once, they were united against apartheid

Something something ‘real estate’ something something ‘for the black families’. In a Boston accent. Brogues? Of course. Bald? Ditto. White? You got it. At some point at the turn of the century, pushchairs and prams and shopping trolleys morphed. They became one. Boston man is with a clever, solid, well-dressed couple who have one of these things on wheels, complete with sleeping babe (its head resting in the space that once housed a sheep’s arse). They’ve parked it just far enough from their table so as not to disturb their coffee-chat, and just close enough to the next that, when others come in, and glance about for a spare table, they presume both are taken. Which they are. By a politics of spacing. From two tables and six chairs, they eat green leaves soaked in balsamic syrup and drink coffee. The café is large. Two of its four walls are glass: those sort of thick window-doors that now form the kitchen wall (the one that looks out to the garden) of every Victorian home in Dulwich, Hampstead, Hackney, Kilburn, Brixton, etc etc. You get the picture. ‘Funny that they have a lit-up fire exit outdoors,’ remarks J, looking out, admiring the quality of the large garden. ‘See that curtain?’ she replies. J turns, ‘Yes.’ ‘I feel like I’m in a crematorium, about to be served up as ash.’ J looks and thinks. She says, ‘Do you think everyone here works in publishing? Do you think they’ve all written successful books? Do you think they’ve all been published in the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books and that they’ve all been out with someone who works at the Guardian?’ J gets up. He chooses some music from the juke box. ‘Amazing isn’t it,’ he says. ‘They get a juke box, park it in a corner, give it a label and a hashtag, and it becomes a work of art.’ She gets up. She goes to the juke box. She chooses some music. A kid joins her. He stands beside her patiently. He waits in the way that people wait to touch a coffin with an old friend inside. J tells her not to hog the juke box and she moves away, returning to the table, staring at the pushpramtrolley. The boy at the juke box looks happy. Upstairs, three people are watching a film that captures people at a shamanic ceremony in São Tomé and Prîncipe. A parrot is examining a camera. A fish is dying on a plate. Wheels are turning. J says he wants to leave. He’s humming to the juke box. Ain’t gonna play Sun City.

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