I was traveling on the train between Cronulla and Central today, and I had an experience that gave me reasons to rethink my attitude toward religion. The train carriage was empty except for a man and a woman sitting opposite each other. He was a large Greek guy with a weathered face and an ear that had been shredded in some long forgotten bar brawl. She was a delicate young girl with long black hair and a soft voice.
He was engaged in a monologue about his amateur theater group and his approaching audition for Underbelly. She was punctuating his rambling story by making positive noises of agreement.
He paused for a moment, then changed topic.
“Thanks for talking to me hey. This guy in the group was really pissing me off. I wanted to fucking hit im ay. Naah, I don’t do that anymore, he is not fucking worth it ay.”
His companion agreed. I suspect she had not met the individual in question, and was not really in a position to evaluate his value. Her talkative companion changed the topic.
“You should come and join our theater group. We could use a beautiful young girl like you. Where are your folks from?”
“Italian hey. That’s great. We would have heaps of roles for a beautiful young Italian girl. Have you heard of Knockabouts?”
“Yeah, that’s us. It’s a great thing. I’m going to be an actor. Well, maybe just an extra, but I’ll give it a go. You gotta try ay?”
Their conversation continued on in a similar vein until she left the train. As she stepped out of the carriage one of his phones rang. He cycled through the three handsets that sat in his jewel encrusted fists until he found the ringing device.
He had a prolonged conversation with another of his colleagues, during which he revealed that he had just recruited a gorgeous young Italian girl for the theater group. When his phone call ended he turned his attention to me. “You a muso mate?” he asked, gesticulating toward my guitar. I replied that I just played for my own amusement. He nodded. “I’m an actor ay.” he shrugged his shoulders. “Well I’m gonna be one, when I get into underbelly.”
He proceeded to converse with me on a wide variety of topics, principally about his life as a gangster on the cross. Many of the details of this conversation I would rather not reveal for fear that I wind up sleeping at the bottom of the harbor. The gist of it was that he had spent a good deal of time in gaol, and before that a good deal of time hurting people.
At some point in the conversation he paused to breath. Then he thanked me for talking with him, as he had done with the young Italian girl. He detailed the way his acting colleague had been a constant annoyance for him the previous day.
“In the old days I would have just held him down a fuckin poaaaaaa.” He pushed one hand toward the ground while with his other he formed a pistol with his fingers. His fat stocky finger pistol recoiled as he put a bullet into his imaginary acting colleague.
“Not these days ay. Since I brought Jesus into my life I don’t do that.” He looked at me intensely.
“Jesus says you just can’t go around killin cunts ay?”
“No you can’t,” I agreed.