Devonshire Street Tunnel

There is a tall old man who plays the banjo or the keyboard with his short Asian wife in the Devonshire Street tunnel. They play happy, old songs and everyone just rushes by.

I assume they are married. They wear rings and the same amount of twinkle in their eye.

They murmur to each other between songs about what they will play next. Sometimes he tells her when she sings off tune.

At night they go home to a small apartment and fix dinner and talk about what songs they will play tomorrow. They count silver coins and the man tests out new chords on his banjo.

Further down the tunnel is an even taller rapper. He wears baggy jeans and a puffy jacket and chains swing from his neck.

I assume he is a rapper, though I have never heard him rap. Instead, he changes the beat that is blaring from his amp and rearranges the paper laid out in front of him. He takes his jacket off. Turns the microphone On. Off. On. Shuffles the paper again and changes the beat.

There is a fortune teller with ghost white hair. She sits on a blue milk crate and studies the horse racing section of the newspaper.

Sometimes people sit with her. She talks and they listen. They nod their head slowly, sometimes vigorously, and look at her imploringly. Searching for something profound. Searching for meaning and direction and truth in her words and in her face.

I wonder if she sees things in the columns of numbers she reads in the paper. I wonder if she places bets. I wonder if she wins and if she does, I wonder why the heck she is still sitting on a crate in a grimy tunnel, wedged between the echoing beats of a rapper who doesn’t rap and the river of 9-to-5-ers who don’t have the time.

There is a middle-aged man and a middle-aged woman wearing yellow t-shirts that read “Jesus Loves You”. The man looks directly into my eyes and tries to shove a booklet into my hand. It has a crucifix on the cover and Jesus is on the crucifix. He is covered in blood but he is not quite dead yet.

No, thanks.

There is a weathered man in grey rags who crouches in foetal position on the ground and offers to clean my shoes.

There is a classical pianist who plays a keyboard exquisitely and sells homemade CDs for $10.

There are smiley young people in black aprons offering me a $30 voucher to order my first “Hello Fresh” meal box.

There are more smiley young people with colourful banners, willing me to sign a petition for gay marriage.

And at the very end of the tunnel, a swarm of people blocks the exit. They are hovering, waiting for their morning coffee and they frown at anyone who bumps them as they pass.

The Devonshire Street tunnel is always deafening. Even when it is empty.

I once walked the entire tunnel without passing a single soul the whole way. It was late on a weeknight. The tunnel was cold and the echo of my footsteps bounced off the walls and clipped me across the face.


devonshire st tunnel
Credit: ABC

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