Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Night in Nyah West

One night in Nyah West.  I park my bike in the main street and walk. The town is silent and dark except for the crickets and incandecent lights on verandas. The street is deserted until I reach one house, verandah-lit and street-edged, where a man leans casually against the roughened lattice, cigarette and white singlet, listening to the town and the night. It is summer. I spend a while with this man. I am wearing my leathers and holding my helmet. We talk about nothing; that there’s no petrol at night; that the drought keeps going; that the dying towns will have their return. That last is my thought; it seems deluded perhaps, but it is an expression of love for such places as this, expressed as hope.

We don’t share names. Our talk, the man’s quiet rest, his gaze forward without a glance my way, there’s an easy intimacy in a seemingly empty town in summer, sitting engulfed in the blackness and dust of Mallee desert. There’s a lazy, wearied, confident simplicity in our talk, in our momentary friendship, just sharing something with one another because he and I happen to be here.

As I walk away into the dark I feel normal burdens and concerns lift from me.  A sense that there are no roles or responsibilities to fulfill here and now, as though that might be my natural state. Instead just a hot night, a scent of possibility in a strange familiar town, and flashes of a child’s memories. I see swings that I played on as a child.

The pub has closed.  A voice or two echoes through the streets and a drunk stumbles and acknowledges me. I push the starter and my bike bursts into that low throb of a 650 twin.   I flick the high beam and the road glows ahead as I exit the town and accelerate into the sensation of speed and warm air.  Into the current of the night.

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