I sit at table 8. I know this because there is a numbered disk hanging from a glass bead and wire monkey’s tail. It sits on the table with a small, delicate white bowl of sea salt. This monkey wears a crown of tiny pink beads, with larger gold beads in a row of six up its centre and across its peaks. It has large pink eyes and a face, or mask, of tiny gold beads. Due to rain, table 8 is pushed into a corner against the, usually open, thick glass partition. I sit on a padded bench, which runs the length of the allotted eating area of this passionately organic large space. The outside tables and chairs are stacked in a dry corner. Their numbered monkeys are hooked, in a row, by their legs, over the horizontal edge of a folded table. Their tails in the air like a naturist cancan. Flooded grey pavers glint and reflect shrubbery and a ghostly, heritage-listed, reset set of hewn beams that tautly tilt and skew a pooling shade sail of aqueous liquors. There are two men opposite me in a passionate exchange about ‘next week’. The staff are fractured, coffee and cake seems complicated. There is a din. They offer a slow, chatty service, nightly cooking classes and a naturopathic dispensary. A chalkboard above the servery is almost Hebraic with a platitude about happiness. A plate comes garnished with something crimson and unknown and sliced kiwi. I also eat its fur. There is a little boy spinning in circles near me, a little car in each hand. His mother and companion, next to me, in diamonds and designer clothes, loudly discuss just how long it will take for someone to speak to you in this town, before anyone knows you, and how having kids helps the process. They could afford and wear Dame Westwood’s perfect, plaid Anglomania tailoring, but not her manifesto, her one thousand and one interrelated decisions about silk, technique and resistance. His is the ideal tousle of flaxen corkscrews. He is a beautiful child in oversize OshKosh. Exhausted, exasperated, he stands in the open doorway and pees through his baggy, striped pants onto his rain boots. Her reaction is nervous, slow and falsely calm. She does not wish to irrevocably damage his male psyche and changes his offending clothes in the courtyard. I speak, ‘It could be worse.’ She ignores the little puddle he has made. Those entering and leaving through this ancillary door, like fairies, spread his DNA through these exotic, organic aisles, through this town. His trajectory of rich, white privilege has begun. He returns to the table and drives his little cars through a monkey’s legs, beneath its belly and out the other side. And again. Sometimes he crashes them together. His mother reaffirms that he is wonderful and that he has made a bridge. My coffee card is clipped as though I am travelling. After nine coffees the next is free.
Meredith Wattison, born 1963, a poet and essayist, her 6 books of poetry are Psyche’s Circus (Poetry Australia, 1989), Judith’s Do (Penguin Australia, 1996), Fishwife (Five Islands Press, 2001), The Nihilist Line (Five Islands Press, 2003), Basket of Sunlight (Puncher & Wattmann, 2007) and terra bravura (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), shortlisted for the 2016 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize. Her recent essays have appeared in Cordite, Rabbit and Plumwood Mountain.