Sunday. 2pm. Sitting in the multiplex cinema waiting for Emma. On the weekends the whole city closes down apart from a few sparse cafes and the larger shopping malls. Even those are practically deserted. Planning ahead, we arrange to spend Sunday afternoon sitting in the dark somewhere warm, eating popcorn and watching Harry Potter.

Hence here I am, in the big, bright, multicoloured and sticky foyer of the multiplex. Its the school vacation, so there are hoards of kids everywhere. And since the Harry Potter movie only just came out, there’s a small band of moody looking teenage goths in black plastic capes and pointy hats hovering together in a corner.

Bright lights. Sticky yellow and red colours. Bursts of popping, whizzing machine noise. The smell of pop corn, disinfectant, and hot dogs. Plump, bored employees in matching t-shirts and baseball hats. I’m early by ten mins, so find a safe haven on a bench festooned with M+M characters, half hidden behind one of those machines that gives you plastic tat in small round eggs. Next to me on a bench sits a middle aged guy, staring vaguely into the distance with the blank expression of a boyfriend deposited there by his girlfriend while she goes to get the tickets. We sit on opposite ends of the M+Ms bench, a little island of silence.

After a while two young female employees come over with a mop, half a cardboard box folded up, and expressions of resignation. They set themselves up a few meters in front of us, over a tiny splash of something on the floor that that looks sticky. Trying to ignore the kids that rush around them, one mops the floor while the other starts to fan the slops of water with the piece of cardboard. Mop. Fan Fan. Mop. Fan Fan. Both work in a slow, lackluster manner, but while the mopper keeps her head down, the woman with the “fan” stops every few seconds to shift her weight to the other foot, stick her hand on her hip, and cast glances around her. All the while keeping up a desultory stream of chit chat with her colleague, desperate not to draw attention to herself, desperate to make some small act of separation between herself and the utter ridiculousness of what she’s doing. But its hard to look ironic when you’re wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and baseball cap and flapping a piece of cardboard over a puddle.

The guy on the bench and I both stare at them. The moment passes. The kids carry on screaming and running around in a grease and sugar induced frenzy.