Human Aquarium. Part Three
Once again the Reverend gets into the social swim
at his local shopping centre, and dips his toes in at the deep end of..
The Human Aquarium
And lo! As the traditional, horrible, humid, Summer swelter envelopes the town once more, the Human Aquarium that is the Boodumba Shopping Centre, provides a pleasant, climate-controlled Habitat Refuge for all the heat-stressed human casualties of Global Warming. (Well as long as they have money to spend that is. The miserly Boodumba Management have provided no more than 3 (three) benches for the public to sit on in the entire shopping centre.)
Clearly if you’re not shopping or sitting in a cafe or otherwise spending money, there is no place for you in the air-conditioned comfort of the Aquarium. But this is nothing new. Urban Planners and their ilk have for some decades been transforming the concept of Public Space, from being somewhere you could hang out for free, to a kind of interzone which is basically no more than a transport corridor to allow you to proceed to your next commercial destination. No loitering is encouraged of course, nonetheless, despite the best efforts of social engineers, vestigial traces of Community still manage to survive in the odd, forgotten corner or two.
I push these thoughts aside and quickly lay claim to the only vacant seat in the establishment, as Desert people with the thin ankles of nomads parade in caravanserai before me, swathed in shawls and scarves and sandals. I wonder what they think of air-conditioning. An Aboriginal woman with a face from the Stone Age and a Sci-Fi haircut from the not-too-distant-Future shuffles by after them. The long planes of her archaic cheekbones look like they’ve been hacked out of teak by a stone axe…
An interestingly dimorphic couple stroll by with a pram. She is a tiny Thai/Burmese looking girl, no more than five feet high. She wears a long Summer dress with an open
back, which exposes a writhing, full-length Dragon tattoo
clambering ferociously up her spine.
Her partner, a gangling Westerner with a crew cut and no apparent dress sense, would, by contrast, stand around the six foot four mark. He pushes the pram while she consults her list.
Their baby surveys the world with wide, dark eyes,
as she chews thoughtfully on a toy, stuffed rabbit.
THE MUSHROOM WOMAN..
The diminutive Mushroom Woman, on the other hand, would only reach about four foot nine inches at best. Both she and I have been coming to Boodumba for many years
but despite this I have never seen her face.
This is mainly because she always wears a giant, old-fashioned “sun hat” with a wide brim, that almost entirely envelopes her. Further obscuring her face is the terrible curvature of the spine she suffers from, causing her neck and head to be angled down towards the ground rather than ‘face forward’. She shuffles slowly forward with the aid of a walking frame and both of her legs are encased in old-fashioned metal calipers as well.
Each day this frail, tiny woman in the shape of a question mark makes the journey to Boodumba and hobbles painfully into the chemist. There they dose her with whatever mysterious potion it is that helps her continue living. She waits in a chair while the young chemist staff fuss over her and prepare her medications.
Then she hobbles out to the Taxi Rank for the journey home.
I have a good view of the Rank from my usual table in the Coffee Shop, so I have seen the ritual of getting her into a taxi many times. She’s so frail she can’t enter the vehicle herself and requires some assistance.
Usually it takes two people to manoeuvre her into a taxi, the taxi driver and the assistance of whatever Good Samaritan happens to be standing at the rank that day. (Happily there always seems to be someone willing to take the time to help. Indeed, I suppose that one day it will be my turn to carefully guide those thin, fragile limbs.) Then, with the Samaritan and the Driver each supporting a frail shoulder, she is lifted and fitted awkwardly into the front seat. Her legs are lifted in next and her walking frame stowed away in the back. A few words and that day’s Samaritan wanders off while the Taxi takes her to wherever the lonely, hole-in-the-wall bedsit is that she ekes her fragile existence out in. Not sure how the driver gets her out of the Taxi at the other end.
All in all, her daily pilgrimage to the Chemist seems like a major operation, and I have sometimes wondered why they don’t just send someone out to deliver her medications each day. But perhaps she has reasons of her own for making this arduous Odyssey each day. Perhaps she needs to get out the front door, despite the difficulty and discomfort of the journey, to stop the walls from closing in, and to stay in touch with the Pulse of Life or merely to preserve her sense of independance.
Or maybe she’s just one of those tough, old birds you get, you know the type, raised poor in the Country, grew up during the Depression and WW2, etc, etc, the type who doesn’t even notice if things are a bit tough, because Life’s always been a bit tough and you don’t grumble about it, you just get on with what needs to be done.
At the bus-stop outside Boodumba, I get to talking to Rebekah, the aged Transsexual. To be frank, the poor old dear is probably the worst looking Trannie I’ve seen. Certainly she’s the most decrepit. Despite sporting a pair of hormone induced breasts the size of golf balls, she basically looks like a wrinkled, skinny old man with long, greasy, straggly hair, that had been crudely dyed red sometime ago but now a couple of inches of silvery roots show.
Wrinkled and toothless, the thickly applied make-up runs down her ravaged face, as she sweats profusely in the relentless heat and humidity.
We bitch about the Heat, the infrequency of the buses and the high bastardry of the CentreLink Officials who are trying to bully poor old Rebekah off the Disability Pension..
“I’m a sixty year old transgender with AIDS“, she spits out in disgust, “Who’s going to give ME a fucking job??!”
Yes, she has a point; her prospects of employment are pretty much Nil, even if she was well enough to work. Unless, of course, she could luck into one of those phony “Window Dressing” type of jobs, you know, where the government or some big company hires someone who is clearly disabled for a high visibility (if basically pointless) position, so that the Suits can boast about their great sense of Corporate Compassion.
Really if there was any justice in life, old Rebekah should have been awarded a Pension purely as a reward for making it this far, what with Life and the Odds stacked up against her as they are.
The bus comes eventually and we go and sit in separate seats to soak up the air-conditioned comfort.
It’s way too hot for further talk.
Still I wave sociably and call out to her, “Take care!” as I get off at my stop. The bus lurches off into the heat haze.
But I never do see Rebekah again.
Later on Rumour tells me that she’s dead.
“Pills”, somebody said.
The Reverend Hellfire is..
well, you know..he’s that guy!
~ by reverendhellfire on December 18, 2016.