Updated: Feb 20
I sat at a small wooden table in the window of the cafe in Redfern and looked outside at the drizzling rain. Pedestrians with shoulders hunched, dressed in Saturday morning workout gear, pulled the hoods of their black and grey rain jackets over their heads as they tramped along the wet footpath. The rich earthy aroma of espresso coffee filled the warm dry space inside.
A tall barista with curly dark hair and large sunken eyes walked out from behind the steaming La Marzocco machine and placed a menu on the table.
I looked up at him. ‘Could I have an espresso with one sugar, please?’
He gave a little nod, walked back behind the counter and lifted a small brown cup off the top of the machine.
Matt Jackson walked in the door dressed in trainers, shorts and a dark hooded sweatshirt. He sat down in front of me and smiled. ‘Good morning, Dave, thanks for meeting me. Have you ordered?’
‘Yeah, just a coffee. Thanks for coming all the way to Redfern.’
The barista slid a little cup filled with a dribble of black liquid and golden froth in front of me. Matt glanced up at him. ‘Could I have a long black, please?’
The barista walked away, and Matt scratched his chin. As usual, he started talking without any preface or context. ‘I might have a problem with the humanoid character, Hyper Ten. I’m not sure he’s coming across as being credible. Or maybe that his articulation isn’t credible. I don’t know. There’s something ...’
I took a sip of coffee and leaned back into the Bentwood chair. ‘I’m certainly no sci-fi expert, Matt, but I think the issue is not so much what you’ve written. It’s what everyone has written before you. Speculative fiction is full of dysfunctional robots and humanoids, and everyone has had a go at it, and everything has been copied. Kubrick’s Hal has been copied, Yul Brynner’s gunslinger in Westworld has been copied. Even Douglas Adams’ depressive Marvin in The Hitchhikers Guide, was blatantly plagiarised by Disney in Rogue One. We’ve probably reached the point where we now have copies of copies. Any reference to an original idea or character is lost.’
The barista placed Matt’s long black on the table. Matt took a sip and looked out the window. ‘Maybe Hyper Ten is too aware for his own good.’
I shrugged. ‘The humanoid in Blade Runner didn’t know he was a robot.’
Matt turned back to his coffee and rested his chin in an open palm.
I took another sip of coffee and sighed. ‘Sorry, Matt. That didn’t help. But Hyper Ten does seem to struggle with the human condition he’s not part of.’
Matt lifted his head and looked at his long black. ‘You know, I think the only reason I got this is that this place is too cool to go and order a cappuccino.’
I threw down the last drops of my coffee. I felt like running my tongue around the inside of the cup but stopped myself. ‘That might be it. Internal conflict. You know how this works, Matt. I reckon so many gay guys at high school pretend they’re straight and play sport. The non neuro-typical people at a dinner party try to slip a word in here and there so they don’t get noticed. And none of them are aware of their internal conflict.’
Matt looked up and scratched his chin. ‘You mean a bit like yourself.’
I blinked and stared at Matt. ‘What?'
Matt glanced at me for a moment then frowned and looked down into his long black.
‘Um ... nothing.’
I swallowed and felt myself begin to frown. ‘What internal conflicts do I have?’
Matt shook his head. ‘You don’t have any, Dave. I was just trying to be funny. Let’s forget I said that.’
I kept my eyes on Matt as the barista lifted my little brown cup off the table.
‘Can I get you another coffee?’
Still staring at Matt, I said, ‘Could I have another espresso and the smashed avocado with poached eggs, please?’
Matt glanced at me, tried not to smile and looked up at the barista. ‘Yeah, I’ll have the same but with a long black.’
Then he stopped. A smile broke over his face and he began to laugh. ‘Actually, could I have a bacon and egg roll with sweet chilli sauce and a large mocha, please?’
He stopped for a second. ‘Maybe make that two bacon and egg rolls.’
Text - David Benn (with Matt Jackson's blushing editorial supervision in a collaborative culmination, with no ill will between SSOA emerging writers evident and the whole piece being self-reflective, in a Parisian commune existential creative crisis kind of way).
Photos - Wix.