Quentin left the island that afternoon and flew home to Australia. He forgot all
about BBäbel, enticed as he was by Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, which he was
reading then. It took him three months to get through it. When he was done he walked
down to the shop to buy some milk and saw Babel waiting at the service counter.
He assumed it was one of those spin-out situations, like when you're off your head
in a club, when all you can do is gawk at everyone because suddenly everything,
everything seems so familiar. Except, this time, she was gawking back. <<Oh?>> he said. <<It's you, isn't it? From Thailand?>>
Catching the moth-blown Windfield clock she replied, <<Oh yeah. It's twenty past six.>>
Quentin plonked his milk on the counter, next to her tampons or something. <<This is quite strange, isn't it? Meeting like this again,
on the other side of the world. It was fucking paradise, that Ko Pha Ngan.?>>
She stroked a bead of condensation rolling down his milk; he noticed the gesture
but didn't wonder why. <<The day after I met you I
came down with the shits. Then dengue fever in Kalimantan. I'm backpacking in this
land of yours now.?>>
The scabby Greek behind the counter cleared his throat and said, <<Two bucks ten.>> Quentin took it as a sign.
<<I'll have to show you around?>> he said.
It was one of his standards. He took her to Abu Hussein's for kebabs and pipe,
Mascarpone for coffee and cake, the Burdekin Hotel for a bottle or two of e-33. If they'd
met in the daytime a Harbour hug snapshot or trip to Manly would have been appropriate;
being a Friday night, cocktails in the Luna Lounge were more in order. They saw Demi
Moore in the foyer. Quentin bought some speed on Oxford Street and whisked Babel into
The scene inside was hard house, handbag and spice. Quentin hugged Babel in
the happier set and said, <<Just like Ko Pha Ngan,
huh??>> He wasn't referring to the sweaty walls and boobs.
At 4am it was time for microwaved burgers in Seven Eleven, drowsy Opera House
panoramas on the cab trip home, Quentin's shoulder as good a pillow as any. Cigarettes
on the townhouse balcony, blister comparisons in the bedroom. The sun came up and the
tour ended its vertical phase.