One time I was at this cafe in Newtown and I saw the writer. The one with the lovely voice that can sound gentle and caring but can also sound like he’s taking the piss a bit. I like him for how he goes through the world, an ex-Catholic with a lot of rage and compassion. He makes affectionate fun of Australian men, and champions thinkers and people who hold their sorrows quietly and get on, just keep going. I think of him as a Dad figure but he’s not that much older than me really. I imagine him standing behind me with his hand on my shoulder, a gesture of affection and reassurance. I sit not so far from him. He’s reading the paper and finishing his coffee with a smoke that smells a lot like pot. OK so I’m not sure whose smoke that was, but it could have been his. The writer would get away with it because who would suspect him? He’s so respectable in his black t-shirt and jeans with his genteel manners and humble way with the cafe staff.

Yesterday I heard him being interviewed on the radio about his new play. He talked about caring for his father through eight years of decline into dementia. I wanted to thank him for this, to tell him that it affected me, that I felt his sadness and anger and I admired his forbearing and strength. I didn’t though. I watched him pay and thank his waitress, and walk up towards King Street with his Herald under one arm. If he had turned around I would have blown him a kiss, but he didn’t, so I missed my chance.

The guy on the bus was handsomer than Robson Green, who played the Aspergery psych on the British crime show on tv. That’s what Janet thought. She started to wonder whether she meant that the guy on the bus was more handsome than Robson Green the actor, or whether the guy on the bus was more handsome than Dr Tony Hill, the character he played. Where do you separate the person from his shape, where do you separate the man from the name? She was fond of Tony Hill. He shambled about like Colombo. Not like Colombo actually. Not with a clever performance to get the crims to see him as no threat so they finally drop their guard. Tony Hill wasn’t bunging it on for effect. He was genuinely odd, but intense, smart and passionate. She used to watch that show, sitting on her second hand lounge, wishing that Tony Hill would get it on with the police detective he worked with to catch serial killers. The detective had long hair and attractive eyes and was way out of his league. But she saw it too, that smoulder that hints at Tony Hill’s potential, and somehow Janet wanted this rewarded. Acknowledged. If it couldn’t be her in a Purple Rose of Cairo type of moment the police detective was pretty good, and she’d cheer for that. She’d be happy to. She watched the guy who was handsomer than Tony Hill get off the bus three stops before her own.

 

It’s after dinner and Stella is sitting in the easy chair watching tv shows on her iPad. She’s watched the news, and a cheffie thing where she learnt how to do grilled sardines with chilli and a salad with pomegranate dressing and now she’s watching some Scandi noir show, all bleak and cold and windswept. The detective is walking through the forest looking for what we expect to be the grim discovery of the body. It will be a grandmother, a woman who made maps of walking trails, who witnessed a terrible sight, swans that have been doused in petrol and deliberately lit. She sees this and then she is killed. Is she killed because she witnesses this act of brutality or is the act a trap, designed to lure her to where the killer can strike? We don’t know. Stella doesn’t know either. She’s ticked off though, because she realises this is ruining her chances of ever enjoying a walk in a forest in Sweden. Now these places are gothic and dark, and full of menace. She imagines the crackle of the leaves beneath her footsteps and the chill air sneaking down the back of her shirt collar. It’s eerie and no amount of IKEA will ever make up for how spooked she is.