Perth is a town of 1.8 million people. I use the word town here, even though I know it’s incorrect, because that’s what it feels like. The city is sprawling and bikeable, full of green, with rare a skyscraper to be seen. You feel as though you are wandering through a neighborhood that never ends.
The couple I was staying with suggested I hit up the market in Freemantle, a sort of hippy sector of town with a street that has so many coffee shops on it, they’ve renamed it “Cappuccino strip.” I’m not a hipster at all, but where the hipsters go, great coffee and brunches and breweries follow so how could I say no to that?
I strolled through the open warehouse, set up with food kiosks and shops and almost restaurants, trying to decide where I wanted to eat. A tanned, handsome man with lovely biceps and curly dark hair, serving homemade meatballs, convinced me I was in the mood for Italian.
He took my order and flirted shamelessly with me. I felt as though roles were reversed, as he gazed out from under long doey eyelashes at me and smiled shyly. He spoke with a heavy accent, and even though I understood one of every three words, I knew this must be what falling in love feels like.
I sat down at a long bench directly in front of his stand and tried to tuck into my meatballs, delicately — no small feat, I tell you. They were heavenly and I was ravenous and meatballs are not an elegant food, but nonetheless, he came out to talk to me after a plethora of eye contact and then looking away, and then more eye contact, and looking away, and again, and again.
A customer showed up to his booth and he went to attend to his duties, and a gentleman looking to be about 70 years old sat down next to me. High on hormones and travel happiness I smiled at him and he asked my name. I told him, “Kyle,” and he harumphed in disapproval. I’m betting they gave girls proper names like Jane and Sarah back his day, none of this androgynous name nonsense.
He laughed and smiled at me one more time.
Then he took a deep breathe.
And began to sing an Italian opera.
The marketplace has tall metal ceilings and the notes reverberated and surrounded us until we were completely enveloped in the rich sound. He took my hand as he sang, closed his eyes. The entire place stopped moving and people stared, but I didn’t notice until it was over.
With a deep breath, the last notes erupted from him and shook the building, like a bomb detonating.
He released me and started laughing deeply, all the way from his belly, out, “Stop smiling girl! It was just a song!”