cheeks leaving me fucking hard.
After gardening, we had a barbeque. Melbourne Bitter can and a snag in the other hand, we took turns turning sausages, between sips of beer. Natasha wore no apron, nothing, except my faded Bintang singlet from Full Moon, many moons ago. The summer air was full of sex, smoke and sausages and Natasha in that singlet was the hottest thing I’d ever seen.
Another day, we checked out the beach. On our way in, we swung by the shops and picked up matching tropical fruit bathing suits, laughing as we fell into each other in the department store aisles, tears beading in our eyes, red in the face choking for air. We even bothered wearing sunscreen. At the beach, salt-water wind whipped her hair into her mouth and we carted driftwood and shells to paint back home.
We raced out of the car, nearly went straight through the fly screen and hit the air-con, peeling our bathing suits off our sticky skin, right in the kitchen. Whilst Natasha’s bikini left a summer tan on all but the highlights of her body, I’d gotten burnt despite the sunscreen. So she grabbed the aloe vera from the fridge and let loose. I flinched and screamed and wrestled it off her, getting her back, till both of us loved each other warm.
We had a bath. A porcelain slippery tub, giving each other a rub down with soap in the steam, like living out our childhood with surrogate parents. Everything was sexual, so nothing was sexual.
Tears rolling down my cheek. Cleansing our wounds that were so thoroughly infected with the reality of Melbourne street life. When my old life bled into the present, she’d clean me up. We just sat there in the tub, in each other’s arms, shivering for hours, slippery skin leaving each other tender to the touch.
After our bath, we went to bed. Perfumed sex and tears rolling down her cheek, for the first time in a long time, she was happy. I felt like a junk heap of yesterday memories got cleaned out for life that night.
I woke up feeling awesome, Natasha to my left and a new day ahead of me. Morning brekky was better than any drug, maybe the high wasn’t as high, but there was no crash. This morning, she’d brought my undeserving ass breakfast in bed. I’d never had it before. Well nothing like this. I knew the smell. Hot cross buns, freshly toasted with a pat of butter to soften their outer shell. It was heavenly.
That night we had dinner, Natasha invited some of her friends, who quickly became my friends. Bloody roast beef, chip potatoes with rosemary and a fireplace to curl up to.
Christmas prawns, taste of electric unicorns, coated with freshly bought zingy cocktail sauce, enjoying them with a girl who was on the same page. Cheaper and better, than any $300/gram of Melbourne’s baby powder coke. After dinner I didn’t tell her, but that was the best meal of my life.
When we felt like it, we all helped lug a couch down onto the sand. Had a beach bonfire where smoky wisps mingled on our tongue with the salty sea air. Coals on a cold night, we cuddled up together under some old blankets, that looked like they’d been through the wars, embers setting themselves to rest on the wool, occasionally. It dawned on me, sure we had our idiosyncrasies, that most people couldn’t be bothered to understand, but we were happy, calm loving people, which meant it didn’t matter if we were a bit loopy. We just listened to the waves, better than any television.
We didn’t do marshmallows, we did damper, all be it with PB&J, one of our friends was from the US. I crawled up beside Natasha, placed my head gently on her chest, listening to her heart beat. Not the kind of music I was used to. She played a bit of guitar and sang. That made me cry. She laughed and cooed in sympathy. Everything made me feel like crying these days, but in such a good way. I couldn’t sing, but she encouraged me, my cheeks went red hot, and for the first time in my life, everyone heard my story. Her friends were odd like us, that made it easy to love them. I was either going completely mad or this was happiness. I think I even said “The same human fixation for everyone, is each other”, I wasn’t even high. The heat from the fire got to us and soon we were both horny enough to say our goodbyes and burn the candle at home.
We did this for a good few weeks and soon it was time to go. My thoughts wandered, as we drove. We weren’t going to be together forever. Those dreams had died the first time round. We weren’t even going to pretend. But we knew for that summer, there’d been no better place for us to be. We had shared our hardships and nurtured each other’s self-esteem, robbed from us as children and young adults. This trip had been my best ever. A true symphony of experience, fire, sex and each other to feast on. Simply the best summer. I smiled, as I saw a road sign saying ‘Welcome to Melbourne’.