The Cupids of Dome

4th November 2020

I’m at Dome in Rottnest and I’m sipping a horrible long black, contemplating the logo plastered around the building which says, ‘World’s Finest Coffee.’ According to who? I think. My mother says my collection of stories and doodles is the best book in the world, but you don’t see me hanging on that statement. I imagine asking the founder of Australia’s largest cafe chain to back up his finest coffee claim. He’d shrug and say, “Mum said so.”

On the ceiling, there is a fake chandelier. Around that are ornate patterns, an old drawing of the world map, and a dozen of flying Cupids. I think hard, trying to find the connection between Dome, as a brand, and naked angel children.

I don’t dwell for too long, though, because I’m sitting next to a window and a tiny boy presses his face up against the glass. He stares at me and blows on the pane. His cheeks parachute out. There’s an oval of fog. Then he licks it, still staring at me. If this is his way of asserting dominance, it’s working. I’m disturbed. Now there’s a Quokka at my feet.

I sit back and look around. There are three pairs of couples all on their phones. Behind them, I spot a man I knew as a teenager. I thoroughly disliked him. He is on an outdoor table and wearing work-out gear, but he still looks schmick. The clothes are from prestigious brands. He has a crew cut which accentuates his chiselled features. He laughs at his friend sitting opposite him.

Our dislike of one another began as teenagers at school. I think he dropped in on me surfing at a break, also in Rottnest. I dropped in on him, too. Then war.

Our dislike of each other felt more fundamental than a quarrel in a surf, though. He was only a teenager but, to me, he had a lot of power. He came from a wealthy family who everyone knew and had an air of self-assuredness that awarded him the attention of girls and everyone. Plus, he had many parties. He was like Danny from Grease.

On the other hand I was from Denmark, but through my friendship with my cousins, I found myself ensconced in the type of upper-class social circles of which my nemesis was king. So, I was like Sandy, if she was a 14-year-old scrawny boy whose voice hasn't broken yet. Unlike Sandy, though, I wasn't intimate with him or panhandle to his ways. He didn’t like that and the tension between us grew, becoming palpable even.

I haven’t seen him for a long time but the sight of him conjures up the same teenage angst. I turn away from his chiseled face and look at my worn-out thongs. Then I pluck a grey from my overgrown beard and I think, “Some things don’t change.”

I realise now—at least rationally, anyway—the adolescent dislike was an attempt to make ourselves look bigger like those frilled-neck lizards in a fight. Yet, irrationally, I still feel like punching his smug face, right here in Dome.

I wouldn’t of course because I have toothpicks as biceps and a more mature part within coaxes me to see this guy with more compassion. I think, His mother probably loves him. Try to see him through less of a frilled-neck lizard lens and more of a motherly lens.

But how?

I wince as I sip the last of my coffee. Then, I look back up and see a waitress walk to my nemesis's table. She drops one of those Freddo frog whipped-cream frappuccinos before him. I think they’re called Fluffy Koala’s or something.

My nemesis snatches the frilly glass. He purses his lips and sips from a dainty straw. I sit back and drop my shoulders for the first time since seeing him. I look up to the ceiling of Dome, to the Cupids, and I thank them.