Outside there are three hundred fires burning across the state and the smoke has turned what would have been a sunny summer day in December, into something violent and surreal. The horizon is on fire, deep reds and oranges, black debris rains like the anti-snow, but outside is not important, not really.
Here in the book is a picture of Clair and me sitting in the Café ____, ash-trays, and packets of cigarettes, filters, coffee mugs, magazines and newspapers littered about us. We used to smoke, me and Clair, and get wired up on coffee, having round after round. Clair quit smoking but never complained that I continued. I have pictures of her smoking in my scrap book. The one I have always kept. Right now the scrap book is lying open on the floor, in an apartment of this burning building, in this shitty neighbourhood.
Clair is sitting on the couch up against the wall opposite the window; she slouches there, awkwardly, not as pretty as I remember her.
Fern is standing at the door, her hands supporting her on the frame. Her face is set to pity, the kind of look she gets when she sees a scrap of road-kill, or a commercial for the sponsorship of third-world children. Fern has short black hair and she is very thin. So pretty.
Where we are now is an apartment block, Housing Commission. Brick exterior, drywall interior, the paint is peeling, and on the ceiling there are stains up in the corners where moisture seeps through.
Joan is standing over me. Joan has a shaved head. She has pasty skin and she’s furious right now. She’s the one with the gun, and dirt under her broken fingernails, and yellow sweat stains on her white singlet. She’s wearing tight black pants, in which the slight impression of her hard pubis can be seen.
‘Is this what you want out of life,’ she points the gun at Clair, ‘that, that’s what you want?’ Joan is very angry but she doesn’t raise her voice.
Outside is not important, but the heat this summer has been intense. It has dried everything, even the concrete is desiccated. The heat has changed the colour of the world, taken all the lustre out and added a dull haze, created by smoke and mirrors. “Natures lament,” Fern called it the first time we noticed.
At the moment, I’m kneeling on the floor. In the scrap book I have a picture of Fern and a picture of Joan, Joan is driving and Fern is looking out the passenger side window at the countryside go by, at the factories and highways and houses. I took the shot, one of many I took at the time. It struck me, the way they were, Joan driving, and Fern watching the world go by; a metaphor of our life together. So I took the picture. I took it from the back seat, and maybe that’s my story.