I am currently reading and enjoying John Lyndon's autobio, "Anger is an Energy'. I was reading some this evening, down by the river, but my repast was not the usual salad, but a Christmas eve treat - pizza. It was a vego pizza with extra garlic, anchovies and pineapple - my fave. The plan was to eat half and have the other half when I got home. Of course, that was not going to happen. Num, num, num...
Johnny (Rotten) was writing about a period when he was living in Brixton, UK. He said at the time it was quite a rough area. It made me think of Kings Cross in Sydney, an area I gravitated towards in the late eighties and early nineties. It was definitely seedier then, much more interesting than now, and did have an element of danger to it. As I was driving home, I thought about my own experiences there and tried to remember any dangerous encounters. One that I had not thought of for quite a long time, floated back into my awareness.
It was 1989, and I was recently divorced. I would frequent a cafe called Michelangelo's which was located right on the corner of Victoria Rd and William street. It had good coffee and focaccia as well as an ample balcony that looked over the west entry to the KX tunnel as well as the ubiquitous Coke sign off to the left. The cafe eventually shut up shop and became a nightclub/bar called Haste. Ten years later, I would again frequent the same location - swapping espresso for mojito and focaccia for kissing girls.
But in 1989, I had not yet graduated to player and was single. I would sit on the balcony in the afternoons and read my book, drinking my coffee. This one afternoon, an extraordinarily beautiful woman, late twenties maybe, sat a few tables away, facing me. She looked like a Cherokee Indian squaw, or the semblance of. She had a very unusual dynamic about her. I was intrigued. She sat alone and we shared some eye contact. I remember as I was eating my croissant, I looked down and consciously tried to mimic her vibe, give off a similar energy - in the way I moved, the pace, the attitude. I was experimenting. Being a little trippy, indulging a bit in a different level of connection. I did not look up at her for a while but somehow felt that she was watching me.
I suspected that she may have been a drug user, although I can't say exactly why. Something. But, as I said, she was breathtakingly beautiful in her face and body, so much so that it overrode any hesitation or prejudice, wariness I might have normally felt. In fact, I recall, I kind of acted as though I was a user, too, relishing my flakey pastry while high. It was pure conjugation, I had no first hand experience with heroin.
I was pretty startled when she appeared beside me. Truly shocked, really.
'Got a light, have ya?' In those days you could smoke anywhere. I didn't. But the chasm had been crossed. We had connected. She sat down opposite me. Seeing her close up only served to impress and entice me more. She was quite a presence. I felt all kinds of things... attraction, doubt, excitement, challenge...
We talked for about 45 minutes about all kinds of things. Although I felt a little out of my league, I was being as cool as I could and playing the flirtation game. Eventually she said she had to go and do something - but why don't I come down to her place nearby in Rushcutters Bay in a couple of hours for a drink at sunset. She gave me the address. Sure.
It felt weird, actually. Something was not quite right. Was it too easy? Why was she interested in me? There was something about her that I could not quite work out. And yet...
Did I consider not going? Yes.
Did I consider it for long? No.
Should I have considered it for longer? Maybe.
But I was not to know. I could not possibly turn down an opportunity like this. She was one of the most beguiling, alluring and mysterious presences I had ever met. It wasn't a love feeling, it was more lust, but it was strong. And what could go wrong, anyway? No need to be paranoid. All I was doing was going for a drink.
I found the place without trouble. A block of about thirty units, spread long and wide, about three stories high. Underground parking. She buzzed me in. I parked the car - it was actually a Tarago - I had just finished working on a Japanese TVC shoot and had it for the weekend. I found the apartment, up three flights. When I got to the door, I noticed in the wood, several distinct crescent shaped indentations around head level. Hmmm... they seemed to be made by a hammer. Strange. I knocked and she answered, opened the door. Motioned me in.
Three things struck me immediately.
One: she was wearing only a bath towel.
This is like the movies, I thought. I cannot believe it. It's like a fantasy coming true. It's all being handed to me.
Two: her vibe had changed significantly.
I can't exactly explain it, but there was a noticeable shift. Almost like she was a different person. Some of the natural warmth was gone, the pure Indian spirit - and it was replaced by something a bit more calculated, detached. I don't know, maybe she was high, I thought.
Three: On the inside of the door was a second door. A cast iron security door. OK. Yeah. But it's on the inside...? And when I stepped in, she locked it. With a key.
Alarm bells started going off in my head. Not full volume, just muffled ones.
Come in, come in... She got me a drink. Vodka orange? Something like that. We sat on the couch. I'll just be a sec, she said and got up, went into the bathroom. OK, sure. She's going to get dressed. Don't panic. It's a bit unusual but nothing amazing happens without a bit of uncertainty. The vodka took a bit of the buzz off. Gulp, gulp. I stood up, walked over the balcony. It was sliding large frame glass doors. Perhaps I'll step out, take a few deep breaths. I stepped closer to reach and open them. What I saw, truly shocked me.
They were joined together by a short, heavy duty chain. And on the chain was a padlock. Locked.
Just as I noticed she came out of the bathroom and headed towards me. She was still in her towel!
Ah, yeah. Um...
Then, to add to the surreal-ness, the tension in the air, as if by magic, her towel fell to the floor. She was completely naked. I didn't want to stare, so I looked away.
Ooops, she said, like Marilyn woulda.
She must have sensed my rising anxiety, so she came and sat down beside me, towel back on.
Tell me about the job you were on....
My mind was racing. It was all just too, too weird. Now it felt like she was just stalling. Trying to keep me there, distract me.
Something was very, very wrong. I was sure that any minute some dude, or dudes would be arriving and I was going to be in some serious danger.
"Hey, you know, what..." I said, as casually as I possibly could, downplaying any panic. "I've got some photos in the Tarago. Why don't I go and get them... "
"Oh, that's OK," she said, "you can just tell me..."
I stood up, acted enthusiastic, innocent. "No, no, you're going to love them..." I stepped towards the double doors. She hesitated then unlocked it.
I think she still thought I was good, unaware. Not letting me get them would show her hand.
"Don't be long!" she whispered, touching my face.
"I won't..." I said, keeping the act up, being cheerful.
I didn't even look back at her. Whoever it was that lured me there had shape shifted and revealed her true self. I had brushed up against desperation, evil.
I got in the Tarago and drove the fuck out of there.
I was lucky. I had escaped what possibly could have been a seriously unfortunate incident. I cannot begin to even imagine what would have happened when the muscle turned up, playing the enraged boyfriend, or whatever the scam was. Important things was, I made it out.
I didn't go back to Michelangelo's. Found a better spot - just around the corner. The Tropicana. I became a regular. There I made some great new friends. And never looked back.