Every day she waits for me.
Ironically, this woman – I am assuming mother of a student but she only talks of her 23 year old – waits outside the office where I collect Boo from the mainstream school.
I say ironically as she has from what I can gather, for want of a better term, a brain injury. (I saw her a few months back with the side of her head shaved with stitches.)
It is the mainstream school where she waits, and not the special school where many of the parents I meet were past students.
And then I say ironically but since Alanis did her little number on us in her questioning song, I am always questioning my actual use of the word ironic. Which may actually be irony in its most delicious form… but I digress.
This woman asks me questions and berates me for not doing my housework and compliments my shoes.
She tells me I look younger than her daughter and that I am lucky to have all (that she assumes) I have.
She asks me to guess her age and the ages of her children and what the weather is going to be tomorrow.
She sits with her green shopping bag in her shapeless clothes and talks in a gibberish that I can occasionally decipher but she seems so damn grateful for someone to talk to I smile and nod.
(I wonder, am I just one more brain fart away from being her? For the grace of God go I)
The office ladies thank me for being nice to her, they tell me others are not so ‘kind’.
I leave the word hanging in the air, not wanting to hear what others say or do.
For fucks sake how hard is it to be nice to someone who is so obviously lonely (damn, I know how that feels) for 10 minutes?
Today, like every other day, she was waiting for me.
I walked in and sat down and she asked me if I had done my womans work today and I said no, I was too busy playing on the computer.
Which is only half a lie.
I was shopping for shoes online.
There is a difference.
She tells me all she has done – man, how does one woman have so much washing if she is wearing the same clothes every time I see her? – and then compliments my shoes.
Then she walks over to me and sits down.
‘Do you ever feel so depressed that you want to shoot yourself in the head?’
Hell. How the fuck do I answer that?
‘Please don’t do that. Nothing is ever that bad. Trust me.’
‘Do you like me? Am I a nice woman? Do you think I am a nice woman?’
She looks at me strangely as she asks this and I have no idea how to take her expression. Her teeth are bared but her eyes are glistening. I don’t know if this is smiling because usually when she smiles it doesn’t quite make it to her eyes…
‘I need money for me and my daughter to get a drink’
‘Can you give me five dollars? Ten dollars? Twenty?’
‘Why not? I have no money Centrelink cut me off’
‘I’m sorry, no. And Centrelink wouldn’t cut you off. I get Centrelink benefits’
It is the first time I have told someone that, why do I feel burning shame creep into my cheeks?
‘There is a problem. I won’t have any money for WEEKS! Give me five dollars’
I turn away from her. I really don’t know how to deal with this situation. I am stuck here in this airless room waiting for Boo and she is berating me for money.
I get up and walk across the room.
‘You hate me now’
‘I don’t hate you’ I say, but I can’t look at her ‘It is just not appropriate to ask someone for money’
I am treating her like Boo, trying to teach her the social niceties which is not my place to do and quite frankly is fucking condescending of me but I just don’t know what to do…
She gets up and walks out, slamming the door as she goes.
I walk up to the ladies at the office who saw something was going on, but couldn’t hear the exchange through the sliding glass window.
‘You can take me off the list of nice people now’
I feel bad.
I worry was me turning her down the final straw – I know how fucking ARROGANT of me, but I know people have done things to themselves for much less.
Or, is this what she does? Plays on the conscience of other parents and is that what the office ladies see through their glass window? People pissed off that they have been played?
What would YOU have done?