THE OVERWHELMING WHOLE
I’m on a concrete bench in Church Street Square, Parramatta, eating lunch alone, threatening half-hearted kicks at pigeons gathering at my feet. I flinch with every flap of their wings, imagining clouds of germs soaking into my hair, clothes and lungs. Two Arabian horses sculpted from white plaster prance on top of the Bendigo Bank. Beneath them, workers in orange vests and hard-hats behind steel mesh fencing, jackhammer and plough into the bitumen, inserting tracks for some light rail network, work that’s been grinding on for years.
Yazz pointed out the Arabian horses on her computer this morning to attempt some light-hearted conversation. We’d had lunch in front of them every workday for three months, and I never noticed they were there. “Yeah, I know; what do I look like, an idiot?” I reply, because I’m in love with her, but she’s in some eternal engagement with Monty, an artist living off government arts grants to create what he calls anti-establishment artworks.
Last Friday, at our customer experience team’s monthly after-work drinks, Yazz and I hung around talking after everyone had left. She came home with me, and we held hands in the back seat of the taxi. As the car pulled up out front of my house, she stiffened in a way that sunk my stomach.
I inherited my white weatherboard house from my parents after they drowned on their return to Portugal two years ago. It has a lovely, flowering frangipani tree in the front yard and, a hard to find in this area, large backyard. It’s all wedged between two giant holes in the ground where developers intend building apartments. Edwin, the mortgage broker across the road, insisted this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to make what he called serious money. Unlike my coward neighbours, I’m waiting for the developers’ absolute best price. But at this moment with Yazz, I feel a sense of shame that not even my hundred sit-ups a day, zero carb diet and million-dollar future can smother.
Yazz won’t come inside. She cries in the gutter about symbolism and Monty, and books an Uber home. My dead parents’ spirits looking over us was one thing, but all this together, she says, creates an overwhelmingly negative whole. We sit beneath the white streetlight, neighbours across the road peeking through blinds as I rub her shoulders in an attempt at consolation. I don’t want this to be the end, but as the Uber driver’s headlights turn into my street, all I say is: “I’m playing soccer this Sunday just around the corner. You should come. We’re playing the team coming second.”
Between eating and fending off pigeons, I read about the horse statues’ history to re-build rapport with Yazz upon my return to the office. The jackhammers stop, the sun is out, and I picture a future where we laugh or barely remember this hiccup in our story. I glance up at the horses, regal against the endless blue sky. Then the noise starts again, and I call in sick and go home. I shower off pigeon germs, and sit between two enormous holes in the ground, do a hundred sit-ups, and eat tuna, broccoli and a hard-boiled egg with a large glass of water. Cristiano Ronaldo looks down from his frame behind the TV, focused and poised, hovering like an Arabian horse above the small, framed photo of my parents and me on their 20th-anniversary at the Outback Steakhouse, my mother smiling, my father raising his beer in their favourite restaurant, offering the world a humble, ‘cheers’.
Chris Sammut is the founder of Repressed Records in Newtown. He’s from Western Sydney and currently works at the Information and Cultural Exchange and Beatdisc Records in Parramatta. He’s had two stories published in the Zinewest Anthology.