Chippendale: Rumoured to be inner Sydney’s greenest suburb, is also said to be Sydney’s smallest. Driving down Broadway you would blink and miss it. Chippendale was filled with hipsters, students, artisans and old people. For such a small suburb it had a lot of character. Most of the housing units were old and most were made of brick. Gardens with edible plants lined the sidewalks with signs that said anyone living in the area could pick and eat the plants whenever they wanted.
Chippendale was the suburb where Scott lived.
Dave, the manager, warned me the day before, “Oh my god!” he squeaked, “Chippendale is near Redfern!”
“Why, what’s wrong with Redfern?” I questioned. It was daytime at the brothel and I was hungover from a heavy night of drinking.
“Redfern is the train station where everyone gets stabbed!” Dave replied, throwing his hands in the air.
“Yeah it’s where all the druggies and aboriginals live. You be careful, I don’t want the news headlines tomorrow to be Gay Canadian Backpacker Gets Stabbed.”
“They won’t,” I reassured.
Redfern station was fine. I had learned online that, although there was a couple stabbings there in the past, they had put in a police station and were cleaning Redfern of the druggies and housing commissions. Scott met me at the station and lead me through a confusing maze of back alleys from the station/suburb of Redfern to the suburb of Chippendale. It was only a ten minute walk to Scott’s house, but through the back alleys I could already tell that Redfern and Chippendale were the artsy suburbs of inner Sydney.
Scott’s house was a split house made of red brick. The house had two levels; the entire top level was a bedroom and bathroom where Scott lived. First through the front door was the living room. Dark and warm colors were accented in that room, and it gave off a masculine vibe. The bedroom to the left off the hallway was the one I was there to inspect. After my potential bedroom was the staircase to Scott’s room, then the bathroom, and then the hallway ended with three steps down into the kitchen. Beyond that was two glass doors that led to the backyard patio.
I really liked Scott’s house, it had a masculine energy that felt welcome and well-lived. The artwork in the house was made up of dark colours, as was the carpet. The whole house felt warm and lived in. As Scott talked I could tell he was very proud of it.
After inspecting the house, Scott invited me to sit with him in the living area to have a chat. He introduced me to his dog, Deniro, who was a beautiful golden Sharpei. Scott told me that Shapei’s were bred to be Temple dogs who would sit around all day with the monks. They are known to become loyal to only a few people in their lifetimes; their family units remained small.
“I wanted to let you know that I invited you to come look at the house because I think you are different,” said Scott. He sat with Deniro at his feet, elbows on his knees and a giant, warm smile on his face.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I asked, my default question to that kind of statement.
“It’s a good thing. I’ve seen something in you… You aren’t like the other boys.” Scott spoke with a sense of sincerity and familiarity in his voice.
“No, you aren’t like the other bitches there,” He laughs, “I’m not saying you are mature or anything, you still have a lot to learn in life, but I think you’re a good person. I’d be the first to say that your generation is the most fucked up, but you aren’t caught up in the glamour of it all. You seem genuine and I like genuine people.”
“Thanks, you seem genuine as well.” I say uncomfortably; unable to take a compliment and even less able to give one.
Scott laughs again, “You don’t even know me babe. At work, Knight Call, I’m a different person. This is the real me,” He leans back in his chair, “I put on a giant act and I don’t get too involved. I want my work identity to be different than my home identity… I need to keep them separate to keep me sane and to remain detached. I can tell you do that too.” I didn’t think I did.
I told Scott that I would need a couple days to think about moving in. He said to let him know regardless if I wanted to move in or not so that he could find a replacement as soon as possible. The rent was too much for one person to carry themselves.
Before I left, Scott stopped me and pointed at a picture frame on the wall and said, “There is only one thing I need you to do when you move in here.”
I looked at the frame, which had three pictures in it: all pictures of Scott with different groups of people. I said, “What do you need?”
Scott looks me directly in the eyes and in the softest voice he says, “I need you to bring in a picture of yourself. A picture to put in that frame,” He turns to look at the frame, then turns back to me, “If you move in here you’ll become family.”
A few months after Scott died, I decided to walk by the house again. A short time after Scott had passed away his housemate moved out, so when I went to visit there was new people living in it. I just wanted to walk past and look at it from the outside. I had been avoiding Chippendale altogether, besides the time after I first touched down from my visit in Canada and went to Scott’s place to see if there was anything I could take after his passing. But besides then, the area remained out of sight and out of mind.
I stood on Myrtle street and looked up upon the house I lived in for those 7 months. I tried to focus on the good memories with Scott, the few times I had seen him smile or hear him crack a joke. The times he would give me a gay-history education, or the times we would get stoned and watch South Park together. That was the Scott everyone loved, that was the Scott I tried to remember as I stood in front of the house.
No matter how hard I tried to focus on those good memories, all I could hear was Scott screaming. My brain was stuck on a loop. I could only remember the countless nights I lay in bed covering my ears hoping that Scott’s wailing would end. How his screams of pain used to pierce through the night and I would pray to countless gods that they would make it stop.
Please god make it stop.