What happened on August 26th, 1998:
In High Street:
I ran to catch a city-bound tram, hoping that today's history class is not very important to attend.
In Front of the State Library:
At Kay House:
At Melbourne University:
On the Roof:
Inside the building:
In the Courtyard:
Now I'm getting cold. When is that fire starting? They said there'd be a fire. I shall freeze. I take a union blanket and wrap it around myself, but be careful – we don't want to appear greedy. Everyone's cold. Everyone's responsible only for themselves. Finally the large wok-shaped fire bowl arrives. Did Anya say she was going to get some wood? Well she's been gone a long time. The union members are having a meeting off to the side – they are only discussing the coming election, but I sit and listen anyway. They're so impressive.
Finally the wood arrives, and the kindling is placed in the wok. The men are on hand to light the fire, but they seem to be incompetent. The big methylated blaze quickly dies down and the big logs don't catch. The Big-guy only laughs. What now? No more kindling – have they given up? I saw a standard university rubbish bin around the corner – I'm not pretending I'll be able to get the fire going by myself, but that bin is bound to have waste-paper in and paper looks pretty when it burns. The men think it's hopeless – they see me putting paper on the dying embers and blowing, and they think I'm nuts, but the paper catches. When one piece finishes, I put another piece on. And another. One man has faith – he starts putting sticks over my flames and pretty soon we've got a fire going under the big log. It's resuscitated. I have saved the fire. Now I'm a respected camper. They won't mind me using a union blanket now.
The students are around me, sitting and talking to eachother. THIS is what I came for – the listening. There's no revolvermusic here – I have the opportunity to sit and listen to intelligent conversation without feeling like a stranger. And these are fascinating union people who have opinions and get involved in the issues. I can't believe they're letting me sit so close and watch their faces. I've hit the jackpot. I want to tell the Smartgirl – "You're so smart, I love listening to you." But as usual silence is more acceptable.
At midnight we trek down to the Vice Chancellor's on-campus house and yell insults at him through the megaphone. Insults like "Hey Alan! We're yellin'! You're a melon! F--- off!" among more intelligent critiques. Then, back at the campsite, they're singing along – the Big guy is not such a yobbo, for he's into the Beatles, and the Hat guy is into Bob Dylan. He sings solo in his Dylan voice, and the fire burns. Later still, people are retreating to the tents – including me. But I have no blanket now and it's cold. Maybe the cold is not the problem – I'm just not tired.
It's after 2am. After half an hour I get up and seek out the toilet in the underground carpark, then back to the campfire. I'm not the only one who's having trouble sleeping – as the bell chimes 3am there are still people gathered around the fire. It's our only source of warmth. Our life-support. But still people retreat to the tents, and by and by there are only two people left out here – the Quietgirl and I. She's silent. I'm silent. She's just like me. What was it that made her stay in this campsite – was it the fees? The cuts? The amalgamations? Or was it just the opportunity to feel like a part of something? She gives no clue. Maybe I should ask her if she shares my apathy about politics, but as usual silence is more acceptable.
We sit and stare into the fire for hours. Then she looks at her train timetable. I ask her when the first train leaves. She says four-fifty. That's the one she'll catch. I don't know which train I'll catch, but logically I'll leave at the same time as her. At four-fifteen the fire has precious little heat left, and there are no logs to throw on the remaining hot coals. Quietgirl says she's leaving. Should I leave with her? Should we walk to the station in silence? No. I grab my bag and leave before her. Striding out of the university grounds, walking fast to fight the cold, I know she's following somewhere behind. Don't look back – I will never see her again. Keep walking. She has nothing to give me now.