Peering through the window of the wedding store, past the orgy of exploding sequins, glossy taffeta and cheap lace, a gaggle of middle-aged and young women hurried around a young lady.
Encased in a lavendar gown, she stood on a raised platform that served as a dressing room. She cut a willowy figure with her long hair and slim arms that wrapped tightly around her small frame.
I pushed past the glass doors, unnoticed amidst the bustling activity. On the floor lay a trail of gauze and bundled heaps of colorful silk.
The young girl stood pale and tired as her relatives chattered incessantly about how she needed to lose weight, how much the dresses varied in cost and … how she needed to lose weight.
“So you’re saying to rent the wedding dress and two evening gowns will cost how much?” an auntie shouted across the shop at the assistant standing next to her.
The dour-faced assistant stared at her customer over the rim of her bifocals and sniffed.
“Twelve thousand. It’s a very good deal.”
The women tittered amongst themselves. Dresses rustled in accompaniment. The young bride stared into the distance.
“Nonsense, the shop next door offered us eight. What are you talking about? Come now, find us another dress.”
The assistant pulled out another sweeping gown. I looked dubiously at the explosion of badly sewn sequins tumbling down in a red fury to the hem of the dress. My eyes hurt.
Suddenly, the shop assistant was alerted to my presence, discheveled and out of place in my dusty boots and camera paraphenalia. I suspected I tracked some mud into her shop, I could feel her disapproving stare bore through me. I slowly edged towards the exit.
Just then, a man’s voice called out to me. “Ah! You’re here again!”
He was the shop owner, a nice elderly man whose son had migrated to Sydney. We had struck up a long and meandering conversation about his visit to Australia when I last poked my head in. He spoke at length about how he enjoyed the fresh Australian air and vibrant Chinese community but lamented about how estranged he was from his growingly Westernized son.
“You look different,” he mused. I wore a nice office suit and had neatly combed hair when we first met. “Like a high school student now,” he continued.
I smiled while watching his sullen yet wary shop assistant from the corner of my eye.
“We’re busy today but you can take a few photographs. We’ve had many young women come through, and one much older one too,” he chuckled.
By that time, the crescendo of criticism and commentary had reached a fever pitch. More dresses were shoved into the closed dressing room with oohs, ahhs and grunts of frustration emanating from within.
“够了，够了！Enough! Enough!” the poor young bride yelped as I heard a zip being viciously tugged.
There was silence. Then an auntie emerged from the dressing room with a triumphant smile on her face, and said to the shop assistant.
“We’ll take it!”