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by Tom O'Byrne

He had never considered the Rialto Towers beautiful. The fluorescent blue flecked by circling seagulls caught in a loop he knew too well. He tried to ignore his office building next to the ANZ tower, all the knock-off drinks and footy tipping. Bright ties and sombre smiles. The paperwork and office-grade flat screen monitors with the brightness turned up. His eyes locked onto the drizzle passing over glowing company logos, jaded by the drug of city lights. Yet he had found love among four million; had a son he could call his own. But here at the bottom of the world he was still lonely.

He noticed his hands as he took a swig of the bourbon, the dry cuts on his knuckles like the burn in his throat. Was it sad that he cherished schoolyard antics? Playing bass guitar in a band that drank more than they practised? The nights under stars and wafting damp bushland. A time when his brother was his closest friend. He noticed a buoy flashing green in the middle of the harbour. The boat parties had finished hours ago but the trucks kept passing behind. He looked down through the dense corrugated walkway. Ominous outlines lurking. Silhouettes in the harbour glare. He rested his back on the guardrail then slid to a sitting position. Wrapped his lips around the mouth of the bottle and took three gulps. It was supposed to take away the pain of being a man. The breeze and rain kept him honest.

The Etihad Stadium sign began to duplicate. The surrounding high-rise apartments glossy and dominating. Lights reflecting off windows and tiny perennial waves making the moonlight seem artificial. He hadn’t looked at the moon in years and now marvelled at the patches of grey and its soft edges. He tipped his head back and watched air rise to the bottom of the bottle. When the rain really fell he relaxed his neck and opened his mouth. He’d done this as a kid. Vibrations from the trucks through his bones and teeth. Chills from the rails shot up his arms. He watched desperate streams stick to interconnecting poles and handrails. The ferrous stench of wet metal. Nightclub workers in hoods folded tables and lifted outdoor gas heaters while drunks lingered on the wharf’s edge.

He stood up and heard his socks squelch against the inner soles. His pants soaked to the point where the pinstripes disappeared. He noticed rusted bolts and concluded that that was it. He was a corroded cog. Glazed skin and undershirt showing. He stopped, looked up at supporting beams and suspension cables, flags that slapped in the wet darkness. Puddles shimmered, leaking and filling the pavement cracks. He swished around the last of the bourbon like it was mouthwash then spurted it out into the harbour. He let the rails caress his sodden body as he slouched over the edge like a rag doll then sprang out. Went to throw up then didn’t. He placed the bottle on the ground beside soggy burnt out cigarettes. Stumbled along the bridge. Got in a cab and told the driver to go fast, just take him home. Away from the navy dusk and ailing moon. Whispering towers and drowning concrete. He let the drunken swirl take him, the seatbelt nursing his head while the whining gas-powered engine ploughed through puddles.

About the author

Tom O'Byrne is a creative writing student studying at RMIT University with the intent of being a novelist. He's currently writing a novel about a young man trying to understand Australia and why he never belonged in his own country.
Works published on Trove:
  1. Silhouettes - Volume 4, Issue 2