The neighbour

Her hair pulled severely back in an oil-slick ponytail, she nodded gruffly at us in the stairwell. “Bonsoir”, the voice grumbled, the dapper cocker spaniel wagging by her side. She pulled the lead tight and climbed on, her stride never faulting. We would cross paths almost daily, never managing to break the ice nor scratch her companion behind her ears. Such were the brief encounters with the neighbour.

Walking, always walking, where to? I began to envisage her escapades as a sort of pilgrimage, a solitary act of faith better left untarnished by a heathen like myself.

The footsteps died away, the reverberating painting of the agile mutt lingering gently on the flagstones. An outro to her melancholic air.

A happenstance meeting of neighbours at the oasis of the outdoor tap would entice this solitary creature into the fold. Resigning herself to the inconvenience of informal greetings, she unclipped the lead, the cocker scooting off. Suddenly as though imitating her silken companion she dashed off into the garden, plucking the watering can off the ground before handing it to us. “Who’s a good girl?” I almost burst out but restrained myself, thinking it best to wait awhile before offering a belly rub.

The plants thoroughly showered, awaiting the towel dry, she sat down on a wicker chair, her eyes lowered. She poised on the very edge of her perch as though unwilling to allow herself the luxury of back support. The pilgrimage hadn’t yet ended. Lighting up a noxious cigarette she stared at the tomatoes. “Je suis un peu dans la merde.”