The bearded lady and world poverty
Alligators inhabit this lake. Popping up their gnarly heads and blinking sideways at the sun. I do likewise. Completely still. My breathing mirrors their reptilian cycle. Slow. Deep. I imagine my prehistoric self, swimming, blinking and breathing. I want that existence. To escape the burden of my own evolution. It has become too heavy.
This Florida landscape is unchanging. Evergreen, expertly manicured, colour coded and symphonically syncopated. Left is the Community centre and right is the golf course. This reality is a Tuscan, Naples, New Mexican palette with or without pool. But always with alligators.
The days take on a surreal quality. Time becomes pointless. I start drifting in the primordial pool of precognition. It’s a hospice for my weary consciousness. I am right where I need to be. A retirement community in Orlando. I retire for seven days. It’s not a test or even an experiment. Nor a taste of the future or a joke. It’s a holding cell. And it holds me gently, tastefully and oh so quietly.
My friends serve their meals on time and wash their clothes with the smells of kindness. They offer me tea and whisky at exactly the right moments. They talk of their adventurous past and their country hopping present. Their map of the world has been refolded into the shape of a heart. And they offer it to me. Part story, part hope. Paying homage to the Patron Saint of freedom.
In between journeys they choose an alligator calm. Prowling the perimeter for tasty morsels and living off the fat of the last big feed. Contrasting colour to their monochrome world is provided by the other free humans they have found in the cell. Sniffing out those who read the Braille of the Trade winds and drawing a circle around them straight from the tropic of Capricorn. With these lofty spirits they tread water in the still pond of their gated community.
An evening of conversation has been arranged in my honour. We will gather together and discuss all things pertinent to the survival of the cell. I will be the evening’s delicacy. Wild grown, organic Australian. I arrange my face into openness and strike a dignified pose as we career along in the golf cart. I can do retirement community chic.
Having been pre warned about the calamitous state of their neighbours’ cellar I take along a bottle of Australian wine as a peace offering. Works a treat. Soon I’m being comfortably arranged at the round table with a glass of something quite palatable and I start to feel, well, almost unguarded. A little prematurely. As I take a satisfied sip of their Californian Chardonnay, 6 pairs of eyes turn and pierce me with an all knowing gaze. I smell my flesh starting to sauté in the juices of expectation. My friends throw down the gauntlet, ‘So Lisa, tell us all what you are hoping to do about world poverty’. I take a long sip of wine. It’s starting to get a bit crowded here in the primordial pool. Time to evolve. Real fast.
After making several attempts to explain the tenuous relationship between me and the solution to world poverty, the spokesperson of the pod comes to my rescue. ‘I have only met one other Australian’, she says. ‘On a cruise. She had a problem with extreme facial hair. And she was real grouchy’. At this point there are a couple of themes running through my reptilian brain. 1) The interest of the non poor in poverty, 2) The chances of meeting an Australian woman on a cruise with problematic facial hair and, 3) How I can get something stronger to drink.
My long pause has been misconstrued as deep thought and they all continue to wait for me to respond. ‘Maybe she was grouchy because she left her shaving gear at home’. Pause. ‘I know just how she feels’. Pause, pause, pause. I turn as I hear a gentle clearing of the throat and it is the husband of the speaker. ‘Actually that is only one side of the story. My wife warned me not to speak to this woman, she told me she was unstable and very hostile, but I ignored her and sat down right next to her. I struck up a conversation with her and found her to be quite human. We got on famously after that’.
The gentleness of his tone reminds us all of our human spirit. The very same one that lifts us out of our still ponds and wires us for freedom. The six pairs of eyes look more kindly on me now. The monster has been repelled. ‘Don’t look so worried Lisa’, they say, ‘we won’t bite’.
I blink sideways at the sun.