Saturday, May 22, 2010

24 Hours In a Tin Can

Twenty four hours in a tin can! He unbuttons the side-knee pocket of his cargo pants and fumbles for his ‘cell’ and a pack of smokes before feeling in his back pocket for his lighter. “Remember to call it a mobile phone.” He thinks aloud.
Never mind fresh air, he was in need courage and a nicotine hit! A last reprieve before he faced the firing squad.

He felt the warmth emanate from the constantly sliding automatic doors long before it hit him hard in the face. Weird, it was so cold when he left and now he’s stepping into a furnace on the other side of the planet.  He emerged from air conditioned comfort into the Antipodean sun which rendered him momentarily blind. “Man it’s bright down here!” he thought aloud again, while shading his brow with one hand and wiping watery tears from his sunstained eyes with the other. He again speaks his thoughts,  “Wonder where I packed my sunnies?”.  A porter standing on the footpath glances sideways.

“G’day mate, need a taxi?”  he drones in that nasal accent that marks him as an Aussie despite his middle eastern looks.

Our intrepid traveller squints towards the man. A smile curls but doesn’t unfold at the corner of his mouth as he scopes the quasi-military dress uniform. “Nah, thanks,  just need a minute!”

A minute! A minute! Fuck that shit, he needed hours, days maybe a week!  What had he done? Thrown caution to the wind? Decided to live like there’s no tomorrow?  Oh yeah! This is some crazy shit. A WTF moment if ever there was one. Spontaneously flying half way across the world to connect with someone he’d never met and one who had no idea he was in the country was arguably one of the silliest things he’d done in a while. He definitely was a kangaroo short in the back paddock. He snuffles aloud at the prospect of actually seeing one.

Twenty four hours in a tin can was a long time and he thought he’d sleep. He always sleeps when in motion, cars, trucks, boats, planes just have that effect. The engine noise, the fumes, the vibration and in this case a goodly amount of wine always combine to produce a soporific effect - not this time!

Normally laconic by nature, cool by design, he was rattled. The flight had him on edge with his own sense of anticipation and anxiety. It disturbed him because he kept his head under pressure. He was calculating, informed, capable of risk without fear. Nothing fazed him. Indeed, rarely did anything excite him any more.

He’d mentally rehearsed introductory scenarios between the plethora of plastic meals and Cloud Street. Good to be prepared.

“Hi, great to see you finally! Guess you didn’t expect this?”  . . . Nerdy
“G’day, Gday . how ya goin’?”  . . and a giggle. Too naff
“Well hello . . “  . . . Too confident
 “Surprise, guess who?”  . .  close but no doughnut!

Each greeting just sounded corny, lame, dumb, b-o-r-i-n-g. He would just send an SMS with that familiar online greeting that she hates. She’d respond with one that’s similarly stupid not realising where he is.

Twenty four hours in a tin can wasn’t that long by the time he’d worked through his script. Played out his moves within his own head. It would be fine. She’d be charmed.  He took a long, hard drag on the remainder of his last cigarette before dutifully extinguishing it in the sand-filled receptacle provided.

His eyes are now adjusted to the searing white morning light. Beads of sweat appear on his upper lip and brow and stain his underarms. A slight damp ‘v’ emerges on his chest.  “Shouldn’t have worn the grey marle” he again verbalises his thoughts as the porter looks sideways with a slightly confused glance. He hadn’t expected 30 degrees in Spring.

He took off his pack and laid it gently on the footpath. Phone in hand, he stared alternately at it and the stream of disembarking passengers both coming home and starting out.

Taxi after taxi pulls in, packs up, pulls out. Hi vis vested porters ensure they don’t linger. Tattooed Maoris touch noses with cousins in a delightfully intimate display of affection and reunion. Suits shake hands a little too vigorously, each alpha male establishing their quarter through a tight grasp of the hand.  Tour guides stand with their plaquards held skyward to attract their blue rinse bus riders. Backpackers pour over their maps and try to work out where the shuttle departs for the nearest hostel. Tired toddlers slump over shoulders while parents rally the remaining ambulatory troops like shepherds without sheepdogs.

They move past him oblivious to his presence as if he’s the only one standing still in a time-lapse film. He contemplates the thought for future reference before snapping back into the here and now.

Enough of this procrastination, he’d better ring soon. She heads to work at 7am. He stared at his phone, steeling himself for the call.

She doesn’t recognise the number when the mobile rings. She’s barely stepped out of the shower  and leaves drips on the black slate floor and carpet as she races towards the phone that her mother’s left behind on the kitchen bench. She always forgets her phone.

All the clever lines evaporate when she answers. Before she can speak he’s blurting out

 . . “Hi, it’s me . . I’m in Sydney!”

She’s not sure who it is and gasps more in frustration as the towel drops damply to the floor, as if the caller can spy her naked body revealed over the ether and scrambles to re establish a modicum of modesty .

“ . . Hello? You there? Can you pick me up at the airport?”

Ah! . . . The penny drops, she recognises the voice from his Skype calls to her mother. She knows of him, she knows who he is, in fact she knows all about him but she’s not the intended recipient of his call.

 “Ok no worries but . . only if I can do a drive-by to check you out first . . .!”

The curl unfolds into a flashing smile. For the first time, he believes in fate.  She doesn’t know it yet but it’s really her he’s come to visit. As he bids goodbye and turns towards the bemused porter,  
"Twenty four hours in a tin can bro?  . . Oh shit yeah! O fuck yeah! So worth it!"  
"I hope she is!" smirks the porter, doffs his cap and moves along.

7 comments:

  1. I'm confused. Was he actually after the daughter all along?

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  2. This is really good. There are some fabulous images. And being from the other side, where one would be a few bricks shy of a load, I love "a kangaroo short in the back paddock."

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  3. Yodood. Yes. He knows the mother but fancies the daughter.

    Ha! Thanks Patti, I have a few of those up my sleeve!

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  4. 24 hours? Where the Hell is he flying from? Or does that include layover? Heh.

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  5. really really good...hey, didn't know you had this second blog--will be back to peruse the rest over time...toodles!
    hmmm, and i can guess the motivation for this piece.

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  6. someone has been keeping a secret with having another blog...smiles.

    nice tale, sounds almost true...

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  7. Hmmm, I do love a romance. I hope this is true!

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