love and power on a Melbourne tram

I was on the tram a week ago and a couple in their fifties sat opposite me, she better dressed and presented than he and both a tad flustered. My instinct tells me they are on their second marriage and it is ‘early days’. They appear to be seriously interested in each other and that’s nice. Let us call them Amy and Bill for no reason except for the fact they never used their names and I have to call them something. It occurs to me as I write that they used no endearments either and this is surprising. Perhaps they have been together for many moons?

Amy stops fiddling with her handbag and Bill squints at his phone in the way all us older folk do.

A conversation ensues on where they should leave the tram.

Amy. ‘Where do we get off?’

Bill. ‘Swanston Street.’ This is not a clever answer. It is a long street.

Amy. ‘But where?

Bill Googles. ‘Bourke Street.’

Amy. ‘Where did we get off Thursday?’

Bill. ‘Bourke.’

Amy. ‘Collins is better.’

Bill. ‘Okay.’

Amy looks out the window. ‘No, it’s fine.’

Bill. ‘Well, Collins then.’

Amy glances at me and looks out the tram window again. ‘That’s a nice building’.

It actually is not, however, it succeeds in throwing Bill off course.

Bill takes her hand, she lets him. ‘Where?’ He peers out.

Amy. ‘Bourke. It’s fine.’

Bill. ‘Collins is good.’

I am trying not to smile, this is like an amateur Pinter play where the silences and deviations mean more than the literal words.

Amy relents, looks at him, smiles. ‘Did you book?’

Bill. ‘No need.’

Amy. ‘It was busy Thursday night.’

Bill. ‘I’ll ring.’

Amy stiffens ever so slightly and looks out the window again. ‘It’s fine.’

I really want to applaud the way she’s playing him.

Bill. ‘You have a smudge here.’ He touches her face with love. A caress.

Amy rubs it off. ‘I’ve said to you before about that mirror.’

Ah, I think, so she was in his house last night and ‘wants a few changes’.

She glances at me again, I stay poker-faced and decide this will be great for my dialogue exercise with Writers Victoria in two weeks.

And so it goes. She is not being horrible and seems truly to like him and he adores her, though possibly is not up to the task.

Amy. ‘Which stop is it?

Bill. ‘After this one.’

Amy. ‘Here is good’.

She stands and he follows, she takes his hand and as they leave the tram, she looks back at me with the faintest of smiles and I allow myself a smile in return.

Bill was oblivious of my presence. For Amy, I was an audience and I understood that the little to and fro I witnessed had been for my benefit as much as an exchange between two lovers.
As I am ambled away at the next stop, I recalled my therapist saying years ago ‘David, all relationships are a struggle for power, at least in the beginning.’
BTW, Rosie the dog has been passed as ‘dog and child friendly’ and is up for adoption. She needs a more suitable home than we can give her, but she will be missed…

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