Bourke Street, 4pm. East side
The few completed buildings were tucked in amongst the rubble of the rest. Flat, uniform, narrow grey shopfronts. Featureless and anonymous, and almost as drab as the building sites.
Melbourne was a building site. Black-painted or raw pine veneer hoardings took up half the footpaths, with huge industrial scaffolds crowding in from the road, making the walkway so narrow that people had to pass each other in single file. The pedestrians on the path competed for space with the electric bicycles of the food delivery people.
Bourke Street, 8pm. West side
The bike shops were gone. Instead, the whole street was a row of tiny restaurants. Tantalising scents wafted out of each. Here something sesame, there a spicy chilli that got up her nose, over there a spice she didn’t recognise. Inside patrons crowded together on stools, so close they were almost touching.
Quick, fast food. In one store she saw huge bowls noodle soup. In another, dumplings. In a third a rice dish served with something she couldn’t identify.
There were queues outside every tiny shopfront. Good-natured couples laughing and talking as they waited to be fed.