I started working for the Grey Man on my twenty-seventh birthday, early December. I remember the air that day was quick and loaded with the sweetness of imminent Christmas. The weekend of all weekends, where we all won gold medals and reclined on banana lounges by the sea.
Everyone but me, of course.
I was only just beginning.
It was strange to be back under the sun of the real world. Melbourne’s weather carried a tinge of threat that the persistent heat would crumple our dreams like cicada shells and suck the rest of us into the clouds. Even the buildings seemed dry, and there would never be enough pot plants for all of them.
I pictured the meeting of Lance and the Grey Man as I rattled by Parliament House on the tram. It had been hot that day too, Lance had got sunburnt and done star jumps in the park. How many years ago had that been?
I couldn’t remember.
The drought just seemed like forever now. While our water restrictions slowed the flow to a dribble of slightly greater volume than the penises of the men administering them—they all sat in the elaborate white building, yelling at each other in order to look busy. I gave Parliament the finger as I got off the tram and descended into the underground train station.
What can anyone do about drought, anyway?
Better to just act like you’re doing something. Issue orders to fluoro-clad epsilons, wrap the rivers in pipes and re-plant public gardens with succulents. Whilst the hundred-headed Savonarola burns a million mega tonnes of atmospheric poison each minute so it can touch down and tell us to change our showerheads.
Horses for courses.
But this is not the sort of thing that one says out loud, especially when one is on one’s first day at a new job. I shook my head and scolded my finger and focused on having to be sane.
It’s funny—the things you notice when you’ve been away for awhile though. People for instance. By the Gods there were so many of them. They were literally everywhere and all of them some sixty percent water, waddling around like half-done addition waiting for the rest to fall down from the sky. No wonder it never rained anymore, if only we could somehow learn to farm each other.
Could we do such a thing?