Friday, July 5, 2013

Young John Harris, Still Venturing Out... (PART 2)

Continued from part 1…

SO, sometime towards July, after six inglorious months at 81 Rowan Street, Wangaratta, a second opportunity confronted John Harris.  An advertisement appeared in the local paper reading approximately thus: ‘A single man requires a boarder, male or female, non-smoker, professional,  in lovely old house in tree-lined street.’ Ha! That word ‘professional’ again. John Harris smirked as he perused the invitation, then steeled himself for the possible change. Leaving Lindsay, Peter and the fabulous thin grey spectre, Alan, would be no easy task, but one wintry day he made the journey around the corner to meet a new, older and wiser Alan, and the deal was struck virtually on the spot.

The house, in Templeton Street, was a lovely old house- with the emphasis on ‘old’, and Templeton Street certainly was tree-lined. The local Ovens River ran alongside it, and in the past, and probably into the future, it would be subject to floods. Alan was firmly ensconced into the nicer, front room, and John would have the back. There was also a nice sized kitchen, an ugly third bedroom, and a serviceable bathroom and lounge. Alan himself was a builder and part-time musician, quite a handyman who would soon make John look silly- he was always slightly uncomfortable around ‘handy men’- but this was a gentle, older soul, who was probably looking for mateship and colour and solidarity in his choice of John as boarder. It was true that John was becoming firm friends with some of the women in the town; nevertheless a father figure in the form of Alan was never going to go astray. And John immediately sensed that this was a much nicer Alan.

A few weeks into the adventure, John decided he’d like to paint the walls of his bedroom a baby blue. Alan was impressed. John was one to hang around for a while. So John bought the brush and paint somewhere and began splashing on thick layers of the lovely pastel paint. Alan wandered in to see how the preparation was going- the sanding, the preparing of floor covering, the different sheens of paint required, the sandpaper, the taping of the walls… the list goes on, especially for builder aficionados like Alan. Well, one can only imagine the mirth spread across Alan’s face as he became doubled over in pleasure at seeing John with paintbrush in hand, the baby blue paint looking streaky and unhealthy on the walls, and little globules all over the wooden floorboards. John’s parents visited Templeton Street a few days later, and what a wonderful story Alan was able to tell Mr and Mrs Harris after their long drive up from Reservoir.

Time went on and Alan and John became reasonably strong friends. John found himself a nice girlfriend and Alan had a short American woman called Bobby with him most of the time, and the four of them would sometimes go out as an unlikely foursome, to cheap restaurants, and one time to Beechworth to hear Alan play in his jazz band.

John’s coterie of friends had widened further towards the end of the year. Suddenly there was a party at Templeton Street. Alan was away for the weekend at Bobby’s pad in Yarrawonga. When he came back home at about midday on the Sunday he couldn’t believe his eyes. John was still in bed. The coterie of friends had left about six hours earlier. There was mess everywhere. Broken half empty packets of chips, cola and wine stains on cheap rugs, a couple of overflowing ash trays, a sink full of sauce-stained plates, a small piece of cold fried fish near the kitchen door, drinking glasses in almost every room in the house, clothes strewn on the floor. Alan waltzed into John’s bedroom, despair filtered all over his sad face. ‘I don’t feel as though this is my place anymore’, he blurted out. John was still a bit sleepy, and not his usual tactful self. ‘Well Alan, it’s not as if there’s a leaking car engine rotting on the lounge room floor.’

Things never did seem quite the same after all of this. Alan left one day, presumably with Bobby, with not exactly rancour in the air, but a certain formalness and coldness nevertheless. John had a bit of time to reflect. In two households he had independently inhabited in his short adult life, things had either turned sour or failed to ignite. There was another experience around the corner, which would become the third and final incarnation that would put these two experiences to shame, in terms of both dysfunction and unhappiness.



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