I was writing in my journal on one of my soveryprecious mornings off (making the decision about where to go for a coffee and some people-watching was overwhelming, so I chose a local place that is crazy expensive but has gorgeous interior design) and every now and then, I looked up at the people around me. Two beautiful women came in, and took a table opposite.
The woman on the left held her newborn. There are little things that tell you a person is wealthy – immaculate grooming, tailored clothes, shoes that are a bit unusual but well-made. She had those things.
The woman on the right looked French. The hair said French, the red lipstick said French, the simple & slim black clothing said French. Her accent was French. There you go. I couldn’t get that one wrong.
They were getting to know each other: Ah, the French woman is the new au pair.
The woman on the left ordered one of the café’s magnificent dishes – something I would not buy, because even though they are stunningly presented, they are ridiculously priced and would leave me still feeling rather hungry. Nope, I had ordered toast. The toast was $7.00. The coffee was probably $5.00, I can’t remember. $7.00 toast stuck in my mind, though. I can buy two loaves of really nice bread for that.
The woman on the left asked the au pair what she would like. The au pair ordered the same magnificent dish as her employer. I’m talking something that’s probably $25.00 and contains flecks of activated almonds and pomegranate seeds with a whiff of kale basted in activated beetroot. (I’m not joking about the activated stuff. There were multiple activated items on the menu.)
Another French woman walked in. Also beautiful. It appeared to be a handover meeting. I wasn’t eavesdropping, I was paying attention to my journal and my gourmet toast, so I don’t know what they were talking about in detail. Just caught a phrase here and there, and a laugh here and there.
The au pair hirer had popped her baby down for a nap in the pram, but the baby wasn’t into it. There was newborn cry-cry-crying. The mum picked her up, standing, patting and soothing her.
Every now and then when I looked up from my journal, I was glancing at the people in the café, and sometimes I’d be lost in thought and I accidentally / vaguely stared. I was doing this when the mum was holding her crying baby. She caught me looking at her, and gave me a little smile, and said, “Why, what are you thinking?”
I don’t know what she meant by that. She said it like she knew me. I must have looked like I had some thoughts about a crying baby. I didn’t. I did think, in a microscopic-flash-thought (as are all thoughts) about what her life was like. I wondered what her house was like, if she had any other children, what her partner was like, if she worked, what she did for work, what it was like for the baby to have an au pair, and what it was like for her to have an au pair in her life. I also, in a microscopic-flash-thought, said to myself: “This is the area where I live. Some of the houses around me have au pairs.”
To answer the woman’s question, I didn’t say, “Oh, nothing, just staring into space here.” Instead, I said: “It’s nice hearing that newborn baby sound – I mean, not for you, you wish the baby wasn’t crying! – but for me, it’s nice.” It wasn’t the truth, but I felt like it was a more acceptable and bland response, somehow. There was something odd about her tone, like when a person can sound perfectly warm and nice but you learn, afterwards, that they felt insulted by something that you said. I wanted to deflect and vanish. I jumped back into my journal, and the women went away.