By Vita Forest
9am in the morning and it’s already 28 degrees C. Driving through the drowsy streets and parking the car a few blocks away, not even attempting the crawl into the car park. (It’s the Saturday before Christmas and all that. But we still need groceries).
Unloading my pull-along shopping trolley and pulling it behind me under the trees and the high rises. Glancing at the current crop in the shared veggie garden at the side the apartment block near the park (cherry tomatoes, beans). A white haired couple walking hand in hand, he in long grey pants and a tie, she in crisp white linen. A stroll in the cool of the pine trees. Crossing paths with a swaybacked pregnant woman, pushing a pram. Empty at the moment, perhaps brought along just in case?
Doors sliding back at the entry to the shopping centre like lips stretching into a fake smile. A blast of cold air and competing pop songs greeting me. Shoppers striding back and forth, past scrolling billboards and an older couple sitting primly and silently in tall black winged armchairs. The ambient music of the centre entreats us to go “walking in a winter wonderland.” Sweat dripping down by back, lips pursed in concentration.
Swinging off the main path and around to the escalator down to the supermarket. Santa cocooned in scarlet and fur, awaiting visits from children in the line already stretching out of sight. At the front of the queue, a woman, her long hair straightened, holding two chihuahuas… Detouring to the toilets and almost running into a Dad and Daughter.
“Stop!” she squeals at him and bends down slowly to carefully lift the yellow elastic strap back up over her ankle from where it has fallen under her heel. Her sandals are blue and yellow and she really likes them. She stands importantly and rocks back and forth on the heels.
In the dumpling shop, the workers stand around a spotlit bench in white robes, gloves, caps and masks. As if they are performing surgery. “Christmas dumplings!” a sign shouts, the casings are green and red but “ALL natural!” apparently. Christmas trees flashing with hot white lights, Sale!
Entering the supermarket and loading my trolley with cherries and nectarines in season. Remembering the cheese, forgetting the rice. Paying for the haul then getting outta there, back onto the hot street beneath the colourless garlands of lights strung between the buildings, resting during the daylight. Back along the road toward the station, the yellow and grey train streaking by over the bridge while the cars duck under it. Past the teenage boys slouching past on scooters and skateboards. Past the park where a toddler claps her hands as her parents feed the pigeons forming a fluttering grey puddle around her. Past “that house with the garden”, neatly trimmed lawn lined with pots and clipped fuschias and roses. Five pots of the footpath “Chilli and Basil plants” written in texta on a piece of cardboard. “Ring the doorbell to buy.” The succulents squatting in terracotta beside them.
The whirr of a machine across the road and a cloud of white dust drifting across the front garden. Turning my head to see what they are doing and tripping and going flying hard onto the footpath, my trolley tipped behind me. Crawling to my feet and inspecting my knees and legs for grazes. Tilting up the trolley and dragging it around the corner to the car. Driving home again, the heel of my hand burning where it hit the concrete.