Well, here we are, haven’t had much direction in the writing recently. I have thousands of words written but still waiting on that divine spark to give it all a spine to lean on. Bear with me.
Today– in fact only a few hours ago, something happened that triggered a sudden surge of words to flutter through the brain stem. So I’m going to see how much I can skewer out before it becomes complete gibberish.
It was what would be expected on a densely humid and overcast Friday afternoon in modern Sydney. The air was thicker than a settled stout. I was making some final rounds throughout the pub, watching with the ever present laundry list of laws and regulations that were to be abided by at all times in the foreground of my observations.
The small smoking balcony that was usually bustling with the jovial roars of tradies on any given afternoon had a particularly mean bite to it.I turned to see the usual sea of reflective clothing and dirtied hard-hats— and in the centre of it all, was a woman screaming at the top of her lungs. Her movements were erratic to say the least, like she was being pulled by imaginary strings in every direction. Young, blonde, wearing what looked to be a bikini and shorts with a bag much too large for her. Her gaze was menacingly focussed on them all. Her screams were drowned out by the incessant denials of her verbal attacks. I remembered seeing her moments earlier on the street screaming across the road as she walked towards the pub. Even the tradies weren’t in the mood for this scene. As I gripped the handle I took in that last breath, like one a deep-sea diver takes before plunging into the unknown.
I stepped out and met her gaze. Her erratic and violent burst of anger was reaching it’s crescendo, FUCK this, FUCK that, FUCK you. Not unusual. As I began the approach her focus shifted from the tradies who were taken aback by the outburst. She rattled off to me a series of events that led her to this balcony on this particular day. In lightning fast succession. “OH you should’ve seen the last pub. Very Rude. No customer service! They told me to leave! I took on their bouncer, yeah I did. The last bouncer tried to take me so I popped him. BAM. Down he went. I was raised like this!”
“Madam, you have to go”. Her focus was well and truly on me now. “I was told this was a good Irish pub! I’ve got money look!” She brandished a crumpled hundred dollar note in the air. “So I’m allowed to smoke this cigarette and have a drink! If this fucker”- now referring back to the tradie I’d come between, “Can stop being a FUCKING SMARTASS I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!” She persevered despite all objections. Lighting her cigarette, which had the markings of being stubbed out much earlier in a different bar.
Minutes went past of pointless argument. She was in a loop, repeating insults and stories of her life. When she saw me gesture to the door she bellowed “I was raised around men! You don’t think I could take you?!” Her voice didn’t tremble, but I could hear the tension strain in that sentence. It dawned on me then that this wasn’t typical egotistical arrogance. After years of bar work I was fluent in hearing that all too familiar undertone. I didn’t know with this one, but it definitely wasn’t from ego. Something burst her into action as she insulted some women who came onto the balcony calling them all manner of hateful things before battering past me into the venue. Cigarette still burning. I followed suit.
She gusted forward into the main bar, I finally caught up with her and stood between her and whomever she was screaming for. You can only protest, and hope they’ll see reason. No reason to use force in a world like this. She took a long drag and stared at me defiantly, blowing the smoke into my face. In the eyes of the arena of watchers surrounding us, I realised then that we were now the main spectacle. It all disappeared.
For an instant she stopped. In a moment she saw the madness in my eyes meeting hers. As if she could see I was not a danger, but also not a fool. I’d seen madness in parallel eyes before. In too many eyes in my years behind the bars. I asked her again to simply leave. No force is needed. After screaming a few more insults she was outside, with me shepherding close behind. She turned back to me as she crossed the threshold, and let out a long and hardened spit which scattered all over me. Added one more “FUCK YOU” before heading off into the approaching storm.
As I turned to walk toward the restroom to wash off, I saw the eyes. Everyone staring, like at the theatre, waiting for a reaction. As I zig-zagged through some patrons began to whisper amongst themselves. I heard one mutter “shoulda smacked her”,“Better wash off that fucking crack spit,” followed by random bouts of laughter, it took only a moment or two before they were back to their conversations. Ships in the night.
Ye gods, I’ve been spat on before, had punches thrown, glasses thrown, insults of every variety in the years. Yet today, suddenly, the true brutes had shown themselves. The immediate wave of visceral disgust of being spat on was wrestling with the newfound disgust of hearing the words uttered under the veneer of ‘civility’.
No, it’s not pleasant to be spat upon. Sadly, sometimes, It’s part of the job. Yet seeing how quickly the coin is flipped is what scared me the most. Fuck’s sake, a kid is a kid. She couldn’t have been older than 21. Alone, wandering a city on the edge. She’s a kid. The only thing running through my mind as I washed my shirt was trying to piece together how her day could’ve ended up there. How her tensions mounted at the mention of certain things. How violence was such a viable option for the ‘civil’ patrons who watched on.
I was ready for work to finish. As I smoked a long cigarette I played it all back in my mind. Before I knew it I was here, typing manically and trying to make sense of it all. There’s no lesson here, there’s a darkness in all of us, but it doesn’t run the show. Well maybe that is the lesson of the day.