People watching is a hobby of mine that I enjoy in my busy neighbourhood. These days with not so many people on the street more people stand out. There are dramas daily on public display along with happy moments to provide contrast; a few are written here.
A clown with yellow curly hair, top hat to match and red suspenders holding up spotted pants dashes across the petrol station carpark. He skips along in his big shoes down the street leaving in his wake a collection of sharply turned heads that have whipped around to take in the sight of him in disbelief. Does he have a mask on someone asks but no one answers because everybody knows that clowns always wear a mask, it’s full face and topped off with a big red nose.
‘You’re a bloody liar’ she screeches in a raspy voice that rings out over the sound of passing cars. More yelling follows, the words are indistinguishable, but her voice is angry. A man mumbles back his defense.
‘Give me the beer’ she screeches again then her voice fades as she heads away down the street triumphantly with beers in hand.
He struggles with his load, his arms are full with shopping bags, he wears a long coat that slides off his shoulders as he walks in thongs that slap loosely on the ground with each step. To top it all off he is carrying a chair, a dining room chair that is padded and armless and has wooden legs. It all looks too much for him to carry far and it is, it all gets too much. He stops to readjust realising that he is out of breath as he shrugs his jacket back up onto his shoulders. He places the chair on the footpath at the edge of the road facing the traffic, places his bags beside it then sits with relief. For a moment he just sits to take in the view then in a loud voice for all to hear proclaims,
‘I am the chairman!’
He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a packet of cigarettes and sits on his chair smoking until he is ready to be on his way.
‘You dog! You Liar!’ menacing words cut through the night; the threat is clear in the tone. There is two of them, they struggle briefly leaning in on one another threatening violence with the action of their movements but not coming to blows.
‘It was mine, where is it?’ Their voices sound the same, both have that junkie way of stringing words together that is either a mumble or a snarl.
‘Are you going to stab me?’
‘I’m not going to prison for you’
Either or both could have said the words, the darkness hides them from the street with the drama of their struggle travelling through the night from the edge of a dark driveway. People living in surrounding apartments open balcony doors and bedroom windows alarmed at the violence of their words.
Curfews are in place so there isn’t a cop in sight, nobody is allowed out at night because the clever sickness plaguing the city can tell what time it is.
The junkies keep at one another and it seems that it will not end well, then from overhead an object is thrown down and strikes one of them. Shocked they stop not sure what has happened and go their separate ways. The few neighbours who have come out onto their balconies to observe from above go back to bed.
‘Whooooo!’ her voice rings out across the busy intersection carrying off in every direction. She stands at the front gate to a courtyard apartment dancing beneath the streetlights enjoying her youth. A man stands in the gateway; they are both wearing black tracksuits. She dodges and weaves playfully before him pushing him this way and that so that he loses his footing a little. The traffic grows louder and so does she, the traffic lights turn red, so she steps up to the kerb dancing for their entertainment lifting her tracksuit top to reveal her sports top beneath. She turns back to the man in the gateway behind her taking off her tracksuit top then spins back to face the traffic flinging her top overhead in circles as she again lets out a cry of joy.
At dusk everyday he makes his way to the petrol station stopping a block away on his return. He stands facing the street in front of an empty building and sings. His voice is strong and true and filled with expression. He sings tunes from Australian past rock stars, mostly Barnsie and Johnnie Farnham. He sings songs from his youth when he was free, and it is wonderful to hear him.