It's my habit to go down to the well-manicured riverside once a day to have what I laughingly call a lunch break, and a dose of sunshine beside the rather muddy and carp-filled Parramatta river. Today hundreds of Corellas were high in the trees making their lovey dovey squawks, tiny swallows were dipping along the river in what looked like dog-fighting fun which I'm sure was motivated by hunger as they seemed to snap up invisible delights. Seagulls nestled on the newly mown grass along the river bank. Pigeons cooed and strutted their stuff as pigeons do. Joggers and lunchtime office types jogged along the riverside pathway, tourists looked obvious in their sandals and socks and oversized camera paraphenalia.
Then reverberating rather menacingly from the public picnic table behind me was a strident, deep-voiced woman having what can only be described as a guttural and profane rant at her equally sauced cohort. Unashamed of her loud and base vernacular, every word bounced across the river onto the skyscraper opposite and reverberated back in ever increasing decibels. Her hurls of abuse enough to make a sailor blush!
There's a picnic table with a bench on each side, near where I sit. It's frequented by regular drunks. They're not homeless as far as I can tell, no trolleys full of bags, no swag and frankly not particularly scruffy but they congregate there for hours. They're often well into it when I arrive at work at 7:30am and always there when I take a short break anywhere between midday and 3pm. Downing their oversized bottles of beer and canned spirits and fizz and by 2pm have completely lost the plot. They're staggeringly abusive towards each other. This band of brothers pissed as newts and raving wildly at each other. They're shouting in the most profane way, they threaten each other (never a passer by), they have faux fights and run after each other, then settle again as if emulating the seagulls that rise and fall with equal fervour on the other side of the bank every time a crumb is dropped or one's sovereignty threatened.
The woman today pulled a small pocket knife on her compadre and I was about to get up and sound the alarm when the incident was self-diffused and she was content to slap the hard wooden bench so hard that it must have bruised her flattened hand. Just as well because she couldn't have knocked the skin of a rice pudding in her state!
I'm dying to ask them why? Why are they there? Why are they alcoholic? Why do they argue? Why do they drink themselves into oblivion and smoke like chimneys? How do they afford it? Where is our fantastic social security system? Why do they go over the same rants? The same issues? Hang with the same people? Nothing is ever resolved by them. The woman with the gravel voice has a partner in gaol, her children have gone . .she will sleep with whoever fancies her at any given time. . I know this because I've overheard her conversations. I can only assume her kids were confiscated by community services because apparently it's one of her drinking pal's fault that her partner is in jail and her children with someone else yet they keep company, every day. They argue, every day.
A large aboriginal man, clearly not starving or in need of a feed is so comatose that he falls off the bench with regularity and needs two more women to right him until he takes the last slide off the bench and decides to just stay put on the concrete path. It would be funny to watch if it wasn't such a frequent event. He feels no pain at this point so sympathy is wasted. Joggers jog round him, tourists pick up pace, grandparents with small children avoid him and the locals just don't see him or don't care.
What a way to live! It's the little moments each day like this that remind me no matter how introspective I become, no matter how disillusioned with my lot, my bank balance, my frustrations, I have children who love me, employment, friends who care and a life that's pretty fabulous.
Sometimes we need these drunken down-and-outs to sober ourselves with the fact that life for some, is a repetitive hell. Then everybody already knows. They just don't care.