When I sat down next to the elderly lady I noticed she was looking directly at me. I gave a slight nod of my head and a jovial greeting in response. She smiled in return but did not speak. I was then unsure of how to proceed.
The setting was a small bench adjacent the entrance of a supermarket. My girlfriend and I had just done some shopping but forgot one item, which she had returned to procure. This left me with no more than a couple of minutes to pass.
I asked the elderly lady how her day was going. Her answer was another smile. I made one more play for a verbal response and was again given just the smile. There are many reasons this lady may not wish to speak with me, but as I had a bit of time to pass I decided to come up with the reason myself.
There were no clues in her style of dress. She was wearing what I would describe as typical old lady attire. A nice cardigan, smart pants and sensible shoes. All perfectly pleasant and reasonable for a woman of advanced age to be trotting around in.
What interested me was the walking aid she had, currently being used to hold a few items purchased from the supermarket. Something stood out to me quite strongly. The walker had the name 'Jim Days' written on it twice in large lettering.
It was clear that Jim was anxious to make sure everyone knew that this walker was his. And yet this elderly lady was currently strutting about town with it. Well, sitting on a bench with it. There was no doubt that she was not Jim. Perhaps his wife. Perhaps a friend.
Or perhaps a thief. A calculating criminal whose list of crimes stretched so long that the theft of a walking aid barely even registered on her rap sheet.
She dared not speak to me for fear of incriminating herself, drawing attention to her location, giving me a reason to remember her. Jim may be after her as we speak. Anyone could be after her. She may have enemies everywhere, chasing her to the point of exhaustion until all she can do to hide is rest on a bench adjacent a supermarket with some groceries.
She caught my eye again. She knew I was looking at the name on the walker, perhaps knew where my thoughts had taken me. Maybe she thinks I am one of the people after her and is preparing to fight or flee.
I see my girlfriend coming out of the self service aisles of the supermarket carrying the originally forgotten butter. She is talking to an old man who is carrying a box of teabags and walking very slowly and carefully. They arrive in front of us together.
The old woman smiles and pushes the walker towards the old man, who grabs onto it. They slowly wander off in the direction of the car park and I sigh at the thought of my fantasy being just that, a fantasy.
'Well he seemed nice,' I said to my girlfriend in reference to the elderly man.
'Oh yeah, he was lovely. Seemed to be in quite a hurry to get out of the supermarket though.'
'The old lady didn't say a word to me, just several smiles.'
'Oh Bill was a bit more chatty than that.'
We walked on for a moment.
'Hold on. Bill? His name was Bill?'
'Yeah, his ID fell out while he was paying and I picked it up for him. Saw the name.'
I let this process for a moment.
He wasn't Jim.
Then just what was the story with that walker? I turned to look at the meandering old couple.
They both happened to look back at the same moment to see me staring at them.