Friday, July 13, 2007

a whizz in the graveyard

There are very few places in the City where you can pee outside. I've seen a cabbie stopped in a lay-by on Southern Cross Drive peeing against a wall in full view (well, he had his back turned) of the enormous traffic shifting by; I've seen bottles of pee left in the dunny at Teacher's Car Wash, suggesting some drivers do it on the run; and I myself have peed in some strange places, including once against one of the north pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Usually I go to a pub - the Hero of Waterloo in The Rocks is a favourite, so is the Criterion on Park Street - or a Servo somewhere. The other night in Bondi I parked the cab confidently around the corner from one of my usual spots only to find the pub - what was it ever called? - no longer exists.

Last night I was in South Coogee, having dropped a young woman off at Maroubra Beach (and refused the pizza she wanted to give me), when I saw a bat fly through a row of big old trees like macrocarpa and thought: Yes! Here! I was busting, as the kids say. Parked the car and got out, only to be confronted by a working man going home with his duffel bag over his shoulder (it was late, 11.30 or so, and I was sure the street was deserted.) He was too tired even to look at me, so I scooted on towards the first tree.

Up the slope behind it was a wooden gate, leaning open, with what looked like a field behind it. In a field behind a gate is of course better even than round the back of a tree, so I climbed up and went through into ... a graveyard. It was the Randwick Cemetery in Malabar Road, I've seen it heaps of times up the other end, from Arden Street, but hadn't realised it came down this far.

There was the cold stillness you find in graveyards, the tipping stones, the land rising up towards a brief, carious horizon, beyond which the far stars trembled against the black. It was like suddenly entering another dimension, where the coordinates we use to navigate the streets and houses, people and their dreams, had vanished and all that was left was space and time and the tough grass and weeds that grow over stones. It was a distant corner I was in, old, disused and out of some vestigial feeling of respect, probably misplaced, I tried to memorise the names of the people upon whose bones I was peeing ... gone.

I left that place with a shiver and, though not exactly disquieted, I did notice I drove rather less recklessly and haphazardly than usual as, having decided not to seek any more work that night, I made my way back to base.