I actually remembered an umbrella this time. Usually I risk going out without one, but this time I remembered I had one in the door pocket of my car and black clouds were building. So it was quite satisfying to walk into town and briefly feel the rain on my face before sheltering under it.
I was walking up a busy street, up the hill towards food and a coffee, when I saw this small hooded figure. I didn’t think anything of it at first, in fact I nearly walked past her. I stopped because I heard her small, old voice say: “help me”. She was in her seventies in a padded coat, slowly getting wet and leaning on an aluminium crutch. Her face, now I think about it, was quite plain and drawn, like a tear falling upwards. She had that far-away look too.
“Help me down this hill would you? Otherwise I think I might fall over”
I brought her under my brollie and asked her if she was ok. She told me she needed to get to the bus station to get home.
“I don’t think I can do it on my own”
I took her by the arm and started walking back down the hill. She told me all about her life in the short distance to the bus station (which we got to the long way round). Her Jewish parents fled Germany before the Second World War broke out, changing their names too just in case Hitler ever made it across the Channel. Before she knew it people were taking advantage of her in her old age. Schizophrenia gave everyone the idea that they could help themselves to her money. Men told her they loved her and left with her possessions. Others sold her overpriced kitchen utensils and she bought them jewellery.
“I didn’t let them get the better of me” But she never said how she did that – It felt like they had.
It was difficult to see the truth in it all. Who am I to say that it was all a lie? While she was talking she seemed to forget her ailments, whatever they were and walked quite normally unaided by the crutch that dangled from her arm. I was glad that I could give her the time.
We got to her stop at the bus station and the rain stopped. My arm was aching from holding her up.
I offered to stay with her until the bus arrived but she had ran out of stories.
I said goodbye, she said: “Call me Diamond.”