Comments on Roughing it,,
Joined: Nov 11, 2007
Location: UK *up north somewhere*
Total Topics: 63
Total Comments: 195
Posted 09/12/08 - 2:40 PM:
Subject: Roughing it,,
Darling Harbour, he assumed, had formerly been a regular port for ships but now its essence was leisure. There was an Imax movie theatre and shopping malls, an oriental garden, a pirate ship moored in the harbour itself among a host of other distractions. A bridge and mono-rail lead from the centre of the city this location being only about five minutes walk from the major shopping districts. It seemed to be the brainchild of some meeting of corporate minds Stephen decided, appraising the area in a cool way; he felt it added a new dimension to the city for visitors though and walking around saw it may well be a possible future sleeping location. The public conveniences allowed a higher than average quality of environment for his morning cleaning ritual he noted, giggling to himself.
Surely, he thought, -somewhat in desperation- if he tried most of the restaurants and bars somebody was going to take him on. He filled in many applications that day and had been asked to come for an interview by a sandwich shop and a trial evening shift as a barman in a quite upmarket Italian restaurant. He thought he would be able to make sandwiches but he had been fired from the last bar job he had tried in England and so was a little less optimistic about the restaurant. The interview at the sandwich shop was short and sweet; the manageress was a lively Australian lady who may have been charmed by his accent and decided to give him a trial run. He would start the following day; in the evening and he would also be going for the trial run at the restaurant. He felt more buoyant again. Going back to the park with bandstand after sitting around Darling Harbour watching the tourists mill about until nightfall he noticed the ranger in his four by four patrolling. Perhaps there had been complaints and he was being extra vigilant. After sitting on a bench looking over Sydney he decided to hunt for a more hidden spot. There was a kind of concrete canyon at the side of the grass that would be impossible for the ranger to see unless he made a special effort. The floor was hard and recent nights had been rather cold; Stephen managed to find a large piece of cardboard, the thick kind that is used to package electrical goods like television sets. He placed this in the canyon and put his sleeping bag inside and it made a reasonable sleeping space. He had finally stooped as low as sleeping in a cardboard box!
The sandwich shop job went reasonably. He managed to take orders in good time for impatient business men and more patient tourists. It closed early evening and he had to clean up; making coffee -cappuccino's, latte's, mocha's- would be a skill he could pick up later. He was told that some days there were some very good left-overs, sometimes cake, but that day there was nothing. Handling the mouth-watering foods he had pretended indifference; as he grew hungrier at the end of the day the torture grew. Quite large quantities of perishable food was simply tossed away; he noticed he was watching the movement of plates full of food now like a dog might except he kept his tongue firmly within his mouth. The Italian restaurant shift didn't go well. In both the sandwich shop and the restaurant most of the staff were foreigners, predominantly British, passing through Sydney with work visas. The cook and waiter were Brits and bantered with him as he pretended to know what he was doing; he felt the young manager saw straight through him though and he wasn't invited back for another night. He went back to his cardboard feeling very hungry. The next day would be the weekend and he wasn't due to work at the sandwich shop until Monday and all his supplies had run out.
He got up early with food on his mind. Already he had a good sense of the grid pattern streets that weaved, maze like, around the polished exteriors of the central shopping districts; he'd compiled his own mental map walking restlessly around. What gleamed in his survival consciousness on that cool morning was the amazing recollection that one store had its bread delivered and left outside the shop in the morning. Perhaps he had been seeing things but it seemed to have left an indelible mark on his memory. He launched out to find the shopping street on which the pile of loaves had been seen. It was still very early and delivery trucks and cleaning machines shuddered around in their busy automatic fashion. He weaved about unable to locate the street and then turned a corner and suddenly he saw the bread in a neat pile before him. Without a second thought he walked rapidly over and stuffed a reasonably sized one under his sweat shirt. He waited for the prod on the shoulder from a burly, Italian delicatessen manager but felt nothing. On he flowed. Was this the first time he'd stolen something? He thought so. He went to a park and sat down and began devouring the fresh bread with glee and satisfaction. There was a McDonald's fizzy drink container sitting in a bin next to him which was almost full. He wouldn't let it go to waste and took gulps from it as he wolfed down the bread.
He recalled that McDonald's gave free refills of coffee. He spent much of the rest of the day circulating through the busier McDonald's restaurants where it wouldn't be noticed that he was picking up empty coffee cups to get refills. He would sit reading the discarded newspapers and dreaming of the things he would do when he had some money. Already he had been on a mission to view all the available hostels in Sydney and had a mental list of the cheapest. He figured he would start in Kings Cross, a lively and traveller filled area of town which was also Sydney's red light district. He would stay there perhaps a week then relocate to the Glebe, a busy alternative shopping area popular with students and travellers which would be a little more expensive but a far more desirable place to live. On Sunday after sleeping in his cardboard tube, he went to the Botanic Gardens and hung his clothes -they had recently been washed in a public convenience- out to dry on the bench he was sat on. Things weren't going so badly now and he actually felt a sense of levity. Somehow, he really felt very good indeed sat looking out to the harbour on that sunny day and even wrote a poem (as seen at the opening of this section). It was the start of five years of writing verse, as if the homelessness had forced him to a point of inwardness where he'd decided it was time to begin to express himself.
At the end of the day on Monday after a day drooling over the food that was in front of his nose nearly every moment, he felt the hungriest he had ever been. He didn't dare take any food and anyway there was barely a chance. After he had been shown how to make the different varieties of coffee, pretending interest and trying to ignore the food that was being thrown away all around him, the very important news was announced. There were left-overs that were deemed appropriate for the workers to take home. The mask which he'd been wearing for the world with more consciousness than ever since landing into difficult circumstances in Australia almost slipped; he wanted to let out a mad little giggle of glee but restrained himself. They were shown some ham that looked fine and some delicious looking bread rolls.
"Oh yes, I might take a little, maybe somebody in the hostel would appreciate it though I don't feel that hungry, I ate a large lunch."
Had lying ever been so easy? He'd barely tried before but he found that as one's circumstances became more difficult it is an almost unavoidable habit. As most of the staff had left, as he put the remainders into a plastic bag he grabbed a small cake as well and thrust it in with the rest. Leaving work he reclaimed his rucksack that he had left concealed in a nook behind the shop and walked until he was far enough away not to be spotted by his co-workers. He devoured the left-overs, his eyes watering in gratitude as he looked over the harbour.
That night in his cardboard shelter he started to hear strange noises from his stomach and then agonising pain; then the shitting began. Meat left exposed to the world all day with nothing but a glass display to protect from people and their germs, nothing to shield from the probing fingers of staff and curious insects fresh from whatever pile of excrement or trash they have just left, this kind of meat is not always to be trusted. He saw now that there was, after all, a good reason for the waste at the end of the day. He recalled the manageress had probably confused the ham with another pile that had been sitting in the refrigerator all day. These sane, rational calculations went on as he stomach moaned like a dying animal. There were no toilets nearby and he was in such pain he could barely move from the spot he was in; there was a steady drizzle falling outside to top it all. He cleared all the belongings within his body's catchment area outside the tube and pulled off his trousers and underwear. He thought of the freshly made cappuccino's and latte's made at the end of day during training as his backside produced something of similar consistency. Out it came, in torrents and spurts, his anus transformed into the biological version of a coffee machine. He made small moaning sounds in sympathy with his stomach as he felt himself emptying out, already calculating how and when he would replace the contents that had proved so unsuccessful in satisfying his bodies nutritional needs. He lay under the cardboard as the rain went from drizzle to something more substantial in a terrible state. If the ranger had come around that evening and probed with his beam what a sight he would have beheld!
Ten minutes after the out pour the pain -to his surprise- began to ebb. He had actually been considering hospitalisation. He slid out of the cardboard and lay it open for the rain to clear off the worst of the foul mess. There was no energy or will to do any more and he dressed himself and went over to the shelter of the bandstand. He shivered and had a fever but sleep restored him and waking up early as he always did on the streets he felt that he would face another day at work though in the toilet mirror where he prepared himself he looked like a dressed corpse awaiting burial. Nobody seemed to notice at work that day where his desire for food had left him though when more left-overs were offered at the end of the day he volunteered again -for the sake of the others in the hostel- and stuffed himself later as the pangs returned. He seemed little else, during that time, than a strong desire to eat halted briefly by the diarrhoea together with a racing mind that could do little but try to maintain an affable mask to lend a false front to the chaos inside.
There were more hand-outs and by the end of the week he hadn't gone hungry. Friday he received his first paycheck and was very happy as he held it in his hand walking to his sleeping place for that night, a bridge situated in some wasteland near to Darling Harbour. He had a good view of the centre from here, Sydney tower sprouting out of the compact clutch of high rise. He bought supplies and ate properly and sat under the bridge waiting for it to get dark feeling an odd sense of intimacy within his view of the city. The more he roughed it the emptier he felt; his identity seemed to be slipping gradually and getting lost in the streets, every night he surrendered a little more to fate.
He visited the traveller's bureau on the other side of the city again on Saturday morning and the same lady, no longer resisting him, leafed through the mail and produced his envelope. He was standing looking dishevelled and probably quite ill so when she handed him the envelope and he opened it to discover the cheque he offered to give her some money but she let it go. It came to eighty dollars and with his wage from the sandwich shop for the previous Friday's work he had over one hundred dollars. He decided he had to sleep at least a couple of nights in a hostel and booked into a very cheap one in King's Cross. At day time the area was flourishing; flower shops, souvenir stores, happy tourists and eccentric locals defined the streets then when night fell it became seedier but not without a real air of excitement. It was a luxury to have a bed again and he felt a certain achievement that left him silent and contemplative; he watched the television in the common room thrilled at the novelty of ordinary pleasures.
He stayed there for a hand full of nights but felt he needed to leave some money in his account for an emergency and so returned to the bridge. The following Friday his money from the marketing job and the first week at the sandwich store would come through and he would have over three hundred dollars and would be able to move into a hostel in The Glebe. That Friday evening following work he carried his pack to the green, bustling, alternative corner of Sydney from which Sydney tower still could be seen like a guardian on his quest. The first hostel he tried was chaotic and he was awoken on both nights he stayed there by crazed residents. Many of them seemed to have been settled there for months and saw it as their home in which they could do as they wished. The only other sensible person he met there was a young man from the north of England who had recently arrived after taking the Trans Siberian railway from Moscow. He had got off somewhere in Asia then flown to Australia and was now planning to catch a bus across Australia to Perth. He seemed unstoppable and left the hostel after only staying a few nights, shortly before Stephen.
Stephen moved to a hostel away from the main street of The Glebe, it was situated above a pub and was low cost but the landlord kept an eye on the place so it seemed a better bet for a decent night's sleep. There was a small kitchen and living area which gave it an intimate feel; many of the people there when he first moved in seemed to be staying in Sydney to work for a while before moving on to other parts of the country. He assumed the quiet, meditative persona again; there was a simmering sense of having emerged from a unique experience that had given him a slightly different view of the world. He remembered how, in his movements, he had begun to watch 'normal' people in a different way and feel a certain fellowship with the other long term homeless who he noticed lingering in certain districts, following their own cyclic routine of hardly bearable rest places that offered some shelter while always the feeling of exposure remained. You became part of the streets, not a normal citizen but belonging more profoundly to the form and reality of the city. Some homeless looked almost like pieces of stone, their faces set hard in an acceptance of circumstances beyond despair, beyond shame and Stephen feared it; feared how far it was possible to fall. Yet still he had been one of them for a time, only his will and his wits made him any different in his ultimate potential to break free of the cycle.
He took another job in addition to the sandwich shop with a bar nearby. It started in the evenings and he was clearing glasses mostly; he wanted to generate funds now to give himself a store of savings that would cushion him from another fall. He disliked the work in the bar and his senses felt punished after a hard day facing customers in the shop as again he was facing people who demanded things. It would get hectic and there would be drunks and violence in the air but he managed to withdraw himself mostly and offer a serviceable shell to get through the night. Knowing he had a real bed to return to was a solace. Even a week after getting off the streets still his senses felt attuned to his rawer experiences. He'd taken up smoking as people kept leaving packets of cigarettes on the tables and he'd dreamily suck them overlooking Darling Harbour, now bathed in the glow of light from water front businesses. Then he would dream about his solitary existence over the weeks before; it was an additional layer to his normal brooding over deeper questions surrounding the meaning of existence that he was often diverted by at this time. Approaching twenty-five and so a certain watermark of early maturity he still believed there was some kind of tangible answer to these questions, not realising his nature would have to become looser instead of stiff in resolution. He didn't know then that he would have to become a jelly fish in spirit, bulging or contracted before the obstacles that reality and speculation presented to his mind, keeping an eye on loss, chased by its currents -he was still learning. For now he still longed in an empty way which wasn't the more purified form of emptiness that he had glanced while on the streets.
He returned to the hostel in the Glebe one evening after being there for about two weeks and found the Englishman who had supposedly travelled to Perth in his room. He had been promised a job there in sales but hadn't got along with it and so had taken the mammoth bus journey back to Sydney. His name was Dave and Stephen felt a friendliness toward him due to their both having shared rather extreme experiences and chance meetings. He'd only just arrived in the hostel, seemingly having had the same idea as Stephen -The Glebe was probably the best area for hostels in Sydney but the one's on the main street were either too expensive or too rowdy. He was a few years younger than Stephen and he felt older and wiser, probably for the first time in his life, with someone close to his own age; he made him a cup of tea like a kindly uncle wanting to hear 'all about his travels'. However, Dave wasn't a great conversationalist and they sat around the small living area producing only snatches of talk watching the others in the hostel drift around preparing food like they had returned to university and were in a student residence again. Dave seemed as though he planned to stay a while and Stephen felt he at least knew somebody he shared something in common with in Sydney now after what had been a very lonely time. Still he hadn't told anybody he had met in the hostel about this experiences on the streets but started to reveal what had happened to Dave over that weekend as he recharged after another long week of working.
He was sharing a room with three others; there were three bunk beds in all and occasionally somebody would move in for a couple of nights then disappear, only stopping briefly before leaving the country or moving off to another destination in Australia. There was Dave and another Englishman, Chris. Chris was twenty years old but seemed younger; he was intelligent enough but seemed a bit marooned both educationally and in his family situation. He had been living with one of his divorced parents who he didn't seem to have any great affection for and had worked in an office job he hated after failing get the grades he needed to go to university. He wasn't sure why he was in Australia, his life was so dull at home any change seemed preferable; he seemed apathetic and unresponsive overall. He didn't have much interest in what or who he was; his identity was just something known he carried around with him like cards in a wallet. He was, therefore, on a sure path to becoming an English type. The last male in the room was Carl, an Austrian, travelling post university and very full of his bright future with a shiny white smile that seemed to suggest he would never know suffering and would always be lucky. He was working an office job now and it did seem to be dawning on him that the working world -at least the one outside Austria- might not be simply a ride to easy authority and reward. However, all would be well when he returned home and found his true vocation.
"I will return and find a well paid job, drive a BMW, probably, and live in a nice house. Why not? I have a good degree and plenty of companies will be interested in me. I am not enjoying my job here but it is just routine, a means to an end; I can save up more money then I will go sailing on the Gold Coast. It is good to see the world, Sydney is a beautiful city. I wish I had more time to enjoy it, I seem to be working all the time."
Chris was still looking for a job and seemed to spend most of his day dreamily watching tv or wandering about the Glebe trying not to spend money. Dave was also looking for work now; he and Chris would make sorties into the city but emerge empty handed.
Stephen had been drinking with the two Englishman one night in the bar downstairs and began sharing his experiences of New Zealand and then finally the streets of Sydney.
"It was the nature in New Zealand that affected me the most. I think part of me had been dead before but now I feel like telling everybody to wake up and go and experience the place, it's so untouched. Britain's overcrowded; I'd never seen it before because I didn't know any better. The countryside is nice but it's always in contrast to the dirty, overcrowded towns and cities and it never feels like somewhere you are really free to enjoy. In New Zealand you feel like you have a right to it, and you can even feel it in the parks and gardens of the cities - except Auckland."
Chris looked at him sceptically as if he already had life figured out at twenty and there would never be much more to learn. Dave listened on with interest but still Stephen felt it was useless to preach and that the essence of what good travelling experiences leave behind in the heart can never really be communicated. He got drunk enough, as they returned to their room, to pull out his journal and read them one of his poems. He had written it while enveloped by a mood just after getting off the streets.
'Three weeks without a place to rest/Though I'm not going to suggest/I experienced real suffering/On the streets of Sydney/When I first landed/It left something/I want to let stick though/A girder that/I'll make good and strong/So people can't hurt me/Unless I deserve it."
It was free verse that tried to reach a resolution of all the conflicting emotions he'd been through over those weeks in an image of a metal girder that was, perhaps, constantly being strengthened through experience and worked on so the individual could evolve. Dave seemed appreciative enough though Chris screwed up his nose a little and went to sleep. Stephen felt good hearing the voice; he hadn't attempted to write verse as a young man before and it seemed to help him see a little clearer.
The pattern of work continued and after his varied experiences of the previous year he was struck, as he hadn't been before, by how life and conversation revolves around the islands of work and play. All the more long term residents of the hostel were working toward more travel and returned with their various work stories as they sat in the cramped living space of the hostel. Stephen had an interview with an employment agency lined up; he wanted to try and get an office job in preference to the other two jobs. He was too thoughtful, it seemed, to survive for long in a public facing role, he always felt as though he were switching between his self preoccupation and his public face and it wore him out. At least in an office job he would have time to think.
He took the elevator to the upper floor of an office building in the centre of the city. It was situated within one of the thoughtfully designed public areas for rest and recuperation, an area of grass verge, parasols and coffee shops between high rise. Such areas would often lead directly into the cavernous depths of the city which housed its own underground city and seemingly endless shopping malls. Whilst homeless Stephen could sometimes spend nearly the whole day underground in the warm shafts of the shopping zones staring into shop windows, watching passers-by, shifting from bench to bench. Once he had discovered the benches in the underground stations were warm and comfortable but the staff started their shifts early in the morning and soon he had to move on and emerge once again into a cool morning after little rest. Filled with such bitter-sweet wisps of memory he strode into the interview in his best second hand clothes feeling a little wearied by life but ready to play the office worker game for a while. He'd managed to appear positive thinking and quite interesting with descriptions of his travel in New Zealand and future hopes for Australia and after some aptitude tests was offered a temporary position processing share applications for the public sale of a previously government owned telecommunications company. The salary was adequate enough to allow him to ditch the other two jobs, leaving him the time he felt he needed for thinking and rest. He would begin in a week, all the training he would need would be provided on the job which would last for about six weeks.
The interviewer had been a smart woman of Italian parents a few years older than himself. She'd talked of how the work was 'important to the city' and Stephen was reminded that the Olympics was due to arrive the following year in Sydney -which in parts had become like a building site as a result- and it added to his slightly idealised sense of what cities were about. She was just one shard of a multi ethnic atmosphere in this, the most memorable of Australia's cities; could he be living within an atmosphere that held a torch for future patterns of urban life into the Twenty First Century? Well being so young still he was prone to such thoughts which may not have been just idealisation; greater and greater mixing of the world's genetic stock is surely the one sure way to guarantee war and distorted ideology become a thing of the past in the global society that the Twenty First Century was going to see blooming ever more fully unless the earth itself finally started to reject the rampant form of life which endlessly expanded over its surfaces. The latter, of course, still a very real possibility.
He continued with his other jobs until he was sure that the office job was 'go' then made cowardly phone calls to his other employers telling them he had quit at the end of the week. There was a certain freedom in taking up then discarding jobs so quickly and he imagined he was only playing the same game that post industrial capitalist society seems to be best at: cynical exploitation. Now he didn't have to work evenings on weekends he would have more time to look around the city without survival prerogatives clouding his every perception. He took a ferry out to Manly beach which is situated on the seaward edge of the enormous sheltered bay upon which Sydney it perched. He was surprised by how pretty it was; it felt sheltered from the rest of the city and indeed almost appeared a town in its own right with splendid beaches and areas of parkland. He was disappointed with Bondi whose name lends it an almost mythical quality. It appeared a meagre escape from the press of the urban, a relatively small area of beach and not the golden stretch of sand he had expected. He had mutated into a temporary citizen now, and walked with his head held a little higher, able to view the future with a little clarity; probably the best gift civilisation has to give.
He fell into the irritating regimentation of the office job. After the freedom he had felt in New Zealand it felt like an abrupt fall to earth, even more so than the strange twilight world of his homelessness. On an upper floor of another office building there were views of the harbour which placed him in a pleasurable sense of context. They were all registered like school children and then walked through the computer system. Scanned share applications were passed through the computers and their essential details recorded. The small army of temps were to press a button and shepherd the documents through in what was a very simple and boring but relatively well paid job. He found himself among a mix of people of healthy racial mix -again helping his quixotic idea that he was living in a city that was heralding the form of humanity for the Twenty-First Century. There were students, traveller's, housewives, the formerly retired, the recently or long term jobless perhaps victims of a world where 'permanent' jobs were anything lasting longer than six months . All had been scooped from the available worker's of the urban population by the eager grip of the employment agency, another manifestation of the corporate will to power. Yet here, pressing a button on a keyboard, he had been lead to believe he was doing something 'good for the city'. Next to him sat one of the housewives; this one wasn't even interested in the money. She told him, to his disbelief, that she had a rich husband and lived in the suburbs but was only doing the job 'for something to do' and 'to meet people'! As he was processed through the system and finally sat down to do the work his eye appraised his fellow casual workers: the straight-forward and the neurotic, the enthusiastic and the dull, the miserable and the optimistic, the bright and the deluded. All types passed by, the agency had clearly opened its doors to any person who would turn up for work and clock in each day.
Pacing through the air conditioned corridors, walled in by glass, he grew depressed. The work routine allowed a certain superficial order to emerge in his life but he felt his travelling and what it was supposed to mean to him was being lost to the dreariness of the nine to five. So far his movements had been anything but mediocre but now he felt cramped and closed in, more irritated by other people than he had noticed before, hypersensitive to even the slightest suggestion of stupid thought in others. Of course there were plenty of the latter in the average working day. The permanent workers with the company they were hired by seemed conditioned and soulless taken as a whole. They could function within their limited roles but he felt that it was important to be passionate and dissatisfied; this was his persistent sense of the good life. At this point he didn't find himself finding much solace in reading. Perhaps at around twenty-five years a reader is still unable to grasp the full import of any writer's work; they greedily, rather, snatch at ideas and try to apply them to the chaos of their own existence. He read bits of psychology and philosophy which pricked his interest but mostly he was being filled by life and books remained on the periphery of things and hadn't even become, perhaps, the coloured lights hanging over the main structure that they are to a reader who has reached maturity. There were ideas in his head but they became vague and blurred with the in rush of prevailing reality and pain.
As the job drew to a close he started looking around for something else in is spare time. There was a British man in the hostel, Garry, who was doing a tour of Australia with his girlfriend. He was a police sergeant aged twenty-six, already significantly bald with a certain neurotic streak and a lack of general awareness that surprised Stephen given he was supposed to be a 'somebody' in the community. Of course, he'd always heard the stories of how policeman weren't always so bright but so far he'd never known an upholder of the law on a personal basis. His girlfriend saw something in him at least; an attractive blond she didn't say much and followed him loyally around; they had a van outside the hostel they were going to continue their tour in. Garry was working for a furniture company moving things around and the pay was good, cash in hand and they needed more workers and when the office work finally ended Stephen joined him and some others from the hostel one Monday.
Garry gave them a lift each day in the van, he ushered them out each morning in a haressed way that suggested he'd never overcome his bad parenting. Arriving for the first morning's work Stephen's eye met more human shrapnel from the world of work.
"Bill's dead, you hear?" A man perhaps even younger than Stephen said in a dull, habitual tone. "Just keeled over last week."
Bill, apparently, had been working for the company for a while and was only just fifty. Everybody seemed to accept in a way that Stephen thought was barely human. They got back to work as if Bill -whose hands had probably touched the same objects theirs did only days before- had never existed.
Much of the furniture had been manufactured with wood, perhaps rainforest, from Asia. It was well made and Stephen assumed it made its way to suburban stores for well heeled households. The work wasn't difficult at all though quite tiring; most of the time they were shifting around the warehouse with Garry trying to take control of the hostel crew as if he were boss. By the end of the week Stephen had a nice lump of cash in his hand that the tax man hadn't touched and which he added to some of to his modest savings. That Friday night in the bar beneath the hostel Garry revealed again how little he knew. It was night and they had just visited another bar in the district; Gary's head had lifted to the skies in a way that might have been more a pretence at wonder than anything genuinely felt.
"Some of those stars, the light from them takes ages to reach us. We are looking at them and the light might have taken over a year to get here. That's amazing isn't it?"
Stephen didn't have the heart to tell him a lot of the light would take millions of years; it was too much immensity for the cop to handle. Well, it was too much for any of us to handle probably, he thought, correcting himself.
There were two new arrivals in the hostel that were livening things up a little. They were two girls aged eighteen who had just finished their A-levels and were spending some time in Sydney before they went off to university. They were both good looking young women; there was a blonde, Kim, and a brunette, Lisa. Kim was the most vivacious and pretty while Lisa had a certain sultry smartness that had its own attractions. It was Kim who he had fallen for a little, she glowed with energy and the passions of early youth and watched everything around her attentively. Currently they seemed to be out drinking most nights and that night they bought everyone drinks around the bar. Stephen was moved by the generosity and their excited talk about the future and university. He felt jaded and old; that he had spent a good portion of his youth and free floating anxiety was becoming more of an issue now his illusions were fading. Yet there were always the distractions of travel and he was storing up cash in the bank and he decided it was time to think about what he was going to do after Sydney as it seemed unlikely he would find anything to make him want to stay there for much longer. If at times he had fantasised he might find a job that would keep him in the city indefinitely he knew now it was unlikely to happen.