A frail man of eighty-three rises from his wooden stool behind the counter of a quiet souvenir store. He ambles to the front entrance, his shoulders hunched over a cane, his joints and bones creaking with every step. He reaches into his knitted cardigan for the key to close for the night but is confronted by a broad, dark-skinned, middle-aged woman–with thick knotted curls, and a flat nose who greets him at the entrance.
“G’day, mate. I know you’re closing, but I need to find a gift for my aunty. She’s fallen a bit ill, you see. I’ve plenty of dough to spend,” she says, pulling a wad of fifty-dollar bills from her tatted dress pocket. The old man’s eyebrows raise in suspicion.
“You probably stole that, I bet,” he says.
“What makes you say that?”
The man pauses momentarily, observing the woman from head to toe.
“You lot aren’t welcome here.”
He extends his arm and gestures to a metal plaque that is nailed to the storefront. WE CATER TO WHITE TRADE ONLY, it declares in bold lettering.
“Your sign appears to be a little dated, don’t you think?” she says.
“I think you’ll find that it’s timeless, something that’ll never grow out of fashion. I have every legal right to provide service to whoever I please.”
The woman glances over the old man’s shoulder, observing some of the items on display. She takes notice of a painting that is suspended by a hook and thread on the wall. It depicts the ocean–the calming blues, the selectively placed dots. Upon closer inspection, however, she identifies it as a counterfeit, a forged replica of an artistic technique.
“Having a bit of a browse, are we love?” the old man says, sarcastically.
“Do you have many customers who buy from this establishment?” the woman inquires.
“That’s none of your business, ma’am.”
“The reason I ask, of course, is because I may have discovered why you don’t. The products you’re selling are imitations. Some of which are significant to my people.”
“You have a lot of nerve, lady. Get off my property, before I inform the authorities of this incident. You’ll be put away for a long time.”
The old man spits on the ground, beside her feet.
“Get out of here,” he continues.
The woman glares at the man for a moment before shoving him aside, causing him to fall. She enters the souvenir store and detaches the canvas from its placing before hurrying out of the exit and running into the distance. Regret did not cross her mind. Instead, she feels content in her decision, a sense of pride.
Meanwhile, the old man lays on the wooden floor, grasping his knee to mask the intolerable pain.
The woman journeys to the coast under moonlight, with the canvas clenched firmly in her hand. She now stands on a ledge, overlooking the waves that bash into seaside rocks, eroding their existence day by day. Beside her is the smouldering of various native plants. This creates the smoke of purification as it drifts through the air until disguised.
Here, the woman’s mind is able to wander with liberty. Isolation is independence, after all.
She focuses with slow, meticulous breaths, connecting to the atmosphere through every exhale. The delicate breeze caresses her dark complexion, the way a mother touches the face of her newborn child. She considers this to be a sign of gratitude, an indication of consent. So, without hesitation, the woman tosses the canvas into a riptide and watches as it floats into separation. The woman relishes in this triumphant moment with a smirk.