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Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A remembered episode

I pulled my heavy bag behind me as I forced my way onto the packed bus. Tripping over suitcases and large holdalls (this was the airport bus after all) I managed to tuck myself and my bag into the aisleway.

I felt a tap on my arm.

'Excuse me Pani, do you have anything to eat? Anything, anything at all...' a small wizened old lady was looking up at me, a bulging carrier bag in one hand and the other stretched out ready to accept whatever I had to offer.

Unusually for me, I didn't have any sandwiches packed for the journey, just a free can of sugar-free coke that somebody had thrust into my hands as part of a promotion. At least it won't rot her teeth I thought to myself.

'Sorry, I have nothing to eat, just this to drink', I said, handing her the can and realising I couldn't even offer her any change as my wallet was empty following the appeals of a Roma young mother the evening before.

The lady peered at the can and stored it in her plastic bag. She thanked me and went to sit at a seat that someone had vacated. She was sitting next to a youngish guy, who looked startled when she started talking to him, but eventually relaxed and just nodded occasionally, looking at her in an amused manner, while she chatted away.

A window seat became available and when nobody made a move towards it, I hauled my bag in first and sat, crushed against the glass, knees against my bag.

When the man sitting next to me got off at the next stop, the lady to whom I'd given my drink stood up, shuffled over and sat down next to me. She fumbled in her bag and produced an empty aspirin packet.

'Excuse me Pani,' she started again, tapping my arm and showing me the empty packet, 'do you have any change so that I can buy some more medicine?'

I turned to face her. "I only had a drink, and I gave that to you already' I reminded her softly.

'Oh.' She didn't look surprised although she clearly had no recollection of any such transaction. She turned, frowning, towards me. 'Did I thank you?' she asked, a troubled expression on her face. 'Oh, yes' I reassured her quickly, 'you thanked me.'

'Good.'

We were sitting by the door, behind the glass panel and I could see my new neighbour clearly in the reflection. She was younger than I'd first assumed, but frail and grey all the same. Her clothes were mismatched and too warm for the current weather. She gave off a musty odour, an unwashed smell of hair and old sweaters. She was muttering to herself and fishing in her bag again.

I watched as she carefully retrieved a sugar sachet and started shaking it, sending all the grains to the bottom. I was half expecting her to get out a teacup and saucer, but she didn't. She just sat, shaking the little packet and whispering under her breath. She was totally engrossed in her task and felt the bag regularly with her fingers to see if the sugar was all in one place. Once she was certain she knew where every grain was, she slowly tore open the sachet.

So much for worrying about her teeth I thought, as she suddenly popped the whole lot in her mouth, got up and, gripping her carrier bag tightly, stepped off the bus.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Gustav said...

Really, a lovely post.

10:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i do not understand the roma women.
they are poor ,have no money but make children "every year".

5:23 pm  

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