The City’s Last Nice Guy
I arrived home just after midnight, kicked off my heels and slumped on the couch with my phone. What’s the point of living in a big city when no one delivers pizza after 12 am? I then proceeded to do what I always do after a big night and compiled all of the carbohydrates in my kitchen into one deliciously naughty meal. As I sat on the bench piling some cheese and tinned spaghetti onto a piece of bread my housemate walked out and flicked on the kettle.
“Sorry did I wake you?” I said stuffing my face full of cheddar and trying to act somewhat sober.
“No, no I just finished watching the tennis and thought I’d come out to see how your night was.” She offered me a cup of tea but I wasn’t ready to come back down to earth yet so I poured myself a glass of semi-old shiraz and we both curled up on the couch.
This week had been one of the toughest weeks of my life not only because I had just quit my fabulous job but I had essays coming out of my ears and I still hadn’t managed to start packing up my apartment. The thought of leaving behind everything I knew and loved was almost too devastating to bare and that’s why I had accepted his invitation to catch up for a drink this Friday evening.
He was once the little boy next door but there was no naked swimming in my paddling pool. While he played on the other side of the fence I had my eye on the older boy down the road because he had underarm hair. It wasn’t until high school that our paths would cross again but by that time I was too busy flirting with waiters to pay any attention to anyone my own age. Tonight I couldn’t be more different to the girl I was then. I had now lived in the city for half a decade and had learnt that older and hairy didn’t necessarily mean nicer and wiser.
At 7:15pm I hailed a taxi outside my office in Surry Hills and instructed the driver to drop me on the corner of Bridge and George Street. While I’d rather be at home sulking than socialising I knew I had to make an effort to make myself feel better even if that meant forcing myself to have a drink with a relative stranger.
By 7:35pm he was no where to be seen and so I called my girlfriend from outside Establishment. Suits piled into the marble bar and I paced back and forth on my phone.
Midway through my conversation I looked down at my screen and noticed a message. It was from him saying that he was waiting out the front but unless he was an Indian bouncer or a one eyed homeless man he certainly wasn’t here.
“Come on who doesn’t know the entrance to Establishment?” I said to my girlfriend.
“Hold on I have to go find him. I’ll call you later.” I hung up and wondered down the narrow lane way that ran down the side of the bar. I can’t tell you how many times I’d been down here over the years, highly intoxicated questioning suits about their fortunes, stealing a kiss from a Ryan Gosling lookalike and fighting with my ex boyfriend after a wake in the Palmer and Co line.
And then a svelte figure walked around the corner and into sight. I was positively startled to see him, he was tall, handsome and dressed very smart in a navy blazer. A smile so warm and friendly anyone could tell that he wasn’t from around here.
While the guy with the hairy armpits grew up to become a chubby labourer and the waiter I was besotted with remained a slave to the drugs in the hospitality industry, the boy next door had grown into someone who could easily pass for a Heath Ledger’s young successor. A quick Facebook stalk pre meeting confirmed he had it all, the looks, the job AND a stunning girlfriend.
“I hope his girlfriend knows how lucky she is.” My housemate sighed pouring herself another cup of tea.
I nodded my head.
His excitement to be out in the city was infectious and I immediately felt pressure to show him a good time. After all, this was my playground before I became a full time employee and student. Tank Stream Bar was surprisingly full so I had to stop for a moment to ponder where exactly we could get a drink and a seat.
“Why don’t we just go to Establishment?” he questioned all sweet and naive.
“Because it’s a meat market.” I said thinking of all the times i’d gone there with my smoking hot blonde and red headed friends with the sole purpose of bamboozling stressed and overworked invested bankers with our pathetic Charlie’s Angels gimmick.
I had never been there with a male friend before but as it was almost 8 on a Friday and either of us were yet to have a single drink it seemed we had no choice. Lo and behold as we arrived at Establishment there were at least a hundred suits circling the female patrons at the bar like blood thirsty sharks. I took the lead through the male dominated crowd to the garden bar I turned around to see if my friend had managed to stay afloat amidst the wild Friday night feeding frenzy. He looked more amused than intimidated even though he was about twenty years younger than everyone else in the room.
We found a spot on the corner of the bar, I asked for a glass of champagne and he ordered a whiskey sour.
We filled each other in on the last twenty years of our lives and he spoke with great passion and enthusiasm about his job, his girl and his nomadic lifestyle. He even asked about my mother, who has had more contact with him over the years than I ever had. She would tell me how he’d always come in and say hello to her at work if he was shopping close by and when I mentioned to him how sweet that was he just shrugged it off as if it was just the right thing to do.
Gazing around the room I wondered if this is how all men started out. Young and kind, and then the big bad city life suddenly made them greedy and jaded and eventually cheat on their wives.
While I had stopped investing my time in these kinds of bars a long time ago, it felt different being here with a nice man in toe. It was suddenly painfully obvious in a room full of millions of dollars worth of investment portfolios who the richest man was in the city. It certainly wasn’t the banker waker flashing his AMEX but the nice guy who placed a significant value on his lady and who acted with caution when approached by a woman because he knew the risks were just too high.
“Come on let’s go.” I said finishing my glass of champagne and motioning to the door.
It was time to take a trip down the alleyway and back to the 1920’s. I was sure he’d feel more comfortable amongst the dapper gentlemen and the lovely flapper waitresses. First Palmer and Co then The Baxter Inn. His face lit up as he entered the dimly lit basement of Palmer and Co, a waitresses with an ivory peacock feather headband slipped past him and the room was filled with the sweet sound of live swing music. It was like a scene out of Gatsby.
I’m usually a champagne drinker, I like the way that the bubbles dance on my lips and rarely will I decline a glass of pinot noir but tonight it was all about the whiskey and if there was ever a time to order an old fashioned garnished with a slice of orange rind it was now.
The vest clad bartender made our drinks with equal amounts precision and theatre. He swayed to the beat while he muddled each sugar cube and I watched as it evaporated underneath the hard liquor. A delightfully drunk woman sashayed up to my friend and asked him what he did. This is drunk girl code for how much money do you have and will you buy me a drink? Like a true gentlemen he let her down gently and like a true poverty stricken twenty-something she simply shrugged her shoulders and wandered off to the next person.
We perched ourselves on a couple of stools and watched the crowd transform from uptight bankers to a sea of loosen ties and rolled up sleeves. As the whiskey swirled around in my mouth I felt all the drama from the week slowly fade away. I had forgotten how fabulous these old haunts were. Baxter Inn was much of the same just with less suits and better cocktails. One minute we were ordering whiskey sours and the next thing I knew we were both drunk and sifting through the isles of a George Street convenience store discussing how we’d both like to buy back our first family homes.
“Let’s go to Ivy.” he said devouring a packet of chips.
And that is where I as a respectable woman and a tour guide must draw the line.
It was now 11 pm on a Friday night and I was possibly the drunkest I have ever been and I still wasn’t going anywhere near that size 6 body con infested nightclub, not even if you payed me. I followed him to the entrance my nude heels pinching my feet.
“You go straight down there and chuck a left and I will hail a taxi, thank you and goodbye!” I said throwing one arm around him and kissing him on the cheek.
“No. I’ll get a cab with you to make sure you get home safe and then I’ll come back here and meet some friends.” he said looking down the street for a taxi.
“Wait a minute.” My housemate sat up and pushed aside a packet of chocolate biscuits that I had mysteriously found in my bedroom.
“You mean he offered to pay for an entire cab fare to Surry Hills and back to Ivy just to make sure you got home okay?” She said with the same level of shock as if I’d just told her he’d organised a horse-drawn carriage to take me to McDonalds and then to my apartment.
“I know right. I’m lucky if a guy gives me a kebab and pats me on the head.” I said rolling my eyes.
“So what happened?” My housemate looked at me in disbelief and I knew exactly what she was thinking, nice guys like him just don’t exist in this city.
“I insisted that it wasn’t necessary, thanked him again for a wonderful night, then left him at the entrance of Ivy and now here I am with you smelling of whiskey and eating chocolate biscuits.“
She looked shocked, confused then tired. “Well if anything ever happens with his beautiful girlfriend, tell him I’ll go to the Ivy with him.” She said placing her empty tea cup on the bench and turning in for bed.
It makes me sad that we live in a society where finding a nice guy in his early twenties is now considered newsworthy, a rare spectacle to be examined over chocolate biscuits with girlfriends. Since I can remember I’ve written about shitty guys, you know the ones that can never find the time to text you back and I’m sorry if by doing that I’ve given all men a bad rap. You know what they say, life is all about perspective. You can quit your job and worry that you’ll never find anything better or you can be grateful for the experience and excited for the future. Similarly, you can walk into a bar and see a pack of sharks but underneath every tough facade is usually a man riddled with insecurity. Maybe Mr J wasn’t the last nice guy in the city, maybe he was the first of many. Now it was just up to me to be smart enough to spot the dream guy from the beginning.