The security

“Hey Liv, did you see the new security guy?”

I looked up from my desk, mouth full of noodles. It was another lunch-at-the-desk day. I’d just hit submit on the report I’d been working all morning, and had turned to stuff my face into my meal-prepped lunchbox. 

Spaghetti in a sautéed tomato-mushroom sauce. Homemade food had never tasted so good. Perhaps Pinterest wasn’t kidding—maybe cooking on Sundays is a better idea than brunch with friends. I even managed to get the laundry done, and folded it for good measure.

I shook my head at Jesse’s raised eyebrows. She’s not the kind who’d bring up the security guy unless it was important. Perhaps he was cute.

“Nope.” I supplied swallowing the carby goodness. “Why?”

“It’s an old man!” She almost shrieked, sitting down on my desk, despite knowing how much I hated that. But she didn’t seem to be in her right mind today. Her usually straight black hair was bouncing off her shoulders in curls. Her mascara was a little too much to look at, and she’d force-matched her tiered skirt with a pair of high heels she looked terribly uncomfortable in. But she was gleaming with joy. Unable to figure it out, I decided to wait for her flamboyant explanation later.

“So what if it’s an old chap?”

Everyone needed money. It’s possible that this man didn’t have enough retirement funds. Or his kids weren’t around to help him. After all, I’d seen a lot of older folks struggling to make a living. It was sad, sure, but certainly didn’t warrant a hiatus during lunch. 

I went back to my noodles, ignoring the penciled eyebrows glowering at me. After a while, she gave up and went back to her seat. And I turned to the pile of reports that still needed finishing, verifying, and submitting.

Sigh. It’s going to be a long day.

For the rest of the afternoon, I carefully avoided running into Jesse in the bathroom or the vending machine. I knew she ached to discuss the old security guy. It wouldn’t be the first time—she imagined herself an upstanding citizen being the change she wanted to see. A couple of weeks ago, I’d spent an hour listening to her lament the fate of migrants working casual jobs and unconventional shifts. All because she was drunk on a Friday night and ordered pizza. Her delivery guy was an African hoping for a permanent stay.

My escape was short lived. Just as I stepped out in the terrace, glad that I’d finally completed the week’s backlog, I jumped. 

“I spoke to him.”

Not seeing her crawl up behind me, I turned ready to punch her shrugging childish face. Before I did however, she continued, eyes rounding in sadness. “He was missing his daughter. He took the job so that he’s not bored and lonely at home anymore.”

She was Puss in Boots begging to go with Shrek.

My frustration deflated. It was no use fighting it—she wouldn’t rest until she’d gleaned a response from me. 

“Yes,” I rubbed my stiff neck hoping she’d take a hint. “That is sad.”

Thankfully, that was the end of our conversation. I went back to doing some light reading and recipe hunting before heading home to Netflix.

As the office doors swung shut behind me, I saw him. A tall man in a khaki suit. He didn’t see me approach him—something through the window seemed to have caught his eye and he peered, his shoulders hunched.

“Have a good night!” I faked a cheer, pressing the elevator button. I was exhausted and famished.

He swung around, taken aback. 

“Dad!”

Advertisements

The wheel

“Yo cartwheeler!”

That’s what those kids called him. Who could blame them? He was, after all, the man pushing shopping carts at the supermarket. Not that it was anything to be shamed of, he told his reflection every morning navigating floss around his teeth.

But he had a name.

Ruman. 

Growing up he’d often wonder if his parents detested his existence so much so as to bestow upon him such an uncharacteristic name. Not a childhood day had gone by without him repeating and spelling it out for people to understand.

And even then perplexity clouded their face whenever they uttered it. As if they’d rather not. As if something wasn’t just quite right.

It was still better than “cartwheeler” he thought.

They even told random shoppers about his nickname, pointing him out, the long, brown, migrant who stumbled through the car park collecting empty carts people thrust away. Shoppers who’d smile jovially at their juvenile innocence—they were just school kids, hanging out at the mall during the holidays.

It was all good fun for everyone, of course. Seasonal cheer hung in their air, overnight rosters hung over his.

Three years of regular supermarket shifts had served him well, though. With the weekends off, he’d taken up to flipping burgers for additional bucks. He was now the proud owner of three high-visibility vests, a third-owner car that needed service, and a son who’d be starting school next year. He was already a year behind others of his age. Ruman’s wife had taken a second job too, to save up for school. 

He seldom had time to talk to her. 

Never mind. He’d be cartwheeler as long as it took. Nothing mattered more than a good school for his son. Whatever necessary so his son didn’t end up at the mall catcalling another migrant, “Yo cartwheeler!”

Blue skies - Canberra

Stolen forever

a depth of fresh air
from soul to the sky above
steals away the blues

Canberra sunset and moonrise

Watch and learn

even dark is light
life—it’s a balancing act
as taught by nature

By Lake Ginninderra, Canberra

Applause

show’s over
take a bow
well done, autumn 


Photo: By Lake Ginninderra, Canberra

P.S: I might have developed a certain obsession for the lake.