Words and photos by Karen Macdonald
Time for me.
Time to sit and watch other people.
Time to watch the world go by, as the old saying goes.
If there’s an old saying about it, it would seem that it must have been going on for a long time.
Maybe since the beginning of time?
Do we need this activity? Is it something that helps us to put our lives in perspective?
The two women at the next table, for instance, are connected to me for this brief space of time by the fact that we’re sharing the same air smelling of supermarket food and the same sounds -background voices and low volume boom-boom music with the occasional bleep-bleep of some electronic device or other.
There’s a big freezer at the counter filled with a truly glorious selection of ice-cream in oblong containers, creating a patchwork pattern of unlikely exotic colours. The bubble-gum ones for instance! A harsh shade of turquoise and a deep shade of Barbie pink. Both those colours scream “poison” at me!
The front of the freezer just says “cream”. Not sure where the “ice” bit went, but as if to validate its identity the freezer motor springs into life to capture my attention. My willpower crumbles. I get up and go for a “Bueno” flavoured ice-cream in a cone. Next week I’ll go for a different flavour, I tell the girl.
Really? Surely I’ll be “backonadiet” by next week, won’t I?
This week I’m “notonadiet”, so I’ve had a decaff cappuccino and an excessively sweet “healthy” oat biscuit with almonds and apricots. All those oats and almonds and apricots must be healthy, right? So just in case none of them were sufficiently appetising in their own right, they’ve been glued together with a thick layer of white chocolate! Well, a little of what you fancy does you good!
Does all of that do me good? My nice lady counsellor said I should take time for me. At least, I think she did! I was talking so much that it’s a wonder she got a chance to say anything. She definitely drew my attention to the fact that I enjoy writing, and that writing helps. So here I am, taking time out for me, sitting in the coffee shop at the supermarket whose car park I have used for my visit to the counsellor. And instead of playing sudoku endlessly (addictively) I’m writing this.
Those ladies sitting next to me, two ordinary ladies …. what are their lives like? One is fairly unremarkable in appearance, the other has dyed blonde hair, shoulder length, cut in a straight fringe over a face that speaks of hard times, too thin and angular. She has a husky, smoker’s voice and just got up and returned her plate of food to the girl at the counter. I heard the words “disgraceful” and “shouldn’t be allowed”, but she has returned with something else and the two ladies are continuing their lunch, deep in conversation.
I wonder if their lives are as chaotic as mine? Are they too taking time out for themselves, escaping the tyranny of a loved one’s addiction that dominates their lives? Are they taking a brief therapeutic hour to restore some normality to overwrought nerves and emotions by talking to each other over a café lunch and doing some retail therapy?
The world keeps on going by, and I’ve watched it for a while. Coffee time over. Time to do my own retail therapy. Then back to my own chaos, the chaos of loving a son with alcohol use disorder.