Jason McGathry is a fuckwit, but he’s a fuckwit with a pool table so they all seem to let him hang around. Personally, I like going to dark pubs if I’m to play pool. It’s not often that I get the desire, but when I do it feels more right to do it in a huge room that smells of beer and cheap women than in a place that is vacuumed twice a week and has a lampshade in the shape of a Hawaiian dancer. We make it out into the parking lot, where there is no big fight with Sam, and all pile into different cars. Jan and Francis are catching a lift with us and unconsciously reserve the front seat for Samantha as we wait for her to stop negotiating with the others over who will pick up what from where. I realize that as I look over them I wouldn’t recognize their names even if Samantha had told them to me.
“Are we off?” I ask as Sam approaches. I know she hates obvious silence breaking questions, but I figure that she owes me.
We all piled into the car and made our way across town. Melbourne is pretty, all in all, but it's like civilisation was dropped from a great height upon the Yarra. With a mighty, but well contained culture splash the CBD sprung up like priest's erection in church. It's national significance may be under debate but it certainly is frequented by a trendy swath of our residents. They live in refurbished office apartments that have been hollowed out and redecorated to allow them to feel like new yorkers. The splash came down hard in areas like Brunswick and St Kilda covering these inner suburbs with a combination of trendy and derelict. The splash died early on the flatlands to the west and rolled south to the sea, dribbling along the Great Ocean Road. But as the ever widening circle of immigrant clusters slowly jumped its way eastward from suburb to suburb towards the rural dream that they heard of in their home countries, one ethnic group vacating an area only to be replaced by the next in line, the resulting waves rippled outwards getting softer and softer. Jazz clubs turn into pubs which turn into sports bars which turn into pokies venues. At the very edge of what you could reasonably call Melbourne where only the very young home owners or the very old farmers live there is a void. I'm not too sure what it's devoid of but I know that I sense it whenever I wander the shake-and-bake housing complexes of Carolyn Springs or the dirges of Frankston.
We made our way through the city on a road that circumsected the city like a virtual arterial. We could drive from the heart of Melbourne to Sydney without using an indicator. But we're only going to be on this road for a while eventually we would have turned off into a seemingly random suburb and park in a seemingly random driveway. The others were chatting about a new book that was advertised on Oprah - goliath of a woman. Some people seem to begat industries and she is such a woman.
I’m not sure at which point in the argument about whether the Oprah was smarter when she was fat or now that she’s thin the shit brown 1996 corolla smashed into the side of our car and caused us to spin out of control across the three lane highway, but what I can say is that Jan continued to talk right up to the moment of impact. The crash caused all the windows on that side of the car to smash instantly and in unison. We were all thrown around our seats like rag dolls tied to a centrifuge as the car hit the median strip and began to topple over and over onto the opposite side of the highway. The entire event happened as if in slow motion yet I was strangely calm about the whole matter. In fact I distinctly remember being upside down at one point looking over into Sam’s rolling fearful eyes and thinking that this would mean we’d be the last to choose from the good pool cues. We smashed up against the other side of the highway, the sounds of crunching glass, metal and microfibre replaced by the sounds of squealing brakes and women.