Every day I walk to work, more or less along the same route. I cross Queen Street, and see the man from the kebab shop having his morning cigarette out on the footpath. Further on, at Vulcan Lane, are the security man for the jewellers and the guy selling the Herald. Sometimes they're talking to each other, which I like to see. I walk up Vulcan Lane, and sometimes the little council man in his orange vest will be there sweeping up rubbish, or having his morning cigarette in the corner beside the Occidental. There might be people having breakfast at the pubs, and there's usually someone drinking coffee at the cafe on the other side. Vulcan Lane is colder than Queen Street, and I usually have to put my hands in my pockets and pull my jacket tighter.
I have a quick look in the windows of the shoe shop and the sunglasses store, and then I turn on to High Street. Even on a sunny day, High Street gives an impression of grey, and I love it. The first window I pass is the lingerie shop, the last window of which always has some crazy, high-class call-girl kind of bodysuit in it. I always wonder which of the suit-wearing office women going in there is planning to buy it; there's no doubt in my mind that it's they who buy those things. Then I pass the book shop and scan their window - they're already open. Further up I might pass the big yellow recycling bins from one of the bars along the street, which always smell like vinegar, and I breathe in, in spite of myself. When I'm almost there, I'll look across at the coffee kiosk, and whoever is on will wave and say good morning. Then, when I arrive and unlock the door, I'll look in to the shop next door, and if Meg's at the computer we'll say hello and how are you before I go in.
Throughout the day, the lady I refer to as "my friend" or "my friend with the piercings" (she has one in each nostril and three in each eyebrow) might drop in. She puts on some of our hand-cream, and checks her hair or hat in the mirror, and we talk to each other, although I don't always know what she's saying because she doesn't have any front teeth. Sometimes when she talks to me, I can feel my heart throbbing; I love her. Later on in the day, she might be heard singing loudly in the square. Meg will drop in a few times. Richie and Opeti, our couriers, will come by. The guy from upstairs will come down and cross over to the square for his afternoon sesh, and the girl will go down to the ledge outside Snake Pit for her cigarette breaks. If it's hot, the old lady who takes her shoes off and puts her legs up and drops her head so it almost touches her knees will set up near the fountain, and people passing her will stare at her wondering if she's alright (but hardly anyone will actually ask her).
Next week, the bar upstairs turns twenty-one. Today my boss brought in one of our enormous kiwi, and tomorrow I am going to stitch it with RAKS on the front and love from us on the bottom. I've been going there since I was seventeen, and I often seem to end up there. One night I got mad at an article in the magazine I was reading, and threw it out the window. The next time I went, I leaned out and saw it on the awning of a shop below, surrounded by cigarette butts, and I felt equal parts embarrassed and satisfied. I learnt to moonwalk there, I rescued my vomiting cousin from the toilet and supported her claims to the staff that it wasn't she who had puked on the floor there, and it was there where I first told Vincent how much I liked him.
Today I was walking up to the emporium on Victoria Street and I saw my friend's husband on the other side of the street, and we smiled and waved, and I felt unusually happy. My friend and I used to work together, and now she lives on Waiheke with her husband and two ridiculously cute babies, but she occasionally drops in to the shop to say hello.
Sometimes I take community for granted, and forget how important it is to me, until days like today. My little community, including the people whose names I don't even know, is so important to me. I don't like change; I like being able to rely on things, like old stone buildings, and familiar faces. I like being part of something that doesn't need me, exactly - if I disappeared from it, it wouldn't change, and if I was missed, it wouldn't be for long - but that I give to, and that gives to me. I enjoy weak ties; I like waving but not feeling like I have to stop and talk. But I like stopping and talking too; and I'm more likely to see someone I want to do this with in my little district than anywhere else. Lots of people want their worlds to get bigger, and I understand that. But for me, a small world is just fine.