The Lady in the Cheetah Print

Here’s a little vignette I mucked around with today.  Longer than my usual blog posts I guess, but I think she wanted me to tell a story about her, this Lady in the Cheetah Print, in my mind:


I’ve found myself a comfy spot right next to the window in my favourite cafe.  It’s my Number One Spot in the rankings of places to sit, made even better today because I’m by myself so I get to have the banquette without doing the passive-agressive “you have it, no you have it” thing you are obliged to do if you want to be considered nice, in polite company.  Which I do want, mostly.  Unless I’m with people who know me properly, then I don’t give a shit, but most of them are far far away right now.   I flirted with the Number Two Spot out the front for a moment, Noosa flicked the light on the sunshine for a moment, but the grey-white dimmer clouds have come back in, and anyway, if I sat outside I would have to deal with the retching smell of Subway (The take-away atrocity, not the public transport link.  Similar smell.  Probably how they named it.  I wonder if they have a stale-urine foot long.)

I made myself at home on the Number One seat, and even sneakily put my bag a little outside my area on the bench, so as to softly discourage anyone else taking up Number Three Spot.  So by default I’m getting a massive bargain- Number One and Number Three for the price of one Benny and a Capp.  I gently press my index fingers together under the table- my personal version of a solo high-five.  Sometimes I give myself mental high-fives, but solo high-fives are a step up.  Reserved for successes such as getting car-parks out the front of the shop you are going to at Christmas, or finding a pair of half-price shoes in size 8 (if you are indeed a size 8).

The waiter is on his first day back after a trip up North and so isn’t sick of the sight of all us yet.  He’s calling everyone Sweetie and Darl and bouncing on the balls of his feet as he takes the order of yet another decaf skinny latte with a raspberry and white chocolate muffin.  The ridiculousness of his job and the orders haven’t permeated his epidermis yet.  But they will.  How can they not?  I asked for the wifi password and he said they have taken it away, too many backpackers freeloading downloads I guess, and when I said, no worries, I’ll use the one from the cafe across the road, he laughed and laughed like I was Billy Connolly.  I wish I’d said it with an accent now.  He might have peed his fookin’ pants.

A Lady in Cheetah Prints just walked in and sat down in Number Three Spot.  I say prints because she has a top, pants and shoes, all cheetah.  Or some of them may be leopard.  I’m not really au fait with the identifying patterns of the animal kingdom, but I do know none of them are tiger.  The Lady in the Cheetah Prints didn’t care about my seat saving efforts.  She just whooshed my bag over without blinking.  I heard her tell the waiter it’s her birthday today, and she is of an age where he said “Congratulations” rather than “Happy Birthday”.  She smiled sweetly at him and he bounced off to make some patterns in froth, and I heard her say “wanker” under her breath.

I’m trying not to look at her too much, not because of the Cheetah Prints, even though they are scalding my retinae, but because she has something medical-ey attached to her nose. I don’t know what it is, but it helps her to breathe.  She is so close to me that I can tell that it isn’t in control of her breathing, but rather, she makes it work by doing a little clicky swallow.  From the very tip of the corner of my eye it seems like she pushes her tongue to the roof of her mouth, and then pfftsh, a puff of oxygen swirls into her nostrils.  I can’t see where the oxygen is coming from but it must be in her supermodel sized handbag, and I wonder how such a tiny little bird can carry around a tank of air all day.  Does it ever run out?  And then what?  I wonder if carrying the tank makes her use more of the oxygen.  I reckon it would.  I reckon she needs a little buggy thing instead.  But I can’t say that, I can’t even look, in case she either: a) thinks I’m rude for looking at her medical-ey things, or b) wants to talk to me.  I don’t like talking to strangers, and especially when they sit so close.

Through the very very pointed corner of my lateral canthus I can that see some of her bone-thin thigh has strayed into my area.  She is flaunting the invisible borders.  If I was Tony Abbot I’d send her scuttling back.  Cheetah print, birth day and medicalness aside, she shouldn’t be in my area.  I wish I had more gumption, as my Nan would say, to tell her to move back, but I just can’t.

I’m trying to ignore the click-pffish and eat my Eggs Benedict, but the noise is really off-putting.  The click makes me think of the shells of my eggs being cracked and that makes me think of raw eggs and that makes me think of chickens birthing those huge ovals and how humans shouldn’t complain about period pain because imagine if you were a chicken and you had to push out a period egg every day instead of a gentle trickle of blood once a month and

Now I can’t eat my eggs.

So I sip my cappuccino instead, but the pffish of the rush of air reminds me of the steam being let off by the barista, and that makes me think of milk and cows lined up having their udders pulled by bits of cold steel and the greenish tinge of the mastitis-ridden milk, and the slops of cow shit being sprayed around and

Now I can’t drink my coffee.

I have to get out of here.  I can’t turn my head to the left, because The Lady in the Cheetah Print is there, but there is no other way to get out- I’m sitting in the window.  The pane that represented my freedom and my eye to the world is now a glazed gaol.  I feel myself going over all hot and clammy, my breathing quickens and even as I try to slow it down, calm it back a notch, my lungs are grabbing for more air more air more air.  Sweat is popping out of my skin- behind my knees, in the folds of my elbows, the pits of my arms.  I am trying to stop it all, bring my processes back to normal, but everything is going out of control and it’s like I’m a train and I’m racing through a long long red tunnel and instead of a prick of light at the end there’s just brown

I open my eyes and The Lady in the Cheetah Print is leaning over me, her eyes, rheumy blue and wet are staring into mine and she has somehow disattached the medical-ey thing and is waving it in front of my nostrils.  It smells like talcum powder and Tabu with a tinge of mothballs, and I smile at her and she smiles back as the waiter comes flouncing over with some “water for the fainter”.  We look at each other, The Lady in the Cheetah Print and I, our mouths engraving the same shape into the air, “wanker”.


…From The Ashers

PS  Tell me what you reckon about this kind of post… I often have these little people jostling about in my grey matter- do you like ’em?  Or should they just stay up there and rattle around?