The other day a woman approached me in the lobby of the State Library and asked me this: “Are you Magdalena?” She had a thick accent, but those six short syllables weren’t enough for me categorise it. German perhaps. She wore an off-white cable-knit jumper, black polyester pants with a sharp crease down the front and black-framed goggle-lensed reading glasses. She seemed shy, friendly, and just a little bit confused. As was I. As am I – still.
I have so many questions, but all amount to this: who is Magdalena?
I’ll provide some context. Every week I spend four out of five weekdays in the city from approximately 10.30am to 4.30pm. It sucks. Study doesn’t suck, the city doesn’t suck; it’s being around lots and lots of people for lots and lots of hours that sucks. So, sometimes I hide. One of my favourite hiding spots is the white marble lobby of the State Library. I have, in the past, tried to actually enter the library but I am almost always hand-in-hand with my best friend Coffee and he’s not allowed because one day he went and made a mess all over the reserve section and now they’ve gone and put up a sign saying “FOOD AND DRINK STRICTLY PROHIBITED” (it wasn’t me). So that’s how I ended up on the olive-green leather couch in the lobby of the library.
There I sat, reading the newspaper and enjoying not associating with members of the public when the peculiar woman approached me. Well, she wasn’t peculiar, per se; it was her beforementioned question. I looked up, shook my head and looked down again. These are some of the things that went through my head:
No, I am not Magdalena…
Why are you meeting a person you don’t know?
Or do you know her but not what she looks like?
Do you have a blind date?
Do I look like someone called Magdalena?
Do I look like I’m waiting to meet someone?
Why did you choose the lobby of the State Library – my hiding spot – to meet somebody?
Is there some sort of secret meeting-up club in Melbourne where strangers meet up?
Is the Illuminati involved?
Are you and Magdalena going on an adventure?
Can I come?
Is this the beginning of a love affair?
Is Magdalena German too?
Is there actually a person called Magdalena who you’d planned to meet or did you just want an excuse to talk to someone and that someone happened to be me?
Does that make two types of people – those who hide from people (me) and those who go out of their way to talk to them (you)?
What does Magdalena look like?
Why doesn’t Magdalena have a normal name like ‘Emily’ or ‘Sarah’ or ‘Kate’ or ‘Jessica’?
Am I going to have to find a new hiding spot now that I’m being spoken to?
Who the bloody hell is Magdalena?
Tell me, do you know Magdalena?