Byron Bay. Sunday, 1.15pm
The young bloke has no shirt and is wearing pants so low, the bush of his pubic hair sits above the belt-line like a desert plant burnt brown by a still-fierce autumnal sun and tenuously rooted in the pot of his shorts.
He’s carrying a small backpack, which he drops, with a clinking sound, at the approach of a young fella with bleached hair and a shirt. He carries a firestick which he twirls, unlit. They greet, grab hands in a formal shake, then pull themselves close to bump chests in that modern way that echoes the warrior greetings of past eras.
They stand in the sun on the grass of the park next to Main Beach. Behind them the ocean is crystal and relentless in the barrage of smooth waves it sends to crash against intimidated swimmers who keep to the shallows.
Others, unafraid, harness the power of these waves and surf them to shore. Out behind the waves, someone is riding what seems to be a motorised surfboard, no longer needing the natural forces of ocean meeting shore, but getting his (or her – but the stance seems masculine) momentum from the long-buried energy of old forests covered by earth millions of years ago. Oh, the freedom that petrol gives him. The climate karma is of no concern on a perfect day like this.
‘Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow,’ says the low-panted fella to his twirling mate.
I try not to stare at his pubic bush. That’d be a bad look. But, though long used to the fashion of low-riding pants, I have never seen a pubic parcel as exposed as this, sprouting right where a penis should be.
I’m not the only one looking. Around me in the shade of a Norfolk pine, are groups of people enjoying the beachside ambience. To my left I hear Chinese being spoken. There is an elderly women on a camping chair, a young couple, and a child in a pram.
The older Chinese women laughs and points at Bush Boy. The younger woman looks up from her phone, sharply says something in Chinese, and the older woman stops laughing and pointing. But still she titters. You probably don’t see this sort of thing in Beijing. Oh, the freedom that democracy gives us.
Bush Boy and his mate chat. The mate twirls on, dropping the firestick onto the backpack during a difficult manoeuvre. Alarmed, Bush Boy checks the backpack for breakage, withdrawing a brown-papered bottle from which he takes a long slug.
To my right is another family, this one nuclear. They speak a language I can’t pick, but I’m reckon it’s Middle-Eastern. The couple sits on a blanket. He swipes his phone, while on his lap a toddler fingers a noisy tablet. Beside them, the woman’s right hand tethers a crawling baby eager to explore mysteries beyond the blanket.
A young woman in sarong and bikini top passes by. Bush Boy ditches the twirler mate and walks over to her, his pants staying on. He grabs her in a full-body Byron hug, his bush no doubt cushioning the blow. She smiles politely but leans back from the embrace, a glint of panic in her eye.
A platoon of Hare Krishnas comes to the rescue, harmonium siren blazing, cymbals crashing. They dance around the couple, allowing the woman to escape the furry embrace on the pretence of dancing.
So, there they are, Bush Boy stumble dancing, the get-me-outa-here young woman dancing towards the road and freedom, the firestick twirler twirling and four Krishnas dancing in mantric bliss, oblivious to the imminent danger of firestick impalement.
The older Chinese woman can’t help herself, and shrieks with laughter.