Really? Is it? Gloria Tipene in layers of dirty designer dresses? Gloria Tipene with hay-thatch hair and farmer’s cheeks? Gloria Tipene who is watched and wondered about aloud, shuffles along the street stopping at each bin and lamppost and shop window that catches her magpie eye; carries her life in a performance of plastic bags, string-tied parcels, pull-behind and push-forward trolleys; whispering harshly and sometimes shouting her lines.
Is that Gloria Tipene, dazzled by the display of gold and rubies and pearls and diamonds, dreamily tracing the circles of engagement rings, wedding rings and earrings with her skinny dirt-encrusted fingernail. Lingering on miniature markers of life’s journey she gently taps, strokes the glass-bound dog and breathes. Startled by the sudden appearance of a shop assistant, drops her finger and flees, melts into the mass of other people not like her.
Gloria Tipene, despite the grime and clutter, despite the owl hood eyes that can’t look up but see everything, despite the words that come with every shuffled step but never address another person, never more on a stage or film set to be heard and adored.
Yet, Gloria Tipene holds inside the poise of unicorns and the daring of dragons. Rainbow blood pumps through her veins and heart and brain. She re-holds conversations with directors and artists and politicians, re-signs fans’ programmes, hands, arms. In her hand-stitched heart knows that she is loved by thousands and by no one.
Glimpsed sometimes on the next street, by the traffic lights, under the bridge, I never get close enough to check, to gaze closely on that clue-filled weather-worn face.
Gloria Tipene always just far enough away to never really be sure and one day will disappear and tread the pavement boards no more.