I passed the woman earlier, crossing the footbridge over the Yarra, trying to find somewhere to comfortably sit alone and pass some time. She stood out to me because of her clothing and demeanour, both strongly redolent of desperation. A good 10 years older than I, she seems, but dressed like a pre-pubescent girl in a short sundress with a sweetheart neckline, a lace headband decorating her ponytail – the very personification of mutton dressed as lamb. I scoffed internally, and continued on my search.
I back-tracked, eventually, and settled in a place that I had previously passed up. The searing sun made my spot almost unbearable, and as I scoured the balcony for a more suitable seat, there she was. She had beaten me here and taken the seat I most likely would have taken, given the chance.
I have been watching her for the better part of an hour, now. Watching her casual attempts to appear casual. I light a cigarette, even though I have supposedly quit and have no reason to have any on me, beside the fact that they give a lone drinker something to look engrossed with for five minutes at a time. She lights one too. Gives the balcony a nonchalant sweep of the eyes. Stretches her neck, tilts her head, lowers her eyes like a child. It takes someone like me to know how desperately she wants to be spoken to.
A stranger to me, and me a stranger in her town, I nonetheless feel as if I will always be a step behind her, unknowingly following her – finding her in the seat that I would have chosen for myself.