Sunday, May 10, 2015

A strange thing happened

A strange thing happened to me last week...

It was Wednesday evening. Marcel asked if I'd drop him at work. Léon was on cooking duty and had asked to make fish fingers. After a quick glance I realized we needed a few extra so I intended to go to the supermarket, drop Marcel and then come home. As I was considering this plan, however, mum turned up for a chat and things got pushed. I realized I'd have to do it in the reverse order. Then I realized that if I didn't go to ASDA till after Marcel's 6pm drop off, dinner would be late. I hatched a plan B. Drop Marcel, nip into the wee Coop corner shop and be back by 6-10pm.

So after dropping Marcel I rushed, absent-mindedly into the corner shop. It's a shop I almost never use but I knew the freezer was at the back of one of their three aisles. I picked up my fish and joined the back of a short three-person queue. In front of me was a man who looked late 50s in a fleece and woolly hat, in front of him was an elderly woman. There was less than a metre between each of us. The man turned to me and looked me up and down. I thought to myself 'You are a bit forward!' as he made me feel vaguely ill at ease but said nothing and continued waiting politely in the queue, mulling over the coming election. He turned away. Then he turned back, looking somewhat disgruntled and stared at me again from top to bottom. I was obviously familiar to him, I was obviously displeasing to him. I searched my memory for who I could have annoyed but no one came to mind. He lent forward and whispered barely audibly to me 'I don't know if you read my message?' It's always so embarrassing when you know someone but you can't place them, don't you find? So with lightning speed I calculated the variables in my head. He knows me, he has sent me messages I should read, I have no idea who he is. I narrowed him down to two possibilities: someone I know through one of the kids' schools, (did I dodge a request to help out at the school summer gala day or disco?) or someone I know through politics (it's true that over the course of the campaign I have received numerous requests to canvas, drop leaflets, man SNP stalls, participate in something for Women for Indy (I ruled that one out - he didn't look like a WFI kind of guy!) - maybe I did omit to read or reply to all of them and with the election the following day, of course he'd be annoyed if I ignored him, whoever he was... Grasping for an extra few seconds to choose between the two options before trying 'Do I know you?', I looked at my feet, and saw his: sandal-like shoes, jogging type trousers... I looked at him from bottom to top and finally the penny dropped in all its shock. It was my ex-husband! It was a man I had barely seen in nearly a decade but I genuinely had not recognized him. I hadn't even come close. Maybe if he hadn't had on a hat? But I had no inkling who he was! He did look very vaguely familiar but it took three questioning looks and several minutes for me to place him. The rest of the conversation is irrelevant here, but I never believed I would come this far in such a short time. Ten years ago I was living with a man who I cannot even pick out of a line-up anymore. How surreal is that?

And as I stared at my present, in some alternative universe, standing before me, I felt a strange calm and contentment. That present, with that future is unimaginable to me now. I am so happy with my current life (money stresses slightly excepted!) and that future left me completely cold and unmoved. For years even the sight of his name attached to an email or text filled me with dread, but he has become a stranger, an irrelevance who no longer has any bearing on my present. And for that I am immensely thankful.

I definitely made the right call nearly ten years ago.

No comments: