A Cafe, Melbourne Cup

I spent all of last week doomscrolling twitter, wishing for it all to be over. Even though it was finally made clear at 3.30, I was up to watch at least some of it while it was unfolding. What a thing. What a relief. There’s still a lot of damage to be done on the way out of course, but it does feel like we’ve made a big step forward.

I am not quite back in the rhythm of blogging like I was. For example, I have not written about the woman I saw in the cafe on the day of the Melbourne Cup. The table was a long one–three small tables pushed together to make–twelve women in all, six down one side, six down the other and each of the ends unset.

It’s one of those cafes where no noise is muffled, and so the people shout louder and louder in order to be heard, and the louder they shout the louder they must shout, and why don’t cafes take as much care with their acoustics as they do with their menu? A conversation for another day, for now, I am focussed on the woman I saw.

This woman–the one I noticed–sat at the end of one row, her chair pulled slightly away. Everything at an angle: her body, her fascinator, her mood.

Her scowl morphed back and forth into a frown, the veil of the fascinator it seemed magnifying everything. The wrinkles of her frown, her eyeshadow, the crooked eyebrow crayon. Sometime before I got there, she had built a wall of silence, defensiveness and anger and now I had no way of knowing what it might have been.

If she were twelve, you would say that she was sulking. But this was something deeper than sulk. Invisible, but clear. I tried to think at what conversation might have happened to leave her sitting here past dessert and into coffee. Why had she stayed? Why didn’t she leave?

Around her, the other women talked. At some point they had accepted this behaviour and moved on. So alone, this fascinating woman walked along the path of no return.

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