A sentimental journey through Sydney, eight

European young men migrated freely to Australia in 1959, good prospects. Young women did not go there in general. Good money, but also solitude, no female. Result homesickness and depression. Paradox of wealth, marvellous place as well as melancholy

A sentimental journey through Sydney, eight

Fernando García Izquierdo

Seen from the air Sydney amazes and delights the traveller as perhaps no other place in the world does. The luminosity at midmorning, the freshness, that transparency, emitted from all angles, as one gazes right and left; all that wonderful coastline, the unequalled spectacle of one thousand arms of deep blue water entering mother earth constituting elongated bays, or ports, estuaries, beaches, and corresponding fronts, capes, points, rocks, a lighthouse; the turbulent entrance of King Ocean through The Heads, two close-by rocky promontories, like guardians of a magnificent bay, the door through which navigation goes in and out, Sydney commercing with the whole world. The Harbour Bridge spanning both sides in the middle of the great bay, a powerful cargo boat or an elegant white liner sailing underneath and all along, as well as ferryboats and pleasure vessels; the colourful ballooning sails of yachts or small sporting-craft; police boats speeding from coast to coast, and navy boats; the wharves and ports in full activity. There is life on all this land, so many long arms of still forested territory, the earth in all its manifestations, intercommunicating bridges, and also the many specks of red or grey, the roofs of houses, nature and the habitation of man and woman, and gardens or backyards, sports grounds and parks, which makes somehow green to predominate, different hues of green, forests, reserves, immense golf links, and so much seems natural, so much is alive all around. Then, as the plane turns and starts to descend, the factories in the suburbs, a landscape of tall buildings, commercial centres and stores, some glass skyscrapers reflecting blue or bronze in the sunlight… and you are flying rather low now, then still lower rather over the ocean, but it is still Sydney just below: the plane is heading towards Mascot International Airport; you are scared, fearing for your safety, an unexpected collapse.. A big bump and the plane is taxiing along an interminable tarmac runway… and you know you are in one of the most fantastic places in the world.
*
One Sunday, Luis Galvao was standing by one of the windows of his apartment in Kirribilli, North Sydney, watching the incomparable beauty of a south-seas panorama and thinking of that natural existence that might have existed there in time immemorial, the sun rising in the east over the horizon, the distant ocean now dark grey, then a line of light, half white, half orangy-yellow, getting bigger and bigger all the time, the fullness of a glorious day approaching, a thousand streaks of brilliant lines, reflections right and left, he was absorbed (as the child Leonardo is thought to have said at a papal procession) by this multitude of hues and colours, when there was the sound of a ring coming from inside the flat, by the door.
‘Hallo! Who’s there?’, he asked.

‘Hoo-hoo!’ came the reply, ‘It’s me, Tom Terrific.’
‘Oh, hell! Manuel?’ exclaimed Galvao to himself, ‘at this hour! what may be bringing this man here?’ And aloud he said ‘Come in! Take the lift to the tenth floor.’
… it was an unexpected visit which came to alter most unfortunately an already-formed schedule for the day, and to have his plans upset in that way has always been for him intolerable.
… in effect, he was one of those poets or authors whom people called Sunday-writers. He had studied law, which he practised with great pleasure; but at heart preferred literature, which he now practiced on the sly.
He stepped onto the landing, struggling against his fatigue, for he had had a bad night and had decided in the early hours to stand up and wait for the morning watching the always marvellous spectacle of a sunrise which he could easily contemplate from his own window.
The lift arrived and, in a moment, he had his friend in his arms, an elegantly dressed Manuel laughing and kissing him with great exuberance. And laughing and exchanging greetings, they went into the flat, also called ‘home unit’.
‘What are you grinning at?’ said the visitor.
‘No. I’ve been surprised by your visit. I was…’ Luis was saying without raising his eyes.
But Manuel did not let him complete the sentence, boisterously leading the way into the flat. Luis could then, taking him by the arm, push the way into the kitchen and ask him to sit down, himself hesitating for a moment, then stepping on towards the fridge and the cooker.
‘We’ll have breakfast. It’s nearly twenty past six,’ he said.
‘Thanks, I’ve already had my breakfast,’ Manuel replied, ‘and could you tell me, dear Luis, what are you doing, still in your pyjamas, on a lovely day like this?’
‘I wasn’t feeling well,’ the other answered. ‘Besides, I don’t intend to go out. As simple as that.’ And striding towards the table he began to lay cutlery and crockery for two persons.
‘Not for me, dear Luis, I’ve already told you, I’ve had my breakfast.
Galvao’s face became sombre and after much humming and hawing, he asked. ‘Well, shall I put the coffee-maker on, or what can I offer you?’
‘Nothing. I’ll have a cup of tea, if you brew a pot of breakfast tea for yourself.’
‘Manuel,’ Luis mumbled, with a worried look on his face, ‘I don’t know why, but I’ve had a rather bad night. In a word, I feel poorly.’
‘Indeed you need to feel right down bad, if you’re planning to stay at home on a day like this. Come on! hurry up, for we are going out. I intend to take you outside,’ he paused, laying special emphasis on the end of the sentence, ‘this beautiful home-unit of yours.’
Luis raised his arm and was going to say something, but Manuel would not allow him to speak.
‘Yes,’ he added, ‘I shall have to cheer you up, you disgruntled New Australian. It is homesickess what is affecting you. I know the system. Your efforts are successful and you start to earn a lot of money, and you climb to Seventh Heaven. Elation, and all of a sudden depression and so on. I shall make you meet nice people and shall take that pensive mood off that pretty face of yours, you know?’
Galvao was standing by the cooker. ‘I’m frying some bacon rashers and eggs,’ he said, struggling against his fatigue. ‘Really, you must accompany me. Two eggs for you?’
Manuel burst out, laughing, before replying: ‘None for me thanks. I’ve told you. The only thing I ask you, I repeat, is to hurry up!’
For a minute Luis went on frying. ‘What can I offer you?’
‘You sit down and eat. I’ll share a pot of tea with you, if you brew some. Not too strong, please.’
Luis hesitated, sat down and began eating his breakfast, saying something at the same time, Manuel did not make any comment, and Luis made a pause, undecided. He was slowly buttering a slice of bread with that sad meditative expression of his on his face. He was only half-listening to what his friend had to say when he heard all of a sudden: ‘for we’re going to the service of Sunday’s holy mass.’
‘Rubbish, my friend!’ Luis cried almost instinctively, ‘you don’t intend to say we’re going to have communion, all that stuff and nonsense again? If you want to go back with the priests, okay do so, but don’t count on me for going back to church and superstition.’
‘I don’t, indeed, my dear boy, what I say is that we’re going to spend an hour or two with our own,’ Manuel began, tenderly touching his friend’s lobe. ‘What I...’

Luis stood up and stepped forward to the cupboard. ‘What does it mean our own?’ he said, starting to make the tea, ‘our own, our nation or race? I only recognise one human race. What do I have to do with an old country and a set of people that rejected me, did all they could to send me into exile? Jealous lot!’
‘If you could let me finish what I was saying, my good fellow. Well, I plan to get you into a group of recently arrived migrants from a country…yes our homecountry, whatever you may say or think: Roots, you see?’
‘I see, I see, I see,’ said Luis in a very bad temper. ‘What, what, what?’
‘Calm down, boy. Spain must signify something to you. And by the way, you should show your pretty face from time to time, my sulky fellow, at the Spanish Club. You go there and enjoy yourself. Nothing to do with politics, all this. You’re poisoning your life for nothing, and sure enough, nobody’ll be jealous of you. They will envy your English, as they admire mine. Moreover, you’re going to meet some women there, assisted passage, what do you say to that?’
‘Only one woman interests me, and I lost her in Madrid, precisely, my Margaret,’ Luis replied, with a sigh. ‘and that one you could never find for me.’
‘What, a subtle beauty, a sphinx? what woman is that? have you chosen to become mysterious? oh dear! you are a lost case.’

‘Don’t make yourself mysterious, Manuel. You’ve heard me talk about my English girl, the one I lost in Madrid years ago,’ Luis said, a profound sadness corroding all his sense and joy, ‘and I now tell you this. I think I’ve seen her again.’
‘Halt there!,’ Manuel interrupted his friend. ‘An English girl, yes. And where in your heart then is Malgorata? Remember I’ve seen you passionately in love with your then Ukrainian girl.’
‘Where is Malgorta? with a Lithuanian, you told me so.’
There was a long pause. Luis poured some milk and tea for himself and went on with his meal. Manuel, who had already served himself some tea, glanced at his friend in silence. He looked at his watch. ‘Twenty-five to eight’.
‘One day, you know,’ Luis began, ‘not long ago something made me think I’d seen Margaret…’
‘Is that the English girl you were going to marry in Madrid?’ Manuel asked.
‘Exactly. Margaret, moving along in Sydhey crowds. But allow me to tell you the complete story.’
‘I’m all ears.’
‘You must remember, Manuel, the day we went to Pyrmont 13 together, to say good-bye to our friends Heribert and Nino, returning migrants,’ Luis said, meditatively. That day we dined together, a Chinese restaurant in town, and there I had a glimpse of an angel sitting near us.’
‘Remember. The restaurant of course. No angel that I ever saw.
‘A pretty girl, short blond wavy hair, a rosy smile?’
‘Vaguely, go on.’
‘I thought I’d seen Margaret, my English girl so beautiful.’
‘And why didn’t you talk to her, do something to call her attention.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Some impression is coming back. Correct me if I am wrong, did you not then think of Malgorata?’
‘Incorrect you are. I never gave thought to the Ukrainian, after you told me she’d absconded with that Lithuanian.’

‘And did you see the girl again, that angel, that mysterious presence?’
‘Only once, very briefly again; but let me go on: that encounter, that mysterious presence as you say, changed my life.’
‘Now, so serious! My word, you are a bad case!’
‘You don’t understand. A girld of devilish beauty, lost in Madrid. We were about to get married.’
‘But you haven’t answered my question, did you see her again?’
‘Once, in Paddy’s Market, I followed her in heavy rain. I discovered she lives in Surry Hills… well I believe she lives there. Again I behaved like a donkey.’
‘Sure you are, my dear Luis, an ass. Surry Hills, you say. There is where we are going today. But go on with your story, please.’
‘You may call me an ass or whatever, but there is some logic in what I do. Now, that encounter changed my life, dear Manuel, for it came precisely when I had taken the step to ask Maureen, my secretary, to marry me. You don’t know her, but I assure you, she is the cutest genuine platinum blond that ever I’ve seen. We have always been on good terms, liking one another. She had just turned twenty… I don’t know, but the difference of age (I’m thirty, as you know) did not now seem so tremendous.’
‘And you asked her. Did she say yes?’
‘Yes, we made plans to get married, and were going to spend a week in Surfers’ Paradise; had booked the hotel and organised things, when that apparition at the restaurant came to change the lot.’
‘Oh, Luis, dear fellow, you are nuts! is that possible, real life, logic and all the qualifications you like to point out? Tell me exactly what you did, your secretary, Maureen, what did you tell her?’
‘She took it badly, of course.’
‘What did she do, bang her typewriter on your head?, for that is the sort of punishment you deserve, you may be assured.’
‘She refused to cancel her week’s holiday, and went alone, by train to Queensland. She loves surfing. And surfing she met another Sydneysider, a very handsome man, a law student at Sydney University.’
‘Whom she’s going to marry now?’
‘Well, they are engaged, yes.’
‘So, all is well that ends well,’ said Manuel, beating his thighs and laughing.
‘That’s it, I suppose,’ mumbled Luis, still deep in thought.’
‘Well, now,’ Manuel concluded, standing up, and helping the other to do the same,’ you get into your bath and wash and shave yourself for we are going to mass together, as I’ve said. Hurry up! I have my Ford Falcon downstairs.’
The conversation, if it had not cheered Galvao, had at least the effect of making him more sociable. ‘Okay, Manuel,’ he said, ‘let’s hope I don’t get too bored with the service.’

Manuel did not even answer. Most joyously, he grabbed the other’s elbow and led him out of the kitchen and to the very door of the bathroom.
The sun was high in the sky as Manuel now contemplated the harbour. After a minute or two, he turned back to the kitchen, passed things on to sink, put on a pinafore and in a moment the place was perfectly clean and orderly. As he now wanted to smoke a cigarette, and personally being convinced that air-conditioning only served to poison honest citizens, he moved around, looking for a crank or something to open the window wide; he soon succeeded in his attempt and laying one elbow on the windowsill got out of his cigarette-case a ‘Benson & Hedges’ and began to smoke.
This was the part of the flat from where the bay was hardly beautiful, for the Harbour Bridge was there, looming high over the dozen or so Kirribilli skyscrapers and other minor houses and lanes and ways and tiny wharves. The sky above was blue, without a cloud, and a multitude of white silky seagulls swirled up and down and between the girders or beams, as Manuel Suárez smoked and happily gazed at the landscape: the black girders of the bridge and the large variety of flying maritime birds.
When Luis came back from his bath, clean and shaven, he found his friend stubbing out a cigarette with his fingernail, one elbow on the window-sill. He was not pleased to find his friend had opened the window, but preferred not to show his annoyance. Manuel would not understand him if he flew into a temper and simply said that he hoped, dear Manuel, he had not been breaking the rules and regulations of the community. Luis looked for the crank and closed the window again. The noise of the traffic, particularly on the bridge, immediately became less unbearable.
He took his friend Manuel by the arm, and thanking him for the washing up, made him sit on the sofa in the lounge, and said. ‘All right, we’ll attend mass, if that is what you want.’
‘What I want,’ Manuel interrupted, ‘is to bring you out of your hole, my dear. It’s a sin to think one can spend any length of time indoors on a day like this.’

‘Then, it is decided, you’ll drive, but if you give me the address of the church and directions to get there, I’ll use my own car. It may be better to do so.’
‘Not on your life. Let’s get moving,’ Manuel said. ‘We don’t need two cars. I have my Ford Falcon in the street.’ And adopting a military composure: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers! Come on! Stop frowning, my pretty boy.’
And when both were on the landing, he turned round, stopped Luis from closing the door, and said, jumping back in. ‘Please, wait a momo, I’ve got to go to the toilet for a pee.’ When he came back, his friend, locking the door, noticed he smelled aggressively of aftershave lotion.
‘You stinker,’ Luis uttered, ‘you sure have emptied my expensive Alpine lotion.’
The lift having arrived, the two friends entered talking and laughing.
A few minutes later they were driving along the Harbour Bridge and on to the Cahill Expressway. For a long moment the drive became a delight for the eye. Into the Royal Botanic Gardens, enormous lawns and many trees, the Domain, equally delicious Hyde Park, and into the City. At Oxford Street they turned right into Riley Street.
’Surry Hills!’ Manuel exclaimed, lifting his foot from the pedal. ‘These were once forested hills.’
’I see,’ said Luis.
Manuel had laid his left hand on his friend’s right thigh. Luis moves his leg away, causing the hand to slip down. ‘Look where you’re going,’ he shouted.
‘Last month, two Spaniards got married in the church we’re going to,’ Manuel said. ‘Man and woman.’
‘Unnecessary remark.’
‘No, but you see, countrymen from different regions, Murcia and Aragon. They met here. The woman has just arrived, assisted passage. Many women comin’ this way. While men’s passage not included under the scheme. And I ask, why this disparity of sexes.’
‘It’s like that. I mean, men travel easily:’ said Luis. ‘In Spain, as you know, for women under twenty-three, things get more complicated.’

Somewhat more relaxed on the passenger seat, Luis Galvao was taking note everything he observed, bus-shelters and names of streets; for he could not be sure if he would withstand the whole religious service. To return alone to Kirribilli must remain an open option for him.
Manuel, still talking about their countrymen in Sydney, asked why Luis did not visit the Spanish Club at Liverpool Street, from time to time.’
‘I have so many things to do,’ was all Galvao said.
‘A chunk of our beloved Fatherland here, Down Under,’ Manuel commented.
By now Luis was not listening, for he had begun to recognise some places as they were getting more deeply into the suburb, a maze of old streets and alleyways, going up, coming down. Something was now brought back to his mind that made him think. Remembrances of things, very dear, from the past.
… this lane now, I think I’ve been here once before, striding after a girl with a pink nylon umbrella. The girl he had been missing, had been absent from his life since that spring ’56. Blond wavy hair, rosy cheeks. Both were walking rapidly in the rain, he following her at a distance.

… she went inside a terrace house. One of these lanes, like the bottom of a ravine. It was the last image I had of her, moving backwards holding in the rain the umbrella as she entered, then quietly shutting the door the apparition was no more. Where are you, my angel?
The two friends reached Albion Street, entered a little sidestreet, parked the car and retraced their steps to the main street, which they had passed a minute ago scudding in towards the alleyway where the car was left. There was the church of which Luis had already had a glimpse as they drove past a moment ago. Bells were chiming, calling the faithful to mass. These were trailing towards the entrance. Birds were flying around the spire.
The two friends dashed up a flight of stone steps leading to the door of the church; but there, Manuel, catching his friend by the elbow, led him round the monumetal building, saying: ‘I’m going to introduce the priest to you, before going in.’
As they entered through the back door leading to the sacristy, Luis saw a priest in ecclesiastical robes, nearly ready for saying mass. An altar boy was helping the man to put on the golden chasuble, which the boy passed around the priest’s ginger-hair head.
The operation finished, the priest pressed the boy caressingly against his own body, then turned to Manuel, ‘Oh, my Manolo!’
‘My Jaume!’ Manuel exclaimed in turn.
‘Sorry I can’t stay,’ the priest said, turning to the child, who kissed his hand, and disappeared into the church.
Manuel, who had forgotten to introduce the priest to his friend, led him back around the church, saying. ‘He’s Catalan, Don’t you too find him very handsome?’
‘Perfectly so,’ replied Luis, grinning.
Manuel entered the temple, Luis trailing after him. The former dipped two fingers in the font of holy water, touched his friend’s corresponding two fingers, and making the sign of the cross, they both proceeded along one of the lateral aisles.
Luis had not been in a church for decades, and finding himself now in the dark and trailing like a puppy-dog after Manuel, felt suddenly depressed and very tired. He no longer saw Manuel and guessed his friend was trying to reach the first line of benches, perhaps to be able to see well his friend the priest.
The church was stuffy, with a vague scent of dust and candle wax. Rays of light were filtering colourfully through the stained-glass of the windows near the ceiling.
… strange to say, as a boy religion pervaded my life, once a choir-boy in the church of El Carmen, Madrid, spending so much time on prayers, the wakes of ‘Semana Santa’, mass, confession, communion and long processions at times, one the Via Crucis, admiring the wooden images of Saints, Christs and Holy Virgens.
… religion brought all that to our lives, the charm to my life! praying with a group, the faithful together in church, that magic! the singing of the psalms, the music of the organ. “Luisito, my lovely son!” (thought my mother), and many years later (thinking I had joined the party), “Luisito, you were always good, such a religious boy! What has happened?
There came the sweet music of some little silver bells, and coming from on high the light from one of the stained-glass windows directed his attention to a vacant seat in the middle of a line of benches. He pushed his way through, under a fire of numerous protests. A infinite number of dust particles floating in the ray of light as he let his tired body sit down.
People were moving along the central aisle bending their heads down, the palms of their hands religiously pressed together: Luis could now see the priest with the gold chalice in one hand, administering communion, the choir boy helping him with the silver paten.
‘Gosh,’ he muttered under his breath, ‘I’m stifling!’ For all that atmosphere gave him a sense of anguish as much as it had given him a sense of glory and triumph so many years ago. And it so happened that the stuffiness and that feeling of defeat which always came upon on similar situations was transforming that sense of fatigue into a real physical pain.
‘The spiritual energy of the learned philosophers of our time drains me,’ he thought, ‘causes me to float about as if I were not here.’
Many faithful have communion, leaving a score of benches now empty, and being alone on his bench, he leans back and has another forty winks thinking of Madrid and his poor disenchanted mother: the church of the Calle del Carmen full of light and the music of the organ, the peace that beautiful things bring.
‘Why have I abandoned the faith of my ancestors?’ he thinks. ‘why did I ever go to foreign parts? The weariness that travel brings, this ceaseless gloom.’
Luis bends forward, his glasses in one hand, holding his forehead with the other. He now has a glimpse of the priest and his accolyte, continuing the mass, giving their backs to the parishioners. So many silent shadows back on their seats.
‘Ave María purísima gracia plena.’ Luis has another long dream. His mother was very near him, saying. ‘Oh, darling son Luisito! you were such a reverent catholic lad, always so good and so handsome! do tell me, what has happened? What books have you read? who has made you change so?’ … and he had begun to think that he had made his poor mother suffer unnecessarily. What did it matter, after all, ‘moro, cristiano o comunista: all the same’ humans are governed by instinct, not by reason, at least not entirely rational. Born and bred rational-animals. But keep calm!. ‘Oremus!!’
… I should now write a letter to my parents telling them I have changed. Going back to church. That would please them very much. I shall tell them in the letter that a Catalan priest, very handsome, has been saying mass.
The music from the litle silver bells reaches Galvao’s ears once again. It has been terribly painful waking up and sinking to his knees upon the wooden plank in front, a dusty plank shared with a score of parishioners, holding with their hands on to the backrail of the bench in front; movement and tumult.
Suddenly the whole church seems to rock, changing the situation, for everybody stands up. The whole score of rows of benches. Luis is going to have an attack of hayfever when luckily the priest concludes:
‘Missa ditta est!
The long plank on which his feet are resting is rocking again. The friction of women’s skirts, rather than any other thing, now brings him back to reality. And balancing his tired body in the darkness for a while, still holding on with one hand to the wooden rail, Luis Galvao proceeds with the crowd towards the aisle on the right and out of the House of God.
He felt much better when he stood outside breathing the midmorning air on the top of the hill with a beautiful azure sky in front of him and a landscape of houses. Plenty of noise and lots of people around him. The talk is all in Spanish, rather joyfully.
In the street, upon the pavement, Spanish migrants, recently arrived some of them, were happily speaking of things past and present, standing in little groups around Albion Street. They were mainly men and most of them of the age between twenty and twenty-seven. The migrants of long standing were boisterousely patronising the newly-arrived ones, among whom there were some who could not hide their fear or rightdown homesickness. The few young women that there were, on the contrary, looked to be a brave lot, and certainly as enterprising as the men. All the same, men constituted the greater number by far, some of the male newcomers having left wife and children behind. All seem keen to earn much money, according to the conversations going on around.
The group to which Galvao was attached seemed to have as the central figure a man of forty leading the conversation. He was accompanied by his daughter, and surrounded by half a dozen enthusiastic young men, some of them just arrived in Australia.
Luis was looking at the girl, of about eighteen, cute, tall and brown haired. The family already owned property in Paddington, the neighbouring suburb. Among other things Luis learned they came from Santander, a city where he had enjoyed his summer holidays as a boy, and the girl somehow was bringing to him remembrances from the past.
‘¡Ven aquí, Sara!’ he heard a call, dreamily. The man was calling her to him.
… oh, poor Luis romantic head, moving about and become another person; but always too much in the past, dreaming. Oh, joyful reverie! Those days, in Santander. I saw young women in swimsuits for the first time.
… and recollecting those moments of nice safe childhood, happy journeys by train to the port in the north, the sandy beaches of Santander. The return home in October, Madrid, I came to think of Margaret’s arrival in 1955.
… the remembrance comes likewise to mind of those walks the days, 1948, Spain a fascist state, under Franquismo when I was a law student, promenading with a brown-haired girl, a law student like myself.
... not many women studied then at university. The air around the ‘ciudad universitaria’ was perfectly unpolluted, and we saw so clearly from there the white peaks of the Guadarrama. So happy when I talked to Sara Castro.

… I remember well her face: a studious face, rather pale. She did not wear spectacles. One day we went on foot together to the Plaza de la Moncloa, seven or eight kilometres from the faculty of law.

… we walked Instead of catching the ‘autobús universitario’ which cost twenty-five cents (un real.) It was simply a fib, saving a real. We just wanted to be together, exchange impressions, perhaps speak of love.
Luis Galvao, suddenly and unexpectedly, found the tears welling up to his eyes recollecting those student days in Madrid. He looked around, in Albion Street. He was saved from the embarrassment, of being seen in that state, by the sudden appearence of the handsome Catalan priest at the entrance of the church on top of the flight of stone steps, gesticulating and telling his parishioners, who had not budged a foot from the place they had landed when coming out of church. The migrants had to shoo off! They had to disperse at once. Albion Street was not the entrance of a stadium or a bullring: good gracious! that they should be giving every Sunday such a spectacle to the citizens of Surry Hills.
On high, behind the priest, now appeared the figure of his friend Manuel, and the two handsome men disappeared into the darkness of the House of God.
Luis Galvao stood looking, a moment of indecision. He now knew he should never have relied on his friend Manuel, or plan anything with him. As for driving back to Kirribilli, no hope of finding a taxi... Bells were chiming announcing that a new mass was about to commence. Birds were flying around the spire, as always.
On the pavement the Spaniards were dispersing, trailing nearly all in the same direction, towards the lines of terrace-houses of Surry Hills or Paddington, in several small groups, talking of going on barbecue parties: some place or other. The Santander family was giving a big party on their Paddington property, nearby. Others lived in Edgecliff, King’s Cross, or were going by bus to the Spanish Club in Liverpool Street.
Luis Galvao had still his eyes fixed on young delightful Sara from Santander, who was holding on to the burly man, her father… all moving away, himself the only one who had not moved, undecided and much afraid: he was a poor fellow after all.
At length, taking the opposite direction to which the others had taken, thinking that he must look for a bus in order to reach Central Railway or Circular Quay and from there proceed by train to Kirribilli, he strode the way he imagined was the one Manuel had taken when they were coming in the morning. The bus-shelter was hardly a stone’s throw away, but in his precipitation he missed it, and then turned the wrong way. Weary and confused, getting into deeper and deeper trouble, he tried to go back to Albion Street and recommence his trail, and again took the wrong turn, got nervous and found himself trudging up and down a number of hilly roads. Up this narrow lane, down that one, once more taking his turns at random. He had not been there before, he thought.
The day had grown sultry, as he wandered through squalid streets where working families lived. If there were people moving about, now and then, these were going to attend service at one temple or other of a score of denominations. If only he had encountered some sympathy somwhere, but no one seems to have the time or the inclination to bother about him, to listen to what he had to say.
He thought he saw a Yugoslav woman he had visited on one occasion and he hoped she would give him some information. When they came close to each other, the woman glanced suspiciously and changed the course of her step.
… now, what is the meaning of being an exile, leaving your fatherland, to roam and oh god! Repentance. Is it my being alone. Am I because of that a madman? I feel I move among the crowds and I am not there. I float!!
Luis Galvao runs downhill, tripped on a protuberant cobblestone and fell flat on the ground. An old man comes to the rescue, but instead lifts his stick in the air and beats the hand Luis has lifted as protection. ‘Ye’r drunk, indecent sinner!! and on the Day of the Lord!!’
By then, Galvao had grabbed the stick himself and gives the attacker a well-deserved blow, leaving the old man on the ground, lamenting himself; and Luis after running up another hill whirls the walking stick away down a ravine. He now has got himself trapped in a maze of ruinous ways with large crumbling mansions and semidetached houses, rows of terrace houses with no front garden, just small verandas and two or three cast-iron railings.
From an open window came the sound of music, then a nice voice. ‘… the most humane Mikado that ever did in Japan exist.’ A world of recollection, those years in the Northern counties.

… it was her favourite operette; we had been that night together in a box in the big theatre in town. Margaret applauded enthusiasticly; in the next box sat the mayor of the town with officials. Nicky standing up had shouted ‘Bravo!!’
… summer ’53, in Yorkshire, then Lancashire. Oh, my! Time does bear wings. In Sheffield that summer her father took us for a sightseeing tour of the steel foundries and gave me a very good steel axe for woodcutting as a remembrance.

And all came back to him in Surry Hills. Luis Galvao remembered having been on these once forested hills, where there was only the sound of the chainsaw coming from a timber yard. ‘Yes here, once before, following a girl with a basket and an umbrella; so charming!’
… her rosy cheeks under the pink nylon in the rain. ‘Margaret, my own! My beloved Margaret!’
… unless I am a dream, all a reverie. That blond girl I followed in the rain one Saturday, a month or two ago, both coming from Paddy’s Market.
… an English girl, so beautiful, fair, pretty, pale and rosy at the same time; and that dimple on her left cheek as she smiled.

It had begun to drizzle as Luis Galvao crossed the street towards the house, in a terrace of twelve or fourteen, where he thinks he saw her for the last time. There is no front garden or area-railing; he has to simply step upon the narrow veranda; has a closer look at the place: on the brick wall, next to the door, there is a name, GERTY LAWSON, on a brassplate; right, there are two windows. The sashes are up in both of them. From the window next to him there comes the sound of a violin and a man’s voice.
‘Kalinka kalinka moia!
‘Svadova, làdoga, kalinka moià!’

‘Malgorata!’
He sees her dancing with a handsome blond man who holds her tightly by the waist, circling her. The vapours of an eastern flower or an Oriental perfume now reach his nostrils.
… like a Greek priestess of ancient times, she is offering herself to the man. I’ve lost, I shall not have a woman any more, only rude Cossacks have
… oh, those nights of love in our bridal bed in that house at Ultimo! How could I have forgotten my sweet ardent Malgorata so quickly.
… my girl, my angel the victim of misfortune, her delicate beautiful body under an immaculate blue negligé, now being offered to a Cossack soldier!

Luis Galvao sees him dancing in a broad-sleeved silk shirt and granate-striped trousers, stamping noisily his shiny black boots on a painted checker-patterned floor.
‘Svadova, kalinka, kalinka, my flower, my girl!’
Bending down to view his sweetheart more completely, he only sees two white hands, eight supple fingers with shiny pink nails, holding the sash, drawing it down, down… and he can now only see his own reflexion on the window pane.
The tapping of the rain is heard on the corrugated-iron sheet covering the veranda. He doesn’t know what to do. For a moment, he clutches his head with both hands, leans against the wall, on the blassplate with the name.
A step or two to the right and he is before the door. He plies the knocker. The sound reverberates in the narrow street, for a moment it seems as if someone is laughing. At length the door is flung open, and a stout flat-nosed woman with a wart is seen in the doorway. She glares at the intruder and waits, her arms folded under a pair of large breasts: without knowing why Galvao hangs his head down and also waits. (‘Why has she not spoken?’)
‘Miss… Missus Lawson,’’ he articulates at last, ‘I mean… I guess that’s the name, isn’t it?’’ (with a glance at the brassplate.) ‘You’ll… excuse me, Madam, the case is…” (the woman stares without moving) “I’m looking for a girl, you see, a young lady… a foreigner like myself…’
‘Sir, there are no foreigners in this country,’ the woman grunts. ‘Only Australians. What you are, sir, is, New Australian.’
This aggressive answer causes Luis to become very timid. He repeats, ‘I’m looking for a girl... blond and beautiful.’
‘Oh, looking for a girl, eh!’ she exclaims in a sing-song voice, ‘are you?’
‘Yes missus… madam, I’ve seen here twice. But you ain’t laughing at me, by chance,’ he goes on. ‘I mean, at my foreign accent… speaking too slowly perhaps for you…’
‘What then?’ she utters, with impatience.
‘What?, that’s to say, this moment. Happening to pass by and recognising the place I asked myself… that is I now ask you kindly… would you care to oblige me? I say, twice, last time just a minute ago… that window.’ He shuts up all of a sudden.
‘Sir, haven’t we met somewhere?’
‘No, you mas confuse me with somebody, Madam.’
‘Somebody my foot,’ she yells. ‘We have met before, yes, and you very well know we have.’
‘No, Ma… missus Lawson,’ he utters, and he knows he is lying, for he remembers having seen her one midday, at lunch time, in a Chinese restaurant of Pitt Street, near Central Railway. ‘What it is, on the contrary, in a restaurant, she was having her meal…’
‘You were saying something, sir.’
‘Yes, madam, I was saying she is… an English girl. I recognised her by the accent... when I first heard her… talking to the Chinese waitress, Madam.’
She now looks at his hands.
‘I see,’ the woman utters in a shrill voice. ‘I say, why are you trembling, sir?’

‘No, Madam, I’m all right… I assure you,’’ answers Galvao, putting his wounded hand behind his back.
‘Sir, you know you’re wounded. Your hand is bleeding. You should have someone look at it. There is no one here as can help, unless… no, better you go away.’
She is getting confused, finds the man too complicated and too odd. She starts peeping right and left, out of the corner of her eye, should he be a burglar, perhaps with one or two accomplices.
‘Missus Lawson, did you say… did you just say there is one here as can bandage my food? an old man by Albion Street of the Intemperance So…’’
‘No, I didn’t. And there is no young woman in the house with me. Please, go away. Maybe she is dead.
‘Dead!’ Galvao exclaims, devastated.
There the sound of a bang. The lady had slammed the door on Galvao’s nose.
‘Gosh, this is awful, awful!’ he wails, stumbling up and down a number of crooked hilly lanes, his gaze bent down. ‘Malgorata gone with a Lithuanian, Maureen engaged to another man, and Margaret dead. And me alone, always alone! eternal solitude.’
Eventually his feet bring him back to the same place, the house with the name GERTY LAWSON on a brassplate. And, as he hovers up and down on the opposite pavement undecided, the sun between two elongated grey clouds projects a thousand luminous rays on the street, over the entire terrace.
As he crosses the street intending to confront the woman once again, he hears a sound coming from inside the house on the left that makes him change his mind, which sends him towards the open sash window, out of which comes the song of an English operette.
… like a jet of water hitting a wall and simultaneously the faint voice of a girl singing a ditty in a foreign language he doesn’t for the moment recognise...
… the song however is about something he does recognise. That summer in the students and workers’ camp, V.A.C. ‘Does it mean I haven’t come in vain?’

The window being accessible from the pavement, he comes in and sits on the windowsill. A small but tidy bedroom with a makeshift glass cabin in the far corner and, behind a smoke-coloured door, the diffused silhouette of a woman having a shower. Be it because the temperature has gone up with the steaming-hot water in the shower-cabin, or maybe because he is feverish, he thinks he is going to lose consciousness.
Beads of perspiration that run down from his temples cause him to get rid of his spectacles and put them in his jacket-pocket, and with one thing and another he can hardly see.
Thus, the whole scene turns blurred and misty, also because he has half closed his eyes.
… oh yes! that exquisitely beautiful voice, reaching perhaps from an awfully distant place, is English… for he is a more humane Mikado…
… she’s here, she must be here. Oh, what bliss! But what is happening? Is she this very moment coming? Or is she already here? Her song being muffled?

The singing and the surging sound of water suddenly stop, the glass door of the shower-cabin slides to one side. Coming out of the cabin now a moving shadow enveloped in a white mist likewise coming out. The wonderful figure of a naked woman of extreme beauty.

… as she draws nearer, it seems that the haze advances with her, no longer naked, for she’s covering the lower part of her body with a large white towel in the manner of a sarong.
… her shapely legs coming out from the folds of the towel, Luis caresses her knee so tenderly, a most shapely leg, ‘Why so pale, my angel?’ her marble white most endearing foot.
… she looks at him in mute agony, thinking no doubt that he’s ill, wounded in his hand, wounded in the fierce and bloody war against fascism; and she gets hold of the towel to nurse him.
… the two bodies together, cuddling: the position of her face, her charming blue eyes, those exuberant lips, that lovely smile, her short wavy head of hair.
… come, come with me, my girlio! she says yes with her eyes, and they embrace and kiss, overflowing with happiness; ‘My sweetheart, how my yearning heart has been waiting for this moment!
Of a sudden Luis Galvao heard a scream rendering him mad. He opens his eyes.
‘Aha, thief! I’ve caught you!’
And simultaneously he was lifted in the air by a strong outside force, a woman who held tightly him by the lapels of his flanel jacket.
Standing on the pavement, facing the woman, who is dressed to go out complete with a white hat with artificial flowers, he struggles, shouts with all the strength of his lungs. ‘Let go, you whore!’
But the woman, grabbing him tight, yells into his gaping mouth.
‘Oh no, sir, you won’t run away from me this time; for I’ve called the police. You’re gone out of your mind, they’ll clap you into Callan Park.’ And turning her gaze upwards to the sky, starts praying: ‘Lord, look after him, for he doesn’t know what he does! Look at him, how he’s trembling, he’s got the shivers! His mug’s drenched with perspiration!’
At that the sound of a siren is heard approaching. Taking advantage of a moment’s hesitation on the part of his enemy and as the sound grows louder, Luis Galvao lifts his fist to the woman, who is stopping him from running away, and gives her a tremendous punch on the face; the wart under the lower lip at once bursts splattering blood most alarmingly about.
‘Ay, ay!’ she cries, taking her hand to her face, ‘ah, you reffo bastard!’
But Luis no longer hears her, for he is running away at full speed. As he reaches the corner and turns round into another street, he catches sight of the Black Maria coming up, the siren blowing at full blast. Into the first side street he dashes and hides behind a large black dustbin. Next moment he sees the police van speeding by.
And again ambling up and down the streets and ways of Surry Hills, again hoping to come across someone who will direct him to a taxi stand or do something for him. A month ago he was so strong, so pleased with himself, so healthy. A success immigrant, the pinnacle of his career and his fortune. One of the partners, Mr. Whyte, had summoned him to his office to talk of a new pay raise of salary. He had flown into the seventh heaven of joy. And then, when everyone in the office, including his secretary, expected to see him from then on forever satisfied and quite content, from elation down to depression. It had always been the same with him.
In a rather wide street there was lorrry, parked with a load of timber, in front of a commercial establishment. On the big wooden gate at the entrance there hung a board CLOSED, and on high the title SUGAR TIMBER MERCHANT. The lorrry was not so big, but the hundred or so planks of hardwood it carried were exceedingly long (a red cloth was hanging down one ot the planks at the end), so that the planks of wood, from the flag to the body of the lorry, constituted like a low-roof cavern. And Galvao stood stock still, gazing at this cavern, for a special intention, for he felt the need to pass motion at that moment.
The driver of the lorry was sitting at the wheel and he was engaged in conversation with a youth on the pavement. Then the young man climbed up on to the passenger seat.
It was the moment Luis had been waiting for, since no other citizen seemed to pass by that street. As bad luck would have it, he had hardly finished his job, squatting under the hardwood, when the Black Maria passed, turning the corner the siren wailing at full blast. He waited bent in two, making himself as little as possible, and when he was sure the danger was over, he crawled out of his hiding place, and again up and down those once forested hills.
He reached an oblonged plaza. ‘Sancti Spiritus!’ he heard like a canticle coming from the farthest side of the plaza. There was a red-brick edifice with a tiny red-brick spire there which seemed to be a church of another denomination. In it he hoped to find a bench where he could sit down and rest.
‘JESUS IS LIGHT’, he read as he approached a line of shadows moving religiously towards the red-brick edifice from which open door came the religious song he had thought to hear on entering the square.
The temple was full of old believers and young believers and perhaps believers of many different creeds, money. But he could find nowhere to sit down for the time being.
The pastor had a Bible in his hand, as well as all the attendants at service, each one his little black book with a gold edge. The man, dressed in black, on his platform said a few words about something Luis did not understand, and everybody chanting aloud. ‘Oh, how freely God loves His people, while we are yet sinners, while we are dead in sin! Oh, how much the Son of Man must suffer to deliver us from sin! Jesus Christ died on the cross for us…’
Tired man Luis Galvao found himself suddenly rested and thought of marching on to some other place, somewhere where, perhaps, he won’t be rejected, will find himself at long last among more congenial people, more freely received with open doors, real society.
He walks on without knowing why he moves, strides, rambles, wanders, tries to cross what for him will always be a desert. “No, sir! You are rejected!”

After another few moments, he finds himself back in Albion Street. Looming high another denomination (there are hundreds). It is the Catholic church which reappears. With tears in his eyes he thinks of his dear dead mother. Whyever did he once think of conquering rationality through observing and studying. In fact why did he ever make his mother suffer, making her believe he had found the Way.
Sweat is pouring down his temples and cheeks as he climbs the flight of step stones to the colonnaded porch of the House of God. There, his vain career will end, and he’ll be able to sit, without force, utterly exhausted. Some rest and then recommence.
The chimes of the bronze bells. Some happy remembrances. And the happy birds so free, still flying around the spire, making love.
All flushed and feverish, gasping for breath and drenched with perspiration right down to his collar and further down he moves about, seeking a place where he can sit down and eventually fall asleep. The vibration of the wooden plank on which he has rested his feet, wakes him up. He stands up holding on the back of the preceeding bench. The long sleep has done him a world of good. All the same, as he descends with a hundred Italians the stone steps from the entrance of the church down to the pavement, he knows he has no more strength left to tread about any more, and searches among the sympathetic Italians; so much so that he trips over and falls to the ground.

‘Oh, Luigi, amico! What are you doing here?’ a man asks, running to his rescue.
Luis tries to say something in Italian, but he can hardly open his mouth.
Recognising the Italian that his friend is in a bad state, he talks to him in English, and Luis Galvao now realises the man is one of Old Bruno’s mates, of when he worked in the Sussex Street soap factory. He stands up with the help of the Italian and follows him, who has said his name is Pippo, who is accompanied by a young woman and two children. Luis asks them to take him to the bus stop, saying: ‘Thank you! Thank you very much! Help me, please… to the bus shelter…’
The Italian Pippo, however, would not hear of taking Luis to any bus or public transport. ‘My car is parked nearby,’ he said. ‘Plenty of room. I’ll be pleased to take you to your place. Where exactly is it?’
‘Kirribilli.’
‘Road. Name and number.’
‘Twenty-one, Fitzroy Street.’
‘That turns out quite well. We go to Crows Nest.’
The man, Pippo, drove the car through Elizabeth Street to hit the Cahill Expressway, and over the Harbour Bridge, in the direction of North Sydney and Kirribilli. When they reached Galvao’s place, the Italian offered to take him upstairs to his flat.
‘No, please, don’t worry. The lift is there waiting. Thank you very much.’
The man helped him into the lift, and saw that the wounded man did press the right button.
Tenth floor. Luis Galvao got out, opened the door of his home-unit, went in and closed and locked the door. His physical and intellectual energies, under such heavy contribution, the result of the extraordinary agitation of the past four weeks and this ‘puntilla’ today, gave up entirely. He hurled himself fully dressed on his bed, and lost consciousness altogether.
There, on his bed, he lay near the window, alone, and with no possibility of being looked after by anyone.

fg.izquierdo@yahoo.es

A sentimental journey through Sydney, eight

Fernando García Izquierdo

Seen from the air Sydney amazes and delights the traveller as perhaps no other place in the world does. The luminosity at midmorning, the freshness, that transparency, emitted from all angles, as one gazes right and left; all that wonderful coastline, the unequalled spectacle of one thousand arms of deep blue water entering mother earth constituting elongated bays, or ports, estuaries, beaches, and corresponding fronts, capes, points, rocks, a lighthouse; the turbulent entrance of King Ocean through The Heads, two close-by rocky promontories, like guardians of a magnificent bay, the door through which navigation goes in and out, Sydney commercing with the whole world. The Harbour Bridge spanning both sides in the middle of the great bay, a powerful cargo boat or an elegant white liner sailing underneath and all along, as well as ferryboats and pleasure vessels; the colourful ballooning sails of yachts or small sporting-craft; police boats speeding from coast to coast, and navy boats; the wharves and ports in full activity. There is life on all this land, so many long arms of still forested territory, the earth in all its manifestations, intercommunicating bridges, and also the many specks of red or grey, the roofs of houses, nature and the habitation of man and woman, and gardens or backyards, sports grounds and parks, which makes somehow green to predominate, different hues of green, forests, reserves, immense golf links, and so much seems natural, so much is alive all around. Then, as the plane turns and starts to descend, the factories in the suburbs, a landscape of tall buildings, commercial centres and stores, some glass skyscrapers reflecting blue or bronze in the sunlight… and you are flying rather low now, then still lower rather over the ocean, but it is still Sydney just below: the plane is heading towards Mascot International Airport; you are scared, fearing for your safety, an unexpected collapse.. A big bump and the plane is taxiing along an interminable tarmac runway… and you know you are in one of the most fantastic places in the world.
*
One Sunday, Luis Galvao was standing by one of the windows of his apartment in Kirribilli, North Sydney, watching the incomparable beauty of a south-seas panorama and thinking of that natural existence that might have existed there in time immemorial, the sun rising in the east over the horizon, the distant ocean now dark grey, then a line of light, half white, half orangy-yellow, getting bigger and bigger all the time, the fullness of a glorious day approaching, a thousand streaks of brilliant lines, reflections right and left, he was absorbed (as the child Leonardo is thought to have said at a papal procession) by this multitude of hues and colours, when there was the sound of a ring coming from inside the flat, by the door.
‘Hallo! Who’s there?’, he asked.

‘Hoo-hoo!’ came the reply, ‘It’s me, Tom Terrific.’
‘Oh, hell! Manuel?’ exclaimed Galvao to himself, ‘at this hour! what may be bringing this man here?’ And aloud he said ‘Come in! Take the lift to the tenth floor.’
… it was an unexpected visit which came to alter most unfortunately an already-formed schedule for the day, and to have his plans upset in that way has always been for him intolerable.
… in effect, he was one of those poets or authors whom people called Sunday-writers. He had studied law, which he practised with great pleasure; but at heart preferred literature, which he now practiced on the sly.
He stepped onto the landing, struggling against his fatigue, for he had had a bad night and had decided in the early hours to stand up and wait for the morning watching the always marvellous spectacle of a sunrise which he could easily contemplate from his own window.
The lift arrived and, in a moment, he had his friend in his arms, an elegantly dressed Manuel laughing and kissing him with great exuberance. And laughing and exchanging greetings, they went into the flat, also called ‘home unit’.
‘What are you grinning at?’ said the visitor.
‘No. I’ve been surprised by your visit. I was…’ Luis was saying without raising his eyes.
But Manuel did not let him complete the sentence, boisterously leading the way into the flat. Luis could then, taking him by the arm, push the way into the kitchen and ask him to sit down, himself hesitating for a moment, then stepping on towards the fridge and the cooker.
‘We’ll have breakfast. It’s nearly twenty past six,’ he said.
‘Thanks, I’ve already had my breakfast,’ Manuel replied, ‘and could you tell me, dear Luis, what are you doing, still in your pyjamas, on a lovely day like this?’
‘I wasn’t feeling well,’ the other answered. ‘Besides, I don’t intend to go out. As simple as that.’ And striding towards the table he began to lay cutlery and crockery for two persons.
‘Not for me, dear Luis, I’ve already told you, I’ve had my breakfast.
Galvao’s face became sombre and after much humming and hawing, he asked. ‘Well, shall I put the coffee-maker on, or what can I offer you?’
‘Nothing. I’ll have a cup of tea, if you brew a pot of breakfast tea for yourself.’
‘Manuel,’ Luis mumbled, with a worried look on his face, ‘I don’t know why, but I’ve had a rather bad night. In a word, I feel poorly.’
‘Indeed you need to feel right down bad, if you’re planning to stay at home on a day like this. Come on! hurry up, for we are going out. I intend to take you outside,’ he paused, laying special emphasis on the end of the sentence, ‘this beautiful home-unit of yours.’
Luis raised his arm and was going to say something, but Manuel would not allow him to speak.
‘Yes,’ he added, ‘I shall have to cheer you up, you disgruntled New Australian. It is homesickess what is affecting you. I know the system. Your efforts are successful and you start to earn a lot of money, and you climb to Seventh Heaven. Elation, and all of a sudden depression and so on. I shall make you meet nice people and shall take that pensive mood off that pretty face of yours, you know?’
Galvao was standing by the cooker. ‘I’m frying some bacon rashers and eggs,’ he said, struggling against his fatigue. ‘Really, you must accompany me. Two eggs for you?’
Manuel burst out, laughing, before replying: ‘None for me thanks. I’ve told you. The only thing I ask you, I repeat, is to hurry up!’
For a minute Luis went on frying. ‘What can I offer you?’
‘You sit down and eat. I’ll share a pot of tea with you, if you brew some. Not too strong, please.’
Luis hesitated, sat down and began eating his breakfast, saying something at the same time, Manuel did not make any comment, and Luis made a pause, undecided. He was slowly buttering a slice of bread with that sad meditative expression of his on his face. He was only half-listening to what his friend had to say when he heard all of a sudden: ‘for we’re going to the service of Sunday’s holy mass.’
‘Rubbish, my friend!’ Luis cried almost instinctively, ‘you don’t intend to say we’re going to have communion, all that stuff and nonsense again? If you want to go back with the priests, okay do so, but don’t count on me for going back to church and superstition.’
‘I don’t, indeed, my dear boy, what I say is that we’re going to spend an hour or two with our own,’ Manuel began, tenderly touching his friend’s lobe. ‘What I...’

Luis stood up and stepped forward to the cupboard. ‘What does it mean our own?’ he said, starting to make the tea, ‘our own, our nation or race? I only recognise one human race. What do I have to do with an old country and a set of people that rejected me, did all they could to send me into exile? Jealous lot!’
‘If you could let me finish what I was saying, my good fellow. Well, I plan to get you into a group of recently arrived migrants from a country…yes our homecountry, whatever you may say or think: Roots, you see?’
‘I see, I see, I see,’ said Luis in a very bad temper. ‘What, what, what?’
‘Calm down, boy. Spain must signify something to you. And by the way, you should show your pretty face from time to time, my sulky fellow, at the Spanish Club. You go there and enjoy yourself. Nothing to do with politics, all this. You’re poisoning your life for nothing, and sure enough, nobody’ll be jealous of you. They will envy your English, as they admire mine. Moreover, you’re going to meet some women there, assisted passage, what do you say to that?’
‘Only one woman interests me, and I lost her in Madrid, precisely, my Margaret,’ Luis replied, with a sigh. ‘and that one you could never find for me.’
‘What, a subtle beauty, a sphinx? what woman is that? have you chosen to become mysterious? oh dear! you are a lost case.’

‘Don’t make yourself mysterious, Manuel. You’ve heard me talk about my English girl, the one I lost in Madrid years ago,’ Luis said, a profound sadness corroding all his sense and joy, ‘and I now tell you this. I think I’ve seen her again.’
‘Halt there!,’ Manuel interrupted his friend. ‘An English girl, yes. And where in your heart then is Malgorata? Remember I’ve seen you passionately in love with your then Ukrainian girl.’
‘Where is Malgorta? with a Lithuanian, you told me so.’
There was a long pause. Luis poured some milk and tea for himself and went on with his meal. Manuel, who had already served himself some tea, glanced at his friend in silence. He looked at his watch. ‘Twenty-five to eight’.
‘One day, you know,’ Luis began, ‘not long ago something made me think I’d seen Margaret…’
‘Is that the English girl you were going to marry in Madrid?’ Manuel asked.
‘Exactly. Margaret, moving along in Sydhey crowds. But allow me to tell you the complete story.’
‘I’m all ears.’
‘You must remember, Manuel, the day we went to Pyrmont 13 together, to say good-bye to our friends Heribert and Nino, returning migrants,’ Luis said, meditatively. That day we dined together, a Chinese restaurant in town, and there I had a glimpse of an angel sitting near us.’
‘Remember. The restaurant of course. No angel that I ever saw.
‘A pretty girl, short blond wavy hair, a rosy smile?’
‘Vaguely, go on.’
‘I thought I’d seen Margaret, my English girl so beautiful.’
‘And why didn’t you talk to her, do something to call her attention.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Some impression is coming back. Correct me if I am wrong, did you not then think of Malgorata?’
‘Incorrect you are. I never gave thought to the Ukrainian, after you told me she’d absconded with that Lithuanian.’

‘And did you see the girl again, that angel, that mysterious presence?’
‘Only once, very briefly again; but let me go on: that encounter, that mysterious presence as you say, changed my life.’
‘Now, so serious! My word, you are a bad case!’
‘You don’t understand. A girld of devilish beauty, lost in Madrid. We were about to get married.’
‘But you haven’t answered my question, did you see her again?’
‘Once, in Paddy’s Market, I followed her in heavy rain. I discovered she lives in Surry Hills… well I believe she lives there. Again I behaved like a donkey.’
‘Sure you are, my dear Luis, an ass. Surry Hills, you say. There is where we are going today. But go on with your story, please.’
‘You may call me an ass or whatever, but there is some logic in what I do. Now, that encounter changed my life, dear Manuel, for it came precisely when I had taken the step to ask Maureen, my secretary, to marry me. You don’t know her, but I assure you, she is the cutest genuine platinum blond that ever I’ve seen. We have always been on good terms, liking one another. She had just turned twenty… I don’t know, but the difference of age (I’m thirty, as you know) did not now seem so tremendous.’
‘And you asked her. Did she say yes?’
‘Yes, we made plans to get married, and were going to spend a week in Surfers’ Paradise; had booked the hotel and organised things, when that apparition at the restaurant came to change the lot.’
‘Oh, Luis, dear fellow, you are nuts! is that possible, real life, logic and all the qualifications you like to point out? Tell me exactly what you did, your secretary, Maureen, what did you tell her?’
‘She took it badly, of course.’
‘What did she do, bang her typewriter on your head?, for that is the sort of punishment you deserve, you may be assured.’
‘She refused to cancel her week’s holiday, and went alone, by train to Queensland. She loves surfing. And surfing she met another Sydneysider, a very handsome man, a law student at Sydney University.’
‘Whom she’s going to marry now?’
‘Well, they are engaged, yes.’
‘So, all is well that ends well,’ said Manuel, beating his thighs and laughing.
‘That’s it, I suppose,’ mumbled Luis, still deep in thought.’
‘Well, now,’ Manuel concluded, standing up, and helping the other to do the same,’ you get into your bath and wash and shave yourself for we are going to mass together, as I’ve said. Hurry up! I have my Ford Falcon downstairs.’
The conversation, if it had not cheered Galvao, had at least the effect of making him more sociable. ‘Okay, Manuel,’ he said, ‘let’s hope I don’t get too bored with the service.’

Manuel did not even answer. Most joyously, he grabbed the other’s elbow and led him out of the kitchen and to the very door of the bathroom.
The sun was high in the sky as Manuel now contemplated the harbour. After a minute or two, he turned back to the kitchen, passed things on to sink, put on a pinafore and in a moment the place was perfectly clean and orderly. As he now wanted to smoke a cigarette, and personally being convinced that air-conditioning only served to poison honest citizens, he moved around, looking for a crank or something to open the window wide; he soon succeeded in his attempt and laying one elbow on the windowsill got out of his cigarette-case a ‘Benson & Hedges’ and began to smoke.
This was the part of the flat from where the bay was hardly beautiful, for the Harbour Bridge was there, looming high over the dozen or so Kirribilli skyscrapers and other minor houses and lanes and ways and tiny wharves. The sky above was blue, without a cloud, and a multitude of white silky seagulls swirled up and down and between the girders or beams, as Manuel Suárez smoked and happily gazed at the landscape: the black girders of the bridge and the large variety of flying maritime birds.
When Luis came back from his bath, clean and shaven, he found his friend stubbing out a cigarette with his fingernail, one elbow on the window-sill. He was not pleased to find his friend had opened the window, but preferred not to show his annoyance. Manuel would not understand him if he flew into a temper and simply said that he hoped, dear Manuel, he had not been breaking the rules and regulations of the community. Luis looked for the crank and closed the window again. The noise of the traffic, particularly on the bridge, immediately became less unbearable.
He took his friend Manuel by the arm, and thanking him for the washing up, made him sit on the sofa in the lounge, and said. ‘All right, we’ll attend mass, if that is what you want.’
‘What I want,’ Manuel interrupted, ‘is to bring you out of your hole, my dear. It’s a sin to think one can spend any length of time indoors on a day like this.’

‘Then, it is decided, you’ll drive, but if you give me the address of the church and directions to get there, I’ll use my own car. It may be better to do so.’
‘Not on your life. Let’s get moving,’ Manuel said. ‘We don’t need two cars. I have my Ford Falcon in the street.’ And adopting a military composure: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers! Come on! Stop frowning, my pretty boy.’
And when both were on the landing, he turned round, stopped Luis from closing the door, and said, jumping back in. ‘Please, wait a momo, I’ve got to go to the toilet for a pee.’ When he came back, his friend, locking the door, noticed he smelled aggressively of aftershave lotion.
‘You stinker,’ Luis uttered, ‘you sure have emptied my expensive Alpine lotion.’
The lift having arrived, the two friends entered talking and laughing.
A few minutes later they were driving along the Harbour Bridge and on to the Cahill Expressway. For a long moment the drive became a delight for the eye. Into the Royal Botanic Gardens, enormous lawns and many trees, the Domain, equally delicious Hyde Park, and into the City. At Oxford Street they turned right into Riley Street.
’Surry Hills!’ Manuel exclaimed, lifting his foot from the pedal. ‘These were once forested hills.’
’I see,’ said Luis.
Manuel had laid his left hand on his friend’s right thigh. Luis moves his leg away, causing the hand to slip down. ‘Look where you’re going,’ he shouted.
‘Last month, two Spaniards got married in the church we’re going to,’ Manuel said. ‘Man and woman.’
‘Unnecessary remark.’
‘No, but you see, countrymen from different regions, Murcia and Aragon. They met here. The woman has just arrived, assisted passage. Many women comin’ this way. While men’s passage not included under the scheme. And I ask, why this disparity of sexes.’
‘It’s like that. I mean, men travel easily:’ said Luis. ‘In Spain, as you know, for women under twenty-three, things get more complicated.’

Somewhat more relaxed on the passenger seat, Luis Galvao was taking note everything he observed, bus-shelters and names of streets; for he could not be sure if he would withstand the whole religious service. To return alone to Kirribilli must remain an open option for him.
Manuel, still talking about their countrymen in Sydney, asked why Luis did not visit the Spanish Club at Liverpool Street, from time to time.’
‘I have so many things to do,’ was all Galvao said.
‘A chunk of our beloved Fatherland here, Down Under,’ Manuel commented.
By now Luis was not listening, for he had begun to recognise some places as they were getting more deeply into the suburb, a maze of old streets and alleyways, going up, coming down. Something was now brought back to his mind that made him think. Remembrances of things, very dear, from the past.
… this lane now, I think I’ve been here once before, striding after a girl with a pink nylon umbrella. The girl he had been missing, had been absent from his life since that spring ’56. Blond wavy hair, rosy cheeks. Both were walking rapidly in the rain, he following her at a distance.

… she went inside a terrace house. One of these lanes, like the bottom of a ravine. It was the last image I had of her, moving backwards holding in the rain the umbrella as she entered, then quietly shutting the door the apparition was no more. Where are you, my angel?
The two friends reached Albion Street, entered a little sidestreet, parked the car and retraced their steps to the main street, which they had passed a minute ago scudding in towards the alleyway where the car was left. There was the church of which Luis had already had a glimpse as they drove past a moment ago. Bells were chiming, calling the faithful to mass. These were trailing towards the entrance. Birds were flying around the spire.
The two friends dashed up a flight of stone steps leading to the door of the church; but there, Manuel, catching his friend by the elbow, led him round the monumetal building, saying: ‘I’m going to introduce the priest to you, before going in.’
As they entered through the back door leading to the sacristy, Luis saw a priest in ecclesiastical robes, nearly ready for saying mass. An altar boy was helping the man to put on the golden chasuble, which the boy passed around the priest’s ginger-hair head.
The operation finished, the priest pressed the boy caressingly against his own body, then turned to Manuel, ‘Oh, my Manolo!’
‘My Jaume!’ Manuel exclaimed in turn.
‘Sorry I can’t stay,’ the priest said, turning to the child, who kissed his hand, and disappeared into the church.
Manuel, who had forgotten to introduce the priest to his friend, led him back around the church, saying. ‘He’s Catalan, Don’t you too find him very handsome?’
‘Perfectly so,’ replied Luis, grinning.
Manuel entered the temple, Luis trailing after him. The former dipped two fingers in the font of holy water, touched his friend’s corresponding two fingers, and making the sign of the cross, they both proceeded along one of the lateral aisles.
Luis had not been in a church for decades, and finding himself now in the dark and trailing like a puppy-dog after Manuel, felt suddenly depressed and very tired. He no longer saw Manuel and guessed his friend was trying to reach the first line of benches, perhaps to be able to see well his friend the priest.
The church was stuffy, with a vague scent of dust and candle wax. Rays of light were filtering colourfully through the stained-glass of the windows near the ceiling.
… strange to say, as a boy religion pervaded my life, once a choir-boy in the church of El Carmen, Madrid, spending so much time on prayers, the wakes of ‘Semana Santa’, mass, confession, communion and long processions at times, one the Via Crucis, admiring the wooden images of Saints, Christs and Holy Virgens.
… religion brought all that to our lives, the charm to my life! praying with a group, the faithful together in church, that magic! the singing of the psalms, the music of the organ. “Luisito, my lovely son!” (thought my mother), and many years later (thinking I had joined the party), “Luisito, you were always good, such a religious boy! What has happened?
There came the sweet music of some little silver bells, and coming from on high the light from one of the stained-glass windows directed his attention to a vacant seat in the middle of a line of benches. He pushed his way through, under a fire of numerous protests. A infinite number of dust particles floating in the ray of light as he let his tired body sit down.
People were moving along the central aisle bending their heads down, the palms of their hands religiously pressed together: Luis could now see the priest with the gold chalice in one hand, administering communion, the choir boy helping him with the silver paten.
‘Gosh,’ he muttered under his breath, ‘I’m stifling!’ For all that atmosphere gave him a sense of anguish as much as it had given him a sense of glory and triumph so many years ago. And it so happened that the stuffiness and that feeling of defeat which always came upon on similar situations was transforming that sense of fatigue into a real physical pain.
‘The spiritual energy of the learned philosophers of our time drains me,’ he thought, ‘causes me to float about as if I were not here.’
Many faithful have communion, leaving a score of benches now empty, and being alone on his bench, he leans back and has another forty winks thinking of Madrid and his poor disenchanted mother: the church of the Calle del Carmen full of light and the music of the organ, the peace that beautiful things bring.
‘Why have I abandoned the faith of my ancestors?’ he thinks. ‘why did I ever go to foreign parts? The weariness that travel brings, this ceaseless gloom.’
Luis bends forward, his glasses in one hand, holding his forehead with the other. He now has a glimpse of the priest and his accolyte, continuing the mass, giving their backs to the parishioners. So many silent shadows back on their seats.
‘Ave María purísima gracia plena.’ Luis has another long dream. His mother was very near him, saying. ‘Oh, darling son Luisito! you were such a reverent catholic lad, always so good and so handsome! do tell me, what has happened? What books have you read? who has made you change so?’ … and he had begun to think that he had made his poor mother suffer unnecessarily. What did it matter, after all, ‘moro, cristiano o comunista: all the same’ humans are governed by instinct, not by reason, at least not entirely rational. Born and bred rational-animals. But keep calm!. ‘Oremus!!’
… I should now write a letter to my parents telling them I have changed. Going back to church. That would please them very much. I shall tell them in the letter that a Catalan priest, very handsome, has been saying mass.
The music from the litle silver bells reaches Galvao’s ears once again. It has been terribly painful waking up and sinking to his knees upon the wooden plank in front, a dusty plank shared with a score of parishioners, holding with their hands on to the backrail of the bench in front; movement and tumult.
Suddenly the whole church seems to rock, changing the situation, for everybody stands up. The whole score of rows of benches. Luis is going to have an attack of hayfever when luckily the priest concludes:
‘Missa ditta est!
The long plank on which his feet are resting is rocking again. The friction of women’s skirts, rather than any other thing, now brings him back to reality. And balancing his tired body in the darkness for a while, still holding on with one hand to the wooden rail, Luis Galvao proceeds with the crowd towards the aisle on the right and out of the House of God.
He felt much better when he stood outside breathing the midmorning air on the top of the hill with a beautiful azure sky in front of him and a landscape of houses. Plenty of noise and lots of people around him. The talk is all in Spanish, rather joyfully.
In the street, upon the pavement, Spanish migrants, recently arrived some of them, were happily speaking of things past and present, standing in little groups around Albion Street. They were mainly men and most of them of the age between twenty and twenty-seven. The migrants of long standing were boisterousely patronising the newly-arrived ones, among whom there were some who could not hide their fear or rightdown homesickness. The few young women that there were, on the contrary, looked to be a brave lot, and certainly as enterprising as the men. All the same, men constituted the greater number by far, some of the male newcomers having left wife and children behind. All seem keen to earn much money, according to the conversations going on around.
The group to which Galvao was attached seemed to have as the central figure a man of forty leading the conversation. He was accompanied by his daughter, and surrounded by half a dozen enthusiastic young men, some of them just arrived in Australia.
Luis was looking at the girl, of about eighteen, cute, tall and brown haired. The family already owned property in Paddington, the neighbouring suburb. Among other things Luis learned they came from Santander, a city where he had enjoyed his summer holidays as a boy, and the girl somehow was bringing to him remembrances from the past.
‘¡Ven aquí, Sara!’ he heard a call, dreamily. The man was calling her to him.
… oh, poor Luis romantic head, moving about and become another person; but always too much in the past, dreaming. Oh, joyful reverie! Those days, in Santander. I saw young women in swimsuits for the first time.
… and recollecting those moments of nice safe childhood, happy journeys by train to the port in the north, the sandy beaches of Santander. The return home in October, Madrid, I came to think of Margaret’s arrival in 1955.
… the remembrance comes likewise to mind of those walks the days, 1948, Spain a fascist state, under Franquismo when I was a law student, promenading with a brown-haired girl, a law student like myself.
... not many women studied then at university. The air around the ‘ciudad universitaria’ was perfectly unpolluted, and we saw so clearly from there the white peaks of the Guadarrama. So happy when I talked to Sara Castro.

… I remember well her face: a studious face, rather pale. She did not wear spectacles. One day we went on foot together to the Plaza de la Moncloa, seven or eight kilometres from the faculty of law.

… we walked Instead of catching the ‘autobús universitario’ which cost twenty-five cents (un real.) It was simply a fib, saving a real. We just wanted to be together, exchange impressions, perhaps speak of love.
Luis Galvao, suddenly and unexpectedly, found the tears welling up to his eyes recollecting those student days in Madrid. He looked around, in Albion Street. He was saved from the embarrassment, of being seen in that state, by the sudden appearence of the handsome Catalan priest at the entrance of the church on top of the flight of stone steps, gesticulating and telling his parishioners, who had not budged a foot from the place they had landed when coming out of church. The migrants had to shoo off! They had to disperse at once. Albion Street was not the entrance of a stadium or a bullring: good gracious! that they should be giving every Sunday such a spectacle to the citizens of Surry Hills.
On high, behind the priest, now appeared the figure of his friend Manuel, and the two handsome men disappeared into the darkness of the House of God.
Luis Galvao stood looking, a moment of indecision. He now knew he should never have relied on his friend Manuel, or plan anything with him. As for driving back to Kirribilli, no hope of finding a taxi... Bells were chiming announcing that a new mass was about to commence. Birds were flying around the spire, as always.
On the pavement the Spaniards were dispersing, trailing nearly all in the same direction, towards the lines of terrace-houses of Surry Hills or Paddington, in several small groups, talking of going on barbecue parties: some place or other. The Santander family was giving a big party on their Paddington property, nearby. Others lived in Edgecliff, King’s Cross, or were going by bus to the Spanish Club in Liverpool Street.
Luis Galvao had still his eyes fixed on young delightful Sara from Santander, who was holding on to the burly man, her father… all moving away, himself the only one who had not moved, undecided and much afraid: he was a poor fellow after all.
At length, taking the opposite direction to which the others had taken, thinking that he must look for a bus in order to reach Central Railway or Circular Quay and from there proceed by train to Kirribilli, he strode the way he imagined was the one Manuel had taken when they were coming in the morning. The bus-shelter was hardly a stone’s throw away, but in his precipitation he missed it, and then turned the wrong way. Weary and confused, getting into deeper and deeper trouble, he tried to go back to Albion Street and recommence his trail, and again took the wrong turn, got nervous and found himself trudging up and down a number of hilly roads. Up this narrow lane, down that one, once more taking his turns at random. He had not been there before, he thought.
The day had grown sultry, as he wandered through squalid streets where working families lived. If there were people moving about, now and then, these were going to attend service at one temple or other of a score of denominations. If only he had encountered some sympathy somwhere, but no one seems to have the time or the inclination to bother about him, to listen to what he had to say.
He thought he saw a Yugoslav woman he had visited on one occasion and he hoped she would give him some information. When they came close to each other, the woman glanced suspiciously and changed the course of her step.
… now, what is the meaning of being an exile, leaving your fatherland, to roam and oh god! Repentance. Is it my being alone. Am I because of that a madman? I feel I move among the crowds and I am not there. I float!!
Luis Galvao runs downhill, tripped on a protuberant cobblestone and fell flat on the ground. An old man comes to the rescue, but instead lifts his stick in the air and beats the hand Luis has lifted as protection. ‘Ye’r drunk, indecent sinner!! and on the Day of the Lord!!’
By then, Galvao had grabbed the stick himself and gives the attacker a well-deserved blow, leaving the old man on the ground, lamenting himself; and Luis after running up another hill whirls the walking stick away down a ravine. He now has got himself trapped in a maze of ruinous ways with large crumbling mansions and semidetached houses, rows of terrace houses with no front garden, just small verandas and two or three cast-iron railings.
From an open window came the sound of music, then a nice voice. ‘… the most humane Mikado that ever did in Japan exist.’ A world of recollection, those years in the Northern counties.

… it was her favourite operette; we had been that night together in a box in the big theatre in town. Margaret applauded enthusiasticly; in the next box sat the mayor of the town with officials. Nicky standing up had shouted ‘Bravo!!’
… summer ’53, in Yorkshire, then Lancashire. Oh, my! Time does bear wings. In Sheffield that summer her father took us for a sightseeing tour of the steel foundries and gave me a very good steel axe for woodcutting as a remembrance.

And all came back to him in Surry Hills. Luis Galvao remembered having been on these once forested hills, where there was only the sound of the chainsaw coming from a timber yard. ‘Yes here, once before, following a girl with a basket and an umbrella; so charming!’
… her rosy cheeks under the pink nylon in the rain. ‘Margaret, my own! My beloved Margaret!’
… unless I am a dream, all a reverie. That blond girl I followed in the rain one Saturday, a month or two ago, both coming from Paddy’s Market.
… an English girl, so beautiful, fair, pretty, pale and rosy at the same time; and that dimple on her left cheek as she smiled.

It had begun to drizzle as Luis Galvao crossed the street towards the house, in a terrace of twelve or fourteen, where he thinks he saw her for the last time. There is no front garden or area-railing; he has to simply step upon the narrow veranda; has a closer look at the place: on the brick wall, next to the door, there is a name, GERTY LAWSON, on a brassplate; right, there are two windows. The sashes are up in both of them. From the window next to him there comes the sound of a violin and a man’s voice.
‘Kalinka kalinka moia!
‘Svadova, làdoga, kalinka moià!’

‘Malgorata!’
He sees her dancing with a handsome blond man who holds her tightly by the waist, circling her. The vapours of an eastern flower or an Oriental perfume now reach his nostrils.
… like a Greek priestess of ancient times, she is offering herself to the man. I’ve lost, I shall not have a woman any more, only rude Cossacks have
… oh, those nights of love in our bridal bed in that house at Ultimo! How could I have forgotten my sweet ardent Malgorata so quickly.
… my girl, my angel the victim of misfortune, her delicate beautiful body under an immaculate blue negligé, now being offered to a Cossack soldier!

Luis Galvao sees him dancing in a broad-sleeved silk shirt and granate-striped trousers, stamping noisily his shiny black boots on a painted checker-patterned floor.
‘Svadova, kalinka, kalinka, my flower, my girl!’
Bending down to view his sweetheart more completely, he only sees two white hands, eight supple fingers with shiny pink nails, holding the sash, drawing it down, down… and he can now only see his own reflexion on the window pane.
The tapping of the rain is heard on the corrugated-iron sheet covering the veranda. He doesn’t know what to do. For a moment, he clutches his head with both hands, leans against the wall, on the blassplate with the name.
A step or two to the right and he is before the door. He plies the knocker. The sound reverberates in the narrow street, for a moment it seems as if someone is laughing. At length the door is flung open, and a stout flat-nosed woman with a wart is seen in the doorway. She glares at the intruder and waits, her arms folded under a pair of large breasts: without knowing why Galvao hangs his head down and also waits. (‘Why has she not spoken?’)
‘Miss… Missus Lawson,’’ he articulates at last, ‘I mean… I guess that’s the name, isn’t it?’’ (with a glance at the brassplate.) ‘You’ll… excuse me, Madam, the case is…” (the woman stares without moving) “I’m looking for a girl, you see, a young lady… a foreigner like myself…’
‘Sir, there are no foreigners in this country,’ the woman grunts. ‘Only Australians. What you are, sir, is, New Australian.’
This aggressive answer causes Luis to become very timid. He repeats, ‘I’m looking for a girl... blond and beautiful.’
‘Oh, looking for a girl, eh!’ she exclaims in a sing-song voice, ‘are you?’
‘Yes missus… madam, I’ve seen here twice. But you ain’t laughing at me, by chance,’ he goes on. ‘I mean, at my foreign accent… speaking too slowly perhaps for you…’
‘What then?’ she utters, with impatience.
‘What?, that’s to say, this moment. Happening to pass by and recognising the place I asked myself… that is I now ask you kindly… would you care to oblige me? I say, twice, last time just a minute ago… that window.’ He shuts up all of a sudden.
‘Sir, haven’t we met somewhere?’
‘No, you mas confuse me with somebody, Madam.’
‘Somebody my foot,’ she yells. ‘We have met before, yes, and you very well know we have.’
‘No, Ma… missus Lawson,’ he utters, and he knows he is lying, for he remembers having seen her one midday, at lunch time, in a Chinese restaurant of Pitt Street, near Central Railway. ‘What it is, on the contrary, in a restaurant, she was having her meal…’
‘You were saying something, sir.’
‘Yes, madam, I was saying she is… an English girl. I recognised her by the accent... when I first heard her… talking to the Chinese waitress, Madam.’
She now looks at his hands.
‘I see,’ the woman utters in a shrill voice. ‘I say, why are you trembling, sir?’

‘No, Madam, I’m all right… I assure you,’’ answers Galvao, putting his wounded hand behind his back.
‘Sir, you know you’re wounded. Your hand is bleeding. You should have someone look at it. There is no one here as can help, unless… no, better you go away.’
She is getting confused, finds the man too complicated and too odd. She starts peeping right and left, out of the corner of her eye, should he be a burglar, perhaps with one or two accomplices.
‘Missus Lawson, did you say… did you just say there is one here as can bandage my food? an old man by Albion Street of the Intemperance So…’’
‘No, I didn’t. And there is no young woman in the house with me. Please, go away. Maybe she is dead.
‘Dead!’ Galvao exclaims, devastated.
There the sound of a bang. The lady had slammed the door on Galvao’s nose.
‘Gosh, this is awful, awful!’ he wails, stumbling up and down a number of crooked hilly lanes, his gaze bent down. ‘Malgorata gone with a Lithuanian, Maureen engaged to another man, and Margaret dead. And me alone, always alone! eternal solitude.’
Eventually his feet bring him back to the same place, the house with the name GERTY LAWSON on a brassplate. And, as he hovers up and down on the opposite pavement undecided, the sun between two elongated grey clouds projects a thousand luminous rays on the street, over the entire terrace.
As he crosses the street intending to confront the woman once again, he hears a sound coming from inside the house on the left that makes him change his mind, which sends him towards the open sash window, out of which comes the song of an English operette.
… like a jet of water hitting a wall and simultaneously the faint voice of a girl singing a ditty in a foreign language he doesn’t for the moment recognise...
… the song however is about something he does recognise. That summer in the students and workers’ camp, V.A.C. ‘Does it mean I haven’t come in vain?’

The window being accessible from the pavement, he comes in and sits on the windowsill. A small but tidy bedroom with a makeshift glass cabin in the far corner and, behind a smoke-coloured door, the diffused silhouette of a woman having a shower. Be it because the temperature has gone up with the steaming-hot water in the shower-cabin, or maybe because he is feverish, he thinks he is going to lose consciousness.
Beads of perspiration that run down from his temples cause him to get rid of his spectacles and put them in his jacket-pocket, and with one thing and another he can hardly see.
Thus, the whole scene turns blurred and misty, also because he has half closed his eyes.
… oh yes! that exquisitely beautiful voice, reaching perhaps from an awfully distant place, is English… for he is a more humane Mikado…
… she’s here, she must be here. Oh, what bliss! But what is happening? Is she this very moment coming? Or is she already here? Her song being muffled?

The singing and the surging sound of water suddenly stop, the glass door of the shower-cabin slides to one side. Coming out of the cabin now a moving shadow enveloped in a white mist likewise coming out. The wonderful figure of a naked woman of extreme beauty.

… as she draws nearer, it seems that the haze advances with her, no longer naked, for she’s covering the lower part of her body with a large white towel in the manner of a sarong.
… her shapely legs coming out from the folds of the towel, Luis caresses her knee so tenderly, a most shapely leg, ‘Why so pale, my angel?’ her marble white most endearing foot.
… she looks at him in mute agony, thinking no doubt that he’s ill, wounded in his hand, wounded in the fierce and bloody war against fascism; and she gets hold of the towel to nurse him.
… the two bodies together, cuddling: the position of her face, her charming blue eyes, those exuberant lips, that lovely smile, her short wavy head of hair.
… come, come with me, my girlio! she says yes with her eyes, and they embrace and kiss, overflowing with happiness; ‘My sweetheart, how my yearning heart has been waiting for this moment!
Of a sudden Luis Galvao heard a scream rendering him mad. He opens his eyes.
‘Aha, thief! I’ve caught you!’
And simultaneously he was lifted in the air by a strong outside force, a woman who held tightly him by the lapels of his flanel jacket.
Standing on the pavement, facing the woman, who is dressed to go out complete with a white hat with artificial flowers, he struggles, shouts with all the strength of his lungs. ‘Let go, you whore!’
But the woman, grabbing him tight, yells into his gaping mouth.
‘Oh no, sir, you won’t run away from me this time; for I’ve called the police. You’re gone out of your mind, they’ll clap you into Callan Park.’ And turning her gaze upwards to the sky, starts praying: ‘Lord, look after him, for he doesn’t know what he does! Look at him, how he’s trembling, he’s got the shivers! His mug’s drenched with perspiration!’
At that the sound of a siren is heard approaching. Taking advantage of a moment’s hesitation on the part of his enemy and as the sound grows louder, Luis Galvao lifts his fist to the woman, who is stopping him from running away, and gives her a tremendous punch on the face; the wart under the lower lip at once bursts splattering blood most alarmingly about.
‘Ay, ay!’ she cries, taking her hand to her face, ‘ah, you reffo bastard!’
But Luis no longer hears her, for he is running away at full speed. As he reaches the corner and turns round into another street, he catches sight of the Black Maria coming up, the siren blowing at full blast. Into the first side street he dashes and hides behind a large black dustbin. Next moment he sees the police van speeding by.
And again ambling up and down the streets and ways of Surry Hills, again hoping to come across someone who will direct him to a taxi stand or do something for him. A month ago he was so strong, so pleased with himself, so healthy. A success immigrant, the pinnacle of his career and his fortune. One of the partners, Mr. Whyte, had summoned him to his office to talk of a new pay raise of salary. He had flown into the seventh heaven of joy. And then, when everyone in the office, including his secretary, expected to see him from then on forever satisfied and quite content, from elation down to depression. It had always been the same with him.
In a rather wide street there was lorrry, parked with a load of timber, in front of a commercial establishment. On the big wooden gate at the entrance there hung a board CLOSED, and on high the title SUGAR TIMBER MERCHANT. The lorrry was not so big, but the hundred or so planks of hardwood it carried were exceedingly long (a red cloth was hanging down one ot the planks at the end), so that the planks of wood, from the flag to the body of the lorry, constituted like a low-roof cavern. And Galvao stood stock still, gazing at this cavern, for a special intention, for he felt the need to pass motion at that moment.
The driver of the lorry was sitting at the wheel and he was engaged in conversation with a youth on the pavement. Then the young man climbed up on to the passenger seat.
It was the moment Luis had been waiting for, since no other citizen seemed to pass by that street. As bad luck would have it, he had hardly finished his job, squatting under the hardwood, when the Black Maria passed, turning the corner the siren wailing at full blast. He waited bent in two, making himself as little as possible, and when he was sure the danger was over, he crawled out of his hiding place, and again up and down those once forested hills.
He reached an oblonged plaza. ‘Sancti Spiritus!’ he heard like a canticle coming from the farthest side of the plaza. There was a red-brick edifice with a tiny red-brick spire there which seemed to be a church of another denomination. In it he hoped to find a bench where he could sit down and rest.
‘JESUS IS LIGHT’, he read as he approached a line of shadows moving religiously towards the red-brick edifice from which open door came the religious song he had thought to hear on entering the square.
The temple was full of old believers and young believers and perhaps believers of many different creeds, money. But he could find nowhere to sit down for the time being.
The pastor had a Bible in his hand, as well as all the attendants at service, each one his little black book with a gold edge. The man, dressed in black, on his platform said a few words about something Luis did not understand, and everybody chanting aloud. ‘Oh, how freely God loves His people, while we are yet sinners, while we are dead in sin! Oh, how much the Son of Man must suffer to deliver us from sin! Jesus Christ died on the cross for us…’
Tired man Luis Galvao found himself suddenly rested and thought of marching on to some other place, somewhere where, perhaps, he won’t be rejected, will find himself at long last among more congenial people, more freely received with open doors, real society.
He walks on without knowing why he moves, strides, rambles, wanders, tries to cross what for him will always be a desert. “No, sir! You are rejected!”

After another few moments, he finds himself back in Albion Street. Looming high another denomination (there are hundreds). It is the Catholic church which reappears. With tears in his eyes he thinks of his dear dead mother. Whyever did he once think of conquering rationality through observing and studying. In fact why did he ever make his mother suffer, making her believe he had found the Way.
Sweat is pouring down his temples and cheeks as he climbs the flight of step stones to the colonnaded porch of the House of God. There, his vain career will end, and he’ll be able to sit, without force, utterly exhausted. Some rest and then recommence.
The chimes of the bronze bells. Some happy remembrances. And the happy birds so free, still flying around the spire, making love.
All flushed and feverish, gasping for breath and drenched with perspiration right down to his collar and further down he moves about, seeking a place where he can sit down and eventually fall asleep. The vibration of the wooden plank on which he has rested his feet, wakes him up. He stands up holding on the back of the preceeding bench. The long sleep has done him a world of good. All the same, as he descends with a hundred Italians the stone steps from the entrance of the church down to the pavement, he knows he has no more strength left to tread about any more, and searches among the sympathetic Italians; so much so that he trips over and falls to the ground.

‘Oh, Luigi, amico! What are you doing here?’ a man asks, running to his rescue.
Luis tries to say something in Italian, but he can hardly open his mouth.
Recognising the Italian that his friend is in a bad state, he talks to him in English, and Luis Galvao now realises the man is one of Old Bruno’s mates, of when he worked in the Sussex Street soap factory. He stands up with the help of the Italian and follows him, who has said his name is Pippo, who is accompanied by a young woman and two children. Luis asks them to take him to the bus stop, saying: ‘Thank you! Thank you very much! Help me, please… to the bus shelter…’
The Italian Pippo, however, would not hear of taking Luis to any bus or public transport. ‘My car is parked nearby,’ he said. ‘Plenty of room. I’ll be pleased to take you to your place. Where exactly is it?’
‘Kirribilli.’
‘Road. Name and number.’
‘Twenty-one, Fitzroy Street.’
‘That turns out quite well. We go to Crows Nest.’
The man, Pippo, drove the car through Elizabeth Street to hit the Cahill Expressway, and over the Harbour Bridge, in the direction of North Sydney and Kirribilli. When they reached Galvao’s place, the Italian offered to take him upstairs to his flat.
‘No, please, don’t worry. The lift is there waiting. Thank you very much.’
The man helped him into the lift, and saw that the wounded man did press the right button.
Tenth floor. Luis Galvao got out, opened the door of his home-unit, went in and closed and locked the door. His physical and intellectual energies, under such heavy contribution, the result of the extraordinary agitation of the past four weeks and this ‘puntilla’ today, gave up entirely. He hurled himself fully dressed on his bed, and lost consciousness altogether.
There, on his bed, he lay near the window, alone, and with no possibility of being looked after by anyone.

fg.izquierdo@yahoo.es

A sentimental journey through Sydney, eight

Fernando García Izquierdo

Seen from the air Sydney amazes and delights the traveller as perhaps no other place in the world does. The luminosity at midmorning, the freshness, that transparency, emitted from all angles, as one gazes right and left; all that wonderful coastline, the unequalled spectacle of one thousand arms of deep blue water entering mother earth constituting elongated bays, or ports, estuaries, beaches, and corresponding fronts, capes, points, rocks, a lighthouse; the turbulent entrance of King Ocean through The Heads, two close-by rocky promontories, like guardians of a magnificent bay, the door through which navigation goes in and out, Sydney commercing with the whole world. The Harbour Bridge spanning both sides in the middle of the great bay, a powerful cargo boat or an elegant white liner sailing underneath and all along, as well as ferryboats and pleasure vessels; the colourful ballooning sails of yachts or small sporting-craft; police boats speeding from coast to coast, and navy boats; the wharves and ports in full activity. There is life on all this land, so many long arms of still forested territory, the earth in all its manifestations, intercommunicating bridges, and also the many specks of red or grey, the roofs of houses, nature and the habitation of man and woman, and gardens or backyards, sports grounds and parks, which makes somehow green to predominate, different hues of green, forests, reserves, immense golf links, and so much seems natural, so much is alive all around. Then, as the plane turns and starts to descend, the factories in the suburbs, a landscape of tall buildings, commercial centres and stores, some glass skyscrapers reflecting blue or bronze in the sunlight… and you are flying rather low now, then still lower rather over the ocean, but it is still Sydney just below: the plane is heading towards Mascot International Airport; you are scared, fearing for your safety, an unexpected collapse.. A big bump and the plane is taxiing along an interminable tarmac runway… and you know you are in one of the most fantastic places in the world.
*
One Sunday, Luis Galvao was standing by one of the windows of his apartment in Kirribilli, North Sydney, watching the incomparable beauty of a south-seas panorama and thinking of that natural existence that might have existed there in time immemorial, the sun rising in the east over the horizon, the distant ocean now dark grey, then a line of light, half white, half orangy-yellow, getting bigger and bigger all the time, the fullness of a glorious day approaching, a thousand streaks of brilliant lines, reflections right and left, he was absorbed (as the child Leonardo is thought to have said at a papal procession) by this multitude of hues and colours, when there was the sound of a ring coming from inside the flat, by the door.
‘Hallo! Who’s there?’, he asked.

‘Hoo-hoo!’ came the reply, ‘It’s me, Tom Terrific.’
‘Oh, hell! Manuel?’ exclaimed Galvao to himself, ‘at this hour! what may be bringing this man here?’ And aloud he said ‘Come in! Take the lift to the tenth floor.’
… it was an unexpected visit which came to alter most unfortunately an already-formed schedule for the day, and to have his plans upset in that way has always been for him intolerable.
… in effect, he was one of those poets or authors whom people called Sunday-writers. He had studied law, which he practised with great pleasure; but at heart preferred literature, which he now practiced on the sly.
He stepped onto the landing, struggling against his fatigue, for he had had a bad night and had decided in the early hours to stand up and wait for the morning watching the always marvellous spectacle of a sunrise which he could easily contemplate from his own window.
The lift arrived and, in a moment, he had his friend in his arms, an elegantly dressed Manuel laughing and kissing him with great exuberance. And laughing and exchanging greetings, they went into the flat, also called ‘home unit’.
‘What are you grinning at?’ said the visitor.
‘No. I’ve been surprised by your visit. I was…’ Luis was saying without raising his eyes.
But Manuel did not let him complete the sentence, boisterously leading the way into the flat. Luis could then, taking him by the arm, push the way into the kitchen and ask him to sit down, himself hesitating for a moment, then stepping on towards the fridge and the cooker.
‘We’ll have breakfast. It’s nearly twenty past six,’ he said.
‘Thanks, I’ve already had my breakfast,’ Manuel replied, ‘and could you tell me, dear Luis, what are you doing, still in your pyjamas, on a lovely day like this?’
‘I wasn’t feeling well,’ the other answered. ‘Besides, I don’t intend to go out. As simple as that.’ And striding towards the table he began to lay cutlery and crockery for two persons.
‘Not for me, dear Luis, I’ve already told you, I’ve had my breakfast.
Galvao’s face became sombre and after much humming and hawing, he asked. ‘Well, shall I put the coffee-maker on, or what can I offer you?’
‘Nothing. I’ll have a cup of tea, if you brew a pot of breakfast tea for yourself.’
‘Manuel,’ Luis mumbled, with a worried look on his face, ‘I don’t know why, but I’ve had a rather bad night. In a word, I feel poorly.’
‘Indeed you need to feel right down bad, if you’re planning to stay at home on a day like this. Come on! hurry up, for we are going out. I intend to take you outside,’ he paused, laying special emphasis on the end of the sentence, ‘this beautiful home-unit of yours.’
Luis raised his arm and was going to say something, but Manuel would not allow him to speak.
‘Yes,’ he added, ‘I shall have to cheer you up, you disgruntled New Australian. It is homesickess what is affecting you. I know the system. Your efforts are successful and you start to earn a lot of money, and you climb to Seventh Heaven. Elation, and all of a sudden depression and so on. I shall make you meet nice people and shall take that pensive mood off that pretty face of yours, you know?’
Galvao was standing by the cooker. ‘I’m frying some bacon rashers and eggs,’ he said, struggling against his fatigue. ‘Really, you must accompany me. Two eggs for you?’
Manuel burst out, laughing, before replying: ‘None for me thanks. I’ve told you. The only thing I ask you, I repeat, is to hurry up!’
For a minute Luis went on frying. ‘What can I offer you?’
‘You sit down and eat. I’ll share a pot of tea with you, if you brew some. Not too strong, please.’
Luis hesitated, sat down and began eating his breakfast, saying something at the same time, Manuel did not make any comment, and Luis made a pause, undecided. He was slowly buttering a slice of bread with that sad meditative expression of his on his face. He was only half-listening to what his friend had to say when he heard all of a sudden: ‘for we’re going to the service of Sunday’s holy mass.’
‘Rubbish, my friend!’ Luis cried almost instinctively, ‘you don’t intend to say we’re going to have communion, all that stuff and nonsense again? If you want to go back with the priests, okay do so, but don’t count on me for going back to church and superstition.’
‘I don’t, indeed, my dear boy, what I say is that we’re going to spend an hour or two with our own,’ Manuel began, tenderly touching his friend’s lobe. ‘What I...’

Luis stood up and stepped forward to the cupboard. ‘What does it mean our own?’ he said, starting to make the tea, ‘our own, our nation or race? I only recognise one human race. What do I have to do with an old country and a set of people that rejected me, did all they could to send me into exile? Jealous lot!’
‘If you could let me finish what I was saying, my good fellow. Well, I plan to get you into a group of recently arrived migrants from a country…yes our homecountry, whatever you may say or think: Roots, you see?’
‘I see, I see, I see,’ said Luis in a very bad temper. ‘What, what, what?’
‘Calm down, boy. Spain must signify something to you. And by the way, you should show your pretty face from time to time, my sulky fellow, at the Spanish Club. You go there and enjoy yourself. Nothing to do with politics, all this. You’re poisoning your life for nothing, and sure enough, nobody’ll be jealous of you. They will envy your English, as they admire mine. Moreover, you’re going to meet some women there, assisted passage, what do you say to that?’
‘Only one woman interests me, and I lost her in Madrid, precisely, my Margaret,’ Luis replied, with a sigh. ‘and that one you could never find for me.’
‘What, a subtle beauty, a sphinx? what woman is that? have you chosen to become mysterious? oh dear! you are a lost case.’

‘Don’t make yourself mysterious, Manuel. You’ve heard me talk about my English girl, the one I lost in Madrid years ago,’ Luis said, a profound sadness corroding all his sense and joy, ‘and I now tell you this. I think I’ve seen her again.’
‘Halt there!,’ Manuel interrupted his friend. ‘An English girl, yes. And where in your heart then is Malgorata? Remember I’ve seen you passionately in love with your then Ukrainian girl.’
‘Where is Malgorta? with a Lithuanian, you told me so.’
There was a long pause. Luis poured some milk and tea for himself and went on with his meal. Manuel, who had already served himself some tea, glanced at his friend in silence. He looked at his watch. ‘Twenty-five to eight’.
‘One day, you know,’ Luis began, ‘not long ago something made me think I’d seen Margaret…’
‘Is that the English girl you were going to marry in Madrid?’ Manuel asked.
‘Exactly. Margaret, moving along in Sydhey crowds. But allow me to tell you the complete story.’
‘I’m all ears.’
‘You must remember, Manuel, the day we went to Pyrmont 13 together, to say good-bye to our friends Heribert and Nino, returning migrants,’ Luis said, meditatively. That day we dined together, a Chinese restaurant in town, and there I had a glimpse of an angel sitting near us.’
‘Remember. The restaurant of course. No angel that I ever saw.
‘A pretty girl, short blond wavy hair, a rosy smile?’
‘Vaguely, go on.’
‘I thought I’d seen Margaret, my English girl so beautiful.’
‘And why didn’t you talk to her, do something to call her attention.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Some impression is coming back. Correct me if I am wrong, did you not then think of Malgorata?’
‘Incorrect you are. I never gave thought to the Ukrainian, after you told me she’d absconded with that Lithuanian.’

‘And did you see the girl again, that angel, that mysterious presence?’
‘Only once, very briefly again; but let me go on: that encounter, that mysterious presence as you say, changed my life.’
‘Now, so serious! My word, you are a bad case!’
‘You don’t understand. A girld of devilish beauty, lost in Madrid. We were about to get married.’
‘But you haven’t answered my question, did you see her again?’
‘Once, in Paddy’s Market, I followed her in heavy rain. I discovered she lives in Surry Hills… well I believe she lives there. Again I behaved like a donkey.’
‘Sure you are, my dear Luis, an ass. Surry Hills, you say. There is where we are going today. But go on with your story, please.’
‘You may call me an ass or whatever, but there is some logic in what I do. Now, that encounter changed my life, dear Manuel, for it came precisely when I had taken the step to ask Maureen, my secretary, to marry me. You don’t know her, but I assure you, she is the cutest genuine platinum blond that ever I’ve seen. We have always been on good terms, liking one another. She had just turned twenty… I don’t know, but the difference of age (I’m thirty, as you know) did not now seem so tremendous.’
‘And you asked her. Did she say yes?’
‘Yes, we made plans to get married, and were going to spend a week in Surfers’ Paradise; had booked the hotel and organised things, when that apparition at the restaurant came to change the lot.’
‘Oh, Luis, dear fellow, you are nuts! is that possible, real life, logic and all the qualifications you like to point out? Tell me exactly what you did, your secretary, Maureen, what did you tell her?’
‘She took it badly, of course.’
‘What did she do, bang her typewriter on your head?, for that is the sort of punishment you deserve, you may be assured.’
‘She refused to cancel her week’s holiday, and went alone, by train to Queensland. She loves surfing. And surfing she met another Sydneysider, a very handsome man, a law student at Sydney University.’
‘Whom she’s going to marry now?’
‘Well, they are engaged, yes.’
‘So, all is well that ends well,’ said Manuel, beating his thighs and laughing.
‘That’s it, I suppose,’ mumbled Luis, still deep in thought.’
‘Well, now,’ Manuel concluded, standing up, and helping the other to do the same,’ you get into your bath and wash and shave yourself for we are going to mass together, as I’ve said. Hurry up! I have my Ford Falcon downstairs.’
The conversation, if it had not cheered Galvao, had at least the effect of making him more sociable. ‘Okay, Manuel,’ he said, ‘let’s hope I don’t get too bored with the service.’

Manuel did not even answer. Most joyously, he grabbed the other’s elbow and led him out of the kitchen and to the very door of the bathroom.
The sun was high in the sky as Manuel now contemplated the harbour. After a minute or two, he turned back to the kitchen, passed things on to sink, put on a pinafore and in a moment the place was perfectly clean and orderly. As he now wanted to smoke a cigarette, and personally being convinced that air-conditioning only served to poison honest citizens, he moved around, looking for a crank or something to open the window wide; he soon succeeded in his attempt and laying one elbow on the windowsill got out of his cigarette-case a ‘Benson & Hedges’ and began to smoke.
This was the part of the flat from where the bay was hardly beautiful, for the Harbour Bridge was there, looming high over the dozen or so Kirribilli skyscrapers and other minor houses and lanes and ways and tiny wharves. The sky above was blue, without a cloud, and a multitude of white silky seagulls swirled up and down and between the girders or beams, as Manuel Suárez smoked and happily gazed at the landscape: the black girders of the bridge and the large variety of flying maritime birds.
When Luis came back from his bath, clean and shaven, he found his friend stubbing out a cigarette with his fingernail, one elbow on the window-sill. He was not pleased to find his friend had opened the window, but preferred not to show his annoyance. Manuel would not understand him if he flew into a temper and simply said that he hoped, dear Manuel, he had not been breaking the rules and regulations of the community. Luis looked for the crank and closed the window again. The noise of the traffic, particularly on the bridge, immediately became less unbearable.
He took his friend Manuel by the arm, and thanking him for the washing up, made him sit on the sofa in the lounge, and said. ‘All right, we’ll attend mass, if that is what you want.’
‘What I want,’ Manuel interrupted, ‘is to bring you out of your hole, my dear. It’s a sin to think one can spend any length of time indoors on a day like this.’

‘Then, it is decided, you’ll drive, but if you give me the address of the church and directions to get there, I’ll use my own car. It may be better to do so.’
‘Not on your life. Let’s get moving,’ Manuel said. ‘We don’t need two cars. I have my Ford Falcon in the street.’ And adopting a military composure: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers! Come on! Stop frowning, my pretty boy.’
And when both were on the landing, he turned round, stopped Luis from closing the door, and said, jumping back in. ‘Please, wait a momo, I’ve got to go to the toilet for a pee.’ When he came back, his friend, locking the door, noticed he smelled aggressively of aftershave lotion.
‘You stinker,’ Luis uttered, ‘you sure have emptied my expensive Alpine lotion.’
The lift having arrived, the two friends entered talking and laughing.
A few minutes later they were driving along the Harbour Bridge and on to the Cahill Expressway. For a long moment the drive became a delight for the eye. Into the Royal Botanic Gardens, enormous lawns and many trees, the Domain, equally delicious Hyde Park, and into the City. At Oxford Street they turned right into Riley Street.
’Surry Hills!’ Manuel exclaimed, lifting his foot from the pedal. ‘These were once forested hills.’
’I see,’ said Luis.
Manuel had laid his left hand on his friend’s right thigh. Luis moves his leg away, causing the hand to slip down. ‘Look where you’re going,’ he shouted.
‘Last month, two Spaniards got married in the church we’re going to,’ Manuel said. ‘Man and woman.’
‘Unnecessary remark.’
‘No, but you see, countrymen from different regions, Murcia and Aragon. They met here. The woman has just arrived, assisted passage. Many women comin’ this way. While men’s passage not included under the scheme. And I ask, why this disparity of sexes.’
‘It’s like that. I mean, men travel easily:’ said Luis. ‘In Spain, as you know, for women under twenty-three, things get more complicated.’

Somewhat more relaxed on the passenger seat, Luis Galvao was taking note everything he observed, bus-shelters and names of streets; for he could not be sure if he would withstand the whole religious service. To return alone to Kirribilli must remain an open option for him.
Manuel, still talking about their countrymen in Sydney, asked why Luis did not visit the Spanish Club at Liverpool Street, from time to time.’
‘I have so many things to do,’ was all Galvao said.
‘A chunk of our beloved Fatherland here, Down Under,’ Manuel commented.
By now Luis was not listening, for he had begun to recognise some places as they were getting more deeply into the suburb, a maze of old streets and alleyways, going up, coming down. Something was now brought back to his mind that made him think. Remembrances of things, very dear, from the past.
… this lane now, I think I’ve been here once before, striding after a girl with a pink nylon umbrella. The girl he had been missing, had been absent from his life since that spring ’56. Blond wavy hair, rosy cheeks. Both were walking rapidly in the rain, he following her at a distance.

… she went inside a terrace house. One of these lanes, like the bottom of a ravine. It was the last image I had of her, moving backwards holding in the rain the umbrella as she entered, then quietly shutting the door the apparition was no more. Where are you, my angel?
The two friends reached Albion Street, entered a little sidestreet, parked the car and retraced their steps to the main street, which they had passed a minute ago scudding in towards the alleyway where the car was left. There was the church of which Luis had already had a glimpse as they drove past a moment ago. Bells were chiming, calling the faithful to mass. These were trailing towards the entrance. Birds were flying around the spire.
The two friends dashed up a flight of stone steps leading to the door of the church; but there, Manuel, catching his friend by the elbow, led him round the monumetal building, saying: ‘I’m going to introduce the priest to you, before going in.’
As they entered through the back door leading to the sacristy, Luis saw a priest in ecclesiastical robes, nearly ready for saying mass. An altar boy was helping the man to put on the golden chasuble, which the boy passed around the priest’s ginger-hair head.
The operation finished, the priest pressed the boy caressingly against his own body, then turned to Manuel, ‘Oh, my Manolo!’
‘My Jaume!’ Manuel exclaimed in turn.
‘Sorry I can’t stay,’ the priest said, turning to the child, who kissed his hand, and disappeared into the church.
Manuel, who had forgotten to introduce the priest to his friend, led him back around the church, saying. ‘He’s Catalan, Don’t you too find him very handsome?’
‘Perfectly so,’ replied Luis, grinning.
Manuel entered the temple, Luis trailing after him. The former dipped two fingers in the font of holy water, touched his friend’s corresponding two fingers, and making the sign of the cross, they both proceeded along one of the lateral aisles.
Luis had not been in a church for decades, and finding himself now in the dark and trailing like a puppy-dog after Manuel, felt suddenly depressed and very tired. He no longer saw Manuel and guessed his friend was trying to reach the first line of benches, perhaps to be able to see well his friend the priest.
The church was stuffy, with a vague scent of dust and candle wax. Rays of light were filtering colourfully through the stained-glass of the windows near the ceiling.
… strange to say, as a boy religion pervaded my life, once a choir-boy in the church of El Carmen, Madrid, spending so much time on prayers, the wakes of ‘Semana Santa’, mass, confession, communion and long processions at times, one the Via Crucis, admiring the wooden images of Saints, Christs and Holy Virgens.
… religion brought all that to our lives, the charm to my life! praying with a group, the faithful together in church, that magic! the singing of the psalms, the music of the organ. “Luisito, my lovely son!” (thought my mother), and many years later (thinking I had joined the party), “Luisito, you were always good, such a religious boy! What has happened?
There came the sweet music of some little silver bells, and coming from on high the light from one of the stained-glass windows directed his attention to a vacant seat in the middle of a line of benches. He pushed his way through, under a fire of numerous protests. A infinite number of dust particles floating in the ray of light as he let his tired body sit down.
People were moving along the central aisle bending their heads down, the palms of their hands religiously pressed together: Luis could now see the priest with the gold chalice in one hand, administering communion, the choir boy helping him with the silver paten.
‘Gosh,’ he muttered under his breath, ‘I’m stifling!’ For all that atmosphere gave him a sense of anguish as much as it had given him a sense of glory and triumph so many years ago. And it so happened that the stuffiness and that feeling of defeat which always came upon on similar situations was transforming that sense of fatigue into a real physical pain.
‘The spiritual energy of the learned philosophers of our time drains me,’ he thought, ‘causes me to float about as if I were not here.’
Many faithful have communion, leaving a score of benches now empty, and being alone on his bench, he leans back and has another forty winks thinking of Madrid and his poor disenchanted mother: the church of the Calle del Carmen full of light and the music of the organ, the peace that beautiful things bring.
‘Why have I abandoned the faith of my ancestors?’ he thinks. ‘why did I ever go to foreign parts? The weariness that travel brings, this ceaseless gloom.’
Luis bends forward, his glasses in one hand, holding his forehead with the other. He now has a glimpse of the priest and his accolyte, continuing the mass, giving their backs to the parishioners. So many silent shadows back on their seats.
‘Ave María purísima gracia plena.’ Luis has another long dream. His mother was very near him, saying. ‘Oh, darling son Luisito! you were such a reverent catholic lad, always so good and so handsome! do tell me, what has happened? What books have you read? who has made you change so?’ … and he had begun to think that he had made his poor mother suffer unnecessarily. What did it matter, after all, ‘moro, cristiano o comunista: all the same’ humans are governed by instinct, not by reason, at least not entirely rational. Born and bred rational-animals. But keep calm!. ‘Oremus!!’
… I should now write a letter to my parents telling them I have changed. Going back to church. That would please them very much. I shall tell them in the letter that a Catalan priest, very handsome, has been saying mass.
The music from the litle silver bells reaches Galvao’s ears once again. It has been terribly painful waking up and sinking to his knees upon the wooden plank in front, a dusty plank shared with a score of parishioners, holding with their hands on to the backrail of the bench in front; movement and tumult.
Suddenly the whole church seems to rock, changing the situation, for everybody stands up. The whole score of rows of benches. Luis is going to have an attack of hayfever when luckily the priest concludes:
‘Missa ditta est!
The long plank on which his feet are resting is rocking again. The friction of women’s skirts, rather than any other thing, now brings him back to reality. And balancing his tired body in the darkness for a while, still holding on with one hand to the wooden rail, Luis Galvao proceeds with the crowd towards the aisle on the right and out of the House of God.
He felt much better when he stood outside breathing the midmorning air on the top of the hill with a beautiful azure sky in front of him and a landscape of houses. Plenty of noise and lots of people around him. The talk is all in Spanish, rather joyfully.
In the street, upon the pavement, Spanish migrants, recently arrived some of them, were happily speaking of things past and present, standing in little groups around Albion Street. They were mainly men and most of them of the age between twenty and twenty-seven. The migrants of long standing were boisterousely patronising the newly-arrived ones, among whom there were some who could not hide their fear or rightdown homesickness. The few young women that there were, on the contrary, looked to be a brave lot, and certainly as enterprising as the men. All the same, men constituted the greater number by far, some of the male newcomers having left wife and children behind. All seem keen to earn much money, according to the conversations going on around.
The group to which Galvao was attached seemed to have as the central figure a man of forty leading the conversation. He was accompanied by his daughter, and surrounded by half a dozen enthusiastic young men, some of them just arrived in Australia.
Luis was looking at the girl, of about eighteen, cute, tall and brown haired. The family already owned property in Paddington, the neighbouring suburb. Among other things Luis learned they came from Santander, a city where he had enjoyed his summer holidays as a boy, and the girl somehow was bringing to him remembrances from the past.
‘¡Ven aquí, Sara!’ he heard a call, dreamily. The man was calling her to him.
… oh, poor Luis romantic head, moving about and become another person; but always too much in the past, dreaming. Oh, joyful reverie! Those days, in Santander. I saw young women in swimsuits for the first time.
… and recollecting those moments of nice safe childhood, happy journeys by train to the port in the north, the sandy beaches of Santander. The return home in October, Madrid, I came to think of Margaret’s arrival in 1955.
… the remembrance comes likewise to mind of those walks the days, 1948, Spain a fascist state, under Franquismo when I was a law student, promenading with a brown-haired girl, a law student like myself.
... not many women studied then at university. The air around the ‘ciudad universitaria’ was perfectly unpolluted, and we saw so clearly from there the white peaks of the Guadarrama. So happy when I talked to Sara Castro.

… I remember well her face: a studious face, rather pale. She did not wear spectacles. One day we went on foot together to the Plaza de la Moncloa, seven or eight kilometres from the faculty of law.

… we walked Instead of catching the ‘autobús universitario’ which cost twenty-five cents (un real.) It was simply a fib, saving a real. We just wanted to be together, exchange impressions, perhaps speak of love.
Luis Galvao, suddenly and unexpectedly, found the tears welling up to his eyes recollecting those student days in Madrid. He looked around, in Albion Street. He was saved from the embarrassment, of being seen in that state, by the sudden appearence of the handsome Catalan priest at the entrance of the church on top of the flight of stone steps, gesticulating and telling his parishioners, who had not budged a foot from the place they had landed when coming out of church. The migrants had to shoo off! They had to disperse at once. Albion Street was not the entrance of a stadium or a bullring: good gracious! that they should be giving every Sunday such a spectacle to the citizens of Surry Hills.
On high, behind the priest, now appeared the figure of his friend Manuel, and the two handsome men disappeared into the darkness of the House of God.
Luis Galvao stood looking, a moment of indecision. He now knew he should never have relied on his friend Manuel, or plan anything with him. As for driving back to Kirribilli, no hope of finding a taxi... Bells were chiming announcing that a new mass was about to commence. Birds were flying around the spire, as always.
On the pavement the Spaniards were dispersing, trailing nearly all in the same direction, towards the lines of terrace-houses of Surry Hills or Paddington, in several small groups, talking of going on barbecue parties: some place or other. The Santander family was giving a big party on their Paddington property, nearby. Others lived in Edgecliff, King’s Cross, or were going by bus to the Spanish Club in Liverpool Street.
Luis Galvao had still his eyes fixed on young delightful Sara from Santander, who was holding on to the burly man, her father… all moving away, himself the only one who had not moved, undecided and much afraid: he was a poor fellow after all.
At length, taking the opposite direction to which the others had taken, thinking that he must look for a bus in order to reach Central Railway or Circular Quay and from there proceed by train to Kirribilli, he strode the way he imagined was the one Manuel had taken when they were coming in the morning. The bus-shelter was hardly a stone’s throw away, but in his precipitation he missed it, and then turned the wrong way. Weary and confused, getting into deeper and deeper trouble, he tried to go back to Albion Street and recommence his trail, and again took the wrong turn, got nervous and found himself trudging up and down a number of hilly roads. Up this narrow lane, down that one, once more taking his turns at random. He had not been there before, he thought.
The day had grown sultry, as he wandered through squalid streets where working families lived. If there were people moving about, now and then, these were going to attend service at one temple or other of a score of denominations. If only he had encountered some sympathy somwhere, but no one seems to have the time or the inclination to bother about him, to listen to what he had to say.
He thought he saw a Yugoslav woman he had visited on one occasion and he hoped she would give him some information. When they came close to each other, the woman glanced suspiciously and changed the course of her step.
… now, what is the meaning of being an exile, leaving your fatherland, to roam and oh god! Repentance. Is it my being alone. Am I because of that a madman? I feel I move among the crowds and I am not there. I float!!
Luis Galvao runs downhill, tripped on a protuberant cobblestone and fell flat on the ground. An old man comes to the rescue, but instead lifts his stick in the air and beats the hand Luis has lifted as protection. ‘Ye’r drunk, indecent sinner!! and on the Day of the Lord!!’
By then, Galvao had grabbed the stick himself and gives the attacker a well-deserved blow, leaving the old man on the ground, lamenting himself; and Luis after running up another hill whirls the walking stick away down a ravine. He now has got himself trapped in a maze of ruinous ways with large crumbling mansions and semidetached houses, rows of terrace houses with no front garden, just small verandas and two or three cast-iron railings.
From an open window came the sound of music, then a nice voice. ‘… the most humane Mikado that ever did in Japan exist.’ A world of recollection, those years in the Northern counties.

… it was her favourite operette; we had been that night together in a box in the big theatre in town. Margaret applauded enthusiasticly; in the next box sat the mayor of the town with officials. Nicky standing up had shouted ‘Bravo!!’
… summer ’53, in Yorkshire, then Lancashire. Oh, my! Time does bear wings. In Sheffield that summer her father took us for a sightseeing tour of the steel foundries and gave me a very good steel axe for woodcutting as a remembrance.

And all came back to him in Surry Hills. Luis Galvao remembered having been on these once forested hills, where there was only the sound of the chainsaw coming from a timber yard. ‘Yes here, once before, following a girl with a basket and an umbrella; so charming!’
… her rosy cheeks under the pink nylon in the rain. ‘Margaret, my own! My beloved Margaret!’
… unless I am a dream, all a reverie. That blond girl I followed in the rain one Saturday, a month or two ago, both coming from Paddy’s Market.
… an English girl, so beautiful, fair, pretty, pale and rosy at the same time; and that dimple on her left cheek as she smiled.

It had begun to drizzle as Luis Galvao crossed the street towards the house, in a terrace of twelve or fourteen, where he thinks he saw her for the last time. There is no front garden or area-railing; he has to simply step upon the narrow veranda; has a closer look at the place: on the brick wall, next to the door, there is a name, GERTY LAWSON, on a brassplate; right, there are two windows. The sashes are up in both of them. From the window next to him there comes the sound of a violin and a man’s voice.
‘Kalinka kalinka moia!
‘Svadova, làdoga, kalinka moià!’

‘Malgorata!’
He sees her dancing with a handsome blond man who holds her tightly by the waist, circling her. The vapours of an eastern flower or an Oriental perfume now reach his nostrils.
… like a Greek priestess of ancient times, she is offering herself to the man. I’ve lost, I shall not have a woman any more, only rude Cossacks have
… oh, those nights of love in our bridal bed in that house at Ultimo! How could I have forgotten my sweet ardent Malgorata so quickly.
… my girl, my angel the victim of misfortune, her delicate beautiful body under an immaculate blue negligé, now being offered to a Cossack soldier!

Luis Galvao sees him dancing in a broad-sleeved silk shirt and granate-striped trousers, stamping noisily his shiny black boots on a painted checker-patterned floor.
‘Svadova, kalinka, kalinka, my flower, my girl!’
Bending down to view his sweetheart more completely, he only sees two white hands, eight supple fingers with shiny pink nails, holding the sash, drawing it down, down… and he can now only see his own reflexion on the window pane.
The tapping of the rain is heard on the corrugated-iron sheet covering the veranda. He doesn’t know what to do. For a moment, he clutches his head with both hands, leans against the wall, on the blassplate with the name.
A step or two to the right and he is before the door. He plies the knocker. The sound reverberates in the narrow street, for a moment it seems as if someone is laughing. At length the door is flung open, and a stout flat-nosed woman with a wart is seen in the doorway. She glares at the intruder and waits, her arms folded under a pair of large breasts: without knowing why Galvao hangs his head down and also waits. (‘Why has she not spoken?’)
‘Miss… Missus Lawson,’’ he articulates at last, ‘I mean… I guess that’s the name, isn’t it?’’ (with a glance at the brassplate.) ‘You’ll… excuse me, Madam, the case is…” (the woman stares without moving) “I’m looking for a girl, you see, a young lady… a foreigner like myself…’
‘Sir, there are no foreigners in this country,’ the woman grunts. ‘Only Australians. What you are, sir, is, New Australian.’
This aggressive answer causes Luis to become very timid. He repeats, ‘I’m looking for a girl... blond and beautiful.’
‘Oh, looking for a girl, eh!’ she exclaims in a sing-song voice, ‘are you?’
‘Yes missus… madam, I’ve seen here twice. But you ain’t laughing at me, by chance,’ he goes on. ‘I mean, at my foreign accent… speaking too slowly perhaps for you…’
‘What then?’ she utters, with impatience.
‘What?, that’s to say, this moment. Happening to pass by and recognising the place I asked myself… that is I now ask you kindly… would you care to oblige me? I say, twice, last time just a minute ago… that window.’ He shuts up all of a sudden.
‘Sir, haven’t we met somewhere?’
‘No, you mas confuse me with somebody, Madam.’
‘Somebody my foot,’ she yells. ‘We have met before, yes, and you very well know we have.’
‘No, Ma… missus Lawson,’ he utters, and he knows he is lying, for he remembers having seen her one midday, at lunch time, in a Chinese restaurant of Pitt Street, near Central Railway. ‘What it is, on the contrary, in a restaurant, she was having her meal…’
‘You were saying something, sir.’
‘Yes, madam, I was saying she is… an English girl. I recognised her by the accent... when I first heard her… talking to the Chinese waitress, Madam.’
She now looks at his hands.
‘I see,’ the woman utters in a shrill voice. ‘I say, why are you trembling, sir?’

‘No, Madam, I’m all right… I assure you,’’ answers Galvao, putting his wounded hand behind his back.
‘Sir, you know you’re wounded. Your hand is bleeding. You should have someone look at it. There is no one here as can help, unless… no, better you go away.’
She is getting confused, finds the man too complicated and too odd. She starts peeping right and left, out of the corner of her eye, should he be a burglar, perhaps with one or two accomplices.
‘Missus Lawson, did you say… did you just say there is one here as can bandage my food? an old man by Albion Street of the Intemperance So…’’
‘No, I didn’t. And there is no young woman in the house with me. Please, go away. Maybe she is dead.
‘Dead!’ Galvao exclaims, devastated.
There the sound of a bang. The lady had slammed the door on Galvao’s nose.
‘Gosh, this is awful, awful!’ he wails, stumbling up and down a number of crooked hilly lanes, his gaze bent down. ‘Malgorata gone with a Lithuanian, Maureen engaged to another man, and Margaret dead. And me alone, always alone! eternal solitude.’
Eventually his feet bring him back to the same place, the house with the name GERTY LAWSON on a brassplate. And, as he hovers up and down on the opposite pavement undecided, the sun between two elongated grey clouds projects a thousand luminous rays on the street, over the entire terrace.
As he crosses the street intending to confront the woman once again, he hears a sound coming from inside the house on the left that makes him change his mind, which sends him towards the open sash window, out of which comes the song of an English operette.
… like a jet of water hitting a wall and simultaneously the faint voice of a girl singing a ditty in a foreign language he doesn’t for the moment recognise...
… the song however is about something he does recognise. That summer in the students and workers’ camp, V.A.C. ‘Does it mean I haven’t come in vain?’

The window being accessible from the pavement, he comes in and sits on the windowsill. A small but tidy bedroom with a makeshift glass cabin in the far corner and, behind a smoke-coloured door, the diffused silhouette of a woman having a shower. Be it because the temperature has gone up with the steaming-hot water in the shower-cabin, or maybe because he is feverish, he thinks he is going to lose consciousness.
Beads of perspiration that run down from his temples cause him to get rid of his spectacles and put them in his jacket-pocket, and with one thing and another he can hardly see.
Thus, the whole scene turns blurred and misty, also because he has half closed his eyes.
… oh yes! that exquisitely beautiful voice, reaching perhaps from an awfully distant place, is English… for he is a more humane Mikado…
… she’s here, she must be here. Oh, what bliss! But what is happening? Is she this very moment coming? Or is she already here? Her song being muffled?

The singing and the surging sound of water suddenly stop, the glass door of the shower-cabin slides to one side. Coming out of the cabin now a moving shadow enveloped in a white mist likewise coming out. The wonderful figure of a naked woman of extreme beauty.

… as she draws nearer, it seems that the haze advances with her, no longer naked, for she’s covering the lower part of her body with a large white towel in the manner of a sarong.
… her shapely legs coming out from the folds of the towel, Luis caresses her knee so tenderly, a most shapely leg, ‘Why so pale, my angel?’ her marble white most endearing foot.
… she looks at him in mute agony, thinking no doubt that he’s ill, wounded in his hand, wounded in the fierce and bloody war against fascism; and she gets hold of the towel to nurse him.
… the two bodies together, cuddling: the position of her face, her charming blue eyes, those exuberant lips, that lovely smile, her short wavy head of hair.
… come, come with me, my girlio! she says yes with her eyes, and they embrace and kiss, overflowing with happiness; ‘My sweetheart, how my yearning heart has been waiting for this moment!
Of a sudden Luis Galvao heard a scream rendering him mad. He opens his eyes.
‘Aha, thief! I’ve caught you!’
And simultaneously he was lifted in the air by a strong outside force, a woman who held tightly him by the lapels of his flanel jacket.
Standing on the pavement, facing the woman, who is dressed to go out complete with a white hat with artificial flowers, he struggles, shouts with all the strength of his lungs. ‘Let go, you whore!’
But the woman, grabbing him tight, yells into his gaping mouth.
‘Oh no, sir, you won’t run away from me this time; for I’ve called the police. You’re gone out of your mind, they’ll clap you into Callan Park.’ And turning her gaze upwards to the sky, starts praying: ‘Lord, look after him, for he doesn’t know what he does! Look at him, how he’s trembling, he’s got the shivers! His mug’s drenched with perspiration!’
At that the sound of a siren is heard approaching. Taking advantage of a moment’s hesitation on the part of his enemy and as the sound grows louder, Luis Galvao lifts his fist to the woman, who is stopping him from running away, and gives her a tremendous punch on the face; the wart under the lower lip at once bursts splattering blood most alarmingly about.
‘Ay, ay!’ she cries, taking her hand to her face, ‘ah, you reffo bastard!’
But Luis no longer hears her, for he is running away at full speed. As he reaches the corner and turns round into another street, he catches sight of the Black Maria coming up, the siren blowing at full blast. Into the first side street he dashes and hides behind a large black dustbin. Next moment he sees the police van speeding by.
And again ambling up and down the streets and ways of Surry Hills, again hoping to come across someone who will direct him to a taxi stand or do something for him. A month ago he was so strong, so pleased with himself, so healthy. A success immigrant, the pinnacle of his career and his fortune. One of the partners, Mr. Whyte, had summoned him to his office to talk of a new pay raise of salary. He had flown into the seventh heaven of joy. And then, when everyone in the office, including his secretary, expected to see him from then on forever satisfied and quite content, from elation down to depression. It had always been the same with him.
In a rather wide street there was lorrry, parked with a load of timber, in front of a commercial establishment. On the big wooden gate at the entrance there hung a board CLOSED, and on high the title SUGAR TIMBER MERCHANT. The lorrry was not so big, but the hundred or so planks of hardwood it carried were exceedingly long (a red cloth was hanging down one ot the planks at the end), so that the planks of wood, from the flag to the body of the lorry, constituted like a low-roof cavern. And Galvao stood stock still, gazing at this cavern, for a special intention, for he felt the need to pass motion at that moment.
The driver of the lorry was sitting at the wheel and he was engaged in conversation with a youth on the pavement. Then the young man climbed up on to the passenger seat.
It was the moment Luis had been waiting for, since no other citizen seemed to pass by that street. As bad luck would have it, he had hardly finished his job, squatting under the hardwood, when the Black Maria passed, turning the corner the siren wailing at full blast. He waited bent in two, making himself as little as possible, and when he was sure the danger was over, he crawled out of his hiding place, and again up and down those once forested hills.
He reached an oblonged plaza. ‘Sancti Spiritus!’ he heard like a canticle coming from the farthest side of the plaza. There was a red-brick edifice with a tiny red-brick spire there which seemed to be a church of another denomination. In it he hoped to find a bench where he could sit down and rest.
‘JESUS IS LIGHT’, he read as he approached a line of shadows moving religiously towards the red-brick edifice from which open door came the religious song he had thought to hear on entering the square.
The temple was full of old believers and young believers and perhaps believers of many different creeds, money. But he could find nowhere to sit down for the time being.
The pastor had a Bible in his hand, as well as all the attendants at service, each one his little black book with a gold edge. The man, dressed in black, on his platform said a few words about something Luis did not understand, and everybody chanting aloud. ‘Oh, how freely God loves His people, while we are yet sinners, while we are dead in sin! Oh, how much the Son of Man must suffer to deliver us from sin! Jesus Christ died on the cross for us…’
Tired man Luis Galvao found himself suddenly rested and thought of marching on to some other place, somewhere where, perhaps, he won’t be rejected, will find himself at long last among more congenial people, more freely received with open doors, real society.
He walks on without knowing why he moves, strides, rambles, wanders, tries to cross what for him will always be a desert. “No, sir! You are rejected!”

After another few moments, he finds himself back in Albion Street. Looming high another denomination (there are hundreds). It is the Catholic church which reappears. With tears in his eyes he thinks of his dear dead mother. Whyever did he once think of conquering rationality through observing and studying. In fact why did he ever make his mother suffer, making her believe he had found the Way.
Sweat is pouring down his temples and cheeks as he climbs the flight of step stones to the colonnaded porch of the House of God. There, his vain career will end, and he’ll be able to sit, without force, utterly exhausted. Some rest and then recommence.
The chimes of the bronze bells. Some happy remembrances. And the happy birds so free, still flying around the spire, making love.
All flushed and feverish, gasping for breath and drenched with perspiration right down to his collar and further down he moves about, seeking a place where he can sit down and eventually fall asleep. The vibration of the wooden plank on which he has rested his feet, wakes him up. He stands up holding on the back of the preceeding bench. The long sleep has done him a world of good. All the same, as he descends with a hundred Italians the stone steps from the entrance of the church down to the pavement, he knows he has no more strength left to tread about any more, and searches among the sympathetic Italians; so much so that he trips over and falls to the ground.

‘Oh, Luigi, amico! What are you doing here?’ a man asks, running to his rescue.
Luis tries to say something in Italian, but he can hardly open his mouth.
Recognising the Italian that his friend is in a bad state, he talks to him in English, and Luis Galvao now realises the man is one of Old Bruno’s mates, of when he worked in the Sussex Street soap factory. He stands up with the help of the Italian and follows him, who has said his name is Pippo, who is accompanied by a young woman and two children. Luis asks them to take him to the bus stop, saying: ‘Thank you! Thank you very much! Help me, please… to the bus shelter…’
The Italian Pippo, however, would not hear of taking Luis to any bus or public transport. ‘My car is parked nearby,’ he said. ‘Plenty of room. I’ll be pleased to take you to your place. Where exactly is it?’
‘Kirribilli.’
‘Road. Name and number.’
‘Twenty-one, Fitzroy Street.’
‘That turns out quite well. We go to Crows Nest.’
The man, Pippo, drove the car through Elizabeth Street to hit the Cahill Expressway, and over the Harbour Bridge, in the direction of North Sydney and Kirribilli. When they reached Galvao’s place, the Italian offered to take him upstairs to his flat.
‘No, please, don’t worry. The lift is there waiting. Thank you very much.’
The man helped him into the lift, and saw that the wounded man did press the right button.
Tenth floor. Luis Galvao got out, opened the door of his home-unit, went in and closed and locked the door. His physical and intellectual energies, under such heavy contribution, the result of the extraordinary agitation of the past four weeks and this ‘puntilla’ today, gave up entirely. He hurled himself fully dressed on his bed, and lost consciousness altogether.
There, on his bed, he lay near the window, alone, and with no possibility of being looked after by anyone.

fg.izquierdo@yahoo.es

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