from our deep cool verandah we spy on the world passing by.
we both wear glasses in order to pick out the details. even as children we noticed all. people would say don’t like those twins they look at you funny. we were reassured. our powers had been confirmed. but that was a long while ago. now we are 60. we have lived in this ground floor flat on the main road for 20 years. it is a very suitable dwelling, and we have a satisfactory relationship with the landlord. i think he is pleased we notice his transparency. we have been here since we left our husbands who got in the way of our observations.
after our evening meal we talk quietly of what we have seen. we believe in sharing our observations in case one of us has missed something. for our eyesight isn’t as sharp as it was ten years ago. though we do clean our glasses each hour and keep our hair tied firmly back in small grey buns so nothing can distract our focus. we are small women. many people do not notice us, while we are noticing them. we keep to ourselves. mother used to say to us never get too friendly with strangers they can harm you. even if they smile and offer you an hour of their lives don’t tell them nothing. mother knew a lot. she always kept the bible and a cloth to clean her hands on the kitchen table within reach.
at night we take turns to sit at the window and watch. we set the alarm at 2 and 6. this way we both get some sleep. there’s always something to see along this road. even at 3 in the morning. last night we saw a woman in a torn fur coat, gum boots and a beanie blow up balloons, tie them on her arms as if they were wings. she climbed up a tree, spread her arms and jumped. we think she might have injured herself. she screamed for quite a while until one of the passing motorists stopped and rang for an ambulance. we didn’t want to get involved. our slippers might have gotten wet. it had been raining quite heavily.
another night one of the local drunks fell asleep on our verandah. he smelt wretched but we were pleased to be able to get a closer look at him. for several weeks we had been trying to work out a few things about him. at least we were able to see how thick and long the scar on his bald head was. we were able to read the words on his tattoos, ‘dearest jean’ and ‘sailor boy’. we also saw a thin line thru the word ‘jean’ as if he had tried to cut the word out. very interesting. we scrubbed the verandah with disinfectant the next morning. it didn’t take long.
we keep records of our observations in a private code in large journals. we are saving them up for the day when our memories fail us. then we can read them thru to recall the details. they are an assurance that our days have been full and busy. we put black velvet covers on these books. they are so soft to stroke. just like the backs of our 8 black cats who often sleep like guardians in front of the cupboard as if they recognised the importance of its contents.
there are many folk with bad legs along this road. they hobble ever so slowly up and down all day as if they had all the time in the world. they bandage their legs in different ways. some of the bandages are rather grubby. you’d think they’d wash them. there are plenty of laundromats around here. every pension day they could wash them. they could share a machine. you can fit a good deal in one of these contraptions — at least ten bandages. dear me. if they’d looked where they were going instead of expecting life to do everything for them, they wouldn’t be in this predicament. we’re so pleased we’re not handicapped. we have only ourselves to thank. and of course mother.
pension morning is always busy. we always make sure the teapot is full by 9.30. the crowd gathers outside the bank. for at least half an hour. there’s no time to get up and put the jug on for some time. they clutter the footpath. so many of them. it takes a while for us to sort out who’s there. we sometimes use the journal if we can’t quite locate every face. often it’s the only way to really know who’s died before the postman called.
on our deep cool verandah we sit. the twins. there are no mirrors in our hallway.