Black Hat

I’d seen her and ignored her. Naturally; she was an older woman, not in my line of vision, not eye candy or a man. One of the diminishing souls that I ignored in case diminishing was a catching virus.

I was buying fruit for a bridge party I was hosting that evening. Half way through we’d break for cheese and fruit, this was our ritual. I was in a hurry I remember,  cheese still to buy, emails to attend, some emergency to respond to.

“Seville oranges. 4 pounds”, she said, eyes lowered to the oranges, talking in old measurements.

Marmalade. Is this what life will amount to then, making marmalade a highlight in January. It was this existential thought that stopped me in my preoccupied tracks, that finally made me follow her. It wasn’t difficult. Her steps were small, in practical flat black shoes. Her unusual – what we would call retro – hat cocooned her face, like blinkers, so she’d have had to turn her head to see me behind. Indeed the hat was stylish, black, fathered and bowed, with a jaunty tilt that came down to her stooping shoulders, protecting practically against the east wind of this cold month. It was a hat of another time, not made in China.  Although small, her steps were nimble, as if she’d walked easily in her life, and I soon adjusted to her pace. Through the market, down the snicket, to a point where it crossed my mind, how far will I go with this mad cap idea.

She opened her picket gate. Turning to close it, she lifted her head, hallowed with her black hat, and looking directly at me, she smiled, her rosy cheeks and crow feet lines from ages past, all came to life. In that moment all my stuff and lists of stuff to do, they fell away.



She was old and I ignored her, busy buying grapes for bridge that evening

‘Seville oranges’ she asked.  Is this the sum of life, I thought, making marmalade in January? I followed her. Her black hat like blinkers. Down the snicket, through her picket gate. She turned and smiled. Her rosy cheeks and crow feet lines from ages past, all animated. My stuff and lists of stuff to do fell away.


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