A Slice of St Kilda

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You are at a café. Finished leaves line the street, a wash of browns wrapping the gutters and pavements. They lie shivering in their afterlife; detached, disowned. A myriad of feet brush over their death: hurried heels, bare skin, thongs, paws. Some who own them pause to browse at boutique shops, to smell the beach air, to ask for change. They weave between each other, paths intertwining to ask for direction, to catch up, to ask where to score. Others hasten to start work, to meet a lunch date, to forage for food or refuge. Accents lick your ears, the scent of coffee and stale beer tickle your nose, you watch seagulls’ pester picnickers on a nearby spread of grass.

Empty chairs surround you. An autumn chill infiltrates your patch of sun. A wind streams through. It creeps beneath you, sweeping up the leaves, breathing heavily into your hair. You curl your fingers around your hot mug, drawing its contents to your lips. The fluid feels scorching to your mouth as the cold air tingles against your cheeks. You blow gently on your beverage. Your breath separates its froth, revealing the dark liquid.

You lift your eyes, peering across the road from behind a line of palms. People pass in and out of view from behind taxis, trams, everyday vehicles and vans. Pigeons flirt with death as the traffic flows. A man wails in song, caressing his guitar zealously. Change chimes in his open case.

Assorted couples scatter the street: chatting, browsing, smiling, walking hand-in-hand seemingly indifferent to each others company. A pair settle a table away from you. They relax in their seats, casually blending into the dynamic atmosphere. You eavesdrop on their prattle about their friends’ doings, the slow progress of the apartment construction across the road and the frustrations of work while you inconspicuously eye the street life.

Faces glide by. Lonely faces, still faces. Fraught faces, tight faces. Faces lined with prolonged loneliness, no matter who or what their company. The type of faces that have been exposed to abuse, that have watched themselves indulge in illicitness, that have experienced the harshness and of societies downfalls.

Young faces; old faces. Faces you frequently see yet have never approached. Faces which have carried through life blithely, fairly, averagely. Faces which entail hope; which seem content in the world yet are eager to progress. Faces which observe their surroundings knowledgeably; considerately; open-mindedly.  Faces which appear attentive towards life – their life, and that of their diverse community.

You feel something below you. You glance down. A white terrier sniffs your shoe, its collar streaked in each shade of rainbow. It looks up. Eye to eye we meet. It tilts its head.

How do you view the day, little one?

You peer at it inquisitively.

What do you absorb from the local life?

You lean forward and pat its back.

Are your eyes, ears, skin, tongue and nose taking in your surroundings any differently?

Or is it a day just like any other…actively partaking in yet another slice of St Kilda?

Its owner whistles it in call. You break eye contact. He swaggers away loyally. You drain the last of your drink, re-enter the street and merge once again with those sharing your suburb.

By Eve Kelly

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