Monday, 15 August 2016

Another customer.

'Excuse me, dear?'
'Hi there! Sorry, I was reading...perks of the job, you know! Can I help?' 

I had finished two books at this point. I'd done all my jobs for the day, and it was only me in this quiet little shop. I ate my sandwiches behind the desk, springing up whenever a customer walked in, shoving the sandwich bag under the till. At this moment, however, I was truly absorbed. I was learning about grief – it's a thing with feathers. Then the woman had appeared. I didn't notice her coming in. She just...happened. 


'Quite alright. I snuck up on you! Yes, I was wondering if you had any pets books?'
'Oh, like How To guides, that kind of thing?'
'No, just books about pets. See, I don't have a pet these days, I'm too old for one really, but I like reading about them!'
'You're not too old, surely! You know the RSPCA does a special weekly adoption deal? We tried to get my Grandad on it. My sister is also a volunteer with Blue Cross, she cuddles cats two hours a week, you could probably...'
'Oh no, if I adopted an animal I'd have to keep it!'
'True, I think that's what they aim for actually!'

This woman was thin, bent over slightly; grey hair, wide but tired eyes. She had the nicest white lace top on, and as she stood talking to me she was keeping carefully within herself. She shone quietly.

'So did your grandad do that adoption thing? How old is he?'
'He wouldn't, though we tried to convince him to. He's 79!'
'Oh, 79, really?'

I couldn't tell how old this woman could be – but that's not saying much, I have very poor judgement with ages. I can't say how old a small child might be, I'll always say 'under 10'. I can't tell who's my age and who's older. I get embarrassed when I assume someone is older than me and they're actually younger. It's a minefield. I hate guessing ages, too. That's the worst challenge you can pose in a conversation. That, and asking about a person's faith. Or sexuality.

'Yep, you wouldn't know it though. He's a spritely fella!'
'Well I'm 86, dear.'

Her eyes crinkle, condense and come apart as she smiles. She's shaking her head, as if she's ashamed of her age. Nobody should ever be ashamed of their age. We can't control it. We have to own it.

'So I'm 86, you see, and I recently lost a cat.'
'Oh, no! I would go mad if I lost my cat. He's my best friend, he really is. I'm so sorry.'
'Yes well, I lost him and I'd lost my husband, and my father...it happens, at my age.'

I'm lost for words. Then she says it.

'At my age, at 86, I really can't love anything any more.'

What can I possibly say to that? I fall down holes as I process the statement. Love is essential. Love is not the meaning of life, no, but it's important. It's something we should all have – within us and around us. I love love. So hearing this...said so casually, like she's reached the final stage of grief and she's putting her heart away in a little jewellery box in her bedroom, on her husband's side of the bed...

'So that's why I buy pet books. So I can read about pets. But I can't have one.' 

8 comments

  1. Oh, ohh this brought tears to my eyes. I don't know how else to react, but thank you for sharing this!

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    1. I am sorry for the tears, my darl. Big love xxx

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  2. Lovely blog post. Really touching vignette.

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    1. IKR. My feels are still intense. xo

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  4. heartbreakingly beautiful, masterfully relayed x

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    1. why, you absolute babe. Thank you so so mucho xoxo

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