A scalpel chill snips through the weave of beanies. Woollen scarves put up a thin resistance. Night’s south-west wind goose-bumps uncovered skin, the few bare patches. A boozy couple quarrel at the bus stop. Central Station clock, that golden dial, looks down its long hand nose at half past nine. Snarling each other’s wrongs, the pair ignore me. I walk my shadow free, see it stretch, grow huge on the underside of a stone arch, a tunnel for walkers. Then streetlights project it on hastening cars. Wentworth Avenue. Sound-systems pound the darkness to a diamond-dust moving stream. Constant companion glides over zebra stripes ahead of me. Oxford Street trades constant companion for non-stop bright illumination: dance floors, bars, café tables work together to dissolve it – ’evening, light bath; goodbye, shadow. Taylor Square lights up half the sky. Traffic crocodiles, with glittering hides, give one another the go-by. Taylor Square threads party people, buses, beggars, moviegoers, night commuters, coppers, tourists, local shoppers through its navel. Without an i.d. – like everyone else’s – constant companion spills on the ground with the fountains by Gilligan’s Island. At Sacred Heart in relief, alone, Jesus oversees the church entry. His open arms & flowing drapery argue with the stuff that he’s composed of; talk back to stone. Enveloped by history, St Vincent’s Hospital shines geometrically – a procession of windows, calm & orderly. Green Park – opposite – starts with a wall: cars cruise, stealth glances, muttered offers chafe the air; constant companion loses me on that thoroughfare among evergreens rustling like far-off autumns. But when we get to the wire mesh fence on Cutler Freeway, constant companion breaks out as deftly as a well-trained dancer – paling fences, concreted yards lap it up yet don’t absorb it; no ‘inner life’, it’s a moving outline – graceful, silent – no effort apparent. While I pace along bitumen exhale carbon clouds, try to keep up, my shadow walks me home as smoothly as a subtle actor; pouring over tin roofs’ silver like an overturned Manhattan – fluent in the wind-chill factor after winter night-shifts.
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