I’m walking up the main street with Bella, my wiry black and white terrier mix. Outside the health centre a short, straggling queue has already formed.
I twig one particular rangy, middle-aged man, and we nod hellos.
I see him around the town, but have never spoken to him at any length. He’s an interesting looking dude, though: collar-length grey hair, usually wearing a denim jacket, but this winter’s morning, wooly-hatted and wearing a long navy overcoat. Large grey eyes; taut-cheekboned, sensitive face. But harrowed, I sense.
This time he steps out from the wall towards me, asking me how I’m keeping.
“Grand, and you?”
“Not, bad … you know yourself … you’ve seen the other side too, I’d say,” he says, peering at me through narrowed eyes, head tilted back slightly.
“How do I look?,” he continues, looking me straight in the eye with an upturned query of the chin. “I’d trust you more than those doctors … it’s all money … I’ve stopped taking that injection …”
“What’s the injection for,” I ask, not wanting to know.
“The nerves … they’ve been giving it to me for 28 years .. but it’s just about money to them,” he says, his head turned to one side and bent conspiratorially towards mine, his eyes scouring the street.
Bella is pulling at her lead, and I make to follow that lead, to extricate myself.
“You’re goin’ this way?” my pal continues. And walks on slightly ahead of me. I’m wondering how this is going to play out. My discomfort is mounting, and I’m sure he notices this.
I do feel for this guy, but I’m also uneasy with this blithe airing of medical history and God knows that further intimacies are about to be shared. And what might be expected of me.
Fifty yards later we’re passing a bus stop.
“See ya,” he says, airily, one stretched out leg following the other in a swift movement that brings him instantly to the end of the small queue, staring back down the road now to where the bus will turn on to the street.
Now, walking along, I’m thinking about what he said early on: “You’ve seen the other side too”.
Has his slightly left-of-the-dial mental tuning also given him some uncanny insight into the psychical and bodily well-being of others? Me anyway?
Should I trust him more than the doctor, too?
C’mon Bella, let’s head to the park for a good run out.
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