I met a complicated lady at the bus stop when my daughter was a baby. She was beautifully dressed, her hair coiffed. She had a cigarette dangling from her mouth and a haunted expression on her face. Our friendship grew over the years, and she delighted me with the wondrous and unexpected things that came out of her mouth. She excitedly told me one day that she had been to a sale at the local chemist shop. “What did you buy?” I asked. She retrieved the bag, and pulled out a tube of Vagisol, “for this old vag of mine!” she roared with laughter. The poor man sitting next to her at the bus stop went beet-red. I gave her some money for her fare, and a few day’s later I found a chemist bag in my letterbox. In it contained a thankyou note, the money I had leant her, and as I tremulously pulled out a box from the bag (thinking it was leftover Vagisol), I found a small bottle of perfume.
She came to my door a few weeks ago, and asked me to put on the kettle. We sat in silence for a bit, before she said “it’s the anniversary of when my mum died. I didn’t want to be alone.” I gave her a big cuddle, and she left with a tin of bikkies. We saw her on Monday. She called out to me in the street. Her arms and legs shook so severely, it appeared as though she were having a seizure. She said she had been in hospital. My little girl was concerned, and I explained that sometimes when people drink too much over a long time, they get the DT’s. “I wish we could make it go away,” she said. I do too. I have a sense that this lady’s mind holds many traumatic memories. She has been trying to drown them in alcohol and the mesmerizing light and sound spectacle poker machines offer. A well-dressed lady with a colourful array of hats, missing teeth, a cheeky grin and a complicated back story. We love you. I pray you are with us for some time yet.