The balcony overlooked an alleyway that was easy to miss. A tight and rounded little road littered with cigarette butts, roller doors, mixed run off of waste and debris from the apartments that surrounded it. The heat was palpable, the Sydney smoke was at its peak even before the fireworks had made their mark. The balcony was on the fourth floor in the side alley castle I had come to call home, the veneer of concrete below seemed farther away than four stories.
It was 11:45pm on the eve of a new decade, a strange and decadent saga in anyones life on this pale blue dot—mine was no exception. Words are endangered in this premise of mine so I have to tread lightly and get to the heart of this bastard. For the first time since my inception into life behind bars, I was a free man when the clock was due to strike, and like most institutionalised hospitality workers, there was no game plan—no plan at all.
An exaggerated sigh of relief cannonballed from Bubbles, one half of the roommates, “This, is much, better” she smiled with a half burnt cigarette between her teeth and swilling a vodka orange, there was an air of relief admittedly. She had a valid point, who the fuck goes out on new years.
A few hours earlier, we were out. Wedged in the smoking area of Charlie Chans. One of the longer serving establishments on George Street. Typically the smoking area is unoccupied and advisable to find a quiet moment in the city centre. Located through a thin hallway toward the back of the bar; the smoke mixed in rather well with the cooking fumes from the adjoining restaurant. Creating that familiar nasal cocktail of a Soi in a nameless city in Thailand. Glasses were piled up in any direction. The tables usually abandoned on Tuesday evenings were coated with a thick layer of sugar and spillage, surrounded by random patrons we didn’t recognise.
We sat patiently, pretending not to be decades older than we appeared— reverently waiting for the ethereal spirit of New Years to bless us with fucks to give. Instead the crowd grew larger by the moment, and annoyingly intoxicated. Usually this wouldn’t be such an issue, but these were no ordinary drinkers, these, were the holiday drinkers.
Like the ancient old wives tales, the holiday drinkers emerged from their resting places once a year; typically around December, almost every industry bestows Christmas bonuses and time to the workers below them. This new influx of cash can signify one thing and one thing only, taking it out on us. The holiday drinkers are a brutish force, lack of practice can leave behaviours and decency out of shape. They wait until they’re being served before deciding what they’ll have, usually with their much too intoxicated bud from marketing swaying under their arm. The polite conversations by the regular drinkers can be sliced through by the wavering wailing from across the room “CHERI, BRING THE GIRLS, I CAN’T BRING THE FUCKINNNN SHOTS BACK YOU HAVE TO- TO COME HEEEERE!”, moments pass, “CHERIIIIIII”.. These are only observations I had from the one bar, so I can only imagine the depravity on display deeper in the fire. Luckily the season was almost at its end, and the faces around us were reflecting it.
A group of thirty somethings the roommate pointed out across the way was a perfect slice of what lay closer to the harbour. The hollering at the waiters, the lack of volume control, ye gods, I like a party, but not nearly as much as not being a prick, I have work tomorrow.
One ‘joke’ bounced off the stone walls and caught my attention, it was a little too on the nose. I couldn’t tell which one it came from. By the time I turned back Bubbles proudly held her cup vertically above her, not a drop spilling as she finished up the long drink in moments. We had the same notion. We stood, “Let’s Go Home.”, “Buy a Bottle First!”.
The final few minutes were beginning to close in, I sat on the balcony and noticed the apartments across the way had shown a few signs of life that weren’t seen too often. Perhaps holiday drinkers lived amongst us. I let some whiskey sit as I gazed upward at the hazy sky.
The year had been an interesting one, time is too tight to retell every reel of it all. One of the highlights was moving out into a flat in the city, with two miscreants I’d known for half the decade. We’d met through the unholy pub that rested on Goulburn and Pitt. Synonymous timelines brought them together at a similar time to me, they did it better.
It wasn’t a difficult learning curve as it often can be moving with new people. The understated awkwardness and underlying tiredness of fake veneers led us to cohabit as easily as drunk europeans in a cheap hostel. In a way, this little pad hidden in the alleyway, has become the little beacon of shelter for the weary friends of ours. There’s no nicer feeling.
I was shaken back by the sounds of our neighbours across the alley, the sudden orchestral counting down into the new decade. I stood up and popped what I thought was a cigarette into my mouth as Bubbles filled up our glasses. We drunkenly joined in the countdown and awaited to sky to change its tint. The sounds came first, the hollering from the streets echoed like a drunken monastic hymn. The sky flashed red, green and yellow. Our TV was showing all we had to see. We raised our glasses to the neighbours, we all felt a little connected in that moment. Even though, when dawn came, we’d be back to avoiding glances and cursing their habits under our breath. But hey, It’s New Years. We actually had a good one. A 2020 Miracle.