Tuesday. Despite the falling mercury the constant increase in humidity creates the effect that it has been a static 35 degrees for 3 straight days now. Choosing to avoid any serious physical exertion given the conditions I favour circumferential wandering over actual work. I stop on the streetside for a moment to check my phone when I catch a snippet of conversation from a nearby parked car. I cant quite make out words but immediately the sound of agitated voices reaches into my lizard-brain and snaps me to attention. I stand upright and metaphorically cock my head to listen. The combination of work attire, muted body language and reflective sunglasses leaves no indication as to where i am placing my attention.
2 parking bays up from my current location sits a metallic grey Holden commodore. It’s drivers side door is open as wide as it will go. A skinny man, dressed in a too-small sleeveless shirt and tattered black jeans with no shoes on sits on the footpath, arms folded over his knees, talking incessantly and somewhat aggressively into the vehicle. A females voice replies. Partly out of episodic curiosity, partly out of obligation to my employers, i decide to make a quick pass on the conversation.
As i “fly casual” past the car, three things become apparent: The skinny man is being particularly verbally aggressive. He has a faded, smudged tattoo of some sort on his forearm. Three of his fingers are wrapped in a splint. I take this last point to be significant of a short fuse. Call me judgemental but the easiest way to break three fingers at once is to lay your closed fist into a solid object or a Newport bouncer as hard as you can (it should be noted that parties who lay their closed fist into a Newport bouncer tend to have their remaining seven fingers broken – one at a time, indefinitely later than the other three). I decide that despite the odds of things getting ugly being relatively low, I have nothing better to do with my afternoon than play surveillance with this couple until they come to a resolution.
On my second pass i catch my first audible snippets of conversation:
Man: you tell me i’m a fucking cunt, when did i act like a cunt?
Woman: i’ll tell you when you acted like a cunt, when you fucking broke into my house and threatened my fucking sister!
yeah, when you lied to me maybe i did. But only when you lied to me! why the fuck did you lie to me? You said your boss was sick!
then why was he in the fucking office if he was fucking sick! Honest to god (name removed) I’ve waited three fucking months for you! three fucking months! And this is what you…
I also notice something about the splint on his fingers: It’s made entirely of black electrical tape, rather than your regulation surgical gauze. This, i decide, mentally putting on my sunglasses and adjusting my belt buckle like a low-rent Horatio Caine, is a clear indicator of a home-done job. I have the hint of Georgian drawl in my accent too.
The third time i pass they are both sitting in the car. The passengers side door is open and the woman, still obscured from my view by the car’s heavy tinting, is sitting in the drivers seat, placing the man in the passengers.
Three years earlier i had worked in a grease-laden americana-themed burger joint in central Fremantle that has since gone bust due to lagging profits and high staff turnover. We once had a pair of customers come in; A man and a girl. The girl was at a guess no older than thirteen or fourteen, and already grotesquely voluptuous for her age. She looked like some kind of barbie doll caricature of a girl that age: Her clothes were entirely pink and too small, her hair up in the kind of pigtails most girls refuse to wear after age 10, braces that were visible even when she wasnt smiling. The man was in his forties, conservative looking and inconspicuously dressed, greying slightly on top but with high cheekbones and a clearly handsome visage. He looked over his shoulder too much. They dined like a couple. I remember mentally noting every possible detail I could about the two with an uneasy feeling I would be repeating his information back to police in the near future.
That same feeling clicked away in the back of my head. I considered returning to the office to jot down the registration number of the vehicle, but i decided that that would constitute third-party paranoia.
On my fourth pass of the vehicle the two have been arguing for close to an hour. The man is halfway out his door as if he is threatening to leave. He raises his home-bandaged hand to the sky and yells quite loudly.
How the fuck am i dangerous? I haven’t (inaudible) 2 years now, have i? HAVE I?
Look at me! I’m fucking crippled! I can’t even light a smoke like this!
his voice softens slightly here and he starts to sit back down again.
look, just… give me a chance. I’ve come back here because i want to…
I retire myself to the fact that this is just another domestic, albeit a rather public one, and that i probably in fact should be out earning my wages.
In the course of my duties i walk once more past the still-parked car and notice a small yellow and black sticker on the bumper of the car that i had missed before. It reads “warning: left hand drive”. I go on to finish my routine light bulb maintenance before it occurs to me that this means that the skinny man would have been in the drivers seat of the car. I mentally resolve to go by once more on my way back to the office and then to clear myself of this senseless conspiracy-making that if nothing else is spawned by boredom. I think of hitchcock’s Rear Window, and to a lesser extent of the 2000s-friendly remake Disturbia, which despite lacking the subtlety and tension of the original, had an attractive female lead.
When I return to the street the car is gone, after nearly 2 hours of public displays of spousal vitriol. I step out into the middle of the parking bay and survey the street around me, hands on hips, pacing slightly. I flash back to my Horatio Caine fantasy again. I give up. No drama. No excitement. No getting to be the hero. Just another bored kid making shit up to pass the time.
As I step back into the office I feel a slight tickle against my calf. I look down to see a single long piece of black electrical tape, a few minuscule hairs like those found on the back of knuckles and a few loose bits of gravel on the sticky side, stuck to the heel of my boot.