The first thing Max saw was a young girl looking down at him with the innocent smile of an angel.
“Hello Max,” she said.
She reached out her hand.
She was dressed in a simple red dress – torn and faded, beggar style.
She was like the cool breeze which woke him – unexpected, refreshing.
“You living here now?”
“I’m not sure what I’m doing.”
“Don’t worry – you staying here as long as you like.”
They talked quietly together.
Angela was only nine years old but already she’d been living on the slab for over two years. She had an answer for every question Max could imagine. Soon he knew the basic rules of the street, especially rule number one – “stay away from the drinkers.”
The slab was a stroll on, stroll off proposition – life in a room without walls. There was no knocking on doors, no time to think and not a moment’s respite – here you are always wide open – public property.
Mid-morning, Padam stepped onto the slab.
“What you thinking Max?”
“You thinking – maybe better me staying in hotel?”
“No – I wasn’t thinking that actually.”
Max hadn’t been thinking much at all – he’d been fascinated by Angela. She was so all-knowing – wise.
“You thinking – maybe room better for me?”
“I hadn’t been.”
But it was a good question. Max had certainly not committed to the slab. Even though he’d slept surprisingly well, and Angela made life on the street appear fascinating in an odd, unimaginable way, it was still a big call to consider the place permanent.
Soon a small crowd grew around them -
“You see that hotel?”
The crowd, as one, followed Padam’s gaze towards the Taj.
“Cheapest room – one thousand dollars one night – you could stay there.”
“No, no, no mate… you’ve got the wrong bloke.”