She’s late. Of course she is. One day I’ll give her a taste of her own tardiness and see if she likes it, sitting there waiting like a Mrs-no-mates.
We’ve arranged to meet, have a catch-up, and browse round the shops. That’s today sorted. My diary pages are as blank as my mind. I did have an entry for this evening, Back to Camera Club gave me a purpose, but my lift cancelled. He can’t make it. So a quick call to friend Jenny last night meant I have something to occupy my day.
She couldn’t do later on unfortunately. Mornings are tricky for me, as I find social interaction difficult before lunch. But I needed to get out. The wooden seats in the precinct are taken when I get there so I have to lean against the Home Bargains window until a couple get up and move on.Then it’s bum on seat, and spreading my bags to save the space next to me.
The heat through the high transparent roof is sickly and I’m zonked. It’s like that song: “Nothing older than time, nothing sweeter than wine – nothing physically, recklessly hopelessly mine - nothing rhymes.”
I know. It’s the end of the summer holidays. My children and grandkids are all going back to busyness, and their lives. We did go away, but the trains were delayed and muddled, which was stressful. Still, apart from all the crying and sunstroke, it was a change, and I didn’t have time to think.
A shout breaks into my doze. ‘Joy!’
And here she comes, at a snail’s pace, up the mall. “Well, don’t hurry yourself,” I mutter as Jenny stops and puffs. I remove my bag and she lowers herself into the space beside me. Still a bit of a squeeze, with all the people from the sheltered housing flats round the corner sitting like statues for hours. It’s frightening.
‘I can’t stay long,’ Jenny announces.
Typical! Swans up according to her own body clock, and then has to go. Talk about a sense of entitlement.
‘No retail therapy then?’
‘Well I need some comfy slip-ons We could pop into the shoe place.’
By the time we have popped into Shoes 4 Us, (her trying on the whole lot, me leaning, sweating, against the shelves), she’s fussing about her next appointment.
Then she’s gone. I am left even more alone and unlistened to than before. I click on my phone but all that comes up is a meme, telling me to fill my heart with gratitude. I should be thankful. Give thanks. Er - for what, exactly?
‘I’ve missed my bus.’
I jump. She’s back, Jenny, moaning she’ll have to get a taxi.
‘My daughter’s starting chemo this afternoon. She needs her mummy with her.’
Jenny hasn’t got a mobile. No, really. So I phone for a cab and wave her off, calling Good Luck after it.
I decide to go into the pocket park down a side road to calm down and sort my head, before trekking back. It will be getting on when I reach my front door, then there’s the radio, a nap perhaps before supper and the telly drama.
A woman with a toddler rushes by, rams me with the buggy, shouts, ‘Come on, Hermione! We have to get to the food bank before it closes.’
I turn into the sidewalk. My phone pings.
“Sorry about tonight,” the text reads. “I’m in hospital. Had an operation.”
Winded, I sit down on a bench in the park in the quiet; because I can. Neither I nor my children are having chemo; I can afford to eat well; I haven’t got to have surgery which would leave me in pain.
The warm sun kisses my shoulders. There will still be moments. But I can draw strength here, now, from the tall shady trees, smell the sweetness of the grass. And breathe.