Before her eyes opened, Merlyn sensed the soft, red glow behind the makeshift curtain which hung unevenly over the window. The unit was relatively modern and clean, and had heating and cooling that worked. Pittown, as a suburb, was ordinary but she could afford the rent on her own. Remakably ordinary, thought Merlyn as she walked a couple of doors to the only decent cafe.
In the few weeks she had been going there, the owner had only warmed to her once. He was a big, dark, bearded guy with a good business head and a soft heart behind the all-man demeanour. Merlyn knew this by the way he related to the children who came into the cafe. He was, basically, a family man. “Good to see you,” said the owner enthusiastically on that one rare occasion as if that was how he always spoke to Merlyn. She had been sitting with a male friend who had come to see her new place. The owner then proceeded to talk to them both as if they were his long-time friends. Merlyn surmised that, in his mind, women should not be made friends of unless they were obviously attached to a male. She wondered if he thought the friend was her husband. This morning, he didn’t look up from the coffee machine.
The cafe made a valiant effort to keep up with the fashionable cafes a mere suburb or two away. Thanks to the younger manager, their social media was on point with pics that had just the right combination of smiling people, spoiled dogs, food, and light. Nevertheless, the middle-to-working class origins of the place was never far away. For one thing, they opened at six to accommodate the tradies. As Merlyn was an early riser, she often took advantage of the early opening time. At that hour, the place was full of men. They would give her a quick glance, modify their language (usually), and return to their conversations. Merlyn looked at the fluorescent-vested, heavy-booted men standing in the takeaway line. Goodness only knows what they are talking about, she thought. What do tradies talk about all day? She didn’t know. She smiled to herself at the memory of those happening cafes closer to the city. When those cafes are full of men, half of them are gay, she mused. She considered them more interesting than the hurley-burleys before her. But this is where I am, she told herself as she walked out of the cafe and down to the lake at the bottom of her street. This is where I am, so I give myself to here.
Merlyn’s street was called Lakeside View. It was a somewhat pretentious name. There was, indeed, a lake and it was quite large for a city suburb. As it was surrounded by several sports ovals and revegetation areas, it was open enough for broad sweeps of sky to be seen. The view was admittedly flanked by a row of huge, electric towers. The sky is important, thought Merlyn, even if it has to be viewed through steel latticework. Messy houses followed the path of the power lines. Merlyn had the feeling that the inhabitants of those houses had other things on their minds than the EMFs from power lines. Not only did they not notice the towers but nor did they seem to notice the sky or the lake or any of the feathered neighbours that called the lake home. Noticed or not, nature was given a little space to breathe, and breathe she did. The ducks, cormorants, and swamphens manoeuvred their way through the plastic and oil which floated amongst the weeds. She is fighting, thought Merlyn. Giving it her all. Gotta respect that.