"Excuse me Lady."
I looked at him with my "Not today, Buddy." ready to go; he looked right at me as if daring me to give him the brush-off.
"Hi." I said instead.
"I was wondering if you could help me," he started.
"I wonder if I can." I said.
"Me and my friend need 8 bucks to get to Canberra," he continued.
"8 bucks to get to Canberra, wow, that's a cheap trip."
"We need 8 *more* bucks," he explained, "we have the rest already."
I dug into my pocket, I knew there was money in there, I'd paid for a glass of wine with a $50 note not long before at Horse Bazaar's Mobile Monday. I filtered the change from the notes. "Canberra huh?" I said, counting the change, "Makes a nice change from Bendigo." I handed him the change, "Sorry mate, all I've got is 4 bucks." I lied.
"Thank you lady," he said as he moved forward to hug me, I saw my roommate grimace over his shoulder - we weren't that fond of strangers in the street touching us but it happened from time to time.
"I've had a shit night," he said as he released me from his appreciation, "got beat up by a bunch of gooks, see?" he pulled his top lip wide to show my roommate the gash on the inside of his cheek.
"Don't be racist." my roommate said.
"What?" he asked,
"Don't be racist." she repeated, crossing her arms and looking right at him.
"They're Japs, what else should I call them?"
"Australian, they're Australian." she said.
He spat aggressively on the ground, "Does that" gesturing towards the foaming hoik on the ground "make me an Abo?"
"It makes you Australian." she continued.
"And what are you?" he challenged. The spaces between the three of us grew slightly, the dynamic suddenly unpredictable.
"I'm Australian, You're Australian, We're Australian," she continued.
We were then joined by his mate, who wanted to know what we were talking about. "This Lady was telling me not to be racist," the first guy said. His mate said "It doesn't matter what the colour of our skin is, it shouldn't matter," he brushed the skin of his own arm, "we're all the same!" The mate's manner was lighter and the situation diffused in an instant. "We need to get more money." he said.
"Nah, we got it all, these Ladies gave us some. So now we can go to Canberra."
"Yeh," said the first guy, staring hard at his friend, "_Canberra_"
"Oh, right, yeh.. _Canberra_"
They begin to move off, walking backwards, thanking us and saying goodbye, assuring us the money wasn't for Heroin, "Honestly, you can check my arms Lady." I didn't much care what the money was for.
"Excuse me Lady."