One night in November, another that had somehow become morning while she sat there, Georgie Jutland looked up to see her pale and furious face reflected in the window. Only a moment before she'd been perusing the blueprints for a thirty-two-foot Pain Clark from 1913 which a sailing enthusiast from Manila had posted on his website, but she was bumped by the server and was overtaken by such a silly rush of anger that she had to wonder what was happening to her. Neither the boat nor the bloke in Manila meant a damn thing to her; they were of as little consequence as every other site she'd visited in the last six hours. In fact, she had to struggle to remember how she'd spent the time. She had traipsed through the Uffizi without any more attention than a footsore tourist. She'd stared at a live camera image of a mall in the city of Perth, been to the Frank Zappa fan club of Brazil, seen Francis Drake's chamberpot in the Tower of London and stumbled upon a chat group for world citizens who yearned to be amputees.
Logging on -- what a laugh. They should have called it stepping off. When Georgie sat down before the terminal she was gone in her seat, like a pensioner at the pokies, gone for all money. Into that welter of useless information night after night to confront people and notions she could do without. She didn't know why she bothered except that it ate time. Still, you had to admit that it was nice to be without a body for a while; there was an addictive thrill in being of no age, no gender, with no past. It was an infinite sequence of opening portals, of menus and corridors that let you into brief, painless encounters, where what passed for life was a listless kind of browsing. World without consequence, amen. And in it she felt light as an angel. Besides, it kept her off the sauce.
She swivelled in her seat, snatched up the mug and recoiled as her lips met the cold sarcoma that had formed on the coffee's surface. Beyond her reflection in the window the moony sea seemed to shiver.
Georgie got up and padded across to the kitchen which was separated from the living space by the glossy rampart of benches and domestic appliances. From the freezer she pulled out a bottle and poured herself a serious application of vodka. She stood a while staring back at the great merging space of the living room. It was big enough not to seem crowded, despite the fact that it held an eight-seater dining table, the computer station and the three sofas corralled around the TV at the other end. The whole seaward wall of this top floor was glass and all the curtains were thrown back. Between the house and the lagoon a hundred metres away there was only the front lawn and a few scrubby dunes. Georgie slugged the vodka down at a gulp. It was all sensation and no taste, exactly how a sister once described her. She smiled and put the glass down too loudly on the draining board. A little way along the hall Jim was asleep. The boys were downstairs.
She pulled back the sliding door and stepped out onto the terrace where the air was cool and thick with the smells of stewing seagrass, of brine and limey sand, of thawing bait and the savoury tang of saltbush. The outdoor furniture was beaded with dew. There wasn't breeze enough yet to stir the scalloped hems of the Perrier brolly, but dew this time of year was a sign of wind on the way. White Point sat in the teeth of the Roaring Forties. Here on the midwest coast the wind might not be your friend but it was sure as hell your constant neighbour.
Georgie stood out there longer than was comfortable, until her breasts ached from the chill and her hair felt as though it was shrinking. She saw the moon tip across the lagoon until its last light caught on bow rails and biminis and windscreens, making mooring buoys into fitful, flickering stars. And then it was gone and the sea was dark and blank. Georgie lingered on the cold slate. So much for the real world; these days it gave her about as much pleasure as a childhood dose of codliver oil.
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