They’re about 8 years old, on the lawn in the middle of my apartment block’s large formal courtyard. I can see them from my lounge room couch on the first floor; they’re 40 or 50 metres away. I can hear their shrieks and laughter but not their words.
One of them does a cartwheel. It’s spontaneous, a cartwheel. You don’t need a run-up. You just lean sideways and carve a slice in the heart of all that see it. As a kid I remember wishing cartwheels were not restricted to the girls on the girls’ lawn.
Post-cartwheel, the girls start that gang intimacy that little girls do. Touching on the shoulder, half-hugging, playfully pushing, whispering, walking around each other. One of them produces a mobile phone.
She sits down and concentrates on it. The others stand behind, watching the screen. For a time they’re held in place by it. Then she puts down the phone. Straight away, one of the other girls picks it up and runs away. They chase her. They stop and watch the screen again. She walks backwards, meandering, holding the phone in front of her face while the others shadow her in lock-step, centimeters away. Like a small delegation of adoring fans.
At last the third girl, in an orange dress, gets the phone. She’s pretending to have a conversation – I can tell from the way she’s holding the phone while moving. The other girls are listening. They’re part of it, but most of the work, the fantasy, is being done by the girl on the phone. This game goes on for a number of girl minutes. One of the others lifts her up. The imagined conversation continues while she is held aloft.
A fourth girl arrives. Now it alternates. Three obedient satellites orbiting the orange dress. Or a lonely orange planet and a breakaway threesome playing a threesome game. Then they all come together again, and run off.