Madeline and the Kooky Cakes – Manila, Philippines
Madeline and the Kooky Cakes
A young girl stands centre stage, twirling in the light. She’s singing, humming and moving her body to music that only she can hear. Around her wrists are chains of sweet smelling white flowers. Her hands move in circular motions and the flowers follow, spiraling around her wrists.
Looking out to the crowd she stops singing. She looks as if she’s looking into a mirror. She pushes her hair back behind one ear and then the other. Bobs her head to the left then smiles, then to the right and frowns. Turning, she tiptoes to the back of the stage.
Walking towards the windows she looks through them. Then she precariously places the flowers, one by one on the handles of the four windows. With care and concentration she works, then once finished she steps back, looks at her work, looks at the crowd and then back at the flowers once more. Suddenly she begins to dance again; shaking her hips to the music that only she can hear. Then she takes the chains of flowers down one by one and places them on her wrist. Turning, she tiptoes now towards the front of the stage.
When she is centre stage she clears her throat. She opens her mouth about to speak when something off stage right catches her eye. With haste and urgency she exits stage right.
She exits stage right and into the real world.
As her right foot hits the pavement the stage on which she was performing takes its true from: a sidewalk. In front of the sidewalk are empty parking spaces where her imaginary crowd sat and watched her. The stage lights, under which she danced, are the fluorescent light coming from the shop behind the pavement. A cake shop, a Kooky Luscious Cake shop nonetheless. Gourmet cakes being sold for 150 pesos a slice, or 800 a cake.
She exits stage right and leaves her imaginary crowd eagerly awaiting her next scene. But she has to go; after all she has work to do.
Along the sidewalk she chases the thing that had caught her eye, a man walking. He is heading home from work perhaps. She chases after him, skipping in order to keep up with the strides of his long legs. Holding out her wrist she presents the flowers to him. He reaches into his pocket and hands her some change. She carefully takes a few of the chains of flowers from her hands and places them around his wrist. Smiling she turns and walks back.
Cars whiz pass on the road beside the sidewalk. Three lanes of vehicles, polluting the air with noise and fumes. She is about to jump back onto her stage when a bus pulls up and ten or so passengers sprawl onto the sidewalk. Some head left, others right. She follows the ones who head left. Perhaps the wrong choice, as no one is interested in her flowers. Then, a red light and the cars begin to slow. More potential sales. She darts from window to window, looking inside with pleading eyes, holding the flowers in front of her.
Another sale, and another smile on her face. Then a green light and the traffic flows once more. She skips back to the safety of the sidewalk. A man passes her who is selling cigarettes. He pats her affectionately on the head and continues to walk on. She continues to walk up and down the path following people, not yet getting back on her stage.
I’d been watching her from a café, there weren’t many people around, and perhaps I was the only one watching her. I’d finished my food now and wanted to go say hello, to meet the star of the show. From where I sat I couldn’t see her that clearly, her face, I couldn’t tell how old she was. I walked towards the path, in front of her imaginary crowd and the shop front that was her stage. I turned right and looked down the sidewalk that ran parallel to the road.
She was about five meters away. I motioned for her to come towards me. It was dark along the street, but as she approached me the shop light revealed her. I saw she was smiling, a gap toothed smile, she’d just lost her first tooth. Her eyes were wide and brown and shining. A tuff of her short hair was tied up on the crown of her head; it looked like a little palm tree. She wore a pink shirt and gray shorts. No shoes protected her petite feet.
I chatted with her rather briefly and discovered a few things about her. Firstly that this young actress had a name and that was Madeline. Secondly, according to the verbal answer she gave she was six years old. However, according to the answer displayed on the number of fingers she held up she was only five. And lastly, I found out that the flowers she was selling were only 10 pesos.
I wanted to talk with her more, but sensed some awkwardness from her. Instead I purchased some flowers, thanked her and walked off. She flashed me one last angelic smile and then proceeded to plonk herself down on the curb of the sidewalk, just off stage right.
I walked away heading home, after all it was getting late and I was tired.
After walking about ten meters I turned and looked back. Much to the delight of the crowd Madeline was back on stage.
I watched her for a while then continued on home again.
As I walked home I wondered about her and her play.
I wondered which scene it was she was performing now, and of which act.
How many acts more were there in the play?
What time would it finish tonight?
For how many nights would the play be showing, or for how many more years?
If she is to be there selling flowers on the street for years to come, I can only hope that the show goes on too. That her imagination is never defeated, no matter what the days and nights ahead bring with them.