We met on safari. Not like one in Africa. We were at a pub, watching passersby. I had stopped in after work, taking some time to drink and relax somewhere other than home. As they say, a change is as good as a holiday.
So there I sat with almond coloured beer in hand, looking out the window. I took a journal of short stories to read, but they were too intellectual for that time of day. Instead of reading literature I monitored the people, passing on their way to cars, homes and bus stops. Fat people, skinny people, people who could have been dentists, people who could have been musicians, people who actually were accountants. All sorts. They meandered along at a pace befitting a country city – that being a slow one.
Then a woman wearing a red dress with blue low heeled shoes walked past. Perhaps it was idleness or desperation, but upon seeing her I made a comment aloud. “Those shoes look terrible,” I said.
The women walking past didn’t hear me, I was careful enough for that, and none of the bar staff decided to turn my opinion piece into conversation. As a result, for a few seconds I sat there, painfully knowing that my words would go unresponded, ignored, avoided, and that maybe this was the future for me.
Not that I complained or hated the world for it. As they say, complain and nobody listens, and that’s just the way the world is for some people. That’s when Annabel replied, “They’re great shoes. You have no concept of fashion.” and I felt better.
I was wearing a collared, white t-shirt, pale blue shorts and thongs (a type of footwear in Australia). Nothing to claim fashion understanding. So when Annabel, I later pretended that was her name, suggested I was in no position to criticise I felt resentment. Who was she to mock me? This stranger who had suddenly been a presence, but not form, sitting across from me since before I arrived. She hardly knew me! She was fictitious, completely incapable of even wearing clothing. And this much I noted: ‘What would you know? You’re not wearing anything.’
To this she pointed out that I had, in fact, immediately imagined her body wearing a faded orange knee length skirt and blouse with a red and white flowery pattern on it. She therefore had much more clot on style than I did. Irritably I couldn’t see her naked. She also didn’t have a face. It was a jumbled mash, flicking and changing like numbers on an airport notice board, without the clacking sound or speed. The face still tends to waver, locking on aspects of those I’d known in the past or seen in the street.
She wore red shoes that day too. This appeared to explain the starting of our tete-a-tete. It also extended our discussion from clothing (imagined and physical) to movies and actors and directors. (The beginning of which was caused by the British classic The Red Shoes. Annabel had liked the narrative story-telling and passion of the characters and performances in that film. I liked the girl in it.)
So this is how we met. Two people, theoretically, sitting in a pub looking at stuff that walked past the window. Neither of us happy to let things pass without comment.