The Channon. Sunday, 1.05pm.
Maybe I should be excited. Many of my friends are.
‘The votes are in the mail,’ one of those friends says as we pass by an Aboriginal bloke sitting under a tree, painting on stretched canvas. Around him are his artworks. They’re dot paintings with a sort of asymmetrical pattern. I know the paintings are telling stories to those who can hear. (I can’t.) This ancient wisdom is unheeded, its creators unequal in our society.
‘G’day mate,’ I say to the Aboriginal bloke. ‘Nice way to spend a day.’
He looks up from his work, pushes his trucker’s cap to the back of his head, and says, ‘Yeah’, flashing a smile.
‘Oh look! Pizza!’ says my friend, and heads towards the pizza stall. I walk with her.
‘It’s not a vote,’ I say.
‘I love these pizzas. They’re the best. You want a slice?’ she says.
‘No thanks. That bratwurst I had is still lying fully formed in my stomach. Digestive juices don’t seem to affect it. It’ll probably be there when I die. If doctors do an autopsy, there’ll it be, in perfect condition, ready for resale.’
‘Oh shut up,’ she says, ordering pizza with extra chilli.
‘It’s a survey,’ I say. ‘To survey what is already known.’
‘Whatever. But it’s important to have your say. It’s like democracy.’
‘Yeah, it’s like democracy, but it isn’t. It’s a survey and it’s non-binding. It’s insulting to gays, to everyone. It’s a con.’
She looks at me, her mouth stuck open around her pizza slice: ‘But you are going to vote, right?’
‘It’s not a vote…’
‘Whatever. But you’re going to do the survey thing, right?’
I shrug my shoulders and head towards the Sea Shepherd stall.
‘Jesus, S. You gotta vote… survey… whatever. This is important. Can’t let the bastards win this.’
‘They already won it. This could have been done in parliament in a few hours if the government had good intentions. But it hasn’t. It’s a game and I don’t want to play. There are more important things going on.’
There is a Sea Shepherd backpack hanging on a rack. Oh dear. I’m a sucker for bags. My quest in life is to find the perfect bag.
‘Look!,’ I cry out to her. ‘A bag!’
She walks over slowly, wrestling the pizza into her mouth – and talking: ‘I can’t believe (gulp) you’re not going to do the survey.’
‘I didn’t say that,’ I say. ‘Wow. Organic cotton too.’
‘You have hundreds of bags.’
‘Yeah, but this one has a special place at the top to put your sunglasses. See?’
‘Yeah, yeah. What’s more important than this issue, anyway?’ she asks, checking out the very useful sunnies compartment.
‘Well, I didn’t get a postal survey about aligning ourselves militarily with America if that maniac with the weird haircut decides to launch nuclear missiles –’
‘Kim Jong-un will never –’
‘Not that maniac…’
An older woman tends the stall, sipping coffee. I ask her about the backpack’s durability. (It has to be tough if I’m going to stop Adani, storm Pine Gap and ram whaling ships.) Her boyfriend’s had one for a year, she reckons, gone everywhere, fought the bad guys, and it’s still in great condition. He’s a champion, she says.
‘You’re not married?’ I ask.
She shows me the special place at the top of the backpack: ‘This is a great idea,’ she says. I nod in agreement.
‘You put your passport in here at airports and border crossings,’ she says.
‘And your sunglasses,’ I say.
‘Guess so…’ she smiles, wanly.
‘Can I try it on?’ I ask. I sling the backpack over my shoulders.
‘How’s it look?’ I ask, turning to my friend.
But she’s walked away.