‘What do you think I’m looking for, Steven?’ she said. She turned to face him. ‘Do you think I’ll find it spending my nights at Junk? Don’t worry, I’m just thinking out loud. Unless you have any answers.’
He said nothing.
‘Let’s go and get some air,’ she said, and in a few minutes she was standing at his room door, lipsticked, checking the weather on her phone.
They walked towards St Kilda Junction. It was one of her favourite parts of the city, she said. It reminded her of ‘that painting’ of the Cahill Expressway, which haunted her whenever she saw it. ‘I mean haunt in a good way,’ she said.
‘And what does the Cahill Expressway remind you of?’ he said.
She slowed down. ‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘It just is.’
‘I don’t think you’re supposed to like that painting,’ he said. ‘Not in the way you’re describing. It’s about alienation.’
A tram rattled up. They decided to board and ride it to the beach. The sun was glaring on the patio at Floria, so they sat inside. Steven chose beer; Salina had white wine. They said no to food. ‘I can’t be bothered eating. Can you?’ she said. ‘Not here,’ he said.
She wet a finger, and wiped a smudge from her glass. ‘How old do you think she is?’ She flicked her eyes to a nearby table, where a girl and boy touched fingers across the tabletop. Although dusty blinds muted the light, they both wore sunglasses. They were sharing a bowl of hot chips.
‘I don’t know,’ he said.
‘Roughly,’ she said.
‘I’m useless at guessing ages.’ To illustrate, he said that the girl could be anything between fifteen and twenty-five. He said it was a little easier to place the boy’s age. ‘He looks about twenty-five. Twenty-six.’
Salina’s expression was thoughtful. ‘Could you guess my age?’
‘You’ve told me yours already.’
‘I told you an age,’ she said. ‘But I’m asking you now.’
‘I had thought…’ he said.
‘That maybe you hadn’t told me the truth.’
‘I always tell the truth, Steven. If I tell you I’m twenty years old, then it’s the truth.’
He laughed, but she didn’t. ‘I’m going to the bathroom. You can give me your answer when I get back.’
‘I really don’t want to.’
‘But you don’t have a choice.’ She picked up her bag, and walked away.
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.