Danny divided Sydney into two kinds of suburbs — thick bum, where the working classes lived, ate badly, and cleaned for themselves; and thin bum, where the fit and young people ate salads and jogged a lot but almost never cleaned their own homes.


A weak-eyed boy wearing a Sikh’s turban was staring at the electronic noticeboard as if it were something he had been told to eat. Three Catholic nuns gossiped in what Danny thought might be French, or perhaps Spanish — and he heard Hindi and also somewhere else on the platform (far away), Tamil: this was inner-city Sydney, and a crowd like this, warm, expanding, like the convection-powered liquid molecules he remembered from his physics textbook, would envelop and conceal Danny — unlike the other sort of crowd he had seen in Australia, on the platform of a country town or bus station far from Sydney — cold and Caucasian, contracting into itself and stranding you farther and farther away.


The brown man in a white man’s city who is watching other brown men. Danny had studied all the ways this was done, from the amiable glances of the Western Suburbs Indians, smug in their jobs and Toyota Camrys; the easily acquisitive Sab Theek Hai, Bhai? (or, more recently, the mysteriously Jamaican Hey maaan) of the fresh new students in Haymarket, the ones who are running madly across roads; the ostentatiously indifferent I’ve got nothing in common with you, mate glances of the Australian-born children of doctors in Mosman or Castle Hill (Icebox Indians, Danny called them, because they always fore black glasses, and never seemed to sweat, even in summer); and worst of all, those families visiting from Chennai or Malaysia, clicking photos of the beach, or loudly double-checking on the phone with relatives back home exactly which cholesterol medication or marsupial souvenir was needed from Australia.


“Every other cleaner we have is like, ‘I wants to change bedsit,’ and you arrive with polysyllables! How could we let you leave us?”


Because every brown man in Sydney has to beg sooner or later—but not Prakash. He never said sorry. Never. “You’ve been to the reef, haven’t you, Cleaner?” Prakash used to say. “Great Barrier Reef? You’ve gone in the glass-bottomed boat to see all the corals, right? And what do you see? There’s that filthy stingray, hiding squat on the ocean floor, and kicks up mud and it goes fleeing under the glass-bottomed boat with its forked tail, just the most frightened vermin you ever saw. I’m never going to live like that. I’m never going to be a fucking apologist.”


“So why didn’t you talk to her?Why didn’t you ask her for help?”

I didn’t like her boots.”

“Her boots?” Ibrahim, the Pakistani, asked.

Danny had felt, somehow, that this woman with the long black boots was not really for Syria or Syrians: Pay attention to me, she was shouting to her fellow Aussies, pity the illegal immigrant, but pay attention to me.


Sometimes, it was said, raids in the suburbs were led by social workers, “to protect illegals from exploitation.” When they caught you, they asked, “Are you okay, brother?” and gave you a chocolate bar as you were handcuffed.


When you have two lives, you simply double the number of places you want to escape from.


If the church weren’t enough stimulation for the tourists, a glass roof allowed them to peer into a public swimming pool beneath their feet. The tourists understood that this was the real religion of this country: swimming. Down below, in the underground nave that paralleled the one in the church, pilgrims with goggles were thrashing up and down their aqueous prayer lines.