'Decaffeinated'

'Decaffeinated'

Gabriel Filippa


Brighton is the sound of a coddled Maltese Shih Tzu yelping from the street as its owner clips and clops through a café wearing cycling shoes.

It’s the pileup of people, prams and walking aids beside the door.

The panorama of inherited money; loneliness; allergies; paranoias; fading memories; trophy wives; wigs; real estate agents and the stack of half-written memoirs from a creative writing workshop.

Brighton is the new mother navigating her pram through a café on a Saturday morning to ask for a takeaway rice milk babycino.  

It is vanity.

Brighton looks like old age held at bay by so much Botox that everybody’s eyes water when the wind picks up. It’s makeup layered on so liberally faces look two-dimensional, like the crayon drawings left behind by their kids.

*

I make coffee for Brighton, a suburb in Melbourne’s south-east. The girl who sells us muesli comes in to tell me how tired I look.

How pale.

Her skin is so vibrant and her lips so full that it makes me uneasy. I can’t make eye contact so I stare at her ass.

She tells me I’m all skin and bone.

That I look like I’m dying.

I agree as I rub my sore stomach and think back to the way my own ass was decimated by the colonoscopy last month.

She tells me to drink more green tea and cut back on the gluten. Then she tells me to engage in alternative forms of healing and performs a routine that looks like a form of self-mutilating sign language.

She asks me if I understand what she’s saying and I say yes but in my head I think Jesus Christ, if only she knew.

If only she knew that last night I sat arched over a double quarter pounder, mouth agape, watching Channel V count down the hits of the '90s.

If only she knew I went back for apple pie.

*

It seems everyone in Brighton swears by 'unique' design-your-own-coffee orders. I guess they’re all trying to give everybody else the impression that they know coffee.

You know the kind of order:

Latte glass; one shot of water; half a sugar; stirred; two shots of Costa Rican single origin coffee; a splash of lactose free milk and a scoop of froth.

In come the real estate agents next door. These guys are in their forties and they’re still using hair gel to create small tight black curls that frame their faces. They’re some sort of combination of wannabe Greek mafiosi and '80s hair salon owners.

Every group of real estate agents has a ringleader (see: wannabe Godfather). He’s the classic low IQ, large bank account type.

All of his features are squeezed into the middle of his face. It gives him a pugnacious look. Something similar to his child’s playground bully.

He’s landed a 26-year-old girlfriend and he’s showing me pictures on his phone, telling me that her sister is even better.  

*

I step out the back for a cigarette.

Brighton is a place full of hypocrisy. But who am I kidding?

I’m the guy selling organic produce by day and eating junk by night.

I’m the guy who thought fructose was lemon zest.

The one you’ll see rubbing his eyes because he’s been up all night playing video games.

I’m the kind of guy that allows Brighton to feel good about itself.

The guy who broke his finger trying to play tennis.

Because, really, I’m not all that different.


Gabriel Filippa is studying his Master of Journalism. He spends most of his time sitting on his arse watching films or playing video games. Sometimes, he gets up to write about something that has annoyed him.