Where I live is concrete apartments stacked like boxes that glow window by window in the night. Lives are separated by solid walls covered with patterns from the Seventies. Bright coloured kitchen. Plain coloured carpet. There’s always a hip hop drum beat throbbing from across the hall. That’s where the guys come from who knock on my door late at night and ask to ‘borrow some scissors, man?’. But I don’t ask what for.
Where I live I sit with my feet in the road side gutter on Saturday night and listen to cars and sirens whispering in the distance. This is where I meet the guy from upstairs. He lives by himself but he has his daughter, laughing and running around, on weekends. The guy from upstairs, when I see him, he sits down with me and we both pat the stray ginger cat who wraps around our legs, purring for food.
Where I live the guy from upstairs, who looks like Edward Norton but with a longer face, he talks to me about construction works he’s been watching on a house across the way. He says someone famous lives in our street but he can’t remember who. He says his daughter may not be coming by anymore. Her mother is trying to stop her coming by anymore. He tells me that his daughter has hair the same colour as summer and that nothing else matters as much as her. That one day I’ll know what he means. When he says this, all my problems seem smaller. He unfolds a drawing from his wallet that his daughter’s unsteady hands have created, him holding her hand. His hair scribbled in yellow. His body drawn in green. Big, red, one line smile. He tells me how he was only with her mother for one night. That her mother was the only girl he’d ever been with. How they did paternity tests to prove he was the father. He never did get a say in his daughter’s name. The guy from upstairs sort of laughs to himself, looks up the street. And her mother is trying to stop her coming by anymore.
He shows me a small picture of his daughter. She has his eyes.
Where I live I read about break-ins and make sure I lock my windows. I watch people mark their bodies for life at the tattoo store up the road. I listen to closing time drunken voices, hear bottles shatter across the pavement. I watch the guy from downstairs feed the stray ginger cat with leftovers. He pats her on her tiny head. She purs. I watch the guy from upstairs on his phone under the streetlight. Arguing. Echoeing through the empty streets. Crying onto the footpath. Saying ‘please’. Over and over.
Where I live, the guy from upstairs stays under the street light all night. His daughter doesn’t come by this week.
Where I live there is graffiti that takes on a life of its own. There are beach tanned women in winter, walking to no-where. Old Italian men in vests waiting to cross the street. Young Asian guys in sports cars with figurines stuck to their dashboards and spoilers that look like they are made from Meccano. A man in the street who I stop to talk to and he says, in some accent:
‘Women are like Voltron, the more you can hook up the better it gets.’
And sometimes, while the world is happening around me, I like to close my eyes, get lost in the sounds of the city at night. And there’s this one spot where I sit on the grass, my feet in the road side gutter. It’s about eight thirty when it’s perfect, when most people are indoors and the TV movie for the night is starting, the rain clouds washing across. Sun taking it’s light from day. I sit listening to the traffic wash through the streets, in front of the nursery where they sell garden ornaments, concrete statues that stare through the wire fence. The wind runs it’s fingers through the leaves of the trees and down the street away from me. It’s not much, where I live, but I smile.
Where I live up, on the second floor, in apartments stacked like boxes, the cricket is on TV. But I’m watching the trees waving in anticipation of a storm. The small triangle flags on strings at the car dealers up the road flickering above the windscreens which reflect the clouds around fluorescent price stickers. The man from downstairs opens his door to the ginger stray, its eyes closed in the building wind. The guy from upstairs is waiting in the street, looking up to the main road, walking back and forth. Today is Saturday.
Where I live, I take an umbrella out to him in the street, see a car pull up and his daughter, tiny feet tapping across the road, hair in tiny pigtails. Tiny carry case in her arms. She runs to him. Her hair like summer. Even in the rain. I hold an umbrella over them and notice that he is crying. But I don’t mention it.