Womerah Lane

There the human flotsam and jetsam of the Cross, and perhaps the lagan too, overflowed and drifted past my door on the intermittent evenings or in the mornings of nights that didn’t end at dawn. If I ever left my car unlocked someone would likely use it as a place to have sex or else to shoot up in. Once at about 7 pm, while I was watching the TV news in the front room, a fellow crawled along the floor of my bedroom and took my wallet from the dresser. I chased him out of the house and down the road and through the school but he got away; a year later I recognised him casing houses in the laneway and had the less-than-complete satisfaction of telling him what I thought of him. Another time, on a sultry, stormy Thursday night in spring or early summer, someone ran into the yard of the house next door and hid beneath the stairs. The cops found him there and dragged him out by torch-light. It wasn’t me, it was me mate, he whined. That’s what your mate said, mate, the cop replied, definitively, I thought. One Tuesday morning I was idling on the step, taking a break, sitting in the sun, when I saw a small dilapidated saloon car pull up opposite in front of the ricketty wooden fence that enclosed my Greek landlord’s back yard. As I watched the over-weight man in the driver’s seat suddenly reclined his seat and at the same moment the woman sitting next to him loosed her brassiere so that her voluminous white breasts tumbled free. Then she went down on him. I felt unable properly to look or look away; it was embarrassing mostly because the bloke didn’t seem able to enjoy the experience. His eyes, which I could still see through the back window of the car, roamed incessantly about as if in fear of imminent discovery; but I was partially screened by a flowering frangi-pani tree and he never did see me, not even when I stealthily left my step to go back inside. Once I almost came to grief myself, walking down adjoining Womerah Avenue in the late afternoon with my shopping when two guys in checked shirts, jeans and sneakers glanced sideways at each other as we passed and I knew in the instant what they meant to do. I forced myself to walk normally until I turned into the short entrance way that led to the laneway proper then ran like hell until I passed the next corner—so that, when they reached the head of the dogleg, there would be no sign of me. It worked; but as I fumbled with the catch on the gate into my small, dusty back garden, a full can of VB fell from my shopping bag onto my big toe, leaving a painful bruise just back of the nail. On the bare wall along that entrance way someone once wrote the words Actually I’d rather be . . . I saw them walking home one night; and the next night too, when another hand, or the same, had written the words Nick Cave after the three dots. That must have been 1990 because it was then a friend, now dead, gave me a copy of And The Ass Saw The Angel with those four words written as an inscription on the flyleaf. I actually prefer the truncated version, with its promise of another life than the one I led then which, despite all indications to the contrary, was itself about the sense of infinite possibility we feel when we are young; about all the things we’d rather and yet never will be; and most of all about how wanting to be something we won’t ever be is somehow, paradoxically, also to be it.

pic : Womerah Ave, 1928

the entrance to the laneway is on the right of the image

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