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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Waiting for Galatea

I guess she was half black, but what do I know. She was head and shoulders taller than me. Straight hair, waxy chocolate complexion, in need of something to give her system a kick.

The Habit gets some tourists but most of the regulars are locals who like the coffee or the chat, and they do a cheap breakfast which is what draws me in from time to time.

The Asian waitress slipped a plate of concentrated calories on to the table in front of me and caught the tall woman’s eye. ‘Can I get you something?’

‘Thanks. I’m waiting for someone.’

As I worked my way around the plate I imagined what he would be like. When someone came in through the door we looked up together. There was a girl with a message from the waitress’s boyfriend and they spoke together in low tones over the counter for a couple of minutes. When she’d gone a delivery man came in with two crates of fruit-juice.

The tall woman left her table and walked to the door, straining her neck to look up and down Goodramgate. She sighed and returned to her chair. We exchanged smiles. I don’t know what mine was like because it was accomplished with a mouth full of toast and bacon, but hers was tired, resigned; a smile which said this-is-not-gonna-happen.

I wondered if I should offer her hope, mention how difficult it was to park or come with a platitude about the reliability of public transport in the early 21st century. But I didn’t want to make it worse.

I was at the mopping-up stage when the next customer arrived. The tall woman came to her feet immediately and their faces lit up, I supposed with relief, but when I think about the moment now, it was more than that.

The newcomer was past her prime. If the 21st June is the height of summer, she was somewhere around the beginning of August. She looked good and if she’d been let in on my metaphor she’d probably have seen herself at some point towards the end of May.

They touched fingers and the second one slipped her coat from her shoulders and said something I couldn’t hear. The tall one whispered the other’s name, ‘Galatea.’

The waitress left the bar and came over to them with her pad. ‘Ready to order?’

Neither of the women acknowledged her. Their moment had rendered all of us invisible and mute. Outside of Galatea and her lover there may have been shadows and rhythms but nothing of any account.

2 Responses to “Waiting for Galatea”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Enjoyed this piece especially the metaphor and the way you built on it. I want to say it reads, the metaphor that is, like something McIlvanney would have written but since I’m reading ‘Weekend’ at the moment it’s like I’ve got this flavour in my mouth that brings out the McIlvanney in everything.

    My first reaction to the piece as a whole is that it needs more. On second reading I realise that that’s just me wanting more. An important distinction. The hard thing in a piece as brief as this is to know just how much you can get away with not saying. It’s a hard call but I think it works.

    jb says: All of these are questions for me, Jim. It’s nice to experiment with short forms, though. I’m more attuned to the long haul where there is space to develop things slowly. I’m only now realising how important word-choice is in short pieces.

  2. Kathleen says:

    It’s a gem as is.

    jb: (blushing pink)