“Surfers Paradise is like Miami on steroids,” slurs Mikey, stumbling into me as he reclaims the almost-empty McDonald’s cup of wine we’re sharing. “You’re a substitute teacher at a drum and bass convention.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
He looks at me like I’m an idiot, like I’m supposed to know what the fuck that means.
“Out of place.”
I glare at him like he’s an asshole. We walk in silence through the Friday night crowds and the confusion of car horns and conflicting dance remixes. Neon lights gleam off fake tits and too much bronzer; club flyers and burger wrappers tumbleweed across the pavement, caught in the strong warm wind blowing in from the Pacific.
I am older than these girls; I am faster in my worn-in running shoes than they are in their new heels. I run down Cavill Avenue towards the Gold Coast’s infamous 57-kilometer beach, past the Aboriginal busker playing his amplified didgeridoo for smokes and change, past the wax museums and the wasted teenagers who look as sculpted and hairless as the celebrity renditions inside. I cross the Esplanade and sink into the soft groomed sand then turn north and run away from Surfers Paradise, the cement and the clubs and the same four Calvin Harris remixes and the stink of cheap late-night kebabs and cheaper aftershave.
The city’s lights illuminate the low clouds and reflect off the undersides of the gulls circling and swooping overhead. I swear these birds don’t fly like this during the day — they save their aerobatics and their white feathers for the night, when no one else is watching, while everyone else is getting drunk and laid. All day, they are dingy grey and jaundice-eyed; they scavenge second-hand trash and steal fries and shit on cars. Now, at night, they are swift and bright.
My feet pound down the glossy margin between the sea and the soft sand, the path the surge glazes every time it attacks and retreats. The city shrinks behind me and the beach grows darker the farther I run. The stars reveal themselves after I’ve been running for half an hour; the only light ahead is the string of yellow orbs marking the jetty at the end of the Spit, and the only light above is the scattering of white stars I recognize as the Southern Cross from the corresponding tattoos half the guys here have.