We arrived early when the wind was still shy. Our arms too full for handshakes, we nodded instead. I didn’t try to remember either of your names.
Raising our leaders, we tied them to fence posts – side by side, but not touching. We didn’t help one another when our ties came undone.
As the first people trickled through, we fixed ourselves metres apart, pylons of the compulsory corridor. Tagged in slogans and armed with leaflets we pressed our colours into open hands. Collectively we were received and collectively ignored, until one of you was picked above the rest, made worse by a drive-by P-plater yelling ‘fuck Julia Gillard’ to the growing queue. You couldn’t help but reveal your grin.
By mid-morning the flow was thick and the wind was bold and our placards rattled on their fence posts. You threw insults at each other then together at me, as one, you bonded, while we packed and stacked our numbers into passing palms. Paper cuts did little to slow us down.
Then our lunches arrived, yours, mine, his, sandwiches and handshakes of different sorts. Yours were bread and butter and not much in between, but you could talk up anything. Mine promised more and tasted better, not that you’d admit it. Sharing cover from the wind, we huddled together but ate alone.
You couldn’t have been satisfied, returning headstrong to the wind. But you put your hunger down and something must be said for the dedication. Side by side, but not touching, we fixed ourselves anew.
We were stretching our limbs and bending our spines when one of you mentioned beer – you must have known it was on all of our minds. Self-consciously, measuring our efforts against the concessions of the next, we edged a bit closer. With pre-decided preferences we rated our best and damned our worst, while the wind prickled our cheeks, and empty hands passed us by. You were both wary of my passion for homebrew, though I could tell you hadn’t even tried it. Then a lofty gust swept through our corridor. Stole my voice. Caught the two of you unaware, tore the leaflets from your hands and whipped up a two-toned tornado. All that blueandred. And I held mine tight in white-knuckled fists. And I watched as you ran after your losses.
By afternoon the flow had slackened and our energy was dwindling. I bought us each a coffee. One of you offered me a mint. The other gave me a secret – a whispered confession that you voted my way.
Later, when the wind pulled your leader from her post, I helped you tie the corners back down. Quietly, you thanked me.
It was dark when we packed up what we couldn’t palm off, and our efforts lay crumpled in bins. Wind-burnt and paper-cut and arms too full for handshakes, we smiled instead. Then the two of you left, holding all that you could carry, while your leaders remained – fixed to the fence and fighting the wind.