Yesterday I took my kids to an indoor play warehouse in Sydney, a place full of padded climbing frames, machine guns that fire sponge balls, slides, swings and germs. They climbed, swung, tumbled and shot each other pretty happily while I looked out the window and saw a stage and sound system. There was loud music playing of the kind that never really changes - regular beat, some kind of electric squealing, regular beat, female singing - and I recognised the logo by the stage as an event I'd attended a few times in the UK.
In warehouse there was a musical soundtrack as well but it was interspersed with adverts for Botox (safe, quick and rewarding, don't let life make changes you don't want) and hair salons. I sat and had my "free" coffee as Bear threw himself down an intimidating slide and Toes gathered balls for him to fire at toddlers.
I saw a man in baby blue striped shorts and a pastel pink shirt. He had close clipped hair that was teased into a little mohawk and small glasses. He wore trainer socks and slip on white boat shoes. I was in an unironed flannel shirt and torn jeans (not a fashion statement), my hair hasn't had a cut for a while as nits keep floating around the kids schools and I don't want to go to the barber and be exposed an a nit nest. As I sipped my overly milky coffee I heard Mr Blue Shorts call to his wife
I'll fetch Trixie and Bluebell, can you order me a latte?
His partner, who seemed entirely constructed of balsa wood, slipped her iPhone into a soft seal skin leather sleeve and then into her bag and ordered the coffees through the art of waving, she appeared to say nothing but her gestures implied My Male Life Partner and I Wish To Imbibe Lattes, Make Them Black Clad Man. She dropped a note on the counter and seemed reluctant to collect her change, sliding it with the back of her hand into her bag.
I looked back outside at the now gathering crowds of people waiting for the gig to start. They were bouncing up and down, occasionally waving their hands in the air. They were finding friends in the crowd and hugging. They were pressing forward in anticipation.
Blue shorts got his latte and wrinkled his nose at it, putting it aside after one sip. His partner flicked her iPhone and scrolled through images of coffee tables and horses. Their children, Trixe and Bluebell, punched each other repeatedly in the face.
I poured my coffee in the bin, being quietly happy about the idea that one of the black clad warehouse ninjas would lift the bag and get washed in cold coffee. I jumped on the bouncy castle with Toes and smiled at the idea of her spreading impetigo with each jump. I passed Bear sponge ammunition and tried to send him mental images of shooting Mr Blue Shorts. I wanted to see Mr Blue Shorts head go back and to the left, back and to the left.
Toes needed the bathroom and refused to let me take her.
I go to the girls room Dad, not the boys.
I sat nervously outside hoping she'd made it in, not been pushed aside by some bigger kid or had an accident with gravity and timing. She walked out chatting with an adult and ran back over to me.
Outside a horn sounded and the crowd surged into the field, the stage was pulsing with light and sound and giant inflatable's were bopping in the wind.
Dad, can we go play in there?
No my darlin' Toes, that's for much bigger kids
I am bigger look
She climbed on the table and showed me how tall she is, then she stared at the crowd who were beginning to dance and started bouncing on her heels.
Bear barrelled over to us
I forgot what I wanted
He tore off again and vanished.
We stuck around for another half hour and then left, walking through crowds of furry, glowing, grinning, pierced, perfumed dancing folk. Toes waved at them and they waved back, Bear most likely didn't notice them. I tried not to look at them being too aware that 10 and a half years ago I didn't have my winter coat of stomach fat or the silver in my hair. 10 and a half years ago the last thing I would have wanted was my future to wave at me and point to its pot belly and offspring.
Throughout the day as they kept dancing I made strawberry iced baby cup cakes.
As they Whooped each new tune I put Winne The Pooh on for the kids to watch.
As they swigged water I took the kids to another park and bumped into other parents I know and talked about ethical shopping and sustainability.
At bed time I wondered about baby blue shorts and how I would look were I to buy some. Would my wife like me more if I moisturised? Should I clip my beard and rub olive oil through it? Do androids dream of electric baristas?