I was having a sandwich and a cup of coffee for lunch and reading the excellent Age newspaper (an example of its genius was that last year it claimed of my show Christ on a Bike "His claims to be the new Messiah don't quite ring true." Well, you don't say.)
I had looked at the main news section and had moved on to the tabloid-style A3 bit when a woman came across from another table and said "Have you finished with the main bit, because it's the only bit I don't have?"
I got the impression she thought I was reading a copy of the paper already left in the cafe, but I wasn't. I'd bought it myself for $1.20. And although I had had a good browse I felt that I had more to get out of the paper, especially as the A3 section was looking a bit rubbish already.
So I said, "No".
She looked at me slightly askew as if to say, "But you're not reading it, so why can't I read it."
And I looked at her slightly askew (but in the opposite direction) as if to say "Because I might want to read it again in a minute and anyway it's my own paper and maybe I don't want to give it to you. I believe they may have some more copies in the newsagent. It costs $1.20."
It was quite a complicated concept to get across in a look and I think she assumed I was about to sneeze or something because she went away.
As it happens I did go back to the main section and read some more of it. I got a few anticipatory glances from the penny-pinching woman who couldn't wait to get her hands on my property.
But in all honesty by the time I had finished my lunch I had got everything I was ever going to get out of the Age paper of the 30th April 2003.
A voice in my head was saying "Oh go on, leave her the paper she so clearly covets."
But another voice was saying "No. I may want to read some of it later in my room."
A third voice was saying "No you won't. But fuck the bitch anyway. Take it and put it in a bin."
The first voice (who had been responsible for me carrying that suitcase up those stairs all those months ago) was upset by the unnecessary language and sentiments of the third voice and unconvinced by the shilly-shallying of the second voice, but he was out-voted on this occassion and I uncharitably took the paper away with me.
The minute I was gone, the woman was on her feet and at my table, rummaging through the sections I had left behind. I could see her disappointment as she realised the prize she sought, the one ray of light in her dull existence, had gone. Her face fell.
I waved the paper in the air, and then ripped it up in front of her astonished face, saying "Don't you understand, this was my own paper? Why should I share it with you?"
OK I didn't do that, but I felt like doing that, as well as being guilty about my lack of charity.
Later in my room I pretended to read a bit of the paper again, so that my second voice felt like he was vindicated in his decision.
But all four of us knew it was a lie.