Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Verandah Man

When Sheryl and I decided to move in together, I insisted we rent a house with a verandah. I suppose I could have lived with a porch, or even a patio or sailcloth awning, but my heart was set on a verandah. We used to have a verandah at Mum's place when I was growing up, and ever since I've had an affinity with them. So I put my foot down. Verandahs are my natural element, I told Sheryl. Without a verandah, I'll shrivel up and die, you just watch.

We finally found what we were looking for: a nice, two bedroom weatherboard with a cosy verandah out the front. Since I've been off work with a back injury since 1996, I decided to make a project of the verandah. I gave it a coat of paint, furnished it with an old couch and a radio, and even installed a bar fridge. With everything I could possibly want so close to hand, I began spending whole days sitting out there, watching the world go by.

Sheryl leaves for work about eight thirty, by which time I've planted myself on the couch, mug of coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. Sheryl runs her hand over my stubbly jaw, and plants a kiss on my forehead. The nursing lark is a bit of a joke, if you ask me, all arse wiping and piss mopping, but Sheryl seems to enjoy it. Pays the bills, I suppose. Once she's gone, I settle back and finish my coffee, stubbing out the cigarette on the heel of my moccasin before flicking it into a nearby plant pot. At nine I open the bar fridge and grab myself a beer.

We're on a main road, so there's always plenty of people walking past. I see some crazy driving too. One time, this Asian guy ran right up the arse of an old woman. Cars are a new thing in Asia, so they don't have the familiarity with them that Westerners do. Driving is instinctive; it's genetic. Asians just don't have it in their biological make up. Also, their eyes are slanty, so they can't see properly.

Most mornings I'll fire up the radio, listen to a bit of Triple M. There's no rap crap or doof doof or any of that stuff. Just real music. I like their new random playlist. You never know which Cold Chisel song they're going to play next. They have some good comedy too. Like the other day, that guy off that TV show was on, and he told this joke about why women and men are different. It really spoke to me. Sheryl and I are like that. Different.

At about ten-thirty I open the bar fridge and grab myself a beer.

I like to read, too. At the moment, I'm halfway through James Patterson's new one, The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon. I like how he uses bits from nursery rhymes as titles. Sheryl says this is an ironic juxtoposition of innocence and depravity, but I don't know about that. Another one I like is that Matthew Reilly. I reckon I could write one of those thriller type books, but using a typewriter fucks up my back something shocking. I swear this injury has held me back from so much. The doctor says it is a class nine vertebrae de-flexification, one of the worst he has ever seen. I'm pretty much banned from doing anything more than scratching my arse, and some days Sheryl has to help me do that!

At about twelve, and then at one-thirty, two-fifteen and three-twenty I open the bar fridge and grab myself a beer.

Soon the school kids start wandering past, backpacks swinging from their shoulders. I like the older girls, the ones in their special VCE jumpers, a thin band of bare skin visible at their knees, between their skirts and their long, pulled-up socks. Don't get me wrong - I'm no perv. Just appreciative of the adolescent female form. Sheryl used to have a body like that, before she let herself go. I still find her attractive, but not so much in a sexual way. She's more like a mother to me than a lover. I think it's a perfectly natural relationship, and one we are both satisfied with.

At about four-thirty and again at four-forty-five I open the bar fridge and grab myself a beer. Sheryl usually gets in just after five-thirty, and plops herself on the couch next to me. We talk about our days - she's got some real horror stories, better than anything out of James Patterson! - and maybe I'll get a kiss of two before she nods off to sleep on my shoulder. I let her sleep for a few minutes before I nudge her awake and get her to open the bar fridge and grab me a beer. Then she heads inside to cook dinner. I worry about her sometimes. I find it sad, watching somebody I love wasting their life. Me, I just sit back and relax. All is well on the verandah - and tomorrow is another day.

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