Suzanne’s voice was a magpie.
CRAAA. Hey, hi, how are you, is it you? COOROO. Suzanne, yeah, that’s me! And you are? Where should we go? Coffee first? Hot chocolate? CROO-CROO-AAA. Brilliant. How’s your day been? Isn’t this weird? It’s so weird.
Coffees at Gloria Jeans and she bought neither a coffee nor a hot chocolate. Arnott’s TimTam Chiller on a summer morning, and she’s going hiking later. 1000 Steps. God, I’m going to die – just die, she says. She continues: Last time I went there I saw someone from high school and she said hello to me and started walking with me and I just went aaaaahhhhhh and walked ahead. She killed her legs that day, she says, they’ve hated her ever since. I point out I like Suzanne’s heels and she points out that, by chance, we just walked past the shop she bought them from. Not the same one – I don’t usually go to this shopping centre. Fountain Gate is closer. I’m sorry we went to Chadstone then, I say, we could’ve gone to Fountain Gate. Sloth shoulders shrug and she smiles a slow smile. No, no. I’m totally cool with it. I remember she had a necklace in her picture. I’d seen a similar one in a shop and I ask her if she’s been there. No, she says, why? I told her. Oh, she says, I’ve never been, but is it good? I say, yes, it is. Hey, she says, maybe next time we can go.
We stop at a bookstore and my bag almost knocks over a display, but she catches it in time and jokes about being a ninja. It’s been thirty minutes. I threaten to knock off more things and she panics. She’s only an accidental ninja. What was the last book you read? Not sure. Lockie Leonard, probably. I studied that in Year Eight. Oh, me too. Weird. Weird! Haven’t read a book since. Have you tried Murakami? Have you watched the Lockie Leonard show? No, just read the book, like, once. I remember the girl he liked brought him lasagne when his mum was in hospital.
Suzanne corrects me: it was for his whole family. Right. The mum was depressed. I say, yes, she was. Do you like lasagne?
If you could to go any country in the world where would you go?
If you could indulge in any rich thing what would it be?
Dunno. What would you do?
Buy a big old house with a bunch of unnecessary stuff.
I’d buy a house in every country then.
Someone comes up to you and offers you a million dollars a year, but with one condition: you live in a Tiny House. While we talk, her smiles swoop at me.
We’ve reached the rich part of Chadstone with empty stores that have security guards and velvet rugs at the entrance for people to stand in a line on. Suzanne points out that the handbags probably smell good. Down an escalator. A chocolatier’s cage that’s incredibly dim inside – how do they even see the chocolate? I don’t know. I almost say her name, but I don’t. I learn about her preferences – there is one for everything, and I start to notice her high voice more and more. It rises with excitement and just keeps on going. She never goes back down an octave — at least, I think it’s about octaves. Suzanne’s scale is not impressive.
She walks like heels are to her what barefeet are to humans. We sit at couches and my first thought is what happens if someone tries to steal shopping centre couches and she gives me a look like I’m crazy. I mention my favourite movie without saying it’s my favourite and she tells me she wishes they hired a different director. I talk about my favourite musician and from her face I can tell she doesn’t like hip-hop. She announces her favourite character from a book and I don’t say that I hated them and what the author did. We agree that the film version sucks. She laughs that she has road rage and I can’t believe people like that still exist.
I admit that I haven’t walked on pure, unadulterated dirt in years and the last time I hiked the 1000 Steps I wore skinny jeans. In my defence, they hadn’t told me we were going to do it. She tells me that’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard. CAHROO-CAHROO-CRAAAA. Suzanne walks while flapping her arms sometimes. God it’s getting kinda hot, isn’t it, she says, why can’t they turn up the cooling? Her bag has hit me more than once, swinging around on a thin, black strap. It’s been two hours. The gym’s waiting for me.
Before she boards the 900, we stop next to Robinson’s and Suzanne goes to the bathroom. There’s a Harry Potter display at the window. I’m parked near David Jones. Might check out the Apple store on the way. I’ve been considering the Watch. The budget should allow it. I catch the eye of another pair who stop here.
He’s floppy-haired with wide shoulders and bulging eyes. She’s short, very short, with pink lips. I like short girls with pink lips. They walk together but stand apart, like they’re not allowed, but she’s bringing him forward as much as she can. I saw them earlier by Hoyts. Suzanne had wanted Ben and Jerry’s, because it was just soooooooo hot, she said, and I stoutly refused to eat her Salted Caramel Blondie when she offered it to me after saying she couldn’t finish it. She pouted and it didn’t work. I laugh. You’re meant to, when you judge someone. This lets them know you’re joking.
The Blondie went into the bin and I shudder to remember it. A complete waste.
Pink Lip walks to the bathroom anyway.
And it’s us two left alone, standing opposite each other. I know what he is and he can guess me. Floppy Hair stretches his neck up from his hunch and leans against the wall. Every step she takes away from him, his body melts into itself. Checks the time on his phone. Texts. Girls do take a long time in bathrooms. I think it’s about the line. Yawns with his mouth open like a cat, tongue almost out. Claws his fingers through his hair and the back of his neck, the neck that he stretches again. He thinks he’s attractive. I have the distinct feeling of watching a primary school-level gymnastics routine.
Big flourish: he opens up one last time before compressing into nihilistic brooding as Pink Lip comes back. He sees me and lifts thick brows in my direction. I feel you, he seems to say. His lips are chapped and I hate them. He’s still texting when they reconnect and walk away, just as Suzanne comes back. Did you see the 900 go by?, she asks, and I tell her they come by, like, every ten minutes. You’ll be fine.