Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Trading places

Through the torrent of shoppers I saw you.  You saw me and, despite the chasm of time, recognition lit up your face like packs of Christmas lights illuminating at once.  Your mouth formed ‘hi’.

I looked away.  I looked away because I don’t know you now.  I don’t know you, and I don’t want you to know me.

I knew you when you had nits in your hair, and indelible dirt wedged under your fingernails.  You were pushing a refilling pram, weary social workers plodding along in your wake.  Do you remember you told me the midwives refused to delivery your next baby unless you took a bath?

I don’t know you now, splendid in your Salvation Army uniform, badges of office shining, and your sleek hair slicked into a bun.  And you don’t know me, slouching out of the shop in grubby, clothes, lank hair lolling over my ears as though it could hide the sound of my own unruly child squalling.  It is I who is now stalked by the spectre of social services.  But still you recognised me.

You recognised me, and I ignored you.  One thing I’m sure you know; if you were me, you’d at least have said ‘hi’.

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