By Mat Smith
I’m hungover and tired and eating brunch outside a café.
A family are at the next table; an older guy, his daughter and a woman in her twenties. He orders for all of them and I instantly dislike him. She’s telling the young girl about wherever she’s from; Sweden, perhaps. I can’t understand why she’s telling her about snow: It’s already one of the warmest days of the year.
He says that he doesn’t like America. He says he doesn’t like Paris because it’s “too French.” I don’t know what this means.
I know that nothing will make sense today.
Ice cream vans remind me of childhood. 99 Flakes, Screwballs with forbidden bubble gum lurking in the bottom, ice cream dribbling down cones and making my hands sticky. Now I’m too old for these fascinations I peer into the vans, intrigued by who might be manning them. And there he was: surprisingly young, tousled blonde hair, open necked polo shirt. He had no customers and filled this void by strumming his guitar. Was it an alternative Pied Piper tune to attract sugar-hungry punters? As I passed, he flashed a toothy grin; no, he was just happy.
For the next hour I am just me.
I sip coffee and watch the people.
A young man hooks my gaze. He is writing. You don’t often see that these days.
He is young but … attractive. I wonder if he would glance at me and see past the shell of motherhood. We would talk of art and of writing and of how it could never work. Then have a delicious affair.
He looks up. I quickly look away and think of groceries.
As I leave I catch the eyes of an elderly man. He averts his gaze. He looks uncomfortable.
By H.S. Quarmby
She shuffled around the supermarket on broken heels, turning her thin ankles. Her thatch of bleached hair obscured most of her face and the childish smudges of makeup. Her clothes were almost rags, once bought for a night club, the tights were laddered, the short dresses ripped and stained. Her whole posture was painful to watch. Bent over, carrying a can of beans, a packet of pasta. The other shoppers turned and stared as she passed; the shop assistant followed her at a distance, watching her shaking hands.