CYCLING AMBER VS CYCLING RED by Harold Legaspi

0 Comment

Cycling Amber

St Clair had been coined ‘the garden suburbs of the eighties,’ stuck in an era when camellias bloomed and where couples settled for their own private life.  When my family migrated here during the nineties, it was provincial, undeveloped and serene.

It’d been a week since my bicycle had had a workout.  Feel the burn, god damn son of a bruha, flex those loins! So, I put on my gloves, eased my head onto the helmet and cycled around St Clair. My face pressed against the wind, bugs splatting across my cheeks. I reminded myself that ‘pain was gain.’

I saw rows of dignified houses, swept by oaks along the ordered and tidy streets, amidst joggers and cyclists on their daily pump. Manicured dogs ran on the pavement—Labradors did business with Pugs; Border Collies sniffed your Jack Russells.

Now, we have a servo, a franchise from Japan—a 7-Eleven—piling up with cars hungry for gas for their trips into town. Locals posed coolly beside their ritzy Benzes, off-white Prados with eighty-seven-litre engines pumping gas, topping up, armed with Krispy Kremes and milk, consuming Bayanihan News.

St Clair High teens dressed in maroon and white, socks raised to their knees, loitering in usual haunts:  Red Rooster. Gloria Jeans. Skate Park. Their hats neatly perched on their skulls; Crumpler bags on their backs, personalised with liquid paper. They rolled with their posse until the sun sunk West.

Past an imaginary line, I crossed to Mt Druitt, laid alongside railway tracks with three-to-five storey housing commissions. It was a melting pot of migrants that spoke multiple languages at home—Tagalog, English, Chinese, Arabic. Graduates started their own shop, with savings invested to realise their dreams. Elders backed their ideas with cautionary promises. Their dreams in full reach, founded on toil and the empowering rhetoric of Tupac.

At Starbucks, a toddler wrapped herself around a thin, white veil. ‘May I help you miss?’ asks the barista.  ‘A caramel light frappuccino,’ she replied confidently. I eyed them from a distance, far enough not to be noticed but close enough to witness her sweep her veil across her hair. She had been practicing for her wedding day when she would marry her best friend, ‘Juanita’ from playgroup. Slowly, she eased through the counter, passing the zany cashiers behind the till then grabbed her order from the store unnoticed.

Along Kurrajong Avenue, the aftermath of a Filipino wedding, a street peddler hung outside the refurbished chapel. He sold balut to primed groomsmen. Balut, penoy, balot—the hectic peddler chanted. He tilted his pan vertically then sideways; covering up the shells as they cooked in the heat. He slapped loose shrapnel then pocketed the note for his trade.

There were times when residents used ladders to scrub the walls of their houses; those days still remain. I was never the victim here – I was too strong for that.  But this was a place filled with memories, a place as dear as my mother country, Pinas. ♦

Cycling Red

My upbringing had predominantly been in St Clair. A suburb once inhabited by the Dharug people who were decimated by clashes with white-settlers. The rural countryside, as it once was, became the proposal for housing developments in the seventies. St Clair had been coined ‘the garden suburbs of the eighties,’ stuck in an era when camellias bloomed and where couples settled to establish their own private life.  When my family migrated here during the nineties, it was provincial, undeveloped and serene.

It’d been almost a decade since my bicycle had had a workout.  Feel the burn, god damn son of a bastard bitch and lose some weight. So, I put on my gloves, eased my head onto the helmet and cycled around St Clair. My face pressed against the wind, bugs splatting across my cheeks, while reminding myself that ‘thin was in.’

I saw rows of dignified houses, swept by oaks along the ordered and tidy streets, amidst joggers and cyclists trying to reduce. Manicured dogs ran on the pavement—Labradors did business with Pugs; Border Collies sniffed your Jack Russells.

Now, we have a servo, a franchise from Japan—a 7-Eleven—piling up with cars hungry for gas for their trips into town. Locals posed bored beside their Ford Fiestas, off-white sedans with two-litre engines pumping gas, topping up, hoarding milk and consuming The Daily Telegraph. That’s their news!

St Clair High School chumps wagged classes and hung out in usual haunts:  Red Rooster. Gloria Jeans. Skate Park. Their hats turned backward; bags graffitied with liquid paper, they loitered around Maccas handling Big Macs and Chocolate-caramel sundaes. A raucous crowd clustered in the velodrome, green as weeds, breaking curfew away from flat screen TV’s.

Past an imaginary line, I crossed to Mt Druitt, laid alongside railway tracks with three-to-five storey housing commissions. Struggle Street was set in Mt Druitt, a melting pot of migrants that spoke no English at home. Teenagers from high-school worked in blue-collar jobs, barely making enough to make ends meet. Their dreams out of reach, founded on promised lies, false hopes and the vacuous rhetoric of rap.

Along the bus depot, the 754 arrived, letting out drug-addicts keen for a hit at the methadone clinic near Mt Druitt Hospital. Their teeth, stained and brittle, from four cups of coffee that morning. Bludgeoned eyes glaring towards me as I glided past the street curb. The patients wore flannel shirts, hiding their veiny arms from the assault of the needle. They couldn’t part with their hit today, nor yesterday, nor the day before. And they’ve got Buckley’s chance tomorrow.

I’m riding along Carlisle Avenue, the main junction, a young man wearing Adidas slacks revved up his engine.  Our eyes met at the lights, his head swayed like a lit candlestick, twisting to the tunes that blared from his ghetto speakers. He lit up his cigarette and hocked in my direction.  It must be past six now—the sun sweating dry opposite the low half-moon with craters, black as panthers.  He dug his nails into the steering wheel, and waited pensively for the lights to turn green; he accelerated past the red.

Along Kurrajong Avenue, the aftermath of a Filipino wedding, a street peddler hung outside the dilapidated chapel. He sold roasted nuts to primed groomsmen. Get your hot roast nuts! The hectic peddler chanted. He tilted the pan vertically then sideways; thrusting it up to catch the nuts as they fell. He slapped loose shrapnel then pocketed the note for his trade.

I tried to avoid trouble wherever I go, but I’m certain it will find me here. There were times when residents used ladders to scrub the walls of their houses, but those days were gone. I was never the victim here – I was too strong for that.  But this was a place filled with memories, a place I long wished to leave. ♦


Harold Legaspi is a Sydney-based author studying the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney. His writing has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Verity La, The University of Sydney Anthology, Mascara Literary Review, among others. A Silent Voice (under consideration by a publisher) is his first novel. You may find him on: https://www.haroldlegaspi.info/

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: