and her dog
The first time that I noticed her it was the first truly nice day of the year. The sun made the grey in her hair shimmer like silver and the large black clip that kept it together -a clip you’ll only ever find on older women of a certain social standing, those who have kept their hair long throughout their lives- looked like it had just now been polished by someone who’s really keen on polishing. Her dog’s tail was happily wagging from one side of its small body to the other. Normally I didn’t really like small dogs, but I found myself not really minding this one.
What was she waiting for?
When I returned from work, the early morning sun now replaced by the low beams of the evening, it was hotter than earlier. My back was uncomfortably sweaty and in my mind I was still in the meeting I had left just twenty minutes ago, Mark can really be such a prick-
She’s there again.
On the exact same corner as this morning.
I remember that I thought it was a great coincidence. Then my mind returned to Mark.
The next morning, I was hurriedly forming a mental reply to an email Mark had sent me at eleven the night before, I had not had a single thought of the woman, but there she was. Again, in the exact same spot. I remember that I thought it was such a great coincidence.
Mark had called in sick and I barely spent a minute of my working day thinking of conspiracy theories on how he was surely spending his day. Instead, she was on my mind. She was on my mind during the meeting with our largest client, she was on my mind when Zayra was droning on about her neighbour during lunch, she was on my mind when I made a copy with the one copier that didn’t actually suck, she was on my mind when I spilled valuable company time by scrolling through Instagram and carelessly pressing the heart button for anyone I actually knew in real life.
Walking home -it was only a short distance from the office to my house- I talked myself out of her being there again. Three times seemed more than plenty, for such a coincidence. She would never be there, and was it even really her, when I rushed past her corner this morning? When had I started thinking of that corner as her corner? If she was there again, I reminded myself of the impossible chance that she would be, but if she was, who would I tell? Mum? Alice? Zayra?
And there she was again.
That was the first night I dreamt of her. In my dreamscape she was not as statuesce as she was during the day. Her pace was slow, her steps were small, they seemed to mimic the dog’s. She walked and walked and I looked and looked. The circles she walked started out big, but gradually became smaller. I was the centre. Her face became clearer. The only part of my body that I could move was my head. Like an owl I followed the woman coming ever closer to me. I could smell her perfume, it smelled expensive and perhaps like Chanel, I could hear her little heels ticking on the floor, the dog’s nails made little clicking sounds, I could feel her coat brushing up against me and she kept walking. Revolving around me. The dream didn’t end until she had shaved away parts of my body with hers, leaving only my inner core, no arms and a head precariously balancing on a torso that was getting slimmer by the minute.
My neck hurt when I woke up.
Over the next week my life went on, with her being the one true constant in my life. I started to notice more and more about her. The collar of her jacket was slightly furry, but I wouldn’t consider it fur, it was a dark brown that I had mistaken for black on the first few days that I saw her. She had small feet and always wore some kohl pencil, slightly smudged, around her eyes, like only old women do. Her trousers were a dark green, her face was kind, but always without a smile. I never dared to walk close enough to check whether she was breathing.
I could not remember a time, not even when I was eleven and the most in love I have ever been, when a single person took the presence of my mind over so fully. She was with me, day and night, even on the rare days where I did not pass her, standing on that corner, looking as if to cross the street, dog patiently by her side, always wagging its tail in the same rhythm.
I never dared to check, whether she really stood there for the entire day, or whether she took a lunch break. Perhaps this was her nine-to-five (only then more a seven-to-twelve)? Maybe she was a performance artist, and would have told you, the audience, her entire story, if only you’d asked. But I never did ask, or check whether she was still there in the middle of the night, I never set up a secret camera, pointed right towards her corner. I never stood next to her, for as long as I could. I never stooped down, and pet her dog. I wanted to do all these things but I never dared, for reasons I think anyone will understand. I’ve regretted it every single day.
That night, the first night she was gone, I barely noticed that she wasn’t there, I had become so used to her everlasting presence that my mind almost filled in the gap. I had to look, really look, before I saw. The next morning I wondered if I had dreamt it, the night before, but no – she was gone. No trace left of the forever she spent standing there.
I moved house just six days later, I couldn’t manage her absence, and had interviewed for a position that included being Mark’s supervisor. I never returned to the street with that corner. I never dared.