This post, a while in the making, was inspired by icelandpenny who does such things so wonderfully. In reply to my comment on a post of hers, she said Go and settle in somewhere delightful & just see what happens … A reversal of the usual, eh? Let it come to us, instead of rushing around looking for “it.”
The doctor’s waiting room
I sit opposite a balding man with gold-rimmed spectacles, firmly and neatly reposing on his nose. Two deep lines mark his face, one extending down from his nose, one from his mouth. He wears cargo pants, a neat dark speckled shirt, and black crocs and socks. He is semi-reclining, reading a magazine held out in front of him, making a V with his reclining body. His clip-on glasses case is on the chair next to him. He will not forget it when he’s called. He sits quite still, absorbed in Woman’s Day. The main headline on the cover reads 13 dirty sex exposés.
A young couple come in. He saunters, hands in the pockets of his board shorts, bare feet, a long T-shirt which reads “Tuross Heads flathead tournament 2015.” She is large with a long fair ponytail, a floating paisley shirt, black leggings that mould themselves around her calfs, and thongs. As they wait to check in they each stand on one foot, the other curled around the ankle. They move to a seat, he lifting his shirt to scratch his back, she pulling out the mobile phone. He puts his head lightly on her shoulder to read the message and then inserts parallel fingers up his nostril to extract something that he then examines.
Two workmen approach the desk with a 2-metre plank. The older one wears a faded pinkish work shirt and well-worn trousers: the younger one, wild-bearded, dread-locked, has a much newer bright yellow shirt and a neat tool belt around his waist. They too stand on one foot, as they bend to assess the level of the timber, armed with a steel ruler and a red biro, walking up and down along the plank scrutinising it.
The half-head of the receptionist is visible above the desk. Suddenly she stands up and moves behind a half wall, emerging with a pot containing a tall pinky-purple hollyhock, which she takes out to the courtyard, picking up a fallen flower as she returns to her desk.
It’s been a long time coming, that slanting sound of rain. It pops down onto the clear deck tabletop and bounces back out of the circles of ripples. Things form straight vertical lines: the drips from the guttering, the plants in the garden box refreshed after long dry. Straight horizontal lines – the drops on the clotheshorse, along the thin branches of the hakea. Things droop: whole branches, the slightly curly leaves of the pittosporum funnelling the raindrops to the ground
The dog crouches reluctant under the table when it’s walk time. If H gets him outside he hunches down and shakes his head. I relish the excuse not to walk the walk of duty, although a little bit of rain would hardly hurt.
The puddle at the front gate catches the light and draws birds avid for easy drinking. The callistemon and the deck rails are reflected in the sheen of the sheet of water settled on the verandah planks.
In the night thunder crashes, lightning makes Zorro slashes in the darkness.
The words of my order are drowned in the whirr of the machine slicing bread. The operator, short with neat greying hair, stares at the brick wall, reaches automatically for the plastic bag, feeds the sliced loaf into it, and places the next loaf ready. A young woman in black walks purposefully to the drinks refrigerator and releases a 2 litre carton of milk. A bulky middle-aged workman in untidy shorts and worn mustard-coloured boots with the laces tied in a slovenly knot in the second-top hole says, after considering the glass case of cakes for a while, “Two custard tarts please” and carries the white paper bag out to his white ute. A young man, hair shaved to above his ears, specs hooked around his neck like a necklace asks for a loaf of brown in a barely audible voice.
After a brief lull, they come in thick and fast. A dreadlocked workman wearing a Vigden’s Electrical workshirt, 3-day stubble and a brown cap picks up his rockcake in a flat paper bag. A tall woman, well-dressed, pink sunnies perched on the top of her head, fine silver chain dangling between her breasts, buys pink juice. She is so tall the woman with the greying hair has to crane upwards to meet her eyes, as they make arrangements to meet later “if you’ve still got the energy.”
Another lull. The banners and balloons in the used car sales yard move in the stiffening breeze, and the sluggish traffic mutters by on the highway.
The woman from the fruit and veggie shop, crisp in green shorts and top, buys a bag of spinach and feta rolls; the butcher who just sold me a bag of dog bones comes in in his blue and white striped apron for chocolate milk and a pizza. A schoolboy with floppy curly hair leaves his backpack and folder outside and buys sausage rolls.
It’s now 10 am and a stooped woman, well-known to the shop assistants, enters. Her sagging bag is hoiked over her shoulder and rides on her stoop. Her thin hair is combed back and her glasses are round. She chats familiarly to the women behind the counter, and settles down with cheesecake with passion fruit topping, a treat after a morning’s shopping.
The tables are filling up and it’s time for me to stop spying on innocent shoppers and go and do my own shopping.
As I write I wonder. I would hesitate to photograph these people, and yet I am quite happy to sit here appropriating their images in words. Is there a difference? I wonder!