There were concerned, freaked out even, people gathered above me. All recollection of a vivid, pleasant dream, immediately gone. I’d felt dizzy. Stood up to try and shake it. Couldn’t. Sat back down. Gone. Bruised skull and ego, but glad I’d been sitting down. The bar staff gave me a lemonade, then I went outside to be picked up by my used to the madness but not this particular type girlfriend. We fell asleep at my place to my mutterings about too many cigarettes and weird conversations and how much I enjoyed running into my grandparents earlier in the Friday I had off due to Deb the Bogan Cyclone.
My brother and I are making a habit of frequenting this particular southern Gold Coast tavern on Friday afternoons after work. It’s an enjoyable weekend beginning ritual, from which he departs my company after one mid- strength and two-light beers – on account of him working Saturdays. I tend to hang around afterward, if not seeing my girlfriend or someone else or having something else more constructive to do other than drink and smoke and talk with local characters and play the pokies – the latter of which I’d quit due to inadequate returns on my many, but modest investments.
It was the smoking and talking, together, that did it, I reckon. I’m normally a smoker, for hopefully not too much longer. And especially while boozing. I’m not normally a conversationalist, but can become so while drinking and smoking and being in the right state-of-mind. Which I was last night. Plus there was a band playing, with saxophone and errthang, so I guess I can blame over-stimulation, too. Not that I didn’t enjoy it at the time. So my brother had left. And I’d wolfed down a kebab from the shop next door. And returned to the bar. Then to the smoking area, where I was to later embarrass myself.
There was a brunette girl, covered in tattoos and cheap gold jewellery, of 27 there the entire night. Up until I passed out, when she was the only other person present and the most freaked by my loss of consciousness. More on her later. The first person I began talking to was a portly teacher with a unique laugh; a regular feature of the pub, with a penchant for Long Island iced-teas who I’d become acquainted with in my semi-regularity. Conversation was struck with him when I joined in poking fun at him for the shorts he was wearing, which I referred to as “yachting boardshorts” due to their horizontal white stripes over navy blue. But he has fascist-tending opinions – he’s a Trump supporter, which puts him massively in the minority in Australia, if possibly not the Gold Coast, for one – so we grew weary of each other’s irreconcilable yet eloquent differences soon enough, upon which time I began speaking with the second of this episode’s characters: a 27-year-old from Tamworth named, of course, Dustin.
Dustin was a jittery bastard. Like something was busting to get out of him. Or he just didn’t feel entirely relaxed or comfortable. Before we even started talking I overheard him saying he’d had his last beer. Then, a few hours and four or five or six pints later, he finally had his last beer and we parted ways with a fist bump. Ended up liking him. He didn’t like country music. Or once had, but had heard it to death growing up in Tamworth. His mum used to rent out his room during annual Country Music Festivals, but he didn’t mind because he spent most days of most weeks surfing mates’ couches, anyway. He’d moved around a lot since leaving north-central NSW probably about 10 years ago. Even done jail, possibly juvie, time, for reasons I couldn’t get out of him. Now he was camped out at one of the Mould Coast’s many corporate-owned bar/pokie/bistro wallet emptiers, with the likes of me. And this girl. Whose name escapes me. Think it started with a D, too.
At first she was just sitting in the corner for the first hour or two, on the phone, engaged in some vague drama with what seemed to be various family members. As is the way with taverns, she got talking to us – mainly me and Dustin. Turned out her mother had brain cancer and her brother was a junkie (So badly a junkie, it seemed, his life was as or not much less than imminently over as his mother’s.) Her dad had been kept from her for most of her life so far, under the false pretence, perpetuated by her mother, that her father didn’t want to see her. And that she didn’t want to see him. One of the last things I can remember is her crying. I asked her if she was ok and she responded, “Yes”, in such a way that I knew it was a polite lie to a sympathetic stranger. We talked for a few minutes more, until I started to feel dizzy.
It might have been too many cigarettes. Was less likely many, but no more than often for me on a Friday night, drinks. I think I was overwhelmed by the sheer, not entirely humorless but certainly tragic humanity of the experience.