Jonesy, Stan and David were having a riotous old time. After abandoning Milton to his dreary slumber, the trio decided to hit the Valley and see what they could see. Jonesy rediscovered his top-hat, put it on a jaunty angle - to the derision of Stan - and off they went, but not before first procuring a few bottles of beer each from the refrigerator. Down the street they walked, Stan getting into the mood of it all before the other two, singing and skipping about, making a merry old fool of himself. Presently they were joined by another friend out walking, Jose, he was if anything even more merry than Stan, they threw their arms around one another and sang to the moon, faces upraised and eyes a-twinkle.
Insert a crazy fun spanish song in here
The song concluded - Jonesy had joined in but David was still reticent, though with every sip of the beer this aversion to good times was fading - the newly formed quatro wandered into China town, tables full of people eating hard to pronounce foods while young Asiatic girls stood by the front door of the restaurants, chirping out pleasantries to anyone who walked by, ignored. Did each unreturned greeting feel as though a punch in the stomach to them? Or were they suitably demure, downtrodden, all but slaves to their fathers, who stood just inside, behind a cheap wooden podium, in a tattered grey suit, smiling obsequisely to each and every guest but also out of the corner of his eyes making sure that his precious young free daughter was doing what she was supposed to and not scaring off the customers?
Twenty years ago, in Sydney, while working hard scrubbing toilets to give them that nice shiny white ceramic purity that most everyone valued but nobody really took the time to bother creating, he had saved his pennies underneath his grimy bed, which he shared with his brother, Po - a brutish lout who had the unfortunate luck to run into the pointy end of a knife that was being wielded by an extremely angry young Italian lad, on account of the fact that Po had been making 'the moves' on his girlfriend, a suitably busty, dark-skinned, sultry greecian beauty from, oddly, New South Wales and who had not a drop of European blood in her whatsoever, her father and mother's families hailing from pasty England, of all places - pushing each crumpled paper note - for this was before the multi-coloured, polymer substrate notes were introduced in January, 1988 - deep into the mattress, afraid of the banks because they had shifty, non-slanted eyes that never did seem to look at him straight on, no matter how he tried to meet their gaze, this young, nubile Asian's father, Kim, had met and quickly wed Jessica, an Australian girl whose parents did not approve of young, hard-working, efficient, polite, clean, neat, tidy, thrift, Asian Kim. After an exchange of increasingly hostile words involving paternity and ancestry, the two young lovers fled into the night on a motorcycle straight out of cliché, which Kim had borrowed from the still-recovering Po, who was very much into any stereotype that wasn't explicitly Asian, instead preferring the casual rebelliousness of America in the 50s, most importantly, with James Dean. Three years later, living in Brisbane in a small but serviceable unit in an area of suburbia close to the city centre that was gradually becoming richer and more expensive to live in, Jessica fell pregnant for the second time, though this one was carried to full term, much to the relief of Kim, who was beginning to question his masculinity, and Po, who had previously and vocally done so, in front of everyone: the wife, friends, workmates, random strangers, et cetera. The baby was a girl, christined Sue, a name that suited Jessica and Kim's heritage just enough for them both to stop arguing over the poor nameless five month year old, and within a few years was the absolute, indisputible apple of Kim's eye, much to the increasing jealousy of Jessica, who eventually ran off with Po, the brother she told Kim, stingingly, that she had always liked better anyway, leaving the burgeoning Happy Noodle restaurant in a state of dissaray, financial and otherwise, seeing as Jessica was not paid a wage at all, she was sleeping with boss, let's not forget. Needless to say, since that day, thirteen years ago now, Kim had kept one eye firmly on his daughter, who with each year seemed to be growing curves and differing opinions, to facts which he was having trouble understanding. To have it all crumble now because his daughter, his beautiful precious daughter Sue was becoming ocularly promiscuous was something that Kim was not prepared to deal with.
Forty metres away, Jonesy and Jose were walking, arms around each other, singing and dancing, not a single odd look being thrown their way, this being the Valley, remember. Jose's joviality had a sort of maniacal edge to it, he confided in a hushed whisper that could be heard all the way across the street that he had been fired from his job that very day and was out to get as 'blind as humanly possible' so that he could maybe get so amazingly drunk that when he woke up tomorrow, his job would be restored to him, as if by magic. Jose had spent the last six months working in the downstairs area of a wealthy middle-aged executive's two-story house, cleaning the garage area which seemed never to clear itself of grease, sweeping the floors, washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, looking after the kids on the weekends when the executive took his wife down to the races, sometimes winning hundreds, often losing thousands, and servicing the wife, a job he enjoyed above all others, but one for which he was not paid and was indeed the reason for his brutally quick expulsion from the state of employment to un, not receiving the customary two weeks notice that had for some time now been a part of state legislation.
Jonesy thought this a marvellous idea, calling over for David and Stan, who were talking quietly, heads together, to come over. They formed a circle, arms slung over each other's shoulder, heads pressed together, gazing at the self-same patch of bricked pedestrian street that comprised the very heart of the Valley.
-Yes Jonesy, this from Jose, who was already entirely aware of the plan. Jonesy sighed.
-Right, today, tonight sorry, we are going to get drunk, because young Jose here, he lost his job.
-Yes I did, Stan-the-man.
-The how isn't important, dammit! Jonesy viciously butted the other three heads with his head. -What is important is that we are drinking and we are going to get drunk, tonight, here in the Valley.
-What about Milton?
That settled, the four fanned out, each to their respective ATM machines (AT Machines?), dodging other groups of carousing young gentlemen, perhaps with similar plans, side-stepping and winking at groups of girls with nearly identical black plastic handbags clutched firmly to their ribs (and in Jonesy's case, tipping his hat with a lascivious flourish that bordered on, then promptly stomped on and started sprinting past, the line of taste), and stepping over the top of sleeping bums, bottles of cheap wine clutched in grips firmer than death. Jonesy is smoking hard, two cigarettes in his mouth at once he is so hardcore, bashing his fingers against the ATM's buttons, not even waiting for the electronic beep. He messes it up a few times and has to start again, but nobody is watching so it doesn't really matter. Making sure that his hat is still indeed jaunty, he tries again, slower, covering his numbering fingers with his palm in case someone wants to still his PIN.
Available balance: $3,400
-Sweet damn, Jonesy mutters to himself. The folks must've paid up again. Amazing what a bit of emotional black mail can do to a rich set of parents who just did not have a clue how to raise a child. He lazily thought about the tired old mantra of how it takes a liscence to get a pet, but all it takes is a few minutes of fucking to get a kid, internally commenting on how accurate and true that statement is, never for a minute thinking that his parents had actually planned him, and they had, just when it came to it, Loretta and Timothy Jones were plain old not cut out for a child as 'disturbed and unstable' as young Timothy Jr, herefore refered to as Jonesy. Unstable meaning that just once he had set fire to some old furniture outside, to see what would happen, and disturbed meaning that he had tried, twice, to do the same to the dog, once succesfully. Loretta, horrified at what gap-toothed, smiling young Timmy had done, promptly pushed that memory into the dark depths of her mind, purchasing another dog that very same day and then returning it a few hours later when little Timmy absolutely insisted that he call it 'Fireball'.
He withdrew $500, the transactional maximum, shoving his black leather wallet into his back pocket and whistling the latest pop sensation's chart topping hit, Kiss Me Where It Hurts. A few buildings up Stan was in deep conversation with some sort of black midget, Jonesy refrained from laughing out loud at the little man's inherent magic and wonder, instead restraining himself to a few giggles and a bit of a bend at the waist.
He turned around, smelling Amelia before seeing her. Yes, it was she: tall, thin, blonde, buxom, wearing Very Little. A perfect wet-dream, if ever there was one. And a raging lesbian, more's the pity.
-Still into the women, Am?
-You know it, she said, making her voice sound comically deep and butch. She crushed him into a hug, which he relished, but which also hurt, somewhere, deep inside, in the gentle crush part of the soul that everyone nurtures, and often for the wrong person. Unfortunately for Jonesy, you couldn't really get much more wrong than the girl whose ample bosom he was firmly pressed against this very moment. -What's on the agenda for tonight?
-Oh, you know, talk to the women-folk, make with some of the smooth moves, that sort of thing. Extracting himself from her embrace, he performed a weak little spin and tipped his hat at her, almost tripping over and landing in a puddle in which three shiny twenty-cent pieces lay in perfect triangle formation.
-Always the joker, aren't you?
-Sooooo, nice suit. Where'd you get it?
-Men's toilets, Jonesy said, tipping his hat, which he had located, to a jaunty angle and grinning. She laughed.
Forgetting about the other three, Jonesy took Amelia's arm, leading the way past shiny bain-marie's filled with greasy slices of pizza being sold for $4/slice, not a bad price if you are drunk, horribly exorbitant if you aren't. Seeing as Jonesy, right now, was in the aren't stage of the night, he didn't even give the cheese-topped isosceles a second glance.
They waltzed along past drunks sitting idly on stolen blue milk crates, singing softly to themselves, wine-thick voices slurred and difficult to understand but all the same melodious and honest, as though the homeless men without any care in the world knew a universal truth that somehow others missed in their pre-occupation with accumulating money and worldly possessions.
Jonesy's biggest contribution between their relationship is the friendly shoulder he has provided, month after month, year after year. Many nights he has been woken by the dulcet tones of his mobile phone, the eight familiar bars of some symphony of Mozart's, he thinks, heralding the beginning of yet another four hour counselling session that he offers free of any charge, monetary, sexual, physical, hell, even a tray of biscuits now and again would be nice. He listens and she talks, he inserts a 'yes' or a 'I know' after every pause and she waits for him to do so. Sometimes, after taling herself into a sort of quiet, sleepy hysteria, she tells him that tonight she will be absolutely, positively unable to sleep by herself in her huge queen-sized bed and would he, Jonesy, please be able to come over and keep her company? He ums and ahs, but they both know the answer will inevitably be yes. On the long walk to her house in New Farm - for Jonesy cannot and will not drive - he rationalises the choices he has made. He considers that, without him, Amelia would be left alone to cry and be sad and that he couldn't allow such a thing to happen to someone so beautiful. He also considers the fact that Amelia has often been none to wear very little in the way of pyjama's, and when the current heat wave which is topping 30 degrees at night is taken into account, he will probably be able to get a good look, at any rate. And of course there would be hugs...
On the phone Amelia's voice is soft and breathy, seeming to convey understanding and empathy with every wordless sigh. She never raises her voice, or becomes boisterous, or even swears - unless of course she is quoting someone or discussing her latest, messy break-up. Jonesy tries to keep his voice low and unthreatening, adding a tone of femininity if he can help it. He turns off his light and informs her of this fact. She very often welcomes this, considering that it makes it seem as though the two are closer than the phone cords and satellites would have them believe. She cries on the phone, and he does not know what to say, but he tries. There are long periods of silence broken only by the soft, hiccuppy breathing of the broken-hearted. She likes him to stay on the phone, silent, while she falls asleep, and if he dares to say a word, she hushes him in a voice so soft and so fragile that he has no choice but to agree and accept and to fall into a dark, black oblivion.
The walk to her house is punctuated by many landmarks, all of which Jonesy has memorised and attained a certain sense of familiarity with. There is of course the Valley which seperates them, with its bustling, never-sleeping atmosphere that mixes homelessness, partying, drugs, alcohol, celebration and tolerance of sexuality in its many forms into an alloy stronger than the sum of its parts. From the centre of the Valley he walks down Brunswick street, past the 7-11's that never close and are always staffed by sullen Asians or friendly Indians, past oft-frequented restaurants and art galleries that nobody enters, past the old white-washed church that was turned into an art gallery some time in the seventies. Then the homes begin, the blight of commercialism making way for houses of varying economic stature. He turns right on Merthyr Street, falling into the darkness where there aren't any street lamps, walks maybe fifty metres, and there is her house, shrouded in black except for her room and the little lamp downstairs that she always, without fail, turns on for him.
So as not to awaken the other house-mates, he slips around the back and up the stairs, tip-toeing past Jessica's bedroom and scratches on Amelia's door. She opens it for him and smiles, then throws herself into his arms. Three nights ago - Tuesday - had been the most recent experience of all this, Jonesy remembered that she had been wearing a white shirt and pink panties, a favourite of his that featured in many fantasies. Of course he did not tell her this, because she would've have instantly and without intending any insult, changed into something different and less revealing.
Tuesday's sob story hadn't been particularly original, but he listened with great interest, rubbing her back and watching her thighs. Apparently Jessica - not her house-mate - had turned out to be 'only in it for the sex', which seemed to Jonesy as good a reason as any to be in a lesbian relationship. They had been together for almost two months, a record, and Amelia had considered Jessica to potentially almost maybe possibly be the one. While she spoke with gentle sobs, Jonesy got up and put on a CD by Iian Breno, a soothing, gentle piece that invoked the image of hospitals, just as it was supposed to. An hour later and her eyes were emptied of tears though her heart was still full of sadness. As they climbed into bed and she turned off the light, Amelia explained to Jonesy that she was so devoid of confidence that it amazed her how she was able to be seen in bright light. To her, her body was so flimsy and ethereal that it would only be a matter of time before she was whisked away in a strong breeze, gone from everyone she knew and loved, or who knew and loved her - All two people, she declared in a tone that brooked no argument. Jonesy was experienced enough not to argue anyway, he soothed her with whatever pleasantries came to mind, urging them both to sleep, saying that it would be best.
And what did Amelia contribute to the relationship? Besides the afore-mentioned eye candy, which for Jonesy was almost enough, she was the person that he turned to, without fail, for a good time in the Valley. She knew all the places, knew all the bouncers, they could get in anywhere. And thanks to the fruits of his parent's labour, Jonesy was able to pay for as many drinks as they required. All in all, it was a satisfactory relationship, though there were times when Jonesy ached so hard to embrace Amelia in the way he wanted to that he wanted to cry.
-Where do you want to go tonight?
-I was thinking the story hotel, Amelia said, tugging on the arm of his suit. -With threads like that, you'll get in with no troubles.
-The story hotel? But that...that's ages away!
She stopped and gave him a frank stare. -You are afraid of a bit of walking, Jonesy-boy?
-No, it's not that...
-Awww, Jonesy! She pouted, stamping her foot and thrusting out her bosom. Not for the first time Joney was forced to wonder whether she knew the effect that her body had on him.
-Fine, fine. Do you want to get a taxi?
-Then you want to walk?
-Yep, she laughed happily, taking his arm. They made their way past the throng of people standing outside of Belushi's, and for a second Jonesy thought he saw Milton, but thrust him out of his mind. It wasn't his business what and where Milton was, besides, the soft tubby piece of lard could look after himself pretty easy. Sometimes.
The hike to the bridge was uneventful, if filled with daring ventures across bustling streets. Many a horn was blown, many a curse was uttered, all directed at Jonesy, he was sure. Men - for it was men doing the swearing - found it difficult to insult Amelia. First she would pout, then she would stamp her feet, then her fists would curl into balls and she would wiggle them in front of her chest, and then you weren't mad anymore. Oddly, this worked on males driving past in cars just as well as it did on those she was speaking to. Master of the feminine arts, was our Amelia.
The bridge was massive, well-lit, and long. Criss-crossing triangle iron beams loomed off into the distance, huge steel bolts adding to the mecha-gothic effect. Jonesy complained to nobody about the odd architectural choice of creating a bridge that began two hundred metres before actually going over any water. Amelia, who had heard pretty much all of Jonesy's complaints over the years, grunted in agreement and kept walking.
-It strikes me, Jonesy began, taking off his tricorn hat and wiping his forehead. -It strikes me that the city looks very beautiful from this angle, wouldn't you say?
Amelia stopped and placed her arms on the rail, looking over the water to the city lights that were reflected in all their wavery splendour. -It does, doesn't it?
-Because you see, if you come from the South Bank end, over there, Jonesy pointed to a place that couldn't be seen all too well from this angle, -Then all you see is a grubby casino and a few building climbing somewhat sheepishly into the sky, as though embarrassed, or afraid. Dirty buildings, old building, the only glory they have is that they are next to the casino, the $10,000/minute drain on society that, frankly, needs a good scrub from a giant sized scouring pad. The beginning of the Queen Street Mall is here, but it is the least commercial part, the least glamorous. Nobody goes to the casino end unless they are crossing the bridge to South Bank or planning on gambling away their kid's food money. There is no other reason. If you come from Milton way, there is a rise and a crest, but neither are majestic and both are disposable. Because who wishes to see the abomination that is Spring Hill squatting like a homeless child before the wealthy bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century? Empty construction sites, abandoned buildings, dirty, single-level commercial travesties advertising all manner of unwelcome goods from adult toys to deep fried chips, undeveloped tracts of land; this is no song for a city. Ah, but Jonesy,, I hear you say, you are very handsome, and surely the north side provides some great view? And to that I say no, young Amelia, it does not. Coming into the city from the North - unless of course, you take the Story bridge, which would actually serve to direct you away from the heart of Brisbane - you are welcomed by the pleasantly dirty, cultural aware but unfortunately vertically limited morass that is the Valley. There is one building that rises above the hundred year old slum of Bell's Valley, a hodgepodge of buildings that show no connected purpose in design, with wasted space and dirty back alleys all about. In the distance, sure, there are tall buildings, but that can be said of almost any sky-line within miles.
-I've never really thought about it like that, began Amelia.
-It is only here, interrupted Jonesy, that the true splendour can be seen. He spread out his arms, -See here, everything within the arc of my arms is tall, is expensive, is capitalism at its best. Whatever other shortcomings our social and economic systems might have, it is hard to deny that a forty-story skyscraper overshadows in majesty even the most lavish of old Queenslanders. A cluster of such buildings is enough to make a medieval king weep, I would think. There, just by the river, the second tallest building in Brisbane is being created, the Riverview. It will be over 50 stories tall, a giant among giants, a white rose amongst the red. And there, by David's house, is the true jewel of Brisbane. Not completed, it will be sixty sevens stories high, a full two thirds taller than everything but the Riverview. From a plane up in the sky it will be a raised finger, a triumphant arm raised to the heavens, a way of us poor little fleshy humans, so fragile and weak, with our sadness and our sorrow, our fleeting joys and the desperate hold that money has over us, to say, no! This is our world, we own it! Not for God is it to destroy us in a flood, in a cataclysm, we show with these massive buildings that we are above such petty insignificances. Could a flood even reach the top of the building? Can an earthquake ever topple a city that is situated in the middle of a tectonic plate? Wind, rain, sleet, snow - these are not worries for Brisbane. That tower, is beauty, is majesty, is our power.
-But what about the Botanic gardens? Amelia pointed to a large stretch of greenery.
-Ah, Amelia, how did I know you would say that? The botanic gardens are the jewel of the crown, the pope of the church, the last page of the book. That small, carefully cultivated stretch of land makes all the stifling mechanicity of the skyscrapers worthwhile. Orderly rows of roses and carefully pruned trees greet any and all. There is a nice glow at night from the impeccably arranged ye olde style streetlamps, and there, on the edge, is the Queensland University of Technology, one of our premier bastions of knowledge, or, to the more conservative, a seething bed of liberalism and youth. And there is the stage, how it fills on the weekends! Movies at night in the park on a pillow. A tremendous idea, this is Brisbane. Art, nature, culture, mixed together here in the Gardens. Yes, I use the capital, for could there be a truer respresentations of the Garden, the one envisaged by God as the perfect of all Gardens, that Plato declares he must think of? Oh, how it gladdens the heart of the worker-drones to know that, not ten blocks away at most, there is a park with trees and flowers and benches and birds and nature and a river and it is all there for them!
Amelia looked at him strangely. -Have you been drinking, Jonesy?
-Yes, but so what?
-I've just...never seen you be so grandiose. Nor heard you be so eloquent. I didn't even know you knew the word 'bourgeoisie', let alone knew how to put it correctly into a sentence.
Jonesy jumped up onto the railing, holding tightly onto a metal pole, one foot dangling high above thousands of megalitres of water, the other perched precariously on a width of ten centimetres.
-Get down, Jonesy, you're scaring me.
-Get down? Down from here? When there are such sights to be seen? Look, Amelia! He threw his arms out and almost fell, clutching to the pole at the very last instance before he would have plunged into the dark water below. Amelia screamed.
-Jonesy! Get down, now! This isn't funny.
Jonesy rested his head back against the cold metal, closing his eyes. -I could let go right now, Amelia. Who would know? Who would care?
-Who else? Not my parents, surely. His voice was soft, low, serious.
-David would, and, and Milton, he would. Stan as well...
-Bah, Stan! Never liked him anyway. And don't get me started on Miltion. He opened his eyes a crack, -I'll give you David. A good man.
-Okay, that's sort of good, Amelia said. She looked around, as though for an invisible helper, anyone. -Now how about getting down?
-You know...I don't think so, Jonesy said, then he let go of the metal and jumped off into the water. Amelia screamed, Jonesy felt air rushing past his face and body at an incredible speed, there was a great crash, then, nothing.