Madame Mary

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I remember Madame Mary.

Living in the minuscule ticket office cabin at the entrance of the theatre.

Wearing a green turban and heavy make-up, like that of actors on stage. She always wore bold colours on her eyelids: deep green, deep blue and shades of fiery orange even, complemented by the black, ample eyeliner lines that built huge tails for the eyes.

She usually wore dark tones of lipstick, which seemed to match her coarse voice perfectly.

The minuscule cabin was always overflowing with the smoke that ceaselessly came out of Madame Mary’s cigarettes, always carried in a long, elegant cigarette holder.

Sunk in a perfect ‘je m’en fous’ attitude, Madame Mary could never be tamed to cede tickets in the front rows to anyone else but to the provincial elite.

In vain would my uncle designate me to buy the tickets – I was 5 years old and quite short for my age – thinking that I would be able to ‘impress’ Madame Mary, by appealing to her motherly instincts. She remained a sphynx.

My uncle used to teach me the following line: ‘Dear Madame, could I very kindly ask you for two tickets at tonight’s performance?’

With nerves stretched, I would go and recite my line.

The task also implied peeping at Madame Mary through a tiny square hole, which allowed only the hand to enter or exit, during the exchanges of money versus tickets.

From within the cloud of smoke, Madame Mary would reach impassibly for her booklet of tickets, rip two and subsequently write on their back – row 13, seats 10 and 11.

Bad luck always! Row 13 was the last one at the back of the stalls area.