She is a twitchy ball of energy, a body in motion and if I were to asked to place a bet I would have said from the outset that this was not going to go well. The Department of Human Services is a misnomer, a public humiliation where people are made to wait like cattle and publicly state their name and purpose then wait hopefully for their name to be called. I don’t make eye contact as I sit in my chair and watch her in the queue, as I wait to be called for my Medicare claim. Brown bare feet, but clean, bouncing from ball to ball. She wants to move but is tethered by the line, to slow for her today. I can feel her tension, one wrong look or word and she will blow. Glancing up I see she is draped in a blanket, it is a Summer’s day outside. I guess she has been sleeping rough, but not for long. She carries nothing other than the blanket and a handbag. She is

Brown bare feet, but clean, bouncing from ball to ball. She wants to move but is tethered by the line, too slow for her today. I can feel her tension, one wrong look or word and she will blow. Glancing up I see she is draped in a blanket, it is a summer’s day outside. I guess she has been sleeping rough, but not for long. She carries nothing other than the blanket and a handbag. She is with a man, he is pushing an empty stroller, one of those cheap ones you can buy for under $30, it is empty. Whenever he tries to talk to her she shrugs him off. Together they get to the counter, words are spoken, quietly at first.

“Don’t listen to him, fuckin’ white cunt!” She says to the staff member behind the counter. A security guard rushes over, tells her that if she doesn’t calm down she will have to leave. She tells him to fuck off and leave her alone. Someone who looks important comes over. I don’t want to stare, but it is hard not to.

It’s quiet again and I don’t see her waiting like the rest of us, like her companion. I assume she has been made to leave.

Behind me I hear a ruckus and I realise that she is still here. Instead of making her leave they took her straight to a consultant, I’m impressed to see a shred of humanity does exist at the Department of Human Services. Her male friend is over talking to the staff member and her. “You stay out of it you white cunt!” She yells at him. He moves back to his seat with the rest of us “Speak Australian! Why can’t you speak Australian?” She is yelling at the consultant. There is hysteria in her voice. If she doesn’t yell she will burst into tears, this is not how she planned the morning to go.

She is wild now and suddenly the Department of Human Services has plenty of available staff. A semi-circle of men in suits has formed around her as if they plan to catch her like a stray dog if she tries to run. This only makes her look more desperate, angrier, she is backed into a corner like an animal, trapped. Whatever she came for, she does not have the negotiation skills to back down from this, it has escalated beyond her powers of control and she is stuck.

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