She sits silently in the corner of her room, her chin resting on her knees, arms wrapped tightly around her legs.

The hallway light creeps underneath the closed door and coats a small portion of the otherwise dark carpet with an amber tincture. She traces the glowing contour with her eye from one end to the other and back again. It’s the only thing she sees in this vague world.

The cries from her newborn she no longer perceives. Although aware that the weeping exists, her ears concede and filters it out, leaving nought but the deafening silence of an empty space. Before too long, she feels the consequence of her own cries trickle along her cheek, obliviously wailing in near-perfect unison with her hungry daughter.

She knew he was trouble from the moment she met him. But there was something so appealing about his harsh charisma that she fell blind to his faults. Many of her friends warned her against him, yet she chose to look outside their subjective viewpoints. She so desperately wanted the bad boy.

When she was with him she felt like she was the only woman in the world; the single source of seduction for his prevailing heart. He held her close and whispered her promises she’d only ever dreamed of hearing. She accepted every one of his idealistic words, and in return offered him her soul.

He took her soul. It remains with him to this day.

Seven months after she first shared the news with him, she wonders what she ever did to deserve this outcome. Her pleads for him to return have fallen unnoticed. The endless attempts to contact him have left her with an infinite ache deep within her being. The stories she hears of his forays with other women leaves her nauseous and vulnerable. The guilt-laden memories of the past offer little hope for the future. Tonight, and for the rest of her life as far as her heart is concerned, she remains alone and together with her tiny bundle of joy. The only thing that keeps her going.

As her child’s weeping falls to a dull whimper, so does the sound of her own sobs. Not wishing to unsettle the baby, she fires a piercing scream from her heart to the universe one last time, demanding to know when her stolen spirit will be restored.

Little does she realise, her prayers had already been heard loud and clear.

He was the one who encouraged her to pursue her newfound flame all those months ago, even though he secretly wished for her to be his warmth all along.

He was the one who took her out for coffee when he thought that she could do with a friend to talk to.

He was the one who gave her the little gifts whenever they met to help take her mind off the pain.

He was the one who offered those small words of encouragement when she needed it the most.

He was the one who supported her pregnancy and inspired her to go through with it.

He was the one who reassured her not to give in.

He was the one who made her laugh.

He was the one she least expected.

He was the one who could save her.

Sometimes you need to look within to find the love that you truly deserve.

The spicy odour of massaman fails to infect her senses. Her lungs draw heavy breaths, yet she chooses to perceive the aromatic restaurant atmosphere as parched and insipid.

Oblivious to the jubilant crowd, she singles out the silence of her deafening mind over the unheard voices of those surrounding her.

Her disheartened figure slumps over the table, the sharp edge of the timber cutting deep into her elbows as her left hand grips her sunken chin. Slowly she stirs through the contents of her bowl and raises her right hand toward her mouth, the bronze mixture within her half-full spoon emptying into a cacophonic pit. Extensively chewing upon the tasteless fibres, her eyes fixate blankly somwehere between the cold cutlery and the empty seat at the opposite end of the table.

As the mouthful sinks to the bottom of her stomach, she feels sickliness rather than sustenance. She later regrets her choice of meal.

Like the song that jolts an unwanted memory of spirited times, she knows this massaman will be her last.


Walking hastily toward home following a lengthy and laborious day, his peripheral vision catches the briefest glimpse of her through the dining house window. He slows for a moment and savours the scene before him.

The spicy odour of massaman infects his senses. His lungs draw heavy breaths, choosing to perceive the aromatic restaurant atmosphere as warm and appetising.

Over the jubilant crowd, his line of sight falls directly to the lone soul devouring her meal in silence, oblivious to he who is observing.

Her alluring figure leans slightly over the table, resting her elbows on the timber as her left hand yeilds support to her delicate silhouette. His eyes fixate on her right hand which tightly grasps the spoon, eventually meeting with her picture perfect lips. He spares a few more moments taking in this beauty and yearns for a break in her flawless concentration, patiently hoping that she raises her eyes just for one second and notices his affectionate glance. If only he was filling the seat at the opposite end of the table.

As she nears the end of her mouthful, he surrenders to his wishfulness and opts to move on. This abrupt one-way encounter offers a lovesick sensation at the bottom of his stomach, yet it also provides enough sustenance to inspire his continuing quest. He later regrets his choice to move on.

Like the song that jolts a welcome memory of spirited times, he will never forget that enchanting scent of massaman.

Over the past week as I’ve been recording vocals in the studio for my upcoming album, I’ve been reminiscing over some old documents and photos to try and get back into the same mindframe I was in when I originally wrote the songs.

Yesterday which searching through my archive, I happened to stumble across one particular document – a short story I wrote in early 2008 – which I had completely forgotten about. I had written it as a competition entry for a Brisbane City Council publication, where applicants were asked to write a story relating to the city of Brisbane. The winners would have their stories published in a book, and would also receive a substantial amount of prizemoney, which was my main motivating factor as I was preparing to embark on an amazing overseas adventure and could have done with a little extra cash to help subsidise my travels.

For about two weeks I slaved over the computer screen writing and workshopping my story, entitled I Don’t Smoke.  I had previously written and recorded a song using the same title, based on a rather unforeseen and disheartening experience I had when I first moved to Brisbane in 2005. My story was an extension of this song, detailing what happened on that day. It consists of two parts written from my own perspective, which is factual, as well as a part in the middle written from the perspective of another man, which is not entirely factual, but based as much on the truth as I could pick up from my actual interactions with this guy on the day.

You can listen to the song below, and if you enjoy it, then feel free to head over to iTunes and check out the other five songs from my 2007 EP, Comfort Zone 🙂

Dan Schaumann – I Don’t Smoke

Unfortunately I didn’t win the prize, and on hearing this news, I filed the story away without any further thought. But now that it’s resurfaced I thought I’d share it here on my blog, in case anybody is interested in giving it a read and finding out the meaning behind my song.

I hope you like the song & the story – and also, if you haven’t yet, then please “like” my music page on Facebook to keep in the loop about the new album and its release date!

*      *      *      *

I Don’t Smoke

As the train rumbles through the tunnel on its way to Central Station, I sit in the dark carriage alongside thirty or forty strangers and contemplate the marvel of public transport.  Only fifteen minutes ago I conveniently caught the 1:19 from Indooroopilly on my second ever train journey to the city.  Previously I had opted to drive, but the thought of weaving my way through the urban traffic and paying my hard earned cash for a parking spot didn’t resound well with me today.

It was an infrequent occurrence for me – or most people I knew for that matter – to catch public transport during my 20 years growing up in North Queensland.  While life in the outskirts of Townsville did see me catch the bus every day to school, this was by no means similar to the prospect of public transport here in the big city.  For starters, everyone on the school bus knew each other, and you could almost guarantee that on any particular day, you’d see the same people sitting in the same seats, engaged in the same adolescent conversation with the same friends.  We had fun, we had arguments, we had best mates and some of us had worst enemies, but all in all, our youthful experience on the school bus remained a consistent form of social gathering throughout our years.  Those were the days!

Yet here I am today four years later, the big city of Brisbane about to open up to me as soon as the businessman in the suit and tie presses the flashing train door button.  Behind him, a frustrated mother pushing a stroller complete with crying baby yearns to leave the enclosed carriage, out to an environment where the hustle of city folk drowns out the sound of her infant’s sobs.  I notice the affectionate couple sitting opposite me as they raise from their seats, hand in hand, presumably to find the nearest of many flourishing gardens where they can spend a romantic afternoon together strolling the footpaths.  Remaining seated on the other side of the carriage, cheerful parents of ethnic descent remind their mischievous children that they still have one more station to go before they can depart.  And as I stand up to exit the train myself, a lone, unshaven figure wearing a scruffy shirt and jeans catches my eye, as he also prepares to disembark at this busy and boisterous central destination.

I have not long ventured to this South-Eastern metropolis from the comfort of my home town with the prospect of beginning a new life in a new place.  I had travelled to many Australian cities throughout my youth, but for some reason Brisbane resonated with me as the place that I wanted to be.  It was big, yet small enough to see it as a kindred community.  Busy, yet relaxed enough to warrant a smile from the passing locals as you walk down the street.  I found it to be amazingly lush and green, with a surprising amount of trees still adorning the hilly suburbs despite the impending drought.  Brisbane reminded me of home in so many ways, so it was natural that my life progression saw me relocate here.

The one thing that I missed about Townsville, however, was the fact that – just like on the school bus – anywhere I went, I would see somebody who I knew.  Whether I walked into a shopping centre, drove down the highway, stopped by the Strand for a swim at the Rock Pool or had a quick snack at the university refectory, I would constantly run into a known face.  Familiarity was abundant in my hometown of 145,000, but here in my unexplored locale of almost 15 times that population, everyone and everything is new to me.

As quick as a flash the businessman and young mother hastily make their way outside the carriage doors, and I feel as though I’m being pressured by those behind me to make a similarly hurried exit.  This is only my second time here at Central station so I look around and try to judge which direction I should walk to lead me out of here.  My mind floods with this newfound stimulation… escalators, stairways, trains coming and going, newsagents, public announcements and people everywhere!

Ahead of me I see the businessman already halfway up one of the escalators trying to push his way through the crowd blocking his path, so using him as a guide I leave the platform level and follow him up.  By the time I’ve reached the top, he’s already shown his ticket to the inspector and is well on his way to God knows which office building.  I somehow doubt that he’d be the kind of local to greet you with a smile as you walked past him, but I remember that I’m in the city now and I really shouldn’t expect people to go out of their way to show hospitality.

Fumbling to get my ticket out of my wallet, I question my next move and instinctively head south towards the Edward Street exit of the station.

I really had no specific reason to come into town today.  There are a few minor things that I’d like to accomplish, such as a spot of shopping to help me settle into my new house, and I’d also like to stop by a café or snack bar for some lunch, but my journey is mostly being carried out with an exploratory sense in mind.  I just want to breathe the air of the city and marvel at its architecture, its functionality and its people.  I’ve barely even left the train station and already I have taken in so much around me, lost in my own thoughts of the amazing place that I am experiencing.

“Excuse me bud,” I hear behind me.

Ignoring the request for communication, I carry on walking towards the congested pedestrian crossing.

“Hey, excuse me,” the voice continues.

The monotony of his expression brings to mind the thought of delinquency.  I ask myself, who is this strange person trying to talk to me and what does he want? I subtly turn my head to investigate and out of the corner of my eye I see the same man who I saw on the train – that lone, unshaven figure who judging by his messy attire clearly has no respect for his self-appearance.  Still, I carry on walking.

His voice persists, my ears once more picking up on his call for attention.  This time I can almost hear a sense of desperation as he moves closer to ensure his call doesn’t go unnoticed this time around.  “Sorry buddy… excuse me.”

I know what he’s after.  Money.  No – cigarettes.  I can intuitively tell by the tone of his voice and the way he looks that he’s trying to beg me for something I have no intention of giving him.  I’d been in a similar situation quite some time ago back at home, when I was confronted by an inebriated and obviously impoverished man of the streets, asking me for money to help restock his bodies deprived supply of nicotine.  When I refused, he swore and cursed at me and unsuccessfully gave chase, before realizing that begging wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt sorry for the guy and guilty for refusing to help him out, but I had no cigarettes and I definitely wasn’t going to give him any money, knowing it would be spent on toxins that would only serve to drag him further and further into a state of misery.

With this in mind, I prepare to deal with the voice that now harasses me.  You’re talking to the wrong person, I think to myself as I obnoxiously turn around to ask what his problem is.  I don’t smoke.

*      *      *      *

I don’t want to be here.  I have no idea where I am, and I have no idea where I’m supposed to be going.  This place scares the living daylights out of me.  It’s so huge and the people are plain arrogant.  Why would anybody want to live here?  I just want the day to be over so I can go back home and lock myself in my room.  And cry.

I live in a town called Toowoomba, about 150 kilometres from where I fatefully walk at this moment.  Toowoomba is such a great place to live, and I will be eternally grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to grow up there.  It’s quiet, laid back, very country-oriented, full of amazing people, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

I grew up on a property just outside Toowoomba, where I was given fantastic exposure to so many aspects of life that city folk just don’t get to experience.  Our parents were country right to the core, Mum and Dad both grew up in the outback, first meeting in high school and have been together ever since.  They moved to the farm in Toowoomba just before I was born, and as the first of three offspring to country parents, I was raised the typical country way as a damn hard worker and an even harder partier!  My brothers and I all learnt at a young age how to drive, how to saddle and ride a horse, how to tend to our crops, fence, plumb, fix just about anything that breaks… and most importantly, how to drink beer like a man.

Unfortunately though, the financial gain of farming life had become more and more difficult to achieve as years passed, and two years ago my parents sold the farm and moved closer to Brisbane to take up other ventures.  I loved Toowoomba too much to want to leave, so I decided to stay here and take a course in agricultural studies.  Although I visit my parents regularly, I hate the traffic and yearn for them leave the enclosed space they are living in, back out to the environment on the land where I know they are most happy.

My childhood was constantly full of activity; I was always right into my sport and I made the A-grade in the local rugby league team.  One of the proudest moments of my life was the time we won the grand final, it was a home game and I remember my father was there at the sidelines cheering me on as I scored the winning try with only six minutes left in the game!  After the game ended and we were handed the trophy, the team did a victory lap around the field carrying me on their shoulders as I held the “holy grail” high up in the air.  The photo that Dad captured of that moment took pride of place in the pool room, every time a mate of his would come over he’d proudly show it off to them and boast about how great a footy player I was.  Those were the days!

Yet here I am today four years later, the big city of Brisbane surrounding me as I try to work my way through this confusing metropolis that so many people seem to love.  The first thing I’m going to do when I get home later tonight is go straight to my photo that Dad was so proud of and just hold it.  And cry.

As a country family, we were right into our cars.  We had heaps of rustbuckets out the back that we used to drive around as kids, and we even made a track through the back of the property that we’d circle over and over again.  We’d race each other, we’d do time trials to see who could maneuver the track the quickest, we’d make modifications to our cars to try and give them that extra bit of speed or traction, and every now and then one of us would lose control and crash.  It was a pretty harrowing experience, to crash, and more often than not it would result in a serious injury and a huge mess to clean up.  I was in hospital once for two weeks after I mistakenly navigated my way into a tree.  I lost consciousness straight away, broke my collarbone and ruptured my spleen.  It was an experience I never want to have to go through again, yet it didn’t at all deter me from my passion, and I was out driving again as soon as my broken bones had healed.

Of all the cars that we owned, our pride and joy was a 1976 eight cylinder LX Torana that Dad had picked up for cheap at an auction when I was 15.  It needed quite a bit of work done to it, but as the years progressed we slowly but surely turned the old bomb into a driver’s masterpiece.  We painted it “Valencia orange,” overhauled the engine, added a mean-sounding dual three inch exhaust and reupholstered the entire interior.  It became an unquestionable goal of Dad’s to get the car roadworthied and driving like a dream, and I’ll never forget the day he picked up the license plates from the transport office – his level of pride only ever equaled by my conquering try on the football field.

Mum never shared the passion that we boys did with our cars, and especially since my accident she always erred on the side of caution every time we took our cars for a drive.  The wide, open country roads were perfect for the Torana, and Dad used to take us out for a spin most weekends, much to Mum’s disapproval.  Sometimes we totally lost track of the time as we were out there enjoying the freedom of the road – I remember one day after telling Mum we’ll only be gone for an hour, we got all the way out to Roma before realizing we had better turn back!  She was so worried she’d even called the police to find out if there were any reports of a crashed Torana.  Poor Mum.  I guess being a teenager I never understood why she was so worried about us.  “Cars are our way of life,” I kept telling her, “you just have to get used to it.”

Two weeks ago I got a phone call from Dad asking me if I wanted to join him on Sunday for a trip down to the Gold Coast to burn some fuel and visit a few of his mates.  I hadn’t been out driving with Dad in months so I would have loved to go with him, but unfortunately I had to decline the offer as I already had other plans.  However I was free on the Saturday of the next weekend so we made a date to do something then.

Oh, how I wish I could turn back time.

It was late on the Sunday after I had returned home from a night out with my friends, that I received a devastating phone call from my mother.  Earlier that evening, she was informed by a police officer that her husband – my father – had been tragically killed in an accident.  The car he was driving – his Torana – had careened across to the other side of the road and hit a tree.

I should have been there with him.  I should have accepted his invitation to go driving with him that day instead of selfishly opting to spend it with my own mates instead.  If I was there with him I would have at least been given the opportunity to spend our last precious moments together.  If I was there with him, maybe circumstances would have been different and he would not have undergone the misfortune of this catastrophic end to his life.  Maybe I could have driven the car instead?  Maybe I could have picked up on a looming disaster and averted the crash before it happened?  So many maybes and so many what-ifs, but nothing now will change the fact that what has happened, has happened.  Nothing, except the mind-altering chemical high obtained from the drink…

As soon as I hung up the phone after talking to Mum I burst into tears, and I don’t even remember the last time I cried.  We were always taught as kids to “be a man” and deny any sadness or pain we were feeling, so to all of a sudden start crying like this must have meant I was taking a huge step down the path of weakness.  My only option was to open my bottle of bourbon, that incidentally had been given to me by my father for my 23rd birthday, and drink until I couldn’t feel the pain any more.

I’ve always had a liking for alcohol; many people have told me on many different occasions that perhaps I drink too much of it.  But I can’t help myself, it becomes an addiction and after the third or fourth drink you feel so relaxed and uninhibited.  It’s always been my way to deal with stress, Dad always taught me that if things were getting down, a nice cold draught beer or shot of whiskey would pull me back up again.  Unfortunately sometimes I took that advice a little to the extreme, finding myself at a point of no return where I make decisions that I live to regret.

Over the past week I haven’t shown up to any of my work or study commitments and my friends have all been worried about me.  I haven’t seen mum at all, and since that dreaded phone call I have spoken to her only once, where she despondently gave me the information on today’s proceedings.  I just can’t bear to see her in the horrible state that she’s in, nor can I bear for her to see me like this.  Within the next hour now I will have to face my fears and confront my family for the first time since we heard the news.

Today is the Saturday that Dad and I had intended to spend together.  Instead, here I am at the train station in the centre of Brisbane.  I have never experienced such a range of withdrawn emotions before in my life – I am exhausted, I am angry, I am confused, I am lost, I am distressed, and I am sick… menacingly sick, from drowning my sorrows like I have never drowned them before.  I have no idea where I’m going, I have things to do, and I only have an hour of time before I have to be at my destination, all of which I know is somewhere in this huge bewildering city.

I was in no state to drive here today, so I hitchhiked a lift into Ipswich this morning where I caught the train here to the city, carrying little more than the clothes on my back, some money, and a sheet of paper with the address of the church I had to find.  I’ve never liked the idea of public transport; you’re always stuck in an enclosed environment full of strangers.  Everybody tries to keep to themselves, yet I feel as though they judge others around them based on their appearance, or by eavesdropping into conversations.

I try not to take any notice, but I know that people are looking at me strangely.  That’s the thing with us country boys – we never make friends in the city purely because of the way we dress.  Just because I don’t match their own standards, people clearly assume I’m here to cause some kind of trouble.  City folk think anybody who wears a flannelette shirt and jeans must be some kind of inebriated cowboy, and although I’m definitely not out to cause trouble, perhaps the look of fatigue on my face and my bloodshot eyes gives away the fact that I’m not going through easy times.  But I really don’t care, I don’t particularly want to talk to anybody nor do I care what they think about me.

Getting out of the train is a nightmare; hordes of people were pushing themselves past me into the train as I was trying to walk out.  Can’t they just show some patience and wait for everyone to leave first before they disrespectfully shove their way on board?  I look around and follow a group of people from my carriage who have made their way over to the escalators.  There’s a guy in a suit carrying a briefcase who’s trying to force his way through the people standing on the escalator, and I think to myself that if I have to deal with people like him during my stay in the city, I’ll probably end up driving myself even more insane that what I already am.  But reality kicks in and I realize I need to get myself organized.

As I leave the train station and walk out into the streets, I pull out the address of the church I need to find and figure my only hope is to ask one of the locals for directions.  It makes it even more difficult because there are a few things I need to do before I get to the church, and I don’t have much time left at all.  Everyone is moving so quickly, I don’t know who to ask.  I contemplated asking the ticket inspector but he seemed too busy dealing with the swarm of faces walking towards him all showing their little white slips of paper.

Outside the station now, I see a man ahead of me who I vaguely noticed staring at me back in the carriage, and call out to him, “Excuse me bud.”

No answer.

I try again, a little louder this time, “Hey, excuse me.”

Still nothing.  All I want is to ask a simple question in my time of need and he can’t even show the decency to turn around and acknowledge my existence!  I’m really getting desperate for some kind of good luck now – not only has my father died, but I’m in a horrible state myself, I’m about to face my worst fears in front of my family who I haven’t seen in weeks and now I’m being ignored by the one person I chose to ask for assistance.  Again, reality kicks in and I remember that I’m in the city now and I really shouldn’t expect people to go out of their way to show hospitality.

I try one final time, this time with a genuine sense of urgency in my voice, “Sorry buddy… excuse me.”

*      *      *      *

“Yes?” I impolitely reply, half expecting the subsequent conversation with my newfound vagabond friend to consist of some kind of sob story, followed by a request for my services, followed by a just-as-impolite “No” answer on my behalf.

“Oh sorry to bother you mate,” he began, “but I was just wondering if you could point me towards the nearest florist?”

My attitude instantly softened as I came down from my pedestal.  I wasn’t sure of the location of any florists in the city but I suggest that he maybe try out a department store, and I pointed him towards MacArthur Central on Queen Street where I knew there was such a retailer.  He half-heartedly thanked me for the help, but my curiosity quickly gets the better of me and I ask him what the flowers are for.

“My dad died in a car accident the other day,” he revealed.  “I don’t know my way around Brisbane and I need to buy flowers before I head to the funeral.”

As I walk alongside him during the moments before his final goodbye to his father, I listen to his story and surreptitiously hang my head in shame.  Never again will I let my own judgment come into play before hearing one’s story.  Such a valuable lesson I learnt today, and I would not have been given the opportunity to learn it in such a moving way if it were not for that fact that I don’t smoke.


I Don’t Smoke

Stuck behind an unseen wall

Distinguishing nothing at all

Outside the boundaries of my barrier

Who knows who could be a carrier

Of a social disregard

Cause I feel as though it’s hard to deal with

Slam right through my unseen wall

But still I leave unseen your call

Persevere with your attempting

To steer me from my venting

Of your social disregard

That I feel is oh so hard to deal with


Sorry for not obliging, these streets are a joke

Recurring expectance, I don’t smoke

Getting to know you, now I sadly revoke

My misdirectness, you don’t smoke

A tragic scene you soon unfold

A wasted dream is all you hold

Of all the things in life you’d rather

Had surrendered but your father

Who died alone and cold

By the tree beside the road

To think behind my unseen wall

Had I left unseen your call

You’d have walked the streets for hours

For a place to buy some flowers

For the funeral this afternoon

With an added sense of lonesome gloom


Were you lost inside, indignified, the world’s ignoring

With foolish pride I stepped outside to hear your story

To be blown away with what you say, anticipating

You to provoke me for a smoke, so irritating

I don’t smoke.  You don’t smoke.  We don’t smoke.

“Would you like to go for a walk?” he dotingly asks on her return home from her late summer afternoon shift at work.

“Not tonight,” she replies. “I’ve got too much to do.”

He sets off without her. Perhaps tomorrow she will join him.

Through the field he wanders, graciously using this time without her by his side to set out a potential path for their future afternoon rendezvous.

He runs his hand through the dry, brown wheat as he progresses down the farmyard track. Ever so slightly sharp, he snaps up a scattering of stalks, pulling at the furry spikelets one by one and watching them blow off into the breeze. He dreams of the upcoming day where he lovingly offers a head of wheat to her, its beautiful homegrown authenticity possessing much more meaning than that of a manufactured gift purchased from a florist.

Nearing the end of the field, he opts for a southerly venture along the fen, stopping briefly to admire the family of swans wading through the wetlands. He is all too aware of the bond between the mother, father and three cygnets trailing closely behind, and one day wishes for a similar scene to grace his own human life. He sends his love to the swans and telepathically requests that they meet him there again tomorrow, in the hope that both he and his girl can spend time together treasuring their beauty.

He cautiously makes his way over the rickety wooden bridge, picking wild blackberries on his descent to the eastern side of the waterway. The sweetness fills the entirety of his mouth as the glory of tomorrow’s blackberry kiss permeates his imagination, now working in a similar vagabond fashion to his roving legs.

Keeping with him a handful of those dark, delightful delicacies, he returns back the way he came, across the rickety bridge, past the family of swans and through the endless wheat fields before arriving back home again, content with today’s discovery and yearning for her to follow in his shadow tomorrow.

“Would you like to go for a walk?” he dotingly asked on her return home from her late summer afternoon shift at work.

“Not tonight,” she replied. “I’m too tired.”

“But honey, I found an incredible path yesterday that I would really like to show you!”

“Sorry. I’m really not in a walking mood.”

Slightly taken aback, he sets off without her. Perhaps tomorrow she will join him.

This time his intuition leads him on an alternate adventure. He ventures down the village street, turning left at the small residential intersection and continuing on until just past the bridge over the moor. Here he finds an intriguing southbound country footpath, leading through a grassy paddock and on into the bushland.

Following the path, he again gauges the suitability of the walk as potential for a lover’s promenade. He notices the dotterels dancing and singing in the trees lining the canal. Inspired by their migration from such a faraway land and their ability to settle into an unfamiliar habitat, he is reminded of his own journey, and he can feel in his bones that she will soon agree to join him on one of his local adventures where he will proudly display this same sense of ease to her.

His shoes leave imprints in the dampness of the ground below, and he realises by the sudden appearance of hoof marks that a small herd of cows have recently paraded along this country trail. He spots them ahead in the distance and slowly creeps toward the three chocolate brown bovines so as not to frighten them, picking a bunch of fresh green grass from the ground along his way. He is aware that she feels unsettled around such animals, and clenches her tightly in his imagination as they draw nearer, comforting her anxiety and promising that they really are gentle creatures. He envisages passing her the grass while she nervously extends her hand towards the three hungry mouths, excitedly giggling as the first of the three curious cows cajoles the fodder from her grasp. She lets out a shriek and pulls back as the scratchy tongue makes contact with her tightly clenched fist, but he is there to catch her and lend a supportive embrace at the conquering of her fear.

Keeping with him the natural scent of the grass-fed heifer, he returns back the way he came, along the hoof-marked trail, past the dancing dotterels and across the moor bridge before arriving back home again, content with today’s discovery and yearning for her to follow in his shadow tomorrow.

“Would you like to go for a walk?” he dotingly asked on her return home from her late summer afternoon shift at work.

“Not tonight,” she replied. “I’m going out with friends.”

“Surely you can find some time before you go out to enjoy some fresh air with me? I’ve found two gorgeous countryside paths that I would really like to show you!”

“Will you please stop pressuring me to walk with you? I just don’t want to, ok? Honestly, I can’t stand this town. I can’t wait to get the hell out of here, I’m sick of seeing the same thing every day, I have no interest in exploring the neighbourhood with you, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to get ready to spend the night with people who I actually want to be with.”

Wide-eyed and distressed, he withdraws and sets off without her.

This time he doesn’t know where he is going. He walks aimlessly and randomly. For miles he continues along a monochrome corridor, only seeing in tunnel-vision, no longer noticing the lush green of the season’s freshly grown leaves, the dominant blue sky making a change from its normally overcast state, the radiant hues of the slowly flowing fen and the intricately crafted crimson archways dotting the canal at regular intervals.

Eventually he stops and sits at the shores of the waterway, resting underneath an apple tree.

How can she not appreciate the beauty of this place? he ponders. What must I do to allow her to see the countryside through my eyes? Why does she not wish to spend time with me in the great outdoors – the one place where you easily feel more free, open and energized than anywhere else? Why does she not wish to spend time with me in general? Does she understand how much it hurts to not have her by my side? Where could she be going tonight that is more enjoyable and serene than this beautiful location by the side of the fen? Why does she not love me anymore?

Amid a thousand thoughts, an apple drops into the water, joining a large number of apples that have already fallen from the tree into the canal.

He studies the rippling effect created by the apple’s sudden penetration of the water. He imagines what it would feel like for the apple to become separated from its mother stalk, breaking away from its source of love, growth and inspiration. He wonders if there is any point to its now-meaningless existence, bobbing lifelessly along with its meaningless siblings. Without its grounding stalk it can no longer walk the journey of life. It has no further purpose to serve.

He realises that without his grounding stalk, he can no longer walk the journey of life either. He has no further purpose to serve.

He rises from his position and ventures into the chilly waters of the fen. Resting alongside the fallen apple, he lowers his head beneath the surface. Under the judgemental eye of the nearby swan, and in one final reflection of his lover’s failure to walk with him, he breathes in deeply.

He will never walk again

Hello my friends,

Well I do hope you’ve all had an exceptional 2009! As I reflect on the past year, I realise that it has been the most incredible one so far, and I look forward to an even better 2010. One of my resolutions for next year is simply to be more creative and to put a further emphasis on writing songs, poems and stories. I do seem to have lacked quite a lot of motivation since I got back to Australia, which is disappointing considering creative expression is something that makes me feel complete.

Only last week, however, I was fortunate enough to stumble across a blog entitled “Hearts unbroken & Words untold.” It’s written by a Belgian girl who goes by the name of Froebby, and I was left incredibly inspired by her enchanting prose and her open, honest heart. Please do yourself a favour and give her blog posts a read; I’m sure you will see what I mean! Her heartfelt writing style encouraged me to write this little story (mostly in between phone calls at work, I might add) about the joy of what we think to be true love, followed by the insane amount of confusion that awaits when we realise that it’s not. Admittedly it does have a sombre ending, but it is based ever so slightly on the truth, and I see it as a lesson that we should always strive to remain true to ourselves and those around us in order to achieve happiness.

So thanks Froe, for motivating me to achieve my resolution before the new year even begins, and I wish everyone a very happy 2010 🙂


She Must Have Been Sleeptalking

A busy day exploring a faraway city draws near an end, and the two touring sweethearts make their way through the havoc of the inner-northern suburbs to the location where they will retire for the evening. Putting the general chaos of their day behind them, the couple display an ambience of nervous anticipation for the hours ahead, as this coming night is due to be their first spent together. Alone. At one. At last.

Entering the room they reflect on the day’s precedings before making preparations for their inaugural twilit companionship. Nearby, the dull roar of the subterranean carriages shake the walls ever so slightly, in precise harmony with the rumbling of their hungry hearts. She rests her head gently upon his shoulder as he grasps her slightly trembling hands in his, providing a much-needed quietude prior to the forecast storm. A sense of peace washes over as they take in the space before them which they will shortly occupy, their inhibitions gradually fading as the late summer sun merges with the darkening urban horizon. Their surrounding air becomes lighter than light itself; an aura of magnificence emanating from these two perfectly entwined souls.

Sublime to the eye, sweet to the smell and pure to the touch, she remained every inch the beauty he recalled from his yearnful, endless memory. This was a memory that delved back a multitude of epochs, beyond the fruit, beyond the flower, beyond even the fateful event seemingly millennia ago where the seed was first sowed, paving the way for their impending and everlasting reunion. To her, he was the brick, the support, the solid rock she had grasped onto so tightly in the dawning months leading up to and including this moment.

It was a journey of unimaginable proportions and enigmatic synchronicities that finally culminated in this extraordinary state of communion. From every corner of the universe, all entities involved throughout the duration of this amorous journey wept ethereal tears of togetherness, filling the small but intimate room with their unconditional love. Finally, here they were. Alone. At one. At last.

The overhead iridescence dims, yet the radiance within the room increases infinitely. The silken sheets glide effortlessly over their joy, her arms linking onto his, skin to skin, breast to breast. Their lips draw near, held apart briefly by the warmth of their devoted respiration, before plummeting into divine union, the richness of their embrace sending waves of violet flame shimmering unanimously down their spines. His electric hands saturate her surface, the exponential spark of a thousand strokes permeating deeply into her psyche. Her hair shimmers a vibrant shade of gold as his kiss intensifies, both parties joyously giving, receiving, and eventually succumbing to all that is and all that ever will be.

Time ceases. Love abounds.

She gazes into his closing eyes, savouring every breath he draws and inhaling the luminous energy of which he expels. Whispering softer than that of her velvet skin, she opens a direct line to the centre of his being. Scarcely a moment before he drifts into his most heavenly of slumbers, he becomes engulfed by those
three ………… I
ambrosial ….. LOVE
words …..…….YOU

She must have been sleeptalking.

She awakens at the crack of dawn, and with delicate hesitation, establishes her day by means of a lukewarm shower. Her situation puzzles her whilst the falling water indifferently washes away the thrill of the foregoing evening. Tightening the hot water valve with marginal force, a complication becomes apparent, understandable only to her, as the now-icy stream infiltrates her heart. Unbeknownst to him, her tears of sorrow painfully seep into the drain on that sombre morning.

Tolerating the kiss welcoming her to his glorious day, she is eager to leave the room and get on with exploring the sights of the metropolis. With last night’s adoration far from mind, a hardening bubble appears between his confused advances and her aloof responses. He appreciates her change of gesture, yet his mind cannot cease its stirring, constantly wondering what it was that he has done wrong.

As their second day nears an end, he offers comfort lying closely beside her, gently stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. He questions her as to why she has appeared so detached. Returning to a similar state of quietude experienced the previous night, albeit a more solemn ambience this time around, she remains unwilling to ignite his confusion any further. She rolls to her side and assumes an artificial state of sleep, careful not to reveal her struggling, silent sobs.

For what seems like countless hours, he lies on his back and stares at the ceiling, his eyes running repeatedly along every nail, contour, crack and defect that he can make out on the dimly lit timber boards above him. Even the spider is aware of his intent glance, his eyes like laser beams, slowing the arachnid to a painful crawl. Wary of making contact but yearning more than ever to lie within her tender hold, he rests his arm by hers and attempts to calm his shattered identity.

On the brink of his drifting off, he becomes subconsciously aware of her shifting arm, and involuntarily adjusts his own to keep his source of chaotic comfort nearby. In an instant and unprovoked fit of rage she snaps her arm away from his touch, and straight down that direct line to the centre of his being she furiously yells
three …….. DON’T
acerbic ….. TOUCH
words ……. ME

He snaps awake. He studies her over. Her eyes: closed. Her muscles: relaxed. Her breathing: heavy and defined. He recoils to the far side of the mattress, feeling every inch the predator that she falsely made him out to be. Despite burning into his endless memory, he will never again mention the horror caused by her sudden nightmarish outburst.

She must have been sleeptalking.

If you’re Australian, chances are you’ve heard the song Breakfast At Sweethearts by legendary Aussie band, Cold Chisel. Written by Don Walker, sung by Jimmy Barnes, and backed by the rest of his Cold Chisel bandmates, Breakfast At Sweethearts was the title track of their 1979 album that epitomized life at the time in the inner Sydney suburb of Kings Cross. Infamous for being Sydney’s red light district, a walk down the main street of Kings Cross today still takes you past countless adult shops, strip clubs, bars and nightclubs, albeit a much more tourist-influenced scene today that what it would have been back in its heyday.

I have always been fascinated by Kings Cross. As a matter of fact, my all time favourite book, Sex ‘n’ Thugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll by musician Billy Thorpe, was set in the Cross, which details a year of his life living in the area from 1963-64. I felt so captured by the vibe of Billy’s and Don Walker’s narratives, that for one of my English assignments in year 12, I wrote a spin-off story called “Escape from Sweethearts,” where I tried to put myself in the shoes of Anne-Maria, the Sweethearts waitress mentioned in the song. I would like to share this story with you, but before I do that I must go on a pilgrimage.

Incidentally, I am writing this from a hostel in Orwell Street, just a couple of blocks away from the main drag of Kings Cross. I’ve been based here for the past ten days since my return from the UK, and I’ve often wondered to myself whilst meandering through the streets, where did Billy Thorpe live? Where did Don Walker live? Where was Surf City, the venue where Billy played his legendary first gigs with his band the Aztecs? What kind of antics did the Cold Chisel boys get up to in the early hours of their Saturday nights, “walking into Sunday?” What was Kings Cross really like back in those days? Where exactly was the Sweethearts Cafe?!?

I jumped on the internet earlier this morning to see if I could find it. Firstly I searched for Campbell Lane, as mentioned in the song, where “through the window, curtain rain…” It seemed there was no Campbell Lane in Kings Cross, the nearest being in the inner western suburb of Glebe, about 5km away. Where to look next…? A quick internet search told me that there definitely weren’t any cafes in Sydney any more called Sweethearts, so that was no use to me. Searching for the name of the song didn’t bring up much except for the lyrics, however eventually after a bit more sleuthing I stumbled across an interview that the Sydney Morning Herald had with Don Walker:

“Khe Sanh was written on some scraps of paper at the old Sweethearts” he recalls.

Wow! The most renowned and celebrated of all Australian rock songs, Khe Sanh, was written within the walls of the Sweethearts cafe! I really needed to find this place, wherever it was, and whatever building it is today, just so I could sit there in the same spot and bask in this incredible piece of Australian music history. Then I read on:

“The original Sweethearts Cafe is where McDonald’s is now.”

You have got to be fucking kidding me.


I nearly cried.

I ordered a chocolate sundae just a few hours ago. It wasn’t the first time I’d eaten at this particular outlet either. I sat at a table, wondering how on earth such an historical cafe could have been allowed to turn into the walls of a junk-promoting, monopolising, profiteering, greedy multinational corporation such as McDonalds. Do the kids of today who sit at these tables, guzzling down their Big Macs and extra large Coke’s realise that some of Australia’s most prized lyrics and melodies stemmed from this exact spot?

I think not.

Here is my story – my year 12 English assignment written in 2001, as spun off from that famous song Breakfast At Sweethearts, and dedicated to all who knew the ups and downs of life in Kings Cross in the 70s:

Escape From Sweethearts

Anne-Maria Smith
Hampton Court Hot
Bayswater Road
Kings Cross, NSW 2011

Sweethearts Café
Campbell Lane
Kings Cross, NSW 2011

Dear Sir,

I am writing you this letter to advise you of my resignation as waitress at Sweethearts Café. As of the 15th of August 1984, I will no longer be available for work as I am permanently moving away…


It was never supposed to be like this.

I first came to Sweethearts four years ago as a naïve, innocent and excited young girl that had just moved away from home. Working here as a waitress was to be the starting point to the fulfilment of my childhood dream: I wanted to be well known. I wanted to stand out and be recognised by the community. Unfortunately though, I was too inexperienced and ignorant of what I would be in for. Although I enjoyed it to start off with, waitressing did not turn out to be the opportunistic and prosperous career that I thought it was – and I never imagined I would ever have anything to do with a murder.

Sweethearts is a popular, yet notorious coffee shop situated in the heart of Kings Cross, a suburb of Sydney reputed for its often unpleasant street-lore. Set amidst brothels, strip clubs and sex shops, Sweethearts attracts the majority of its customers during the long, drunken hours of the late night and early morning. Many people come in purely for a coffee and a chat with friends. Others see Sweethearts as a refuge to the busy Kings Cross lifestyle – as if it were somewhere to sit, sober up and think about life for a while.

On the other hand, there are the various assortments of hookers, pimps and drug dealers that come either to sort out a ‘deal’ with a potential customer or for a quiet drink during their late-night break. Many of these customers are actually sincere, caring people who work simply because they need money and cannot manage to find a more conventional form of employment. However, others are criminal and immoral scumbags who profit from ruining the lives of the innocent and uneducated by means of drug dealing and body selling.

One particular customer who I regularly served and got to know quite well was called ‘Mugger.’ Despite the unnerving name, Mugger was actually an outgoing and friendly guy who always gave me a compliment and a large tip whenever I served him. He was considerably older than me, maybe in his mid to late forties, and always looked a little scruffy with his tattooed arms and unshaven face. To the unfamiliar eye, he would have easily been seen as someone who you wouldn’t want on your bad side, but to me he was a good friend.

“Gidday, Anne darling, how’s it going?” he’d ask in his profound Australian accent. “Can you get us the usual please, love?”

The ‘usual’ was a ham sandwich, a strong, black espresso with three sugars and a large chocolate bar. After tipping me the change, he would sit at the bar and swiftly devour his meal.

“You’re gonna go far, love,” he’d tell me when he finished. “Just look at you – young and beautiful. Somebody like you shouldn’t be workin’ in a stingy old coffee shop like this.”

I liked the attention from Mugger. He was definitely a regular at Sweethearts; he usually visited after midnight around three or four times per week. I did notice that Mugger was not one who liked to talk about his personal life. He seemed to ignore questions about what he does for a living, instead changing the subject of conversation to myself. That didn’t worry me, though; whenever Mugger talked about me I actually felt as if I was being noticed. His caring and friendly attitude outweighed any bad qualities he may have had.

How little I knew.

It’s been about five months now since I last saw Mugger. I never want to see him again. Ironically enough, I never will…

My favourite shift at Sweethearts has always been the breakfast shift. It is around breakfast time that the nighttime community go home to recuperate and the daytime community get ready to go to work. The freshness of the morning air puts an end to the stale smell of alcohol that seems to emerge just after sundown. Most morning customers are drunks who stagger in to order a head-clearing coffee, but the general atmosphere is a lot more calm and laid-back than what it is during the night shift.

It was on one particular breakfast shift not long ago that I was settling into a quiet morning of work. I noticed a number of familiar faces eating breakfast after a long night, as well as a few businessmen having a meal before heading off to work. I had not seen Mugger for about two weeks, which was strange, so I was expecting to see him within the next few days.

I had just finished pouring a coffee when I heard a voice behind me. Turning around, I found two high-ranking police officers walking towards the side of the bar.

“Anne-Maria Smith, we believe you have information about the murder of Hank Powers,” one of the officers said. “You are required to come down to the station for questioning.”

I had overheard quite a few people talking about Hank before; apparently he was a notorious pimp who managed the careers of many young prostitutes. I didn’t know anything about a murder! I had tried to stay as far away as possible from sick, depraved people like Hank. Nevertheless, I couldn’t argue with the police.

When I got to the station, I was in shock. One of the officers told me that Hank Powers’ street name was ‘Mugger.’ He had been killed by a hitman who had been hired by one of the women that he managed. The hairs on the back of my neck stood stiff as I was advised of Mugger’s plan to manage and sell myself. I could not believe how such a man could gain my trust and friendship, only to be told the truth about his real life.

On my return to work, I felt sick. I could see the people around me living in their monochrome, fantasy world of drugs and alcohol. I then realised that people saw me as the typical female waitress: young, good looking and ready to be taken advantage of. That was not the situation I wanted to be in.

From that moment on, I lost all trust in the customers I served. Until now, I’ve only been working for the money. Next week I’m moving away – far away – and I’ll be starting a new life. I count myself lucky that I’ve managed to get a second chance, and this time I’m not going to waste it.


When I first applied to work at Sweethearts, I thought I would be making the first move to becoming a well-known, respectable member of the community. Working here has not only ruined my reputation, it has also made me feel as if I was being used for sexual exploitation.

Whilst I was fortunate enough to actually obtain the position, I do not want to be working under these uncomfortable situations any longer.

Yours sincerely,
Anne-Maria Smith.

Breakfast At Sweethearts
– Don Walker

Campbell Lane, and through the window curtain rain
Long night gone, yellow day, the speed shivers melt away

Six o’clock, I’m going down
The coffee’s hot and the toast is brown
Hey, Streetsweeper, clear my way
Sweethearts breakfast the best in town
Oh, o-o-oh, breakfast at Sweethearts
Oh, o-o-oh, breakfast at Sweethearts

Hey, Anne Maria – it’s always good to see her
She don’t smile or flirt, she just wears that mini skirt

Drunks come in. Paper bag, brandivino
Dreams fly away as she pours another cappucino

Here today stands McDonalds, where once there was Sweethearts…

* if you love Aussie music and the way we tell stories about our landmarks, then check out Australia By Song for a massive list of songs written about locations all around this great country of ours.