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  • Writer's picturematshakesjones

Restless Insomniac

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

The sounds from Victoria Street drift through my window: cackled laughter of old drunken locals chatting to backpackers in Tropicana Cafe, the hushed voices of teenage lovers under the shelter of the cafe beneath my apartment, road-sweepers blowing dust in every direction, and the pumping sound of bongo drums shaking the Kudu Lounge’s upstairs veranda, as chemical generation ravers of all ages sing aloud to classic house.

Outside my door I was greeted by 20 Thai employees from the Noodle Box restaurant smoking, eating a late dinner; looking famished with hard work dripping down their foreheads. Earlier, near the corner of Nimbin Street, I’d been pulled aside by two heroin addicts asking for change. I gave them cigarettes and chatted about the weather. Kirketon Road Medical Centre was shut, but the street van still prowled the neighbourhood offering free needles to addicts, free condoms to anyone, and ensuring the ladies of the night were safe.

My air con is on: it’s a classic summer night in Darlinghurst. My Croatian gangster neighbour is listening to Metallica’s Enter Sandman in the room next to me. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word,” he sings in a low baritone. The middle-aged Malaysian lady on the other side screams at her son, as the smell of the food bubbling on her stove wafts under my doorway. I turn the tap on for a glass of water and wait for the water to cool, but on a night like this it will always be lukewarm.

I was woken by the itching of a mosquito bite on my leg and then – Fuck! – on my neck as well. I could hear the little bastard emitting a little laugh as he buzzed away, high on my chemical-infused blood.

I give up on sleeping and open my window to the hot, humid night. The tunes from over the road are so good I don’t mind staying awake for a little longer. Rubbish that had covered the footpaths, debris from the day and drunken night, has been cleared leaving pristine streets. The sirens of police and ambulances whirl past. I see the lights first, vehicles second and then sound lingers.

A big crowd of men leave Oporto carrying burgers and fries. Oporto is the centre of Sydney’s nightlife. Twenty metres from Kings Cross and 300 metres from Oxford Street, it’s the last stopping-off point for food for people heading to the strip clubs or trendy bars of the Cross, or the gay and indie scenes of Oxford Street. Prime real estate and a meeting place for people of all descriptions. Even if you don’t want to talk to other people you are forced to. Shit, what other take-away takes 30 minutes to cook your chips?

I toss my cigarette out the window onto a restaurant roof below me. It joins a woman’s shoe, money that fell out the last time I climbed out there, leaves, an empty bottle of wine, some Lucky Strike the people upstairs smoke, and an empty box of Danny’s pizza. Sitting outside there feeling the breeze and watching the beautiful people walk by, I’ve had some of my happiest memories swigging a beer and talking shit.

Living in this part of the city makes me a tormented soul, cursing the world for having to go to work and stare at a computer screen for 12 hours straight. The DJ at Kudu is playing Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” I’m desperate to get out and join the revelry until dawn. But fuck it; I’ve got to work in six hours. I take another herbal sleeping tablet, shut the window and hope my frantic mind stops racing.

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