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Return to sender

I lost the twenty pound note in my pocket, the one that I had opened, closed, opened again, folded and creased. I couldn’t leave anything to chance. In my right pocket, reserved only for this note, I sank my fingers over and over again that morning.

I was being served at the head of a long line of people. I searched one pocket, then another, the same pockets again. I went from being calm and relaxed to someone who felt like their life was slipping away.

I couldn’t put the items back, my pride couldn’t even get to its feet.
I didn’t want to walk away emphasising my distress to others. The pity would have been unbearable. And yet I couldn’t stand there and make light of my forgetfulness, embellishing a forced smile with a clever one liner.
They would have seen right through my pretence.


I had dropped it near the bread counter and someone had, at that very moment caught sight of it, but if I ran now I could grab it just in time. I could make it – it was impossible but I could make it. And even if it wasn’t there it had to be near the vegetable stand. In fact it was definitely there; I know because even as I went through my pockets again I knew it was there, and I knew it was there because it had to be.

How the mind wanders when it is allowed to roam free. That in such distress the mind could find such fantastical answers. And the greatest mystery of all is that some times that answer might be right.

One last look in the same place that I’d looked and felt a dozen times, and there it was. Neatly folded, hidden and protected so well that, were I to open my pockets to any professional pickpocket, he could not possibly have found it.

I found it at the exact moment when nothing mattered anymore, where nothing more could hurt me. I have felt this before. Like someone throwing you over the edge only to grab your arm and pull you back up.

I am not sure it was joy. It felt so much more than that. If I had the winning lottery ticket in my possession at that moment I couldn’t possibly have felt happier.

It wasn’t always like this. I once ran that race – the race where you run and poverty chases you. You out fox, out smart, out work it. And if you’re lucky it cannot find you and it gives up looking. Only now it wasn’t looking, because I wasn’t running. Cornered, and some might say chained, I don’t know how it will end.

I know that some are beaten to an end. I know because I have heard about it, read about it, and in truth I sometimes feel resigned to such a fate. But that doesn’t mean I will stop fighting. Sinking my fingers into my right pocket is all I have, but it’s enough. And enough is all I need right now.

I walked away, strangely happy, but I think just a little part of me died that day.

Comments

Very moving. I've had those dying moments. Beautifully and succinctly described as someone throwing you off a cliff only to catch you by the arm. Yes. Totally with you.
 
I think it's the poverty. That biting desperation which is only a leaking roof, a broken washer, a smashed window, away.
Poverty and ME make the worst of all bedfellows.
 

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