Finally!…lunch time..I squeezed our basket shopping trolley between the seats to a table in the crowded Zuma’s Café there at the Central market. We come to this café for lunch every time we come to the market, which is about once a month..it is always crowded at lunchtime..a popular spot…lots of noise..lots of noise…
Michael, the tall Greek bloke who runs it, has a habit of looking around while he is talking to you..like he cannot stop keeping an eye on the running of the place..
“That girl in the blue dress” I button-hole him “ Is she crying or laughing or just shielding her eyes?”
Michael looks about as he answers..
“Oh she’s crying alright..” he nonchalantly answers…somehow , his dead-certain banality annoys me.
“You seem pretty certain of that”.. I frown.
“Yeah..cause it’s written on the back of the photograph … (he makes quotation marks with his fingers) ; “ London…Girl crying”….He wrote what and where it is on every one of the photographs…”
“Yeah..old bloke a couple of houses down from me…I knew him just to say hello every now and then…well..he died and his daughter was cleaning out the garage…she was carrying this heavy box and I saw her and I went to help her…it was full of these small , empty picture frames..these ones here on the wall..and I suddenly got the idea to put some sort of pictures in them and hang them on that wall…so I asked her if I could have them to do just that…and she pointed to another box and asked if I wanted some pictures to put in them , because she was going to throw those out too..”
“Throw out his pictures?” I couldn’t understand that.
“Yeah..you see , they weren’t family pics or anything…just as you see here on the wall..The old bloke wandered aimlessly around Europe back in the sixties with a camera taking these random, candid pictures of people, places and things..anything..with no apparent theme in mind…just click, click, click!..and he wrote a name and location on every one…hundreds of them!”
I gazed along the wall of framed photos…buses, street-scapes..random people..strange little people with quirky dress and sometimes doing strange things..pictures from upstair rooms of dark or lighted corners of streets outside..cars going past…abstracts of anonymity..
“That one with the young man on the stairs fiddling with the model building?”..I ask.
“Rome..; Architectural student making finishing touches to his exam model.” Michael quoted from memory. “That interested me” he added.
“…and that one?” I continue..
“…er..can’t remember..I think ; “Leeds…; Lady waiting for bus”..
“Of course she’s waiting for a bus…it’s a bus stop!” I protest..but I see he’s tired of the game and is taking the mick.. We changed subject and he told me about his holiday to Portugal…
We ordered lunch..and from where I sat , I would look up from my meal and I would see the girl in the blue dress….The picture is obviously from the mid-sixties, as she is wearing a mini-skirt of modest proportions, while the older folk around are still dressed in the gloomy, frumpy style of the fifties..There is a fountain in the background and thousands of pigeons milling around on the ground ..a man stands behind a stall of a kind with a hand drawn sign on the counter requesting : “Please return these”..I cannot quite make out what “these” are, but I would guess from all the pigeons they may be small containers for grains to feed to the birds…
But the scene threw me back to a time in my youth, when I was a shy lad..I was an apprentice..about sixteen years old…I used to catch the train to work and about four stops before I had to get off the train, this young woman..a girl then, around the same age as myself, I would say..got on and used to stand at the opposite side of the compartment….
The “compartment” was the open-spaced baggage-car that was always in the middle of the passenger carriages. It was peculiar to the Sth. Aust’ Railways, being based on the American system of rail. As such, it carried those workmen in their overalls and their bags, or sometimes pushbikes in a loose aggregate of silence and styles and dirt…this is where that young woman stood out…she was pure “Carnaby Street”…from her petite shoes to her little red shoulder-strap bag…white stockings, mini-skirt and cute cap…I fell in love with that girl…but damn if I wasn’t too shy (in those days), and perhaps a bit too “working-class” in my overalls, to say a word..and she must have been as shy, the same, because for all that winter and into the summer, we would stand at diagonal point to each other across the carriage, and in that atmosphere of commuter stolidness and silence, we would pretend to be “cold-glancing” around the carriage and then ..our eyes would meet!…(I can close my eyes and see her now..god!..why oh why was I so flamin’ shy?…) and just for that moment we would melt into each other…any of you who have had that experience will know what I mean…our eyes would swim in the other’s lake-of-the-soul..for just that flashing moment..and oh!..the ache of want was almost unbearable..but you had to be careful, because while the commuting public does have the impassive stare of the “undead”, it is all eyes and all ears…”…the eyes are not satisfied with seeing nor the ears filled with hearing..” Ecclesiastes, I believe.
But you know, I never did get to meet her or even say hello..and perhaps it is better that way…for I do believe that for many years afterwards, I sought,( as we all seem fated to do, from when we grow from the child to the adult..we always seek THAT SINGULAR LOVE most denied…) in my male hunger for women , the ideal of that youthful desire.
They do say, and quite truthfully, I believe, that the journey is better than the arriving..so perhaps the “hunger” is better than the “feasting”…but I don’t know….there certainly is some regret…some deep regret…
The girl in the blue dress has her head bent down, with one arm crooked across her waist and the other with her hand cupped over her mouth and partly over her eyes…she looks like she is crying because of something..I can’t stop stealing glances at her..I try not to look too obvious..
I think I may be falling in love with the girl in the blue dress.