I should not be walking all by myself in this area. It is not safe. Way too dark, but it is a beautiful night. New Bridget Jones film followed by discussions about Kanye West’s Fade video, a sperm donor app, mango flavoured chicken and insanely sweet chocolate cake finale.
2 minutes and I will be home. I pass the supermarket. There is something moving slowly in the distance. A wheelchair covered in bags.
‘Excuse me, are you ok there?’
‘Yes. I’m fine.’
‘That’s a lot of bags. Would you like me to help you?’
‘Do you know where the community centre is?’
‘I don’t.Which way are you going?’
I am pushing the wheelchair.
‘That’s a lot of shopping. Don’t you have anyone to help you?’
‘Yes, my carer comes to help me, but it is very expensive.’
‘I had no idea you had to pay for it.’
‘How often do you do your shopping?’
‘Once or twice a week.’
Girl, this is your chance. I have been feeling helpless recently. I could help myself by helping this lady.
‘I could come to the shops with you.’
‘It’s ok. I can manage.’
Really? How? She probably thinks I will ask for money. How do I go about it? Is this a test? Stop it! Just make a normal conversation.
I keep pushing the wheelchair. It is not as easy as I thought. These bags are heavy. How does she manage? I keep bumping into corners. I had no idea it was so hard to navigate these things. Our streets are not made for wheelchairs. She points me to the right direction, then introduces herself. Angela.
‘I hope you don’t mind cats’, says Angela as we’re greeted by two beauties. She takes a big yellow key out of her pocket and hands it to me. Angela wants to top up her electricity meter. I have no idea how to do it. I open the box. I am handed another key. Red.
‘What does the screen say?’ she asks.
‘38.93. Error 10.’
‘I’ve just topped it up. I’ve put £30.’
‘There must be something wrong with your meter. Who is your provider? Have you tried calling them?’
‘Eon. I will do in the morning. Keep on trying. I have no electricity.’
I am doing as told. Nothing. Angela starts navigating the wheelchair. She can’t move at all with all the bags. I am watching. It’s so confusing and uncomfortable.
Flashbacks. Days of working in a busy call centre. I remember one lady calling on a Friday night all frustrated about not having electricity. I was so tired. She kept shouting at me. I felt like I had enough and disconnected the call. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
‘Let me try it. Where is that key?’ asks Angela fighting her way through the pile of bags. She lifts herself from the chair using her arms. Now I can see. She is so tiny. Her legs and her arms. She can’t move her legs.
After 10 minutes of trying the meter is topped up. Angela makes her way towards the door. The bags are weighing the wheelchair back down the pavement. I stop it. Angela finds her house keys. Opens the door. I peek in. I am getting the bags inside the house. Smiling and holding my breath in.What is this smell?
‘Have a lovely night, Angela.’
As I am walking down the street tears are rolling down my cheeks.