The sun is always setting in this town. That’s an exaggeration. Sometimes the lead up to sunset here reminds me of Melbourne, I think it’s probably because sometimes in Melbourne the sun sets too. On the short step along Hackney Road between my front door and the Sainsbury’s, a lagging sun catches in apartment block windows, all nostalgic and Caramellow Koala gold. A thirst gets tickled. I shake my wallet and that sleighbell chorus promises a drink or two.
It’s Friday arvo. I’m walking muddy through the rare February sun to buy a bite to sober up. I’m not pissed but I’m sloppy, see my Friday night starts when most folk’s lunch break ends. Such is coffee-slinging. My walk home from work accommodates an off-license flogging a fair range of tall, cheap, cold cans. A slow walk home kills two cans, a shower and peak at the paper makes short work of the surviving twins. Call me a lightweight (don’t really, I’m easily hurt) but four family cans cooks me some way towards dinner.
With a couple of litres of Holsten sloshing in my tummy I amble through electric supermarket doors, and fried by the short concentrated blast from the doorway heater I feel like something on an assembly line. I walk past the short shelf of grey-green veggies to pick up four packets of noodles. Special Chicken Flavour. I turn right and peruse the drinks fridge, stepping over a foamy spill of beer. I weigh up the red sticker specials and land on a very shabby American brew, some expense is spared. On the floor another spill, thick, foamy, it isn’t beer, it’s spit. It’s totally spit. Lots of it.
At the counter a man with a curly crop of glossy black hair is the object of the checkout girl’s disdain. He’s seen thirty, forty is some way off. Draped in a green jacket and blue jeans, he favours his left side and shuffles toward the register, wheelie walking frame out in front, and plonks a cheap bottle of rose on the counter. He’s leaking a steady flow of saliva and people are looking away, caught up in some sticky feedback loop of being embarrassed by their embarrassment. The checkout girl wrinkles her nose and calls her manager. Her manager tells our friend in the green jacket that he won’t be served; he’s already bought alcohol today. So because rules are rules, even when they aren't, our man leaves his purchase on the counter. He shuffles out of cue, on cue, out of the store, out of the way.
I use the self-serve checkout. A skinny man with neat hair catches me trying to cheat the machine. He’s wearing glasses and an ironed white shirt and telling me that I “need to scan this product, sir”. I’m embarrassed, I say so, but exchange the word for sorry and throw mistaken into the bargain. I’m smiling like a liar. The man scans my cans and places them in my bag. I thank him with boozy breath. He says “you’re welcome.” Lucky me.