I am one of those people who pretend they know more people than they do or are friends with someone just because they chat with them in cafés: three days a week I work as a forecourt attendant at my local garage, five hours a day, and always tackle my work as if I have a purpose. When I leave work I walk as if I’m in a hurry and have things to do but in my bag is a meal for one to be eaten during an evening of undisturbed solitude. I sleep in a single room apartment, microwave included, with use of a shared shower. I watch films on my television or pass the time by either looking out of the window or answering obscure questions I pose to myself by searching on the internet.
That is what I would have said two months ago but something has come along to change my horizon. Sometimes, to break the monotony I would wander into the local gift shop where curious items would amuse me for a moment and I would remark on them with the shop assistant of the day, and so it continued until it didn’t if you follow me.
A new girl, I say “girl” although she is comfortably in her forties, starting talking back to me. “What do you like about it? Do you always have the same ready meal? Can you cook?
You get the picture: she seemed to be taking an interest in me and I was always tempted to look over my shoulder in case she was addressing someone else but she wasn’t: it was always me. Needless to say, my occasional “popping into the shop” became part of a daily routine. Her name was Sarah, by the way, and I started to think about her more and more when I should have been looking out of the window or answering obscure questions on my laptop. Now there was only one question on my mind and the laptop could not answer it. “Did she really like me?
Finally I plucked up the courage to ask if she’d like a meal at the local pub, which was a major investment for me, I can tell you, as I have no money, but sometimes you have to risk everything don’t you, and this seemed such a time. “Yes” she said.
Come the Saturday and I was at the pub by seven in the evening, drink in hand and waiting for her to arrive at eight. I am never late for anything; that is one of my qualities, but now, just to be in the place she was going to be in seemed to add magic to the hour and I found myself smiling at life for no logical reason.
Come eight-thirty and I was a bit concerned, but we are not all punctual are we, though by nine I was getting really worried. By ten I knew all was not right and, sure enough, she never appeared. On Sunday the shop was closed so I l was left free to fret as only the solitary can and on Monday I could do no more than walk to work consumed by the mystery. I tried to walk around pretending all was normal, and helping others as I always do but I’m not sure I was fully myself.
Half way through the shift an older lady came across the forecourt and spoke to me. “Sorry to bother you but I am Sarah’s mother. Her husband came back unexpectedly last night and that is why she could not meet you” “Quite understand, quite understand” I said as if I did, though I did not. I never ask unsolicited questions: it’s not my thing!
There is a story there but I do not know it myself; but still I like to think of the whole thing as a romance.
Now I’m not looking out of the window or answering any questions on my laptop because her face keeps staring at me from my memory. Was that a love story do you think? Was that the final chapter? Not to me at least. If, at some future time, she comes across the forecourt instead of her mother, I may not have much to offer but she will get my love and understanding at the very least: we can all offer that I hope? Perhaps I’ll ask my laptop.