AT THE POST OFFICE
I was in the post office buying stamps and had to walk past a woman sitting on an upturned box, drinking a glass of water, her handbag beside her on the floor. She was very slight, and younger than me, with a deeply lined face that looked worried and unwell. I assumed she’d had a ‘turn’ and someone had given her the seat and a glass of water..
I said hello and she gave a smile of sorts, murmuring something I didn’t catch, except for the word ‘sweetheart’. I completed my business and turned to leave.
The lady on the box was still there. I inquired “Are you all right? Are you unwell?” She shook her head and mumbled something. I put down my bag and held out my arms saying “I think you need a hug. Can I have a hug?” Her eyes widened, yet she stood up immediately and embraced me tightly, all the while patting my back as if I were a baby who needed soothing. We were the same height and as her face snuggled into my neck, I sensed her deep sadness, and I held her close, stroking her hair.
She whispered “I’m so tired, I’m just so over it, I just want it to be over.” We rocked back and forth for a couple of minutes, until she was ready to let go, and I sat her back on the chair.
I asked “What is your name?” and she said “Nobody. I don’t want to be somebody.” But she gave a tentative smile.
“You are not nobody. Please! Don’t ever say that! You are beautiful” I insisted.
She smiled a little and asked my name, and said “I suffer from PTSD” and repeated “I’m so tired, I’m so over it.”
I asked her where she lived, and she averted her eyes, so I asked again. She said she had moved from Queensland to find somewhere to live and had just called the Red Cross and some friends to come and get her. This concerned me. “Is somebody really coming?” I asked. Yes, they were.
I wanted to give her something, so I rummaged in my bag to find a tiny card which I have carried in my purse for years, addressed to me and inscribed with the words “May the sun shine on each of your days.” Her eyes teared up and she accepted it with the tenderness of one being handed a baby bird. “You are an angel” she said. “I’ll put this in my purse and keep it with me always.”
I was running late for a doctor’s appointment, I had to leave, so we hugged again and I asked “Can I do anything to help you?”
“You already did. I will never forget you, Sandra.” She emphasised my name.
As I walked out the door, I turned and waved, and she was blowing me kisses.