Between Pine Creek in the Northern Territory and Adelaide lies The Best Op Shop in the World. Before I hitched into central Australia I didn't really understand the night cold. The cold cruelled away from the coast and into my landbound body like a nasty rumour by the time I hit Tennant Creek. A dearth of inland water at the roadhouse showers meant a new kind of torture - pinholes shot at my body mercilessly until the timer stopped after four minutes. Then I was stuck with no clothes on, in the freezing cold again.
In the morning I walked into town to find an op shop that sold a woolly jumper. Friendly truckies pointed me to the place. Inside, a weathered man who looked like he'd been driving trucks or droving for a lifetime handed me a stick of incense with the friendly gesture of a sister. He sold horse harness, clothes, urns, camera film, spare tyres, artifacts and woolly jumpers. When a man like that hands you a stick of incense anywhere, let alone the hard highway town of Tennant Creek, you will remember him.
He had long diamante earrings reaching to his throat. He wore a camo army surplus jacket and a mini skirt. His legs were lanky, brown and sinewy and his hair blonde. He told me that he'd lived in Tennant Creek for twenty years. He looked tough. I certainly wouldn't have brawled with him. He approved of my woolly jumper choice and kissed my cheek with leathery lips. I've still got no idea whether he was trans this or that. No one else in the town seemed to know or care. He knew who he was and that is all that matters.
I left Tennant Creek and hitched south. I spent the next six months in a comfortable parkland conversation with Adelaide academics and a sideways sleazy knowledge of the Mile End Cock and Bull. My only memory of Tennant Creek now, the highway town smacked into the middle of our country, is that awesome op shop and the one man who knew who he was.