by Peter Nelson
You cannot imagine.
I got here on Queen’s Birthday weekend and it was so crowded there was not even elbow room in the streets. Never seen such a touristy town. Makes Niagara Falls look like an undiscovered virgin wilderness. And all along the road hitching here, I was entertained with singularly depressing tales of how tight the job situation was. And for an unskilled foreigner like me with no work permit? Dream on, buddy …
And the situation turns out to be even worse than my worst expectations. Skiing jobs? Forget it. The waiting list for jobs on the ski run is full for the next two seasons! There must be 200 foreign freaks here, all looking for work, all waiting to ski, all starving to death. What this town needs is a cheap crash pad.
Come to think of it, it has one. And I’m in it. Eureka House, Queenstown’s version of Auckland’s infamous Ravenhall rooming house. Only instead of lonely old men, here you get aimless young people. Hard to say which is preferable. At least the old codgers were quiet. Ah well, but who needs sleep when the house is filled with music like this — Dylan, Cat Stevens, Deep Purple, the Moody Blues, Melanie, Simon & Carbuncle, Elton John …
“How does it feel, how does it feel, to be on your own, with no direction home …”
Leaving one’s door ajar is the sociable thing to do at Eureka House. An unwritten house rule. Mainly because the front rooms upstairs have the only heaters in the whole building, so those of us lucky enough to inhabit those rooms keep our doors helpfully open. Contributing our share of the meager heat to the communal hallway / ski maintenance workshop / spiritual encounter center. The only time, strangely enough, when a door is closed is when there’s a party happening inside that room. And that sweet autumnal smell as of burning hay drifts out from under the door. Only, as we know, it ain’t hay …
Denise next door asking me do I want any shirts ironed. As if. Hey babe will you marry me. My shirts, I believe, have never known that particular domestic luxury.
Raining today, a joyful deluge which the whole town celebrates. Because every large cool pearly drop which falls down here means a sister flake of snow is falling up on the mountains. The whole town’s hushed, expectant, waiting for the snow.
The pulchritudinous passions of Peter Priapus. A scant six weeks ago he left the lithe lioness with whom he’d leapt into limbo. Six tawny weeks ago. Seems like six bloody lifetimes. Moving on then, tucking his sad shirts into the wrinkled oblivion of his well-worn backpack. Unpacking to discover amongst the lonely folds of clothing a single long strand of hair. And wondering could it be hers.
‘What fools we mortals be.’
‘Je te cacherai et je te garderai.’
And wondering could it be her.