Sandgate, Qld. Monday, 6pm.
‘I wouldn’t want to have lived at any other time,’ Ms Dee says, wiping some beetroot dip onto her little triangle of flat bread. ‘The world is much more conscious now.’
She pushes the bread and dip into her mouth, and her eyes close with delight.
‘Oh yum,’ she says. ‘That’s delicious.’
‘Is it?’ asks Ms Em, leaning across the table to the platter.
‘No,’ I say.
‘Have you tried it?’ Ms Em asks, confused.
‘Consciousness?’ I ask, confused.
‘No, the beetroot dip.’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘No.’
She wipes beetroot dip onto her bread with her knife. She takes a bite.
‘Oh yes,’ she says, shaking her head. ‘That is delicious.’
Ms Dee opens her eyes, licks her lips and reaches for her pinot noir.
‘People are waking up now,’ she says. ‘We’ve evolving.’
‘Did you try the baba ganoush?’ says Ms Em, dipping her knife into the white spread next to the purple one.
Through the window, the wind is making the waves crest. The oaks lining the shore sway. The sun has set but a silvery light lingers, augmented by a fat moon hanging over the pub in which we sit.
‘How’s the baba ganoush?’ Ms Dee asks, sipping her wine.
Ms Em furrows her brow and moves her mouth slowly and deliberately, tasting. She’s from a Lebanese family and is our baba ganoush expert.
‘I don’t think the world is a better place,’ I say. ‘Sure, we have #MeToo, Netflix and three types of dip, but this humanity that you think is so evolved has put itself on the brink of catastrophe.’
‘Excellent,’ says Ms Em.
‘What?’ I say. ‘Rampant species extinction, plastic pollution, climate change –’
‘She means the ganoush, S,’ says Ms Dee, laughing.
She has a laugh that will not be confined. It hides behind no hand; is restrained by no decorum. It jumps the fence and gallops around the restaurant, snorting like a mad thing. Its unfettered glee demands notice. People lift their eyes from their prawns and phones to look at us. Despite myself, I laugh.
Ms Em laughs too, but chokes on her baba ganoush. She splutters. I reach over and smack her back a few times. She recovers and smiles at me, her eyes watery.
‘Thank you,’ she says. ‘It is an excellent baba ganoush. Not as good as my mother’s, of course.’
‘Of course,’ Ms Dee and I say.
‘I think it is a prejudice of our times to think we are more evolved than we were a thousand years ago,’ I say. I try the green dip which lies untouched next to the beetroot and baba ganoush dips. Because I’m contrary. Because my friends’ happiness and optimism are annoying.
‘Of course we’re more evolved, S,’ Ms Dee says, as if it were obvious.
‘I think you’re confusing evolution with change. The world has changed but is it better? I don’t think so,’ I say.
Ms Em builds another baba ganoush tidbit and looks at me – more like into me.
‘Something’s wrong, isn’t it, S,’ she says in a voice huskier than before her choking moment.
‘People have been the same for thousands of years – the same intellect, the same emotions,’ I say. ‘We’re still hurting each other; still… getting our hearts broken…’
The wind creaks a door.
The green dip is tasteless in my mouth.
‘Oh S,’ Ms Dee says, her voice soft. She opens her arms to me.
One of those arms knocks over her wine, spraying the white tablecloth and the dip platter with broken glass and 2016 Tasmanian pinot noir.
Ms Dee’s laughter jumps the fence again.
‘Oh dear,’ I say, hitching a smile to Ms Dee’s crazy horse.
‘Time to leave.’