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Dear Robert

by Isaya Sikwatta 11 months ago in fact or fiction

the little black book

Dear Robert
Photo by Velvet Morris on Unsplash

Dear Robert.

It is exactly ten years since professor arrived at Brisbane international airport. He now lives above a coffee shop in the middle of the city.

There is an abrupt door choked between a coffee shop and a generic jewellery store. Squeeze through this door and a set of stairs will deliver you to a landing that is dominated by a window. Ignore the view of the expanse of rusted roofs that conceal restaurants and boutique shops below them. Knock on the green door. No one will come to the door. Try the lock and the door will open on silent hinges and the street noise will hit you in the face. Most of the noise is coming through the front window from Margret street mid-day traffic. More subdued noise is coming through the back window, which opens onto a view of corrugated iron and urban aerial landscape. There is a chair next to the window. If you sit on the open window frame your feet will comfortably rest on the roof that shelters the next shops’ car park. Beyond it is and endless view of different roofs and walls, old and new alike. There is an ash tray on the roof, a hand length away from where you would sit if you sat directly under the window at night.

From his front window you can see the big intersection. If you go left, at the intersection that will take you towards the new red cross op shop on Ruthven. Go right and that will take you to the big lifeline op shop opposite the Mills precinct. Keep going straight ahead and you will eventually come to a railway crossing. Behind you, if you keep walking you will come to queen's park.

There is a camera on a tripod at the corner of the front window, the camera is pointed at an angle at the intersection. It's easy to see the green dot of light that indicates the camera is on. Let your eyes see the sleeping bag on the floor. The sleeping bag is neatly laid out, resist the temptation to approach it, notice the clear lace curtain sway gently to coincide with your thought to move and stand next to the window and look on to the street below.

It's time to go, someone is coming up the stairs. Leave everything the way you found it. Relief comes to you as the lock clicks home. There is no one walking up the stairs, straighten your face and open the door onto Margret street. The smell of coffee draws you to enter the coffee shop. You reach for the sliding door, someone on the inside beats you to it. He steps aside to let you in. You walk in as he walks out without looking at his face. After your order is taken don’t just stand there move around. Look at the art work on the wall, see the price tag and read about the artist. The artist is local, you have never heard of her, no one can hear your thoughts but look over your shoulder just in case, because at the moment you are thinking there is no way you would pay one thousand two hundred dollars for this art. Smile at the cool looking guy and his sure looking girlfriend, take time but please hear Bob Dylan on the stereo on his way to the valley down below. Sit in the corner next to the sink and wait for your coffee, stay out of the way of those coming in groups on their breaks.

From where you are sitting you can hear and feel the movement upstairs. Your brain filters all the other sounds out and fills in the gaps to create a mental picture of what's going on upstairs. Steps, you count one two three. Silence. Whoever it is they are standing at the back window. A scrapping sound, they are on the roof. Silence you are so immersed in the scene above you can smell the cigarette smoke and hear the cigarette paper burn. Steps. you count one, two, three, four. They are standing next to the camera. You can visualise him slightly bending to look into the camera. There is more silence and a shifting of weight from one foot to another. You hear steps again. To the left, you count one, two, three and silence again. You know he is standing next to the sleeping bag. There is silence that is not broken for at least ten minutes. You conclude he is lying on the sleeping bag.

You rise to leave, and say thank you as you walk out. The heat from the street hits you in the face as it rushes past you take a left and walk towards anywhere. You stop at the Neil street lights and wait for the green light. A couple waits next to you hand in hand you guess they are going to the strand cinemas. There is a police car waiting at the lights too and for a brief second your eyes meet the eyes of the police woman in the passenger seat of the cruiser. The green lights indicate its ok to cross. You follow the couple as they walk into the cinemas, for unknown reasons you stop to look at what's showing today. There is something with Samuel Jackson in it. ‘Excuse me’ there is someone behind you, he is standing too close and wants to get the list of today's shows. You move sideways and let him pick out one. Pick one and put it in your bag without looking at it. The post office is closed. There is someone inside, and you stand outside looking inside, not entirely bothered and turn to leave when no one comes to the door. What now, it's too early to go home, so you keep walking in the opposite direction from where your car is parked. You like the rhythm of your camera against where your hip starts. Nothing worth a shot. There is a group of homeless people sitting around a table ahead of you, they are laughing at something and it makes you smile too. As you approach them one of the men holds up a bottle of wine they are passing around and you smile in refusal as you walk off the path and stand with them.

The big guy asks if you would like to take a photo of him and his mates. The mood is cordial, you feel comfortable. You say ok and start to unstrap your Nikon. No one is willing to be photographed. The big guy requests all those who don’t want to have their faces in the photo to turn around and face the other side and leave only him to stare into the lens. Everyone seems happy with this suggestion, so you focus your lens on the face that has a few missing teeth and a tear drop tattoo above its left eye, against a background of five backs. You snap it. Your subject exhales as you do.

Would you like to have a look?

No, I don’t like seeing myself in pictures, he says. You turn to walk back to your walking wishing them a good afternoon. They laugh in reply, someone yells at you to hang the picture on your wall. Later you will smile at this, but now you just walk on. Nothing Surprises you anymore.

You unstrap your camera and lower yourself into the driver's seat with a sigh. The radio startles you, and you rush to turn it down as the hot air blasts you in the face from the air con vents. The cassette player swallows a whole cassette just as you pull out of park 118 on Ruthven and take a right turn at the intersection. You close your mind and let your car take you home, saying hallo to its friends along the way parked in driveways that it has driven past all its life. Someone scares the shit out of you when they beep form somewhere behind you at the west street intersection, you step on the gas and try to see in the rear-view mirror who beeped and at who they beeped. You don’t understand people who do that.

Silently the garage door rolls up and swallows the car. You step out in time to see the garage door touch the concrete. Close your eyes and find the house key in the bottom of the bag and slide it in to the key hole, the door is assisted along by a small daily nudge to open. Put the bag where it goes, next to the door next to the keys on the bench and slide your shoes off. Don't bother for now leave them right where they are, because you have seen an emergency, you left the window shut in the lounge room. It's hot in here and the plants nearest the widow look droopy. So come on, get water and water them start with the little ones. Forty minutes later, you can breathe now, all the plants are watered. Take off your clothes, it's your house, do it! Maybe just keep your underwear on and collapse on the couch. Your phone starts to ring, its somewhere in the house. Let it ring. Close your eyes at the missed call notification.

Tomorrow is work; it would have been easy not to cook tonight but you need to make something to take to work tomorrow. You find your lunch box which is still in your bag where you put it, also in the bag a small black note book you found at the tip shop. You open the lunch box to the stench of unfinished lunch at the kitchen sink. You take the little black book to the couch and go through it. When you bought it, you thought it would make a good diary, after ripping out the few used pages. something falls out of it. it's a lotto ticket. What if? After a thorough search of the house, you decide to check the car and find your phone sitting on the passenger seat next to your camera. Bring them both back in dragging them by their ears. You remember to download your photos but for now you type in the phone ‘’The Lott’’ and enter the ticket numbers.

The neighbours are concerned.

You are in your front yard with just undies on, it's getting dark but not dark enough to conceal your bare happiness.

fact or fiction

Isaya Sikwatta

Read next: Can Police Crack Your Phone Without Your Consent?

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