Hashtag #CBR

@jamiewilson_ requested some of his favourite Canberra things for his yarn:

BBQ Lennox Gardens + Hanging out Kingston Foreshore + the Precincts & Pockets of #CBR


Traci slowly opened her eyes. The sunshine streaming through the partially opened curtains had been bugging her for a while; causing a red glow to the darkness behind her eyes. She had been conscious of it for some indefinite time now; perhaps hours. But had resisted the temptation to get up in the hope she may fall back asleep.

As she squinted at the painful sight of the sunlight, she became aware of someone sitting on the end of the bed.

‘Are you ok?’ Brad asked, leaning over her. His blue eyes were only a few centimetres from her face, one of his large hands resting on her leg. His black hair was still ruffled from recent sleep.

‘I think so,’ Traci replied, trying to open her eyes fully. ‘I’ve got a sore head, but otherwise, I’m ok. Shouldn’t I be?’

Her voice was still thick with sleep, and her mind wasn’t yet fully functional. But something about the look on Brad’s face and his tone of her voice concerned her.

‘Where were you last night?’ he asked, still leaning over her, the concerned look still on his face.

She tried to remember. Where had she been?

‘Umm…’ she began, starting to sit up. ‘I can’t actually remember.’ She winced as the rush of blood to her head was coupled with an increase in the pain. Her head really hurt now and she was feeling nauseated.

‘Take it easy,’ Brad suggesting, slowly lowering her back to the bed. ‘How does your head feel?’

‘Really sore,’ Traci replied, bringing a hand up to feel her forehead. She felt a large bump and a tender area just above her eyes.

‘What happened?’

Apparently now more confident that she was alive, and wouldn’t attempt to sit up again, Brad leant back, running a hand through his hair.

‘I’m not sure. You came home with that bump on your head. Stumbled out of a taxi at around midnight. I thought you were drunk at first, but you nearly collapsed coming into the foyer. It was lucky I was still awake and sitting out on the balcony. I saw you get out of the taxi. I was going to have a go at you for drinking too much, until I realised you weren’t well.’

Traci struggled to recall anything from the previous night. Had she caught a taxi? But from where? When she tried to recall, everything just seemed blank. She remembered coming home from work and getting ready to go out. But everything after that was a foggy darkness.

She sighed and stared up at the ceiling.

‘I can’t remember anything from about five o’clock yesterday.’

‘You said you were going to hang out with the girls at Kingston Foreshore. I think you were going to have a drink out and then try Morks.’

‘Shit,’ replied Traci. ‘It’s a total blank. But I am starving.’

She tried to sit up again, and perhaps because she was ready for the pain, made it all the way up.

‘And I need something for my head.’

Brad helped her to her feet. She was woozy at first as she stood, but the world slowly came into focus.

Brad looked on dubiously as she slowly padded out of the bedroom.

‘We’ve got that barbie today at Lennox Gardens. Are you going to be okay for that?’

Traci nodded. An hour later, after a light breakfast and two painkillers, she was feeling significantly better. She showered, dressed and prepared for the barbeque.

‘Shall I pop over to Coles or Woolies and grab some meat?’ she asked.

Brad looked at her suspiciously again.

‘I’m not sure you’re well enough yet.’

She sighed and kissed him on the cheek.

‘I’m fine. I need some fresh air but otherwise I feel great.’

Before he could argue any further, she exited their apartment and took the lift down to the ground floor of the large Sky Tower complex. They lived on one of the higher floors, with great views over Woden to the city and lake beyond. The view had been one of the compelling reasons they had bought in the complex, but the proximity of the large shopping centre and bus station nearby were also bonuses.

A short time later she was browsing the aisles of Coles. As she was picking which sausages to buy, she became aware of a woman next to her looking at her intently. Traci glanced over to her and put a hand to her forehead, assuming the woman was staring at the large dark bruise Traci had discovered in the mirror hours earlier.

‘Remember the precincts and pockets,’ the woman said, staring intently into Traci’s eyes, apparently oblivious to the bruise. There was something oddly familiar about the woman. Had it not been for the way she was dressed, Traci would have immediately assumed she was unwell. But her pinstripe suit and trendy glasses made her look ‘like someone’. Traci had always prided herself on her ability to pick ‘success’ and believed much of her career and growing wealth were attributable to her ability not only to network, but to know who to network with.

Despite her strange utterings, everything about this middle-aged woman said ‘success’.

‘Yep, I’ll remember them,’ Traci offered, nodding.

The woman smiled and nodded in return, apparently happy with her response. She picked up some steak, popped it in her basket, and walked away.

Still feeling very disconcerted by the experience, Traci tried to focus again on the sausages. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter. She wasn’t so much bothered by the woman’s cryptic message or strange demeanour, but more that she should have known what the woman was saying. Maybe the bump on her head was affecting the way she heard things. Perhaps the woman had said something entirely different and that’s what Traci had heard.

She decided it would be best not to tell Brad.

She grabbed the nearest sausages and walked to the checkout. As she reached into her bag to pay, she noticed for the first time a crumpled piece of paper protruding from her purse. As she unfolded the paper, she found a picture of a piece of graffiti on a laneway wall. She turned the paper over, and discovered a word printed on the other side: #CBR.

‘Cash or credit?’

Traci looked up, at first not comprehending what the sales assistant was saying. He was looking at her impatiently.

‘Will you be paying via cash or credit?’

Traci apologised and handed over a twenty dollar note, and then absentmindedly took the change. What was this picture and why was it in her wallet? She had no recollection of printing it out, or putting it in her bag; but by its crumpled and worn appearance, it had been folded and unfolded many times. There was also something eerily familiar about it. But why the hashtag on the other side?

As she walked home, she searched the #CBR hashtag on Twitter. She wasn’t surprised to find a multitude of tweets about Canberra; but no clues to the strange picture or why it was in her bag. Again, perhaps a mystery to keep to herself?

Just how badly had she hit her head?

Shortly afterwards she was in the car with Brad, watching the Westfield shopping district whiz past outside her window as he drove them to the lake. As they turned to take his favourite ‘shortcut’ through Hughes, which she thought actually took longer, she became aware of an old bus shelter on the kerbside. It was one of the old Canberra circular concrete models. She found herself staring at it, searching for something inside. As the car went passed, she noticed someone had spray painted large black letters inside:

‘Hughes Pride. 2614’

She considered the message for a moment.

‘Brad…’ she began.

He grunted in reply.

‘You grew up in Belconnen. What’s the postcode for that precinct?’

‘We moved from Cook to Aranda while I was growing up, but the postcode stayed the same: 2614.’

‘I thought so,’ Traci replied, considering why someone would spray paint the wrong postcode inside a bush shelter.

‘How come?’ he asked.

Traci considered telling him the truth. But decided better of it. Maybe it was something to do with Hughes’ fiftieth birthday celebrations.

‘No reason.’

Despite her sore head and strange morning, Traci enjoyed herself at the barbeque. Lennox Gardens was one of her favourite spots on the lake. In particular, she always found the Nara Japanese garden area relaxing and tranquil. The views over the lake to Black Mountain beyond were also impressive; the large mountain appearing to rise up out of the water, majestically imposing itself.

They met Brad’s sister and his family for lunch, and Traci tried to forget the confusing (and painful) start to the day by sitting down on a picnic rug on the lush grass and watching her niece and nephew play chasey. Over in the distance another family was having a BBQ; the sounds of their children’s happy play floating over to her.

Brad, who was sitting on the rug next to her, squinted to try and make out the family more clearly.

‘Is that the Chief Minister?’ he asked, covering his eyes from the sun.

Traci sat up and looked over. The woman in the distance looked over just as she stood up, and waved enthusiastically towards her.

‘Is she waving at you?’ Brad asked, confused.

Traci looked around. Brad’s sister and her husband were busy feeding their children. There was no one else around.

‘Umm, maybe,’ she replied, tentatively raising her hand in return.

‘Do you know her?’ Brad asked.

‘No,’ replied Traci. ‘I don’t think so.’

The woman returned her attention to her family, but for Traci, the day was only getting stranger. She was glad Brad had noticed the incident as well, otherwise she would have been convinced it too was related to her head injury.

The following days were no better for Traci. She became increasingly fascinated by other pieces of graffiti around the city. During her lunch break on Monday she simply stood and stared at a large C that had been spray-painted in the alley-way behind her building. On some level, she felt she should be able to decipher the message, like it was somehow meant for her. She also had spent long periods just staring at the crumpled piece of paper in her pocket, trying to work out what it meant.

On another level, she felt increasingly concerned she was losing her mind.

She’d also spotted two other old bus shelters with ‘postcode’ graffiti on it – one in Kambah with the Weston Creek postcode of 2611, and another in Mawson with the Kambah postcode of 2902.

A conversation with Brad on Tuesday night did nothing to improve things.

‘You going out to that class on Friday night?’ he asked, while preparing dinner.

She had no recollection of organising anything for Friday night. She checked her phone diary and became even more disconcerted. She had blocked out a time from eight to ten at night, with the subject line: #CBR.

She felt for the crumpled piece of paper in her pocket.

‘Umm, maybe. I’m not sure if I’m enjoying it.’

She wasn’t sure if she was willing to admit to Brad how she was feeling; was this all related to her bump on the head? She felt that region of forehead, and perhaps more concerningly, discovered the swelling had all but gone. She knew the dark bruise was receding as well. Could a slight bump like that really make you mentally unstable?

‘I’m surprised by that,’ Brad replied.

‘Sorry,’ Traci replied, jolted back to reality, or the closest thing she had to reality.

‘The class. You’ve been going for months, and you said how much you were enjoying it. You said you were making new friends.’

‘Yeah,’ Traci mumbled in return. ‘Maybe I’ll give it a shot.’

She had no recollection of any ‘class’ or new friends. What was happening to her? Had she started becoming unwell before the head injury? Should she go and see someone? And where had she been going without Brad?

Wednesday was uneventful, and Traci nearly forgot about Brad’s reference to her ‘class’. However, while walking to work on Thursday morning, she again had a strange encounter. She paused briefly at a pedestrian crossing and was waiting for the lights to turn green, when she suddenly heard a voice in her left ear.

‘See you off Bunda tomorrow night,’ it whispered.

Traci literally jumped in the air, and turned to see an unusually attractive and clearly creatively talented man standing next to her smiling; although the smile was rapidly receding. She searched her memory banks, but had no recollection of ever meeting him before.

‘I’m sorry, did I scare you? Sorry Traci,’ he said, touching her gently on the arm.

‘I’m fine,’ she replied, trying to calm down and take stock. The man appeared nice enough, but what did he mean ‘see you off Bunda.’

‘Umm yeah,’ she replied.

‘Shall we walk,’ he suggested, indicating to her the light had changed.

She followed him across the road, still trying to work out if she should try and get more information out of this man about ‘tomorrow night’ or get away from him as fast as she could. If indeed this man existed at all. The decision was made for her when he quickly strode off in the opposite direction to her.

‘See you later…oh and I’ll organise those Canberra Brave tickets for you too. Sorry to scare you.’

She waved after him. She sat down at a nearby park bench and took stock. This man might be referring to her ‘#CBR’ diary entry for tomorrow night. She pulled out the now very crinkled photo of the graffiti and looked again. It had ‘#CBR’ printed on the back. Why had he said: ‘see you off Bunda’?

Then she realised where she had seen it. In alleyway off Bunda street. She and Brad had fallen in love with it; he had taken dozens of photos of it from all angles. Was that where she was supposed to be tomorrow night? In some hidden pocket of Canberra?

She spent the next twenty-four hours stewing over what to do; she seemed to leap between being convinced she was delusional and deciding she had to go to this alleyway tomorrow night and get some answers. In the end, she decided on the latter. Either there would be nothing there, and she would need to see a doctor; or these strange mysterious of the past week might be solved.

‘I’m going to that class, see you later,’ she said to Brad, who kissed her goodbye on the cheek and wished her well.

Fifteen minutes and a bus ride later she was standing on Bunda Street, peering down the dark alleyway, wondering if she could go through with this? What would she find down this dark pocket? Was it safe? Looking around to see if she was being watched, although not sure by whom or why that would matter, she strode as confidently as she could towards the graffiti. The picture was painted on the side of one of the buildings that backed onto the laneway. She didn’t know what she was looking for. Another spray-painted message?

And she saw it. Right at the end of the wall.

A door.

Taking a deep breath and gathering all her resolve she knocked.

A small sliding faceplate was moved at the top of the door, and she heard a voice on the other side.

‘Postcode for Hughes?’ a female voice asked.

Traci opened her mouth to answer, but then realised she wasn’t sure what she would say. What was the postcode for Hughes and how was she supposed to know. But then she recalled her research from earlier in the week. 2605. That was the postcode for Hughes, she knew that. She again opened her mouth to answer, but then reconsidered. What had she seen spray painted on that bus shelter last weekend? 2614. Was that the answer?

‘2614’ she said, trying to sound confident.

She heard unlocking sounds coming from behind the door and it swung open.

‘Welcome back Traci,’ a young woman said holding out a hand to shake. ‘I was a bit worried about you after last weekend.’

Traci nodded and then followed her into the room beyond. It was fairly small, and lit only by candles, but it was full of people, who all who at first impression looked either important, attractive, or both.

As her eyes adjusted she began to make out some of the faces.

‘Is that the Leader of the Opposition,’ Traci asked the woman who had let her in, who was now standing next to her.

‘Yeah, Jeremy always comes. You know that.’

The woman peered over and looked at Traci more closely.

‘Are you ok? How’s your head?’

Traci was distracted for a moment by the people she was seeing around her.

‘These people are all famous,’ she said absent-mindedly, more to herself that the woman standing next to her. Then she realised what she had said.

‘Wait, did you say you know how I hurt my head? Do you know what happened?’

‘Umm yeah, I was with you. I’m Heidi…your friend.’

Traci looked at the woman, and felt a slight hint of recollection, but nothing more. The confusion was obviously apparent on her face.

‘Oh darling, you really hurt yourself. Do you even know where you are?’

Traci shook her head.

‘This is the #CBR club. Exclusive meeting place for the who’s who of social media, arts, events in Canberra. Look around.’

Traci continued to scan the room.

‘Everyone who is anyone comes here. To meet in secret and plan how to make this city amazing. Every local and Federal Politician is here; that guy over there, that’s James from ‘TweetCanberra’; the attractive guy in the suit is Jamie from Coordinate, the communications company.

‘Oh yeah, I met him earlier in the week. He’s how I managed to find this place.’

‘How did you come, if you’ve forgotten all this?’ Heidi asked.

‘I found this piece of paper, and sort of pieced it together from there.’

Heidi looked at the paper.

‘Yeah, we use graffiti to secretly let members know where the next meeting will be and what the passwords are. The first rule of #CBR is that no one talks about #CBR.’

‘You fell and bumped your head at our meeting last week. You said you were fine and put yourself in a taxi before I could help any more. It must have been a nasty bump.’

‘Yeah,’ Traci replied, trying to take stock.

‘These meetings are amazing. We are achieving so much. This is a place where politicians can meet in secret and talk across party lines without fear of leaks; a place where creatives can share ideas without them being stolen.’

‘But Traci, you know all this. After all you, you invented the #CBR Club.’

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