Lismore. Tuesday, 10.20am
‘They hang out near Bunnings, you know,’ he says, raising a flat white to his lips.
I notice his hands shake as he says this.
‘Bunnings?’ I say.
‘Yeah, near Bunnings. In the morning.’ He loudly slurps his coffee. Embarrassing. This is a classy cafe.
‘Well, people who frequent hardware places, they’re dangerous. Probably on drugs,’ I say.
He furrows his eyebrows and looks at me, his shaking hand spilling coffee over his avocado on multigrain.
‘Just joking,’ I say. ‘Hardware people are good people. I went to Bunnings once. It was… good. I got a sausage.’
I smile at my friend and sip my latte. ‘But, obviously the police have issues with renovators.’
‘They’re shifty, the cops,’ he says. ‘Just hanging on the side of the road. Camouflaged. You can’t see them until it’s too late. A friend of mine got done the other day.’
‘Camouflaged?’ I say.
‘Yeah. Like the sky.’
‘Oh.’ (I have all sorts of friends.)
We share a moment of silence for my friend’s friend, interrupted only by slurping sounds. At the table next to us, a bloke with a neat beard and nose rings attacks his lunch. The lunch is served on a breadboard, even though it’s a salad. I told you it was a classy place.
‘Alcohol?’ I ask my friend.
‘No. Drugs. Marijuana.’
‘A morning smoker?’
‘No. The night before.’
‘What was he doing in Bunnings?’ I ask.
‘He wasn’t in Bunnings. He was going to work. He lives in Casino,’ he says.
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘Casino is okay,’ my friend says, eyes furrowing again, coffee spilling onto his phone. My friend is, well, tempermentally volatile. The hipster, a sliver of tomato stuck to his beard, looks our way.
‘No, I meant that I’m sorry he was busted.’ I say. ‘Casino’s good. I went there once. Beef Week. It was… good. I got a sausage.’
I return to my latte.
We live in a drug society. Get real. Everybody is on some drug or other. I like caffeine. And lercanidipine. And alcohol. Legality is more an issue of corporate acceptance than harmfulness.
The hairy hipster mouth chucks a comment (and a fragment of Vietnamese mint) towards us: ‘The police are doing us all a favour by keeping drug users off the roads.’
‘Well, my mate could lose his job,’ my friend says, spilling coffee in an arc as he spins towards the hipster. The arc includes my leg. My friend’s eyes glint danger, but the hipster is a big fella. Steroids?
‘If he takes drugs, he shouldn’t drive,’ the hipster says, staring at my friend, inviting argument.
My friend eyeballs him back and says, ‘Dickhead.’ My friend is brave and passionate, but Socratic debate isn’t his style. He needs support.
‘Look mate,’ I say to the hipster. ‘There’s no evidence that he was under the influence of marijuana, just that it was in his system. Shit, he probably has Vegemite in his system too.’
‘Are they checking for Vegemite?’ my friend asks, anxiously, coffee spilling onto my newspaper.
‘No, mate,’ I say to my friend. I turn to the beard.
‘I’m just saying that you can roar off in a car, emotionally distraught after a fight with your wife, pop a Valium, light a cigarette, eat a comfort burger, turn up the the Iron Maiden CD – and you’re a safe driver. But have a joint the night before…’
‘Probably wouldn’t have had the fight then,’ my friend says.
The hipster wipes the tomato from his beard, pushes his chair away from his table, and stands above us. He’s really big.
‘Hippies,’ he says, and heads to his Renault.
‘Dickhead,’ says my friend, spilling coffee into the sugar bowl.