Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Socially Unaware

 'Such a lovely kitty' she says stroking the calico cat with the orange collar setting the tiny bell dangling from it jingling with every stroke.  The cat rubs it's head against her free hand lovingly.  Her other hand clutches empty bottles to against the dark green jumper, slightly baggy and ragged at the edge of the sleeves as though it has caught and snagged on brambles growing in a hedge which it probably has.

She see's me glance at the bottles.

'I've been collecting again' she says.  I take this to mean that she has been picking up discarded bottles from the park and she confirms this when she tells me that she has been in the park where the police have been searching for a man with blood on his face and she has redirected them up the road leading towards the town where she saw him run a few minutes before.

She looks at me over the top of her thick rimmed glasses, her eyes looking so much smaller and somehow vulnerable without the magnification of the prescription lenses.

'We are loosing Bob you know' she tells me.

I'm shocked, I haven't seen Bob for a couple of weeks but the last time I saw him he seemed in good health.

I tell her I didn't know and ask what has happened.

'He's moving away' she tells me.  'To Bridgwater I believe'.

I'm relieved. She doesn't mean Bob at all, she means Dennis who is hoping to move nearer his family.

I stand awkwardly still clutching the bag of rubbish I had intended to put in the wheelie bin not really knowing how to either continue or end this conversation and conscious of the nip in the air and the feel of the cold tiles on my bare feet.

She continues to stroke the cat over and over, rubbing it behind the ears as it pushes it's whole body against her in ecstasy.

She's very small and stoops slightly making her appear even smaller.  Her slacks are a dark maroon colour and made of a quilted material that sags slightly around her derriere.  On her feet are sturdy caramel coloured lace up shoes tied in double bows.

There is a faint whiff of gin mixed with the strong smell of tobacco which seems to permeate her skin as well as being exhaled with every breath she takes courtesy of her 30 a day habit.

She comes every month to our pensioners bingo with her gentleman friend buying 3 books each time which I can never understand as surely it's easier to play 6 books and know that you will have to cross out every number?

It doesn't really matter though as she will invariably leave at 20 minute intervals eliciting annoyed glances from the other players to stand outside and puff on a cigarette.

She likes to help by doing the washing up after the interval where we serve teas and Janets homemade cakes along with the eye wateringly strong cheese and onion sandwiches made by Bob.

This also elicits annoyed glances from others as traditionally we leave the washing up until the end so we can continue to play the next game.

Still we continue but to the soundtrack of the chinking of cups in the washing up bowl and the creaking of the cupboard as she puts away the china.

She reminds me of the over enthusiastic child in the playground who hovers on the edge of the group desperate to be included in the game.

The child who is slightly socially unaware, who's enthusiasm means that they don't listen to the rules of the game.  Who's excitement means that their hands are always slightly clammy and no one wants to hold them.  The child who is so full of wanting and needing to be a part of things but who is never fully accepted although they don't know why.

The one who stands sadly in the playground when Birthday party invitations are handed out, hopeful and yet with little hope that an envelope will be pressed into their hand.

Maybe is she IS unaware of all this but I don't think so. She is an intelligent woman and I think she does know that for some reason she doesn't quite fit.

There is always that brief moment where eyes are slightly rolled and glances are exchanged when she appears and it makes me sad for her because she is a good person and she gets involved and she cares.

As a child no doubt I would have followed the crowd - better to be in it than standing on the outside ...

But now ... Well, now I don't care so much.

I like her tenacity, I like her good heart, I like the person she is.

These ARE only MY observations, I can't account for their accuracy.  Maybe I'm wrong ...


joeh said...

Another side to the Wacky, fun loving, slightly clumsy Sarah.

Very well written.

I like this side too.

Sarah said...

Thank you Joe.

Holly Hollyson said...

A lovely, well-written piece. I live beside an old guy called Peter (who actually smokes crack I think, so not quite gin and tobacco) but... he also is harmless and craves attention. He lives alone, his dog died last year and everytime I park up outside his teeny two-roomed house (literally the smallest thing ever, like a shed). He comes out to talk. I am so glad to know that the loneliest people can find interaction. I hope that others are able to provide what we try to provide also.

Sarah said...

Thank you Holly. I often wonder at the people many others seem to either not notice or even avoid. Maybe sparing a few minutes of your time makes all the difference to that old guy. It certainly can't do any harm can it?