I staggered back to my hotel room and slept for nine hours solid, dreaming of sequins, feathers, lightshows and tiny pairs of hotpants.
The next morning, I woke to the sun streaming through the window at midday and leapt out of bed refusing to waste the rest of the day. There were two text messages already waiting on my mobile:
Pedro: still up. come 4 beer @ oxford hotel cnr of oxford and taylor sqr. am loved up.
Tom: had a shit night am now officially single, hope yours was better. I want to see you What are you doing 2nite?
Zak swore blind that despite his radiant skin, gleaming white outfit and generally refreshed glow, he hadn’t actually been home, slept or showered and that he was as hardcore as the other sweaty, dishevelled and gurning party-people still vibrating to the music blaring from the speakers. Mardi Gras was clearly still in full swing.
Pedro came back from the bathroom, topless, covered in glitter and with a grin that could have lit up the city.
“Daaaarling!” he sighed.
“I see Zak is rubbing off on you in more ways than one” I said, brushing off the glitter Pedro’s hug had left on my shoulder.
“He’s literally…” his eyes drifted over to where Zak was leaning over the bar, his low riders showing more than a little buttock as his heels came off the floor, “…divine!”
The Angel teetered back over to the window, “You know we’re in a butch bar when the Breezers are on the bottom shelf! So how did you end-up honey?”
“All good. I’ve just risen from the sleep of the dead, I think sensory overload caused it,” I swallowed a mouthful of beer “you know I always wondered why this stuff was so ridiculously fizzy and freezing cold – it’s perfect for a day like today. Talking of which, what’s the plan?”
“Well I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll be remaining here until my shimmy wears off, and then I don’t know, it might be time to try out my Portuguese, what do you say Pedro?”
Pedro blushed and grinned his response.
“Subtle, Zak” I laughed, “Well I might hang out here while you do and then see what Sydney has to offer for an evening’s entertainment.”
I put down my empty glass, “Another?”
The boys raise their half empty glasses and I went to get us a refill.
Several games of pool, too many beers and at least one flirtation later, the boys were ready to depart.
“I think I might be staying in Surry Hills for the next day or two rather than trekking out to the mountains, so you have Zak’s number right?” Pedro blushed.
“Sure, have fun” I winked “and don’t do anything…” “…you wouldn’t do!” Pedro joined in.
I stayed to finish my beer, before stepping out into the warm evening and straight into the path of Tom.
“So here you are!” He smiled. “I hope you’re free, I have something to show you. Have you eaten yet?”
Thai food is to Australia, what Indian food is to the UK; on every second corner and practically the national dish. Not every Thai Restaurant however, is Thai-Nesia.
Draped in red velvet and with large gilt mirrors and displays of ornate fabrics, fans and feathers adorning the walls, this was the campest restaurant I’d ever seen. A graceful woman, long black hair swept tight into an elaborate bun, willowed her way towards us and with a small bow showed us to a table. Tom ordered straight away and proceeded to tell me about his night or rather the lack of it.
"It was just awful from the moment we woke up!" He paused to take a sip of his ice water, "I dunno, I guess he'd got it into his head that Mardi Gras was gonna be our day together. I'd forgotten to mention we were meeting Anthony and Todd for lunch and he wasn't happy about that. Then he wanted to know who else I had in store for him and when I told him I was catching up with you later at the party he just lost it, totally spat the dummy. At one point I thought his head was gonna explode! I've never seen him so angry. Kept going on about how I always put everyone else first, never him. Kept saying how unfair I was being." He ran his hands through his hair and rested his cheeks on his fists, looking thoroughly glum.
"Sounds like he spat the dummy, picked his pram up and threw it out the window."
"I told him he could go to Mardi Gras on his own. That I didn't wanna be part of a scene in front of the whole of Sydney, thanks very much."
"How did he take that?"
"Not good. Told me I could get fucked. If I didn't wanna be seen with him at Mardi Gras, I could forget the whole thing."
I felt guilty for causing so much tension. "Shit, I'm sorry Tom, I didn't mean for this to happen"
"Hey, it's not your fault. I'm sorry it ruined your plans too. I know you were looking forward to hanging out. I dunno..." he sighed, then slapped his hands down onto the table, "It's all too much drama for me and you're here for a holiday not a mercy mission: Let's change the subject."
Dinner arrived – a large tin foil bird, lit with bright blue and orange flames, a bowl of steaming veggies in a shimmering red curry and fish cakes with a sauce of peppers, coriander and cucumber. The food was exquisite and something I’d not been exposed to back home, Chinese yes, Indian of course, but Thai had yet to really hit the UK.
I sat back in my seat, “That was amazing, thanks for showing it to me.”
“Oh that wasn’t what I was going to show you, come on let me get the bill and then we’ll grab a cab.”
The taxi snaked its way through Sydney’s suburbs heading towards the coast. The further we headed, the larger and grander the houses became; large stone monoliths casting shadows over their private jetties; glass edifices set high into the cliff, sunlight bouncing off their angles, the reflection ensuring their privacy; beautifully manicured gardens which at first glance resembled home until you realised that the tree was a large eucalyptus and that the Waratahs would look seriously out of place in Kent. The sun was slowly setting, turning the sky a dusty orange and framing the silhouette of the city skyline behind us.
The car pulled up next to a large park. You could smell the salt in the air and hear the ocean crashing against rocks somewhere near by. We took the path and slowly climbed up to the top of the cliff. There was a large split in the rock face where the ocean came crashing in at high tide sending large plumes of spray twenty feet into the air.
“This is the Gap. The fence is to stop people leaping to their watery graves," he said dramatically, "not that it would really stop you if you had a mind to.”
“You’re such a romantic”, I smiled. I stared out into the distance, “That has to be the widest horizon I have ever seen, we’re on the edge of everything. So far away from everywhere else.”
“You mean far from home? You are, yes." He took my shoulders and turned me around, "Look back at the city.”
I turned to see the sun slip slowly past the horizon, the sky changing from a burnt orange through crimson to purple, a few cotton wool clouds drifting across the vista, their pregnant bellies golden and their shoulders black. Tom pulled me back to lean against him and wrapped his arms around me, “Welcome to Sydney. It’s good to have you here.”