I’ve been exhuming the past again and happened upon another piece of writing from a while back, as in this previous post. My much-beloved writing coach, Cathy Eden, often recalls this piece fondly. She says that capturing these snippets of life is a way of acknowledging and honouring the significance of seemingly ordinary lives.
They become EXTRAordinary:
Off to the bank, I walk. Eyes soft, face receptive.
A gentle man is walking towards me and I say the usual Hello. He greets me back and then stops:
“You know forty years ago I used to work in the basement of this building here as a seam presser.”
I wonder silently for a second what a seam presser was then he explains but I gather only that it has something to do with clothes and their seams and he goes on:
“One day my friend told me I could make my own clothes and I said no, don’t be silly! Why would I want to do that? But I did. And here I am, still running my very own tailoring business forty years on. You know I am very happy. It was the best thing I ever could have done. I gave my four children a good education and they are happy, successful, independent people. It must be a gift from god.”
I said I was glad and he went on to top it off with this cherry:
“And I never put my money in the bank! No, no. And I never will!”
We laughed and said goodbye and continued on our way. As I walked on towards the bank I smiled serenely to myself. Perhaps it was that smile that said “Speak to me, trust me”.
When I got to the teller she was experiencing a technological meltdown so I resumed my queueing expecting to be next but the lady behind me decided it was her turn instead, scuttling and scowling ahead of me. I just laughed at her impatience and then felt a tap on my shoulder:
“Excuse me lady, please will you help me? I have to get the bus to CPUT and I’m going to be late. Won’t you please deposit this R100 for me?”
I asked whether he wouldn’t need the deposit slip back.
“No. It’s fine,” he said. So I obliged and off he went and there I was with his money and slip.
I could’ve bought myself a really nice lunch with that. But I didn’t, of course. My bothered conscience would not have been worth it.
Perhaps that was what he saw, my morals branded on my face.
So it seems wonderful things can still happen on the way to the bank, even if you’re not laughing all the way there yet (still living in hope).
Let me know what you think.